Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 27 March 2023), February 1786, trial of JOSEPH BUTLER (t17860222-4).

JOSEPH BUTLER, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 22nd February 1786.

195. JOSEPH BUTLER was indicted for feloniously assaulting Edward Poulton , on the King's highway, on the 16th day of February , and putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and feloniously taking from his person and against his will, one linen handkerchief, value 6 d. sixteen yards of black bombazeen, value 40 s. a black silk gown, value 40 s. a black silk petticoat, value 20 s. the property of Martha Robinson , spinster .


I am going on fourteen; on Thursday night last, I lost some things between nine and ten in Bond-street, I was going from Essex-street in the Strand; I was going to Brook-street, and from thence to Castle-street; going on Bond-street , I met three fellows just facing Cork-street, and they asked me what street it was, and I told them it was Bond-street, I was carrying a hare that I had, then two of the fellows took it away, and this man took my bundle, I held my bundle, and he dragged me along the street, he pulled me so, I was forced to let go, he did not say any thing to me, I called out murder! and he ran away, and dropped the bundle which another man picked up and brought me, the man was taken to the watch-house in about a quarter of an hour, I did not see him taken, he was taken at almost ten o'clock, I know it was the same man, for he dragged me so far along the street, that I looked at him all the time he was dragging me, the bundle was tied up in a white handkerchief, I do not know what was in it, it belonged to my mistress's sister, Martha Robinson ; the bundle was taken to the watch-house.

Was that the same bundle you had? - Yes.

How do you know that, if you do not know what was in it? - I knew it by the handkerchief.

Did not you see at the watch-house what things were in it? - I did not look to see what things were in it.

Mr. Peatt, Prisoner's Counsel. What time was this, my little fellow? - Between nine and ten.

A great many people passing? - No.

Was you on the foot path? - Yes.

Nobody offered to assist you? - No, Sir.

Was not you rather surprized when the hare was dragged from you? - Yes.

Was you frightened? - Yes.

I suppose you kept looking at your bundle with a wishful eye, for fear you should lose it? - Yes.

And I suppose, the person that got the bundle from you, run away? - Yes.

Then he turned his back to you? - Yes.

Then you saw no more of him, till you saw him him at the watch-house? - Yes, I saw him again before he was carried to the watch-house.

What sort of handkerchief was this? - A white handkerchief with a little red round the border.

And a mark in the corner? - I do not know.

Suppose you had seen that bundle in any other place, should you have known your handkerchief again? - Yes.

How would you have known it? - I should have known it by the silk gown in the handkerchief, I could see it in.

Court. Why you told me just now, you did not know what was in the bundle? - There was a black gown, I could see in the bundle, I saw it at one corner.

How could you see whether it was a gown, or a cloak, or what it was? - It looked like a gown.

Did you know any thing else that was in it? - No.

Was it a black gown? - Yes.


I was standing in Cork-street, when I heard the alarm was given, I ran down Cork-street, and perceived a man with a bundle under his arm; I tried to stop him, as soon as he saw me, he dropped the bundle down.

What became of the bundle? - I stooped and picked the bundle up, the man went past me, Jonathan Oakes , who was standing by, pursued and took him within forty or fifty yards.

Was he ever out of your sight before he was taken? - Yes.

Can you say whether the man that was taken, was the same man that you saw with the bundle? - Yes.

How did you know him again? - I knew him by his person, I saw him before he came to me, by the shade of the lamp, I remarked his yellow buttons, I knew him more by his clothes than his face; I gave the bundle to the boy.

Mr. Peatt. The man was running? - Yes.


I heard the cry, I pursued the prisoner, I did not see him drop any bundle, it was behind some trees in Cork-street; I saw the prisoner doing nothing only running up the street as fast as he could, he never was out of my sight, he never was above two yards from me, I took him to the watch-house; when I came up to him he blasted my eyes, and asked what I wanted, he said nothing else.

(Mr. Bentley produced the bundle.)

I brought it from my own house, I had it from Martha Robinson the owner.

Court. The bundle you picked up, was left at the watch-house? - Yes.


Where did you get the bundle that you gave to Bentley on Friday night? - I had it from the watch-house, it was locked up in a cupboard in the watch-house.

Have you any body here to prove that it was the same bundle that was left there by Bentley.

Oakes. I saw the boy carry it to the watch-house, and it was opened there that night, directly as it was taken in, the boy was there, I saw it contained a gown and petticoat, and some bombazeen.

Did not the boy see what it contained? No, Sir, I do not think he did, he was standing by the fire at the same time, it was tied up, and put in the cupboard with another bundle.

Was any mark put upon it? - No, that was the other bundle that the boy had, that was left at the watch-house the same time.

Court to Oakes. Now, can you say it is the same bundle? - Yes.

How? - I can tell by the handkerchief, I took notice of the border of the handkerchief at the time it was open.

Court to boy. Was this the bundle the prisoner took from you? - Yes, I am quite sure of that, because the other was in a cheque handkerchief, I stood by the fire at the watch-house, I did not see them open the bundle.

Court to Mrs. Robinson. Did you send the boy with this bundle? - Yes, he was going into Brook-street, he was to carry these bundles into Castle-street where I live; this is one of the bundles I gave him to carry, I am quite sure of it.

Prisoner. I leave it all to my counsel.

The prisoner called three witnesses who gave him a good character.

GUILTY , Death .

He was humbly recommended by the Prosecutrix to his Majesty's mercy.

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.