WILLIAM PROBERT.
7th April 1825
Reference Numbert18250407-1
VerdictGuilty
SentenceDeath

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Middlesex Cases, First Jury.

Before Lord Chief Justice Abbott.

585. WILLIAM PROBERT was indicted for stealing, on the 16th of February , at St. Mary Abbotts, Kensington, a mare, price 25 l. , the property of Andrew Meredith .

MR. BOLLAND conducted the prosecution.

ANDREW MEREDITH. I am a miller , and live at Ruardean, Glocestershire , which is 120 miles from London. I know the prisoner. On the 10th of February I had a black mare in my possession - my boy turned her into the orchard that night, but I did not see her there; I missed her next morning, the 11th: the prisoner had been at my house twice, but I was not at home the last time. I saw him there nine days or a fortnight before the mare was stolen; I missed her on the Friday morning, and on receiving information I went and watched the prisoner's mother's premises all Friday night; she lives about two miles from me; he had been living there a few months - I should think two months. In the morning I went home, and then went to Coleford, and got an advertisement drawn up. I went to Gloucester on Sunday morning, and to Cheltenham the same day, and then to London; from there I went to Andover, in Hampshire, and got back to London on Saturday morning, about eight o'clock, and saw the mare in possession of Ellis, an officer, at Bow-street; it is the mare I lost: I had her two years last September. She did not look so well as before; she appeared to have been worked hard: her tail had been trimmed and cropped, and her mane a little cut. I am positively sure she is mine. I have seen her here this morning.

Cross-examined by MR. BARRY. Q. Where did you get her? A. I bought her two years ago last September; she was black, with some little white about her: she had been roughly used. I cannot be mistaken in her; there was a particular mark on her, which I had not noticed before, but my son had. I could pick her out among a thousand.

Q. Did you ever hear your wife say she had lent the mare to Probert? A. Never, on any occasion whatever.

MARY MEREDITH . I am the prosecutor's wife, and know the prisoner; he resided in our neighbourhood some time, at his mother's house; I saw him first last hay making time: he was at our house three times. On Tuesday, the 8th of February, he came about a quarter to eight o'clock in the evening; the mare was then in the fold: I was helping my son to pull her out of the shafts - the prisoner came into the fold, with a candle and lantern in his hand, and his little son with him; he asked me if that was where we kept the mare; I said Yes, sometimes, and that sometimes we turned her out in the orchard; he said nothing more about the mare - he came into the house, and stopped there till a quarter before ten, and then left; my husband was not at home then. I saw the prisoner on Thursday, the 10th, at half-past twelve o'clock in the day time, at his mother's house.

ANDREW MEREDITH , JUN. I am fourteen years old, and have known the prisoner a long time - I remember his coming into the fold one evening, when my mother was there - it was dark: he came on Tuesday night, and we lost the mare on Thursday night. I heard him ask my mother if that was where we kept the mare; she said, Yes, in bad weather we kept her there, but of a fine might we turned her out in the orchard. He came into the stable after that, but did not speak to me - I was pulling the gear off the mare. On Thursday night, about dusk, I put her into the orchard - my brother was with me. I shut the orchard gate; it has a spring lock, which catches if the gate is pushed too. I went on Friday morning to look for the mare, and it was gone. I came to town last Monday evening (not before) and have seen the mare in possession of Ellis; it is my father's: she is rather fatter now than before; her tail has been cut since. I am sure it is my father's - it is black, with a white star on the forehead, and a spot on her back, where the saddle had hurt her - I had noticed that many times.

Cross-examined. Q. A star on the forehead is not uncommon? A. No. I cannot make a mistake - I am certain of her. It was brought out of the stable to me in town by the hostler.

JAMES STAMMERS . I am hostler at Mr. Frances's livery stable, Phillimore-place, Kensington. On the 16th of February, about seven o'clock in the evening, the prisoner came to my master's stables, with a black mare; it had a saddle and bridle on, and appeared to have had a hard day's work; he said,

"Hostler, will you take care of my mare for the night;" I took her into the stable - he followed me in, and said again,

"Hostler, will you take care of my mare, for I have come a long way - I have come forty miles to day with her." She is about fourteen hands high, and is a strong mare - he told me to feed her well, to take care of her, and give her half a peck of oats,

and a feed of beans; he gave me his spurs, and said he did not know that he should fetch the mare himself next day, as he did not know whether he should come that road, and if not he should send for her; he asked my name: I said, Stammers; he asked my Christian name; I said James. He said he should send a note next day by the person who was to take the mare away, and he should direct the note to James, the hostler; at Frances's livery stables, Kensington, near the Adam and Eve public-house. Next day the witness, Frewin, brought me a note; this is it (looking at it:) in consequence of this note I delivered the mare to Frewin, who paid me for her keep. I have seen the same mare this morning, in possession of Ellis, the officer, and at Bow-street.

Cross-examined. Q. Had you seen the prisoner before? A. Not to my knowledge.

JAMES FREWIN . I am a green-grocer, and live in Carnaby-street. I have known the prisoner, by sight, for about five months before he last came to me. I am in the general line, and occasionally cook meat, and know him by his coming four or five times, to take meat - I knew him by the name of Thompson. The last time he came to me was on Friday night, the 18th of February - I have no doubt of his being the person; he had come to me on the Wednesday night, between eight and nine o'clock, and asked if I knew of a lodging - I said No; he said he had seen one as he came through Cross-street. He went away, returned, and said he had taken the lodging for a week. He asked for a slice of bread and cheese, which he had, and sent me for a pot of porter; we drank it together, and he asked me to call on him next morning, at his lodging, No. 8, Cross-street; I went there on Thursday morning, between ten and eleven o'clock, and he said he had got a horse from the country, and it was for sale, and if I would take it he would give me a sovereign for my trouble; he sent me to a livery stables in Oxford-street, to enquire when the sale days were at Dixon's repository, also at one in Goswell-street, and another in St. Martin's-lane - I returned, and told him Dixon's sale was on Friday, also that in Goswell-street; he asked me to call again in the afternoon: I went to him about three o'clock, and he wrote three notes; (looking at two notes.) I can only speak to this one, which is the note directed to the hostler - he sealed the other two up, but the hostler's note was open; he gave me all three notes, and told me I should see the name of Cozens on the right-hand side of High-street, Kensington - I was to leave one of the sealed notes there, and take the other to Dixon's. Before I left the room he told me to take the mare through the iron gates at Kensington, across the park, and make my way to Battle-bridge, as the mare had not been used to London the stones would hurt her. I went and delivered the note to Cozens, then went to the hostler, and delivered him the note; he gave me the mare; I paid him 4 s. 6 d. for her, and took her through the Park, out of Grosvenor-gate, to Dixon's repository, and delivered it to one of the men in the yard, with one of the notes he had given me - it was then dark. I went home; he came to me again that night, and asked me what they said - I said, when they looked at the note they said he had opened his mouth too wide - I suppose they meant he had asked too much for her; he then asked me to go next day, and see it sold, and told me to tell Dixon to sell it for what it would fetch. I went to Dixon's, and spoke to a man, who is here - I gave him the directions the prisoner had given me, and afterwards saw her sold for twenty guineas. I saw the prisoner that night, and told him she was sold for 18 l.

Q. Why did you say so? A. I thought it would surprise him when he took the money. He said nothing.

Cross-examined. Q. Did you receive the money? A. No. I cannot identify the two sealed notes, as I did not see the contents.

MR. BOLLAND. Q. Did you see the mare at Bow-street? A. Yes - it was the same.

EDWARD CLAUGHTON . I am foreman to Mr. Dixon. I have seen Frewin. I was present when the black mare was brought - a note came with it; this is it, (looking at it.) Frewin came next day, and pointed the mare out to me in the stable; I told him she was booked at too much money - he said she was to be sold for what she would fetch; she was sold on Friday, for twenty guineas, to Mr. James Eames, whose brother is a coach proprietor. I was at Bow-street at the last examination, and saw the same mare there; she was sent by one of our men to Mr. Eames's yard. I gave the note to the clerk at Bow-street, and it was handed to Ellis in my presence.

JAMES EAMES . I am a coach master, and live at the Angel Inn, St. Clements. On Friday, the 18th of February, I bought a mare at Dixon's repository, for twenty guineas - she was brought to me that day, and given up to Ellis, the next day, I think. I saw the same mare at Bow-street.

WILLIAM COZENS . I am a linen-draper, and live at Kensington. I have known the prisoner some years. Frewin brought me a note, signed Thompson; I destroyed it in his presence. (Looking at a note, signed Cozens, and addressed to Mr. Dixon.) this is not my writing; I know the prisoner's writing, and have no doubt of it being his. The note addressed to the hostler is also his writing. I never sent any mare to Dixon's, nor authorised the prisoner to send any.

Cross-examined. Q. Did Frewin say why he brought the note? A. No. The note stated that Mr. Thompson would call in the morning; I did not at that time recognise the hand-writing, nor do I now know that it was his writing. I did not know Mr. Thompson, and destroyed it.

JAMES ELLIS . I am a principal officer of Bow-street. I received information, and apprehended the prisoner on Friday, the 18th of February; I found some bills, and a large pair of scissars on him.

Cross-examined. Q. The memorandum on the bills lead you to Dixon's? A. Yes, and I got information there, which lead me to Mr. Eames, where I found a black mare, which has since been seen by Andrew Meredith, his son, and Frewin; it has been under my care all the time.

The papers found upon the prisoner were here produced; they were bills for refreshment, for man and horse, at Swindon, and other places in Wilts. On the back of one of them was written,

"Dixon's repository, Barbican."

The letters referred to were here read, as follow: -

"For James, the hostler, at Mr. Frances's livery stables, Kensington, near the Adam and Eve."

"JAMES - Let the bearer have my mare - he will pay you the keep of her.

JAS. THOMPSON, Thursday Afternoon."

Thursday, Kensington.

"Mr. DIXON - Sir, I have sent my man with a mare; I shall be obliged if you can do the best you can with her; she is perfectly sound, and quiet in harness and saddle. I think she is worth thirty guineas. If not there myself my man will.

I am, &c.

M. COZENS."

MR. BARRY to MRS. MEREDITH. Q. You are a distant relation of the prisoner's? A. Yes.

Q. On your solemn oath have you not at any time lent him, or offered to lend him that mare? A. Never in my life; he never put the question to me. It was never lent to him by any person on my premises. I never said to any one that I had lent it to him.

COURT. Q. You said you saw him at his mother's on the Thursday - did you see him after that? A. No, my Lord.

ANDREW MEREDITH , SEN. re-examined. Q. Did you see him about the neighbourhood after losing the mare? A. Never after she was missed, which was on Friday morning.

Prisoner's Defence. My Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury, If I have pleaded not guilty to this indictment it is not that I wish by subtleties to evade or screen myself from the verdict, and sentence which may be awarded against me, if convicted; but that I might have an opportunity to say something to convince the public that whatever may have been the unhappy circumstances of the latter days of my life, I was not driven into my present crime from depravity of disposition, but from a species of fatal necessity, which had placed me far beyond the reach of all human assistance and charity. - The appeal I now make is not with a view to lessen my past error (as there is a God, on whom I alone rely for mercy,) but to beg the Jury to banish all former unfortunate circumstances from their minds. It cannot have escaped your notice that ever since my discharge from Hertford, the public animosity has been kept alive against me by the public press, which has reached every part of England; even the smallest village I went to spurned me as an outcast; the chief instrument which prevented my obtaining employ, or indeed to effect a reformation, was the public press. I could scarcely move from one place to another without seeing my route marked in the daily papers; every door was shut against me, and every hope of future support blasted. With this dreary prospect I felt my fortitude forsaking me. I appeal to your Lordship and the Jury, whether my situation was not most deplorable, and what would you have done under similar circumstances? If you should discern any feature in my case deserving of commisseration, I trust you will recommend me to the clemency of my gracious Sovereign, as no former conviction appears on the record against me. Since the calamitous event which occurred at Hertford I have been a lost man, and on the eve of self-destruction. My innocent wife was involved in my ruin, and has suffered every privation. I have endeavoured to leave the country, but could not for want of means.

GUILTY - DEATH . Aged 36.


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