Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 21 October 2020), April 1765, trial of John Pickett (t17650417-44).

John Pickett, Theft > burglary, 17th April 1765.

264. (L.) John Pickett was indicted for burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies , and stealing two hempen bags, value 6 d. and 1400 pieces of silver, called dollars, value 300 l. the property of the India Company. He stood likewise charged for privately stealing the said dollars, in the warehouse of the said Company; also for feloniously stealing the same in the dwelling-house of the said Company. The indictment was also laid for feloniously stealing the said dollars, the property of Mr. Michael Salomons , in the said Company's dwelling-house: and again, for stealing the same in their ware-house

Thomas Nuthall , Esq; Solicitor to the East India Company. On Tuesday, on the 26th of March , about noon, a message was left at my house, for me to attend and enquire into the circumstances of a robbery, that had been committed at the India-house, in Leadenhall-street : I went with the chairman in the afternoon, and found the bullion-office had been broke open. The funnel, or flew, of a chimney had been broke through, in a room called the sailor's-lobby, on the ground-floor. The chimney was not finished, and was carried up only to the floor of the tea warehouse, which was over it: the brick-work of the funnel was broke through about the middle of the chimney, and the way being forced into the chimney, it appeared that many holes had been bored by somebody within the chimney, with a large gimblet, in the floor of the tea-warehouse; which being forced one into another, a hole in the floor of the tea-warehouse was made thirteen inches and a half one way, and eleven inches the other, (several pieces of the floor produced, of deal wood, an inch and half thick, bored through in several places): these were found, as I am told, in the cavity of the chimney. There stood over that part of the floor, thus broke through, four chests of tea, one upon another, each about nineteen inches high, two feet and a half long, and twenty-one inches wide. These chests were so wedged together, that it was impossible to move them; so that after they were broke, and the tea let down the chimney, there was a necessity of getting to the top of these four chests of tea, in order to get into the tea-warehouse; the uppermost chest stood within about three feet of the top of that warehouse. The bullion-office lies on the contrary side of the tea-warehouse, which is about sixteen feet in width, and being full of tea, two chests which stood uppermost next the wall of the bullion-office, were broke in pieces, and the tea scattered about the warehouse, in order to make room to go on with the work. A hole was bored in a large piece of timber, which was fixed in the wall of the bullion-office; but not being able to get through that timber, a hole was made underneath it, in the wall of the bullion-office, which was twenty-one inches and a half thick, and the hole was eighteen inches by twenty, (I measured it:) the mortar and bricks had been drawn into the tea-warehouse; it was about five feet above the floor of the bullion-office, and was broke into a little closet which the clerk of the bullion-office makes use of, and I am told generally stands open. In this situation I found the chimney, the tea-warehouse and the bullion-office; there were produced to me, at the same time, this gimblet and an iron crow, (a gimblet of five-eighths of an inch bore, and an iron crow, three feet ten inches long, produced in court): the crow was found in the lobby, and the gimblet in the tea-warehouse; the gimblet exactly fits the holes bored in the pieces of the floor now produced. There was a bag of dollars found behind an old door, which stood against the wall of the lobby: I made a very diligent enquiry, and having no reason to suspect any of the porters of the tea-warehouse, the robbery was immediately advertised: there is a door to this sailor's-lobby, which opens into a yard where the bullion is always loaded into carts by a crane, and where any body, being in the lobby, might see the same loaded; the bullion is packed up in chests and corded. I believe that door of the lobby is always open in time of business; it is a room about fifty feet long and fifteen or sixteen wide, so is the tea-warehouse over it. I advertised the particular marks and descriptions of the crow and gimblet, but heard nothing tending to a discovery till Thursday the 4th of April, in the afternoon, when a letter came from Mr. John Giffard , who is gunner to the Albion man of war, to the India-House, giving an account that some dollars had been found in a house in Southwark, and desiring somebody from the India Company would attend at Sir John Fielding 's that afternoon. I went thither about seven o'clock, when one of these bags of dollars was produced to me by Mr. Giffard, who will give a further account concerning it; the prisoner, in whose chest it was found, being gone to Dover that morning, as Mr. Giffard, had been told at his lodgings: we sent to the Golden-cross, Charing-Cross, to enquire if any man, of the name of Pickett, had gone that morning for Dover, in the stage-coach; upon finding a man of that name had set out in the stage in company with a woman, I dispatched Mr. Giffard immediately to Dover, in order to apprehend him; he readily consented to go, and took with him one John Adams , who is frequently employed by Sir John Fielding : they brought up the prisoner, and Elizabeth Finnick , the woman who went with him. Their examination was fixed for Monday, the 8th of April, at twelve o'clock; I was present: it was a long time before the woman would confess; at last she gave an exact account of the robbery, as she said it had been related to her by the prisoner: when the prisoner was called upon, he said at first, that on Tuesday, the 26th of March, he had seen a man in Stepney-fields, hiding something in a dunghill; that he watched him, and after he was gone, he took out this bag and carried it home; and seeing the advertisements in the public papers, concerning the robbery, he thought it best to go over to France, and dispose of the dollars there; that he was born at Cherburg, in France; and that all the dollars he found in the dunghill were contained in one bag, but he intended to carry them to France at two different times, and what he had not at Dover were left in his chest, at his lodgings in Barnaby-street, Southwark: this was the substance of what he said, when he was first examined; but after the young woman had made the discovery, and was confronted with him, he said it was true that he had told her of the robbery, exactly as she had related it; but that one M'Cartey, a sailor, was the man who broke from the chimney into the tea-warehouse, and thence into the bullion-office, and stole the dollars; and that they had schemed it together, but M'Cartey had delivered all the dollars to him for sale, he not knowing how to get them off in town. He said he was present with M'Cartney in the India House, and assisted him at the time of the robbery. Some pieces of boiled beef had been found in the tea-warehouse; he said he bought that at a cook's-shop near the India House. I asked him how he came by the gimblet and crow; he said they were bought in Wapping, and mentioned, as well as I remember, that eighteen-pence was given for the gimblet and three or four shillings for the crow, but he could not tell at what shop, and that M'Cartey bought them. The young woman being asked very particularly, said she was sure nobody had assisted him in the robbery; that she knew a man of the name of M'Cartey, who had a slight acquaintance with the prisoner some time before; but that they had not been together for some time. I sent to Wapping to enquire after M'Cartey, and was told he had not been in town for several weeks, and it was supposed he was in some jail in the country (800 dollars and upwards produced in court); the three bags of dollars stolen, I understand, weighed 1200 and odd ounces. The prisoner said, upon his examination, that M'Cartey told him how he broke through the floor and wall, exactly in the same manner I have described; that the floor was broke through with a marling-spike (which was not found) and that the crow was made use of in breaking the wall of the bullion-office, and the dollars were conveyed through that hole, and down the lobby-chimney, by means of a rope (a rope produced); this rope appears to be part of some cordage that lies in the bullion-office, and is used in packing the bullion, and I understand was found in the lobby: he said M'Cartey was concealed in the chimney on the Saturday, the 23d of March, and himself behind the door, when the lobby was locked up; and that M'Cartey immediately went to work, and worked all night at it, but could not get through till about eleven on the Sunday; he also said M'Cartey was in the chimney when the lobby doors were opened, on the Monday morning, the 25th of March: he was asked why he did not mention the name of M'Cartey to the young woman; his answer was, that he had not a mind she should know that any body was concerned with him: he owned he had all along told her that nobody was concerned in the robbery but himself.

Q. What is the stile of the Company?

Ans. The United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East Indies.

Q. Does any body live in the East India House?

Ans. Several persons live there: it is the Company's house, the secretary and all his family live in it, and other servants of the India Company.

Q. Does the bullion-office join to the dwelling-house?

Ans. It joins to the treasury, and the treasury is part of the main building; there is a door between the treasury and bullion-office, and the treasury is part of the dwelling-house.

Q. Do you call the bullion-office a warehouse?

Ans. It is a warehouse for the deposit of bullion, and is appropriated to that use; there the bullion intended for India is weighed, packed up, and marked, and sent on board the Company's ships.

William Harris . I am an officer belonging to the East India Company; I have the care of the bullion-office: I am the clerk of the office; it communicates with the India-house: there is a door from the office to the treasury; and the avenue to the bullion-office is through the house.

Q. What purpose is the bullion-office applied to?

Mr. Harris. For receiving the treasure that the Company send abroad, and also what is sent on private account. I left the office on Saturday the 23d of March, at noon, locked up; there were seven bags of bullion left in the office, which I had reason to believe were sent in on the account of Mr. Michael Salomons ; he has since acknowledged it was sent in on his account; and on the 26th I opened the bullion-office, between nine and ten in the forenoon, and perceived there were three bags missing out of the seven that I had taken particular notice of on the Saturday: I found the wall had been broke through. Then I went down stairs, into the court-room, to acquaint a gentleman with it; but he not being at home, I went to the deputy-chairman, Mr. Bolton, and acquainted him with it.

Q. Was the bullion-office secured on the Saturday, when you left it?

Mr. Harris. It was: I locked the door after me.

Q. How was the wall broke?

Harris. The lining boards or wainscot in my closet were two of them thrown against the door, and another was displaced a little; I saw a hole in the brick wall; the place communicates with the tea warehouse; I was sent to Goldsmith's hall, to have handbills dispersed; so I did not look about to see the whole of the place they had broke through.

Q. What is the value of the dollars missing?

Harris. About 335 l. they weigh pretty nearly all alike; we reckon them by weight?

Q. How much might they weigh.

Harris. The weight is about 1285 ounces; they are worth about 4 s. 6 d. each; I weighed them myself; I received them about ten days before; they came in in old bags, and we shift them into new ones, and mark them; I can say nothing to the identity of the bag; they were to be sent to India, and the returns were to be made in diamonds: a request was lodged in the bullion-office for the Company's leave to export the value of ten thousand ounces, which was granted by the court; they are exported in the Company's ships, and the Company have the custody of them till they are carried on board; I undertake to send them to the ship's husband, and he sees them on board the ship, the owner has no other care about them; they are carried in the same manner as the Company's bullion is; when the bullion is received on board the ship, the commanding officer sends up a receipt to us, acknowledging he has got the bullion on board the ship; the owner of the bullion has no more to do with it, only to tell us on which ship he will have it on board, and to what consigned, and it is all allowed to go freight free.

James Bigger . I am employed in the treasury; I remember going into the bullion-office on Tuesday the 26th of March; I was desired by Mr. Bolton, the deputy, to go into the bullion-office, and see whether it was possible for me to get through that hole that was broke through into the closet; I took off my coat, and with a little difficulty got into the hole, which introduced me into the tea warehouse; there I discovered a single dollar upon a tea-chest; I got through a tea-chest, and went down that, and then through three more till I came to the chimney; I returned back, and desired a gentleman to go down into the lobby, and I would go through to him; then I returned down to him. Upon a chest I found this gimblet or augre, and I delivered it to Mr. Harris.

Mr. Harris. I received it of that evidence, and sealed it with the company's own arms.

John M'Donald. I am one of the runners belonging to the India-house: I found this iron crow under the boards that were loose in the window, next to the gate in the saylor's lobby, on Tuesday, the day the discovery was made, between ten and eleven o'clock (Produced in court, about an ell long.) I saw a bag lying behind the door, facing the back door in the pay-office in the lobby, but did not see it open to see the dollars.

Edward Stillard . I am the company's door-keeper; I live in the house adjoining to the warehouses. On Sunday morning the 23d of March, between twelve and one, I was disturbed by something of a noise like a dead knocking; but the wind blowing very hard, I apprehended it was the wind blowing backwards and forwards the window shutters of the tea warehouse, thinking the warehouseman had not fastened them. I heard it from that time till about eleven o'clock in the day on the Sunday, at different times, sometimes louder and sometimes softer.

William Stockley . I am bricklayer to the India Company: I was sent for by order of the directors; I went up stairs, and saw Mr. Harris; I saw they had broke through from the tea-warehouse into the bullion-office; the wall is two bricks and a half thick; the boards that run from top to bottom the wainscot, was boared through, two of them were tumbled down into the bullion-office, and I took a third down that was loose. I compared this gimblet with the holes, and it fitted exactly. I built the chimney. When we came to take the chimney down, which was only carried up to the top of the ceiling; it is not cieled but boarded; it is built up quite to the boards, the top was drawn in to a foot by fourteen inches. Over the core, on the back of the sloap, a hole was made between the back and the breast, and the bricks were put in between the boards and the joists: I took the chimney down, then we made the discovery at once. In the core there was I believe half a hundred weight of tea. I compared these three pieces of the floor of the tea-warehouse with the floor, and they sitted; I found some cordage after I pulled down the chimney; after that I went to Newgate, to the prisoner; he there confest he put the cordage in the farther corner of the lobby; he likewise said he left it there; I asked him what he did with the cord; he said the bags were let down by it: I said, honest friend, Who was concerned with you in this affair? Who, said he? then he set out a hammering; he said, There is one M'Cartey; I aided and assisted him. I said, How came you to do it? Said he, I was too lusty, M'Cartey was thinner than I. Said I, How did you manage it? He said, M'Cartey said, if I would undertake to be concerned, he would engage to go through it; that M'Cartey was up the chimney, and he was up the chimney aiding and assisting; that he scrap'd the tea down as it fell below. Said I, How could you do this, as the tea ran down upon you enough to suffocate you? He said, We did not think of the tea, we thought of being in the bullion office at once. I asked him how he got up the chimney: he gave no account of that; he said he had a pint of beer before he went in, and that was all; I said, There was some beef found; he said M'Cartey bought the beef over the way; I said, Don't you go to bring an innocent man in; it is very odd you should have all the money and he none: said he, He is a bully for the whores, and he is pretty well known, and he did not chuse to have any of the money; and that he had given M'Cartey about ten guineas. I said, That was enough to kill you, with the tea coming upon you; he said, So it was, I thought I should have died: said I, How did you clean the place? Said he, I scraped the tea all down a hole, and it ran into an arrack cellar; he said, one of the bags slipped and made a terrible noise, that I did not go to work for some time: I said, You must have a large deal of assurance: how could you carry the bags off? Said he, I carried the bag under my arm, and the rest of the money I put into my pocket: I mentioned the bag left behind: he said he was afraid to come any more, but made off as fast as he could.

John Giffard . I am gunner to the Albion man of war; I came from Chatham about the 3 d. of April; some foreigners came down there with intent to defraud the government of money; these being detected, the commissioners thought proper to order me in pursuit of these people; I came to London; we were in search of the people that had forged the powers; we took a young man on suspicion, and went to the Blue Anchor in East Smithfield; I was mentioning to the landlord whether he knew the young man I had brought in there. The landlord said he was a lodger of his: we found he was not the person we suspected: I told him there had been a great many people concerned in receiving money. A girl came in and said, one Pickett had received 25 l. on the Monday before at the pay office in Broad-street; I enquired after him; they gave me directions; he lodged in Barnaby-street; we proceeded to Sir John Fielding with the man that forged; then I was dispatched to one Angello; they mentioned this Pickett; I desired Pickett might be put in the warrant, as they both lodged in the Borough; I was dispatched with one of Mr. Fielding's men; when we came to Barnaby-street, I asked a woman, named Margaret Woods , if she knew one Pickett; she said, Yes: we went to the house; there was in the room where he had lodged a large chest; there was a Linguist that came from Chatham with me; he said, Whose chest is this? He desired it to be opened; the constable refused o' pening the chest; then he desired Mrs. Woods; she refused to open it; I was called up; they told me the chest belonged to Pickett, and they refused to open it; I got a poker, and we burst it open; at first we discovered some papers of his receiving the money at the pay-office in Broad-street; we concluded to take an inventory of the things in the chest; we found jackets and shirts, and at the farther end of the chest we found a bag of dollars; then we directly thought of the India Company's affair; we went to go to Sir John Fielding 's, and in the mean time I thought proper to acquaint the Company of what we had found; I went into an alehouse, and wrote a line to the India Company what we had found, and supposed they were their property, and I would be glad if they would send somebody to meet me at Sir John's at six o'clock; I enquired of a young woman at the house, where Pickett was gone; I was informed it was imagined he was gone to Dover; that he went in a coach to the Golden-cross, Charing-cross, with a woman; we went there, and found such people were booked as they described them, and after that I was told they were gone to Dover; then I offered myself as a volunteer to the East India company to go to Dover after them; I and another man sat out about twelve at night, and got into Dover in the forenoon; I went to a merchant to whom I was recommended, and carried my letter, and told him my business; he said he would help me all in his power; he sent his clerk to get the warrant backed, and got an officer; the prisoner and Eliz. Finnick came past me; I had a brace of pistols about me; I thought these were the people that I came after. I ran after the prisoner, and catched him by the collar, and put a pistol to his breast, and said, If you venture to stir you are dead; you are my prisoner: he trembled, and said, He had not robbed any body: he made no resistance; I took him before a magistrate, and searched him; I found the key of the chest upon him that I had broke open at Mrs. Woods's, which I have tried since, and it fits exactly; then I insisted upon searching the woman, and in a green purse found upon her were 43 guineas, 12 half guineas, a 36 s. piece, a 27 s. piece, 17 s. 6 d. in silver, and two dollars; the clerk and I counted the money; I put it in my pocket, and asked where the prisoner lodged, and where their chest was: they said, they had none. We went to the sign of the White Horse; I there demanded their chest; they told me which it was; we wrenched it open; in that I found 499 dollars more; I took the bag and carried it away to the magistrate; we counted them, and took the woman's pocket, and the two dollars, and put them in the bag, and put it up, and sealed it with the magistrate's seal and another; we took the prisoner and woman in a post-chaise, and got back as fast as I could; in returning I said to the prisoner, It will be better if you would confess: then he said, He was in the fields betwixt Whitechapel and Stepney, and he saw a man hiding something in a dung-hill; he waited there till the man was gone; then he went to the place and found a bag of dollars; that he brought them home, and used them as he thought proper, but was never concerned in stealing them himself; he said he had read the papers, and suspecting them to be the same dollars, he was going to a correspondent in France, in order to change them, and then to come back and carry over the other part, and change them. I brought all away in a box, and the prisoner and woman lived as I lived: I brought them as fast as I could to Sir John Fielding ; the prisoner had disposed of 110 dollars to a gentleman, named Swabey, at Dover; this he himself acknowledged; I sent for the gentleman, who said, he was very willing to deliver them up, if I would give him the cash he gave for them. (The chest found in Barnaby-street produced, and the key fitted the lock.) I was present at all the examinations before Sir John; first of all they both denied it; they persisted on that of finding the dollars in the field; coming along they both agreed in that; and on Monday before Sir John they did the same some time: Sir John said, Have the woman away; she is only come to tell a pack of lies: when the woman came in again, she cried; Sir John said, Well, what have you got to say now? The prisoner had been examined, and was then put into the next room: then the woman confest: after the prisoner was brought in, the woman said the prisoner was guilty, and he was the only man that robbed the India house; and as to M'Cartey, she thought him to be innocent: (this was before the prisoner.) Then Sir John said to him, Is what the woman says true? He said, Yes, and please your honour: Sir John said, Did you tell this woman you had robbed the India-house? He answered, Yes: Sir John said, Are these all facts which the woman has said? He said, Yes: Sir John said, Had you not li ke to have been smothered with the tea and things? He said, Yes: He said, M'Cartey did it, and he was present assisting him at the time. In the chest at Mrs. Woods's I found the probate of a will, granted to John Fickett , the sole executor: I took also from the prisoner the key of the chamber door, where the chest was; the Justice ordered me to deliver it to Mrs. Woods.

Margaret Woods . This chest produced here, that was found in my house, was the prisoner's property. I have known Elizabeth Fennick from a child in arms; and I have known the prisoner about a month or six weeks; they came together to take a lodging of me on the Friday before the last witness came and took the money away. I live in Barnaby-street; they came in a post-chaise from Chatham to my house; they went in the afternoon and brought the chest by a waterman; this is it here; the prisoner took the key of the chest and the key of the room door with him; the key of the room was delivered to me the first day they were examined at Justice Fielding's; I observed the prisoner in a sort of flurry; they went in the afternoon to the Golden Cross, Charing Cross; they came back, and I was drinking tea; when night came, she asked me to send my boy for a coach; I did, and they gave him 6 d. they said they were going to the Golden Cross, to go to Dover. (She looks upon a lesser box produced.) This box I sold to Mrs. Finnick.

Isabella Gordon. I live in Mouse-Alley, East Smithfield; Elizabeth Fennick lodged with me, and the prisoner did also, most part of 5 months.

Q. Do you know what circumstances the prisoner was in, when he was with you?

I. Gordon. I have seen some of his things in pawn, but know nothing of the pawning of them; he always had money to help himself.

Q. When did he leave your house?

I. Gordon. He left my house about a week before the 25th of March; on the Monday after, I was going up the alley between twelve and one, I met him; he said he was going to sea; on Tuesday the 26th I saw him; he had a good deal of money then about him; I happened to go into a pawnbroker's shop; he was taking out things; I saw he had some gold in a purse; and on the same day I met Elizabeth Fennick , with a purse with money in it; but I did not see him give it her.

Israel Swaby. I live in Dover, and keep a silver-smith's shop; I bought 110 dollars of the prisoner at the bar, this day fortnight, about nine in the morning; he told me he came from the Streights; I gave him 4 s. 4 d. a piece for them.

Joseph Stephens . I am a silver-smith; I bought 34 dollars of the prisoner at the bar, on the 25th of March, about four or five in the afternoon; he asked 4 s. 6 d. and I gave him 4 s. 5 d. each.

Eliz. Finmick. I have known the prisoner seven months; I lived at Mrs. Gordon's, and at the back of the Swan; the prisoner lived with me; when he came first to me, he received a great deal of money; it was spent; and in the beginning of March he received some money upon a will.

Q. How long was that before the 25th of March?

E. Finnick. I can't tell; he left me a week before the 25th of March; but I don't know how long before; he came back to me on Monday between ten and eleven o'clock, on Lady-day in the morning; he had but very little money before he left me; I had pledged a breast-buckle, and a pair of silver buckles, and he told me he had pledged some shirts and things; he appeared to be very ill on Lady-day: he breakfasted with me, and gave me half a guinea; he staid with me about an hour that day; I did not see him again till about twelve on Tuesday; then I was in a public house; I went out, and met him at the top of Mouse-alley; he looked as if he was dying; he desired me to fetch him a pot of beer and toast in it; I did; he drank the beer, and eat the toast; then he gave me a purse with about fifty guineas in it, all gold; he told me he received it on a will that he was executor to; he brought this long-chest into Mrs. Gordon's house that night; he went out, and fetched in a bag of dollars in his great coat; I saw nothing but dollars; one corner of the bag was torn: this is the bag, (pointing to one of them.)

Q. Had you ever seen a dollar before?

E. Finnick. I have had several before; he put the bag of dollars in his chest; he told me on the Thursday morning, as we were in bed, he got them in the India-house; he said he went round and saw a chimney, and he got up; that he had a gimblet, and bored holes with it up through the bottom of the chest, and the tea fell down, and he did not know what it was; at last he found it was tea; he said he got through the chests of tea, and got up into the room; that he had made holes with a marling-spike, the gimblet, and an iron crow; he said there were more dollars, that he left behind the door, I think; I never counted the dollars; he and I were both taken up at Dover; I am acquainted there; I was at Dover fair with him; he proposed I should go down; I told him I would not live with him; I lived a very uneasy life; I wanted to see Mr. Fuller, that keeps the White Swan on the Pier; he had been in London, and told me he would send me up some things; the prisoner would not go without me, and I consented to go; he packed up every thing himself in this little chest, that had been mine; he had the key; he took and put the chest in the coach; that chest was afterwards found at Dover; I had some gold, and two dollars about me, which I had from him.

Prisoner's Defence.

It was M'Cartey that brought me into this trouble; he bid me come with him when he had found the scheme out; he was ringleader of the fact; I did not know what he was going about till we got there; what he did I told this woman.

To his Character.

John Cripps . I have known the prisoner about seven months; I keep a public house, the Blue Anchor in East Smithfield; he used to come to our house; I trusted him some pounds; I always took him to be a very honest man.

Guilty of stealing the dollars, the property of Michael Salomons, in the dwelling-house belonging to the Company, &c. Death .