HENRY TOMKINS, JOHN BENNETT, THOMAS CHITTENDEN.
14th January 1830
Reference Numbert18300114-244
VerdictNot Guilty

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Fifth Middlesex Jury - Before Mr. Common Sergeant.

477. HENRY TOMKINS , JOHN BENNETT , and THOMAS CHITTENDEN were indicted for breaking and entering the counting-house of the Imperial gas-light and Coke Company , on the 17th of December , and stealing 20 sovereigns, 12 half sovereigns, 20 crowns, 40 half crowns, 60 shillings, 20 sixpences, 1l. 5s. in copper monies, two 30l., one 40l. and one 5l. Bank notes, 1 order for payment of 50l, 1 order for 5l. 7s. 6d., and 1 order for 4l. 14s. , their property.

MESSRS. BRODRICK & PHILLIPS conducted the prosecution.

JOHN GALLATY VICKERS. I am superintendent of the works of the Imperial Gas Company, in Shoreditch parish. On the 16th of December, at six o'clock in the evening, I made up my cash in the evening; I made up my cash as usual - the total amount was 210l. 16s., in cash and cheques; I put them into the iron safe, and locked it - I took the key out and locked the room, and took that key with me; on the next morning I was going there, and met the watchman - I found the door of the room latched, but not locked, and all the money was gone from the safe: there was no appearance of any force having been used- this counting-house is not attached to the dwelling-house - I recollect there was a 50l. cheque and two other cheques, 1l. 5s. tied up in copper, besides the cash and notes belonging to the Imperial Gas Company - the cheques were returned on the Tuesday.

COURT. Q. Had either of the prisoners been in the employ of the Company. A. Yes, two of them; Chittenden had been discharged about a month.

JOHN REYNOLDS. I am a smith, and live at No. 5, Hare-street, Hoxton. In December Bennett introduced me to Tomkins, as I had asked him for work, about eight o'clock in the morning; it was on a Saturday - Bennet told me Tomkins was the foreman of the works; I went and asked him if he could give me work - Tomkins told me he should like to see me at the Gun in Shoreditch; I went there between twelve and one o'clock, and Tomkins said he had got a job in hand, and where could he meet me on the Monday - I appointed the Robin Hood and Little John, and met him there between six and seven o'clock; he came in while I was there taking a pint of beer with a man named Balls - Tomkins asked me to walk out with him, and we went as far as the new church, Haggerstone; I asked him what the job was - he said, it was to break open the iron chest of the Imperial Gas-house, which must be done on a Wednesday night, as there was most money in it then; I said I did not understand it myself, and he might apply to other persons who would do it much better- he said he had applied to others, who had disappointed him; I said I did not wish to have any thing to do with it- I went home and spoke to Balls of what had passed; I went to Tomkins two days after the robbery, and said,"You have done the job you wanted me to do" - he said,"No, I have not done it, I can prove I was in bed and asleep at the time; I had a man at my place with the tools and keys to do it with, but I had put it so far in his hands, that he went out at the beginning of the evening and did it" - I then went home; Bennett came after that, and said Tomkins, the foreman, had sent me 30s., and we had a drop of hot together - two days after Christmas, I met Tomkins, who gave me 30s. more, and said, "I hope you won't say any thing about the robbery, as you were seen with Bennett, you are very likely to be taken up;" I told him where I lived, and said, "You may send Mr. Vickers, or any one to me, and I will clear myself, and pay the 30s. when I get work" - I went down to Balls, and told him what had passed; on the Saturday morning, Balls went and gave information; I was sent for - I went before the gentlemen of the Company, I think about a week after I saw Tomkins.

Cross-examined by MR. CLARKSON. Q. You have been a smith? A. Yes, and in the bedstead line, and can turn my hand to any thing in the labouring line; I was intimate with Balls - I have done hay-work for Mr. Rhodes; I was not taking up dead bodies on the 6th of March, no one can say that; I do not know whether I was charged with stealing dead bodies on the 6th of March - I might be taken up for getting the worse for a drop of liquor; you cannot bring any one to swear that I was taken up for breaking into a church-yard and stealing dead bodies- that might be a charge against me or it might not; I have taken goods to Camberwell, but never was in Camberwell new church-yard, and do not know where it is -I never was charged with stealing dead bodies from there; I do not know whether I was in custody at all on the 6th of March - if I was ever charged with stealing dead bodies it was unknown to me; I do not know a man of the name of William Burt, who lives in Mill-row, Kingsland - I never went by the name of Read; I know Phillips, who lives in Bridgewater-gardens, by sight and by drinking with him - I do not know that I was with

Phillips in Camberwell new church-yard on the 6th of February, or in any church-yard; I was never charged with stealing dead bodies from St. Thomas', Hospital, which were afterwards returned from the London University - I do not know a man of the name of Sherrin, or Sherrill: I never borrowed a sack of him, and took it back the following morning - I do not know such a person as William Burt , and I did not meet him against the Hand and Sheers, in Cloth-fair.

Q. Did you not ask him how he got on for work? and did not you tell him you could put him into a plan, by which he could get some money - he asked you how, and you said, the foreman at the gas manufactory had a good situation, and he might go to him and say, if he did not send you money, you would go and tell his master he had done the robbery; and if Burt did not know him, you would go and show him the person? A. I do not know the man.

Q. Do you know this man a witness)? A. I have seen him about with a man of the name of Tom Sheels , who went breaking open Shoreditch dead-house, but I did not know his name; the reason I said I never saw this man was, because I did not know his name - I did see him in a public-house; I do not know whether it was near Cloth-fair - I do not know such a place; what you have stated as passing between him and me respecting the Gas Company is not true, so help me God - he did not say "I do not like the job;" nor I did not say I would go and try it on, but I hoped he would say nothing about it - Balls is here to-night, he came with me, and he was here last night - he is no relation of mine; he lives at No. 6, Canal-road; no person was present when the conversation took place between Tomkins and I - I did not then know Tomkins' name; I knew him by having seen him once before, but he asked me to break open the iron chest, there is no mistake about that - I stated before the Magistrate that he said there was a man in his house with the tools - that he had put it in his power, and he had done it unknown to him; I heard of a reward of 50l. after I got the last 30s. - I saw it on the wall near the factory; I did not hear it from Balls.

MR. BRODRICK. Q. You were never accused of stealing dead bodies? A. No; I was the worse for liquor. and was sent to Guildford as a vagrant - that was some time last year.

THOMAS BALLS . I am a smith and farrier. I went to get a pint of beer at the Robin Hood and Little John, in Hoxton with Reynolds - I saw Tomkins there; he stopped a few minutes, and went out with Reynolds - I do not know what day it was - I never paid any regard to it; I went to Tomkins' house, in Margaret-street, near the Gas Company's works, on Saturday week - I tapped him on the shoulder, and said this business must be settled on better terms between Reynolds and him; he said, "Reynolds! I do not know such a man;" I said,"Do not you know the young man to whom you proposed to do that job for you at the counting-house?" he said,"I don't know him;" I said, "You must know the young man you gave 3l. to, to say nothing about it" - he went in, and staid about ten minutes, when he came out and said, "I can't see the other parties to-day;" I said, "It must be settled to-day between one and two o'clock, there is 50l. reward, and you must do the best you can, or things will go forward in the job" - he said,"Will you have any thing to drink?" I said, "I do not mind," and we went into a public-house, I believe the Antelope - I said I did not like gin, and we had a quartern of rum; we came out, and he said, "I will meet you to-morrow at the Robin Hood and Little John, between four and five o'clock" - I said that would do, but I did not go.

Cross-examined. Q.Did you tell the Magistrate that Tomkins said, "I can't see the parties to-day?" A. Yes: I did work for Mr. Rhodes - I left him when he left off business; I was not discharged for improper practices -I got 30s. a week then; I have since worked for two or three different shops - I cannot say exactly when I did the last job; I have not been intimate with Reynolds - I did not know he was at Guildford; I know Bill Sherrill and Jack Sherrill - I never was at a dead-house in my life; I have seen Phillips, but not to speak to him; I do not know Burt by name - I have seen his man near Mr. Rhodes' counting-house many a time; I will not swear I have not seen him a hundred times; I may have said."How are you?" but never talked with him; I never was in Cloth-fair with Reynolds; I came across Smithfield in coming here yesterday and to-day - I was not there three weeks or a month ago; I do not know how long Reynolds has known Burt - I never saw them together in my life; I never was at Camberwell to the best of my knowledge - I never was in Shoreditch church-yard; I do not remember when the dead-house at St. Thomas'-hospital was broken open; I never heard of it - I do not know what you think I am.

ROBERT OYIDEN. I am a special-constable, and live in Gloucester-street, Hoxton. I called Tomkins out of the factory after we had apprehended Chittenden, on the 23rd of December; we went to the Autelope, and I asked if he knew any thing of the robbery - he said he did not; I said, "I don't suspect you, but as foreman, if you know any thing of the robbery, it is your duty to tell us or Mr. Vickers;" he said "God knows, I know nothing of it, and I would give 5l. for the good of the men to knew who did it" - when we came out I said to him, "I suppose you can't tell where to find the notes?" he said, "God knows, I have neither notes nor money, if you were to kick me from here to Hackney-road you would not kick 5s. out of me;" I pointed out his lodgings to Atfield; it is about the centre of Margaret-street, and the name of Evans, carpenter and builder, over the door - it was on the 22nd of December that I was called on by Anderson, and went to the factory; Mr. Vickers gave as a description of Chittenden, and we took him that night on a suspicion of his hand-writing corresponding with that on the envelope in which the cheques were returned - we found him in Bennett's house - Bennett was there- I said to Chittenden, "Will you go with me down to Mr. Vickers, and satisfy him of your innocence, if you can"- I gave him the pen, and he wrote his name; I had seen the writing on the envelop before - he at first hesitated, but he did go and saw Mr. Vickers; I said, "Chittenden, your hand-writing seems to be very much like the writing on the letter, in which the cheques were sent back" - he made no answer, but turned pale; Bennett

said, "Close, Tom, close," put his hand to his mouth and said, "You know what I mean?" he said, "I should think so;" in taking Chittenden to the watch-house he said, "I am in a b - y pretty mess now, but if I find I am sold, as I think I am, I will sell every b - y one of them."

WILLIAM ATFIELD . I am a Police-officer. I took Tomkins into custody; I afterwards went to his house in Margaret-street, and found twenty-three sovereigns in a black bag in a blue coat pocket - this is the bag and sovereigns; when I got back to the factory, where Tomkins was in custody of Cope; I asked if he had any thing in his house which did not belong to him - he said No: I asked him what money he had - he said he bad 14l. to pay two years' ground-rent, and that was all; I told him I had found twenty-three sovereigns - he said that was not his, it belonged to his father-in-law; I found them in the back room on the ground floor - I found this bit of paper with some figures on it on the floor.

JOSEPH HUDSON . I am a labourer, in the employ of the Gas Company; I lodge in the same house with Tomkins, and was at home when the officer searched his house - I know it was his room which was searched; I have seen him wear a blue coat on Sunday.

JAMES BROWN. I am an officer. I took Bennett on the 28th, and he was discharged by the Magistrate - I took him again on the 6th of January; when I was locking him up he said, "If I had known you had been after me again, you should have had some trouble;" this is the paper in which the cheques were sent back.

Cross-examined by MR. HEATON. Q. Then one was discharged? A. Yes; there was no further evidence at the time, but more was received afterwards, and he was committed to Clerkenwell till the indictment was found.

JOHN GEORGE VICKERS . I gave this paper to the last witness; it came to me by post - I do not know the writing on the back of it; it contained the cheques which had been stolen - I never saw Tomkins write.

JOHN ANDERSON . I am an officer, and live in Goldsmith's-row, Hackney-road. I went with Oviden, and took Chittenden - I asked him to write his name on a bit of paper in case it might be wanted; I saw him write it- this is it; I told him to go into the tap-room - I went, and compared his name with the writing on the paper, in which the cheques were sent - I went back to Chittenden and said his writing agreed with that; he seemed to be quite struck, and never said a word - in going to the watch-house he made some observation to Oviden; he seemed to say he had been sold, and if he had known he would have sold the lot - that I understood to be the substance.

RICHARD HANSON . I am a labourer in the Imperial Gas Company; I know Chittenden, he is a smith - I went into the smith's shop about a fortnight before the robbery; I saw Chittenden there, and asked him to sharpen me some tools, he said, "He could not do it by himself" - he had a key screwed in a vice, and was filing it; I went away, and returned in ten minutes, it was then out of the vice - I saw no more of it; it is not part of his duty to make keys for the factory; I saw the handle of the key, and it appeared to me as if it would fit the outside counting - house door.

Chittenden. This witness knows I had left the place five or six weeks before the robbery. Witness. It was about a fortnight before he was discharged I saw him.

GEORGE EVANS. I am landlord of the Antelope; I remember Tomkins being at my house on the 2d of January, with another manl did not know - they had a quartern of rum, which was entered to Tomkins' account in the book; I was very busy, and did not notice the other.

Cross-examined by MR. HEATON. Q.Was it by Tomkins' order you entered it? A. Yes.

Chittenden's Defence. I can prove I was at work on the night of the robbery, and not within three miles of the place; I could have brought four or five witnesses, if I had known that they had been wanted, but I did not expect I should have been on trial at all, as Mr. Bennett discharged us.

WILLIAM BURT . I am a labouring man. On Friday fortnight I was in Cloth-fair, and met Reynolds against the Hand and Shears; he asked how I got on for work; I said, "I had now and then a day or two's work for Mr. Rhodes" - he said he could tell me of a plan I could get some money by - he said there was a man named Tomkins, foreman of the Gas Company, and I might go and tell him, if he did not give me some money, I would tell his masters that he did the robbery - I said, "I do not know the man, and I will have nothing to do with it" - he said he would go and show him me; he said he had got a good situation, and rather than lose it he would give me some money - he begged I would not mention it.

MR. BRODRICK. Q. Did you go to the foreman? A. No; I told this story at different public-houses, and people said if I was any man at all, I should state it - I had seen Reynolds before, but we were not on intimate terms; I have not laboured in Shoreditch church-yard, and I defy any man to face me in that - I cart coals, and do other work - I have worked for Mr. Wise in carting bricks - it is three months since I was in any regular employ; I was then kilnman to Mr. Rhodes - I worked for him two years; I have known Reynolds three months - I have known Sherwin, but never was at Shoreditch church-yard with him - I was never in a prison.

ROBERT OVIDEN re-examined. I stood over Chittenden while he wrote his name, and gave him the pen; I do, upon my oath, believe the writing on this envelope to be his, the post mark could not be made out - I took it to the Post-office, and they said it was put in at Holborn-bars.

JOHN ANDERSON re-examined. I saw him write his name; I believe he wrote this envelope.

Cross-examined by. MR. HEATON. Q. Do you form that judgement, from seeing him write his name? A. Yes.

JURY to JOHN GEORGE VICKERS . Q.Was it usual for you to make up your money on Wednesday night? A. Yes, and to pay it on Thursday; I never saw Reynolds before, and I should think he could not know the money was made up on Wednesday, without some one belonging to the works telling him. NOT GUILTY .


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