Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 23 October 2018), February 1789, trial of THOMAS SHERRY (t17890225-13).

THOMAS SHERRY, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 25th February 1789.

194. THOMAS SHERRY was indicted for feloniously assaulting Elizabeth Bell , wife of James Bell , on the King's highway, on the 12th of February , and putting her in fear, and feloniously taking from her person, and against her will, one silk handkerchief, value 1 s. 2 shirts, value 2 s. 3 linen aprons, value 6 s. a pair of cotton stockings, value 1 d. a damask napkin, value 2 s. and a linen ditto, value 1 s. his property .

ELIZABETH BELL sworn.

I am wife of James Bell ; I live at Lower Shadwell, my husband is a cooper , I follow a little weaving when I can; as I was coming out of a butcher's shop, in the highway close on Farmer's-street , on the 12th of February, I was going home, and three men surrounded me three doors from the butcher's; I had been for a pound of mutton chops; the prisoner damned me and said, he would have some mutton chops for his supper; two of the men were behind, Sherry was facing me; I had a bundle in my hand, which the prisoner laid hold of, he dragged me down the steps to Palmer's street from Ratcliffe-highway; he dragged me by holding it; there are five at one parting of the steps, and about five more at bottom; I know the steps perfectly well; I cried out murder as loud as I could; there was a man came out to my assistance, but the prisoner was gone off with my bundle; he took my bundle from me, and run off; I kept my feet in going down the first five steps, from which there is a space of ground; he had hold of my bundle and cloak, and he dragged me down on my knees to the other steps; I was pulled by force by my bundle.

How was you conducted down the first steps? - By a violent force, keeping my feet; he laid hold of the side of my cloak, and the bundle, and pulled the string of my cloak quite off; when I came to the bottom of the first five steps I strove to keep my property; then he dragged me down the rest of the steps, by holding my bundle and my cloak, he had hold as well as I;I did not tumble down, he pulled me down, he dragged me by all fours down the remainder, he dragged me down the last steps with my head foremost, on my knees; I kept my hand on the bundle before me; when he got me to the bottom of the other steps, there is a lamp, and he run off with my bundle; I went immediately back up the steps to the butcher's, and I told them, the butcher went home with me, which is about twenty minutes walk.

Did you know the prisoner before this time? - I saw him, and two with him, pass the shop while I was in it; I had not seen him before, I did not know either of the other two; the two that surrounded me were the same that were with him; I never saw them either before or since to my knowledge; it was not in all above a minute and a half, or two minutes, from the time of his taking me down the steps to his running away with my bundle; that place is a thoroughfare, but it is dark of nights; it was not my way home; the bundle contained two white shirts, three white aprons, a pair of men's ribbed cotton stockings, a damask napkin, and a common napkin, all tied up in a silk handkerchief; they were my husband's property; I had been for them from the washer woman's; the butcher's shop was in my way home; the prisoner did not take the chops, but they were dropped; they were on a skewer; the next night I saw the prisoner in the White-hart public-house, Ratcliffe-highway; the officer and me took him there; I was with the officer; I knew I should know him again if I saw him.

What induced you who was a perfect stranger to the prisoner to go to the White-hart? - The next day I told Mr. Orange the officer, and he took me to the White-hart, and to another public-house.

Did you give Orange any description of the person of the man? - No, I did not, I told him how I had been robbed, and that if I saw the man I should know him; the same evening I went to the White-hart; I saw nobody I knew there; then I went to the White-hart, and he was in the taproom, on his feet among a great many people.

Before you told Orange that was the the man, had any body pointed him out to you? - No.

Nor given you any suspicion that he was the man? - No.

Neither Orange, nor any body else? - No.

Had Orange, or any body else, told you who was likely to be the man, or mentioned his name? - No, I knew him as soon as I went in, and I signalised him out.

What dress was he in when he robbed you? - It was, I believe, a kind of a brown or dark-coloured jacked, with a kind of white button; his hat, I believe, was a round one, but I cannot be positive.

Then you cannot be certain whether you had a perfect view of his face? - I had a perfect view of his face when he was passing by, and at the bottom of the steps there is a lamp, and then I looked at him when he dragged me down, and I saw it was the same man that passed by the butcher's shop.

Was he laid hold of in the room at the publick-house? - Yes; and taken into a back room, and Orange searched him in my presence; I told him I believed that was my handkerchief about his neck, which was taken off by Orange. I just had a glimpse of it, and knew it to be my own; it was a silk handkerchief, nothing else was taken on him, no other part of my property has been found since. We went before the justice the same night, there the handkerchief was produced; then I had an opportunity of examining it to know it; I was able to know it to be my husband's.

Court. There was no other force used than the dragging you mentioned, no instrument? - None, no conversation passed between us, but I said, do not take my bundle; it was as near as I can tell about half past nine.

How came you to take notice of the prisoner passing by? - Nothing led me to any suspicion, only I was looking as he and the other men passed by.

Did you take such notice of him when he passed by, that if this had not happened you should have known him? - I do not know that I should if I had not seen him the second time.

And the only light you had to see him by afterwards was the lamp at the bottom of the steps? - Yes, I knew he was the same by that lamp.

Mr. Knowlys, Prisoner's Council. What time was this? - About half past nine at night.

I should guess that a young woman like you was very much frightened? - Sometimes a fright will bring me more to my senses.

Then you have a very particular constitution, but you was under some alarm, was you not? - Certainly I was under a little alarm.

You say there was a man came out? - Yes.

You gave no description to the man that came up? - I just said, God bless you, run after him, he has got my bundle.

Did you wait till that man came back again? - No, he did not go.

Did you know Mr. Orange before this? - No, I did not.

How came you to find him out? - I was going along the highway, and was told that he was one.

Where did you see him, did you call at his house? - No, I did not, I was told that that was an officer.

This young man had the handkerchief openly about his neck? - Yes.

You, without examining, claimed it? - Yes, I did not mean to examine it any more.

Were you talking with the butcher? - No, I was not, I said I wanted a pound of mutton chops; it is a place I always deal at.

Did you make any application to the butcher to come here as a witness for you? - I never applied to him, nor ever asked him.

There are houses on both side the steps, and a double wall at the turning? - I cannot tell you the place rightly, because I do not frequent it.

This lamp is at the bottom of the steps? The lamp stands in the middle of the steps, over the bottom of the steps. I am not sure whether his hat was on or not when he got to the bottom of the steps, when he passed by the butcher's he had a hat on then, but I cannot say what kind of hat it was.

Did you take so much notice of him at the lamp as to say whether he had a hat on or not? - I cannot say.

JOHN ORANGE sworn.

On the 13th of this month application was made to me by Mrs. Bell, between seven and eight, to the best of my knowledge, in the evening, at the White Lion in Shadwell Market; she told me she was robbed by three men.

Did she describe the particulars where it happened? - Yes.

Did she describe any of those men to you? - She told me one had a jacket on with white buttons; accordingly I went with her to the White Lion. She said one was a lowish lad, and the other two taller, but she could not know them.

Did she tell you where she was robbed? - Yes, she said at the bottom of the steps going into Farmer-street.

Did she tell you how she got down to the bottom of the steps? - Yes, she told she was dragged down to the bottom of the steps by one of the people who had snatched away the bundle from her. I went with her in search of him to the White Hart, to see if she knew any body there. I desired her to look about to see if she knew any body in the tap-room.

Were there many people in the room? There were men and women; and after looking round the room she signalized the prisoner at the bar out to me; she then gave me charge of him.

Had she spoke to the prisoner before she did this? - No, she had not; I then took him into custody, and took him into the back room; I searched him, and while I was searching him, she directed me to take the handkerchief off his neck; she verily believed it was hers; I then took the handkerchief off his neck, and put it into my pocket; I did not shew it to her then; I then secured him, and took him to the publick office, Shadwell, there I produced the handkerchief, which she swore to; it is here (produced); I have had it ever since.

Mr. Knowlys. How long had you been at the White Lion? - I am there all day long, waiting for business; that is a house that we frequent.

Who came with the young woman? - Her husband.

That was the first time they applied to you? - Yes.

You was not in the street then, when they saw you first? - No.

The young woman's husband went with you, at the time all this took place? - He certainly did.

He was there all the time? - He was.

He is the next witness to be examined? - No, he knows nothing of the business.

Are you a constable? - I am.

Of what parish? - I am sworn in for the county; I am an officer besides; I am sworn in as a constable, from sessions to sessions, at the Public-office, by two magistrates; at the Public-office for the county.

The handkerchief was on his neck in the room, that any body might see it? - Certainly.

There is no particular pattern in the handkerchief? - I have no business to describe the handkerchief, the woman will describe it; certainly there is patterns, and some more remarkable patterns than others.

Is not that a very common pattern? - Certainly it is. Mr. Forrester knows no more; he was with me when I received the information.

Court to Elizabeth Bell . Look at that handkerchief; do you know that handkerchief? - I do, perfectly.

Is that the handkerchief you saw at the office? - It is.

Whose property is it? - My husband's.

How do you know it? - The hem is worn off, part of it of each side.

Is it a silk handkerchief? - Yes.

Whose hemming is it, do you know? - It is my own.

Is it lettered? - No.

Had you observed this hemming worn off part of it, before this thing happened? - I knew the handkerchief; I lost it; I knew it was the same, when I saw it on his neck.

How did you know it? - By the remarkable fineness, and two or three little holes in the corner, which I had observed before I lost it.

Court. Now, with all the caution that ought to be put to you, upon such a charge as this, do you undertake to swear, that that is the handkerchief which contained the bundle you was robbed of? - Yes, my Lord, I do with a safe conscience.

How long had you the handkerchief in your possession, before you lost it? - I had taken it off my own neck before I went out, and I put a white one on, and I clapped this into my pocket.

Whas it a handkerchief you yourself generally wore? - Yes, it was.

Mr. Knowlys. Is not that as common a pattern of a silk handkerchief, as any that is worn? - Yes.

The wearing will happen to any body that wears a silk handkerchief? - Yes.

Court. Look at it again, and tell me whether you can speak to your work on the hemning, so as to know it? - I think I can; I can tell I hemmed it, because I hemmed it in a great hurry, and in a very dark place.

(The handkerchief handed to the Jury.)

Mr. Knowlys. Was it you that first applied to Orange, or did Orange come toyou, before you saw him at the ale-house? - I saw him in the high-way, but I did not speak to him then.

Before Orange had made any application to you about this supposed robbery; had you been to him? - I went to him.

Did you go to Orange, before he had ever called at your house? - Yes, I did.

Are you sure of that; did not he first call now at seven in the morning at your house, before you went to him at the White Lion? - No, that I swear he did not; I was not out of bed.

Did he at any other time in the morning, before you called on him? - No.

PRISONER's DEFENCE.

About two hours before Mr. Orange took me, I was going up the highway, and there was a woman singing a song; and there was a man standing by with this handkerchief, and wanted to sell this handkerchief; and I asked him what he would have for it, and he said 2 s. and I told him I would give him one shilling, and the handkerchief I had round my neck, and he let me have it; I have a great many gentlemen in court for my character.

The prisoner called fourteen witnesses, who all gave him a very good character.

NOT GUILTY .

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. BARON THOMPSON .