Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 04 October 2022), September 1823, trial of JAMES HUGHES (t18230910-8).

JAMES HUGHES, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 10th September 1823.

SECOND DAY, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11.

Middlesex Cases, Second Jury, Before Mr. Recorder.

999. JAMES HUGHES was indicted for feloniously assaulting William James Humphries , on the King's highway, on the 17th of August , at Christ church, putting him in fear, and taking from his person, and against his will, a seal, value 30 s.; a watch-key, value 6 d., and part of a watch-chain, value 6 d. , his property.

WILLIAM JAMES HUMPHRIES . I am a brazier , and live in Paradise-row, St. George in the East. On sunday, the 17th of August, I went to dine with a friend, at the corner of Percival-street, Goswell-street - I left there about nine o'clock at night, and was returning home with my wife and family; I was quite sober. My wife had a child at her breast, and I was leading my eldest boy. I proceeded down Union-street, towards Spitalfields-church, and when I came to the corner of Gun-street , I saw the prisoner leaning against a post; he was alone - I am sure of his person. As I advanced towards the middle of the road, he met me, and made a spring at me, and struck me on the breast with his arm, and at the same moment took my watch-seal from me - the chain broke with the snatch, and part of it went with the seal, key, and ring; it was a gold seal, which I had taken out of pawn for 30 s.; the chain was steel. He rushed against my breast - I put my hand down, and missed it, and immediately pursued after him, calling Stop thief! I ran down Gun-street on the left-hand side of the way, and was interrupted by another, who struck me on the breast - I immediately recovered from the blow. I pursued the prisoner; he was out of my sight about a minute; when I saw him again he was stopped. I looked at him, and immediately recognized him, and am certain he is the person. I have found none of my property. When he got to the watch-house, I said it was a pity a young man should be guilty of such a thing, and if he would produce my property, or tell me where I could get it, I should be sorry to go on with the prosecution - he said he was innocent; I said,

"If you were it would be hard to swear against you if I was not positive," but I was certain of him; he was stopped within two or three minutes after the robbery.

Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q. This was atnight - A. Ten minutes before ten o'clock; it was a fine star-light night, but not moon-light. I never saw him before; I only saw him as I was crossing the road; it might not be more than half a minute. I saw him leaning on a post. The gas-light shone right in his face. I was agitated when the push was given.

Q. Between the time of your seeing him, and your being robbed another person knocked against you - A. Yes, and when I got up there was a crowd of people holding him. I never said I might be mistaken in him - I said it would be impossible for me to swear to him, provided I had not such a good view of his face; his hat was on, but it did not hide his face. My eye was fixed on him as he leant on the post, and when he came from the post towards me, I looked steadfastly at his face. I do not know what became of the other man. The prisoner's landlady came to me after he was examined - I told her I was positive of him. I never said I would let him go if his friends would give me money. I was not agitated till I was robbed. I thought my watch was gone, and ran off immediately. I felt my seal safe just before.

JAMES TURRELL . I am a watchman. On the 17th of August, I was going to the watch-house at the end of Gun-street, and passing the end of Gun-street and Union-street, I saw the prisoner leaning against a post - I went up to him, taking him for a person I knew, but when I got close to him, I found he was not. I am certain he is the man who stood against the post. Two or three minutes after, I stopped at the opposite corner for a necessary purpose, and in the mean time I saw a man, woman, and children passing the post where he stood. I saw the prisoner step from the post to the edge of the curb, and lift his left arm up, but whether he took anything I do not know; he immediately ran down Gun-street, and the prosecutor called Stop thief; I immediately pursued the prisoner - he was stopped in Artillery-passage. I only lost sight of him as he turned the corner into the passage; he was stopped immediately - I am certain of him. The prosecutor came up, and asked us to stop for him to see if he was the person, and when he saw him he said he was. He was taken to the watch-house, and said there, that he was innocent. The people asked why he ran away; he said there was a window broken close to where he stood, and he was afraid they would take him for breaking it. I heard no windows broken, and next morning I looked all about the street to see if any were broken, but could find none.

Cross-examined. Q. You do not mean to say you examined every pane of glass in two or three streets - A. No. I examined the windows at five o'clock in the morning; I examined both sides of Gun-street. It happened on my beat, but was ten minutes before duty. I have been on that beat nine years, and never saw him before to my knowledge. I saw him for two or three minutes; but did not speak to him; there was a gas-light close to him; the prosecutor said another man gave him a blow on the breast. I only lost sight of him as he turned the corner; he was the first who was running; I was seven or eight yards from him, and did not see him throw anything away.

Prisoner's Defence. I was returning from Whitechapel, down Union-street, and saw a female, who turned down Gun-street; thinking I knew her, I went after her, and about three paces down the street, I heard something break, and heard a cry of Stop thief! and saw a man running, and ran after him; whether he ran into a house or not I do not know. I went down to the bottom of the street; several people were running different ways - I was taken hold of, and asked what they took me for; they said they heard a cry of Stop thief! and did not know whether I was the man or not. This gentleman came up in two or three minutes - I said,

"Does this gentleman accuse me of robbing him?" he said,

"No, but I suppose if you was not the man you would not be stopped," and that he could not say positively that I was the man. I was taken to the watch-house, and there they asked if he was sure I robbed him - he said it was hard to swear to a man, and as so many people were alike, he would not swear, but no doubt as I was stopped I was the person. I declare to God that I am innocent. He was nearly an hour in the watch-house, and when the prosecutor was asked if he would give charge, he said if the constable thought proper he would. He persuaded him to give charge of me, and to enquire if I had respectable friends.

JAMES HUMPHRIES . I never said I had the least doubt of his person. I stopped him in the street, and said I was the person who had been robbed, and wished to see if they had the right man, and immediately I looked at him I said he is the man, and never expressed a doubt of him.

JAMES TURRELL . The prosecutor always declared himself certain of the prisoner.

SUSAN HATCHETT . I live in Union-walk, Kingsland-road. I have known the prisoner seven or eight years; he was apprenticed to a Mr. Evans, of Old-street-road - he has lodged with me for the last two years, and is a paper-stainer, and an honest industrious character - his master has been dead some time, and since that he has been jobbing for himself. I saw the prosecutor the morning after this charge was made - I asked him what was the matter; he said this young man was in charge on suspicion of taking his seals and chain - he said the young man who had his seal was by the watch-house door. I said, why do you wish to take him (the prisoner) up then; he said I do not wish to take him up if he will tell me who has got my seal.

COURT. Q. How came you to go after this person - A. A person called on me (I think from the watch-house.) and asked if I knew Hughes, as he was in the watch-house on suspicion of taking a gentleman's seal. I am sure he said he was there on suspicion. I saw the prosecutor next morning at the watch-house, before eleven o'clock. Many people were by.

Q. Do you mean to swear that the prosecutor expressed a doubt of the prisoner being the person who robbed him - A. Yes, he did; because he said the person, who he believed had his seal, went by the watch-house door that morning. I said it was a pity he charged him, if he was not certain of him.

Q. Did he say he doubted about him - A. No; he said there were three or four in the gang, and he believed this young man was with them - but the man who he thought had his seal went by the door.

JAMES HUMPHRIES . I saw this woman at the watch-house next morning - she came to the watch-house and said to the prisoner,

"Where is the man who says yourobbed him." I said

"Here am I;" she said,

"It cannot be' - I said

"Positively it is so" - she said,

"Oh! for God's sake let us make it up, will you go with me to Kingsland-road?" I said, No, I could do nothing; he was in charge, he was the man who robbed me, and I could not take him away.

GUILTY - DEATH . Aged 17.

Recommended to Mercy, by the Prosecutor .