29th May 1899
Reference Numbert18990529-417
VerdictNot Guilty > unknown

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417. THOMAS CHARLES BUTLER (40) , Maliciously setting fire to a dwelling-house, persons being therein.

MR. TORR Prosecuted. SAMUEL KNOWLES (105 J). On May 23rd the prisoner came to the Bethnal Green Police-station and said that he wished to give himself up for setting fire to his house, 27, Driffield Road, Old Ford—the inspector told me to take him to Bow Police-station, where I saw Inspector Knott, and told him what the prisoner had told me—he made a statement and signed it—the prisoner could hear what I said to the inspector—he was charged—he had been drinking, but he knew what he was doing and saying—I do not know if he knew what he was doing before.

WILLLIAM KNOTT (Inspector, K). On the night of May 23rd the prisoner was brought in by Knowles—he said, "I wish to give myself up for wilfully setting fire to 27, Driffield Road"—I cautioned him, and then I took his statement down in writing—he said, "I, Thomas Charles Butler, aged 40, of 27, Driffield Road, Bow, do say I did wilfully set fire to 27, Driffield Road, Bow, the front room upstairs, by lighted matches, which I threw on the bedclothes. No other person was present. When I saw it was well alight I left the house and let it burn. As I left the house I said to Mrs. Nicholls, the landlady, 'I have set fire to the house.' "—I read it over to him and he signed it—he had been drinking but in my opinion he knew perfectly well what he was doing and saying.

CHARLOTTE NICHOLLS . I live at 27, Driffield Road, Bow—the prisoner was a lodger in the front room upstairs with his wife—I do not remember his saying anything to me about the fire on his leaving the house—I heard people shouting—I was going to run upstairs, but returned to take care of the children—the firemen came—I do not know what the prisoner was doing then; I did not see him.

By the COURT. The prisoner goes to work; he is married—I do not think his wife drinks very much.

SAMUEL RIDDLE . I am the officer in charge of the Bethnal Green Fire Station—on the night of May 23rd I received a call to 27, Driffield Road; I found that a bed which had been burned had been extinguished by three strangers who were there—I saw the prisoner there; I asked him

if he was the occupier and how it had occurred—I saw his pipe on the table, and asked him if he had been smoking in bed—he said, "Never mind; I will tell the police"—he looked as if he had been drinking—his wife was in the room then; she appeared to be sober—she did not say anything in his presence—I had to return the cause of the fire as "Unknown."

ARTHUR HALL (65 K). I went to 27, Driffield Road; by that time the fire was out—I saw the prisoner and his wife; I asked him if he knew the cause of the fire—he replied, "I was out at the time"—he was under the influence of drink.

HARRY WHITE (Detective Sergeant, K). I was present when the prisoner was charged—he said, "I set fire to the place with intention: I have a drunken wife; I would cut her b——head off; I give myself up, either kill her or do something else"—he was strongly under the influence of drink then.

ARTHUR HADDON . I live opposite 27, Driffield Road—I am a house decorator—I was in my room, and I saw a light in the house where the prisoner lives—I heard cries—I crossed the road—the front door was open—when I got upstairs I saw all the window curtains flaring—I took off part of the bedclothes and threw them on the floor, and then rushed into the street—when I was carrying the bedclothes out of the room I met the prisoner—he said, "Hold on, I want to sleep on those to-night"—I said, "You will not be able to sleep on these, mate."

The Prisoner, in his defence, said that he went to deep on his bed with his pipe alight, and the next he heard was people shouting and loud knocking at the door; after the fire was out he had some more drink, and that he did not remember making any statement to the police.

The Prisoner received a good character from his employer, who said he would take him back into his employ.

NOT GUILTY, being under the influence of drink when he made the statement.

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