Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 July 2022), April 1856, trial of WALTER SCOTT DOWDING (t18560407-469).

WALTER SCOTT DOWDING, Theft > embezzlement, 7th April 1856.

469. WALTER SCOTT DOWDING , embezzling, in Nov., 1854, an order for the payment of 124l. 8s., and 124l. 8s. in money, which he had received as clerk to the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company.—2nd COUNT, for a like offence to the amount of 52l. 8s.

MESSRS. BODKIN and CLERK conducted the Prosecution.

HENRY WEBB . I am one of the Directors of the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company. The prisoner was our secretary in 1854 and 1855—he has acted so, I think, seven years—he had a salary of 100l. a year, and a house; also a commission of 2l. per cent. on the gross receipts—he received burial fees and monies due to the Company, and kept the books—it was part of his duty to enter in the books the monies received and paid by him during 1854 and 1855—the Directors used, I think, to meet fortnightly; that is, the second Thursday in the month and the last—on those occasions it was the prisoner's duty to attend and lay the accounts before the Directors—the fortnightly account showed the monies received; the monies expended were cheques drawn by the Directors—the prisoner had to pay a commission to undertakers—it was his duty twice in the year to make up the half yearly accounts—he made up the half yearly balance sheet to the 30th June last, for the meeting in July—this (produced) is it—among the assets here appears due to the Company 1,000l. 18s. 10d.—the prisoner was afterwards requested to make out the items of which that 1,000l. consisted—this is the account (produced)—the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster, is here debited to the amount of 156l. 14s.—that account was made out before the half yearly meeting in July—it was put into my hands in July—after that account was given, the Board came to this resolution—the prisoner took the minutes—(Read: "Wednesday, 30th July. Resolved, from henceforth, the parochial accounts be made out within a week from the termination of each quarter")—on that occasion we received this letter in the prisoner's writing—(Read: "City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company, 30th Aug., 1855. Gentlemen,—It is with feelings of the deepest grief that I shall be compelled to make disclosures of a most painful nature; I have done my utmost to avert the necessity of so doing, but it is impossible. For the sake of my dear family, I pray God that you will condemn me with mercy. Yours, &c., W. S. Dowding.")—after that letter had been read by the Directors, the prisoner was called into the room where we were sitting, and made a verbal communication to the Board—he stated that he had received monies, and after receiving the cheques on account of these parish accounts, had lost them, by going to town to take them to the bankers, and, consequently, they were not entered in the accounts, and that they might amount altogether to between 300l. and 400l.—the keys

Were then given up to the Directors, and an examination was made of the cash book and ledger, which had been kept by him—this (produced) is the cash book of 1854, and here are the minutes in this book of the meeting of 30th Nov., 1854—at that meeting the prisoner accounted for all monies he had received during the previous month, from 29th Oct to 26th Nov., inclusive—here is no account from the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster—the total amount of receipts for which he gives credit here for that month is 515l. 8s. 6d.—here are the different items of hich that credit is made up—they were ready payments made at the time—at the next meeting; 28th Dec., here is no credit given for a sum of 124l. 8s., for the parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster—the amount of his receipts is 506l. 14s. 6d.—that is made up principally of ready money sums, but here is an item of 46l. 2s., from St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 28th Nov.—this account of 22nd Feb., 1855, includes a period of a fortnight—it does not include 52l. 8s. on account of St. Margaret's, Westminster; the amount is 239l. 9s. 6d., which is made up of other items—in the following fortnight, or month, here is no entry of 52l. 8s. from St. Margaret's, Westminster—I have seen certain receipts which purport to be the prisoner's writing—this receipt for 124l. 8s. (produced) is his, and also this other for 52l. 8s. for St. Margaret's, Westminster.

Cross-examined by MR. BALLANTINE. Q. Supposing him to have received on 29th Nov., 1854, the sum represented by this receipt, when would it be his duty to have accounted for it to the Company? A. On the following Board day, 30th Nov.—if he received it on 29th Nov., it ought to have found its way into the book on the 30th—if he could not make up his accounts to the 29th, he ought to have stated here, 28th Nov.—it was not imperative on him to return the monies for the last few days before the Board day, so that he had the books at the bankers properly kept—it was his duty to pay crossed cheques into Messrs. Hankey's at once, without delay—I have not ascertained that it has been paid in—I cannot tell you when this cheque was paid in, nor the cheque of 16th Feb.—when he said that he had lost cheques, he did not specify any cheques—he did not refer to these two cheques—we understood that he referred to the losses he had had—I am not aware that he had to drink with undertakers—undertakers are our customers—it was not his duty to canvass them to procure custom, but he got a per centage—the more dead bodies he got, the more per centage he had—he had been well recommended to us, and has borne a highly respectable character—he was rather neglectful, but we had no idea of his dishonesty—he gave security, 400l., I think.

MR. BODKIN. Q. His securities turned out to be valueless? A. They are dead—having headed this account, "Statement of business, from 26th Oct to 29th Nov., inclusive," it was his duty to have inserted the sun he received on the 29th—he does not, in the account of the meeting in Dec., in the list of persons who have paid him money, include this sum of 124l. 8s.—I have looked through the books, and he does not account for it anywhere—the second account in Dec, is from 30th Nor. to 27th Dec., inclusive.

EDWARD SPOONER . I am clerk to the Board of Guardians of St. Margaret's, Westminster. I pay the Cemetery Company for the interments of paupers—this cheque produced was paid by the treasurer, in my presence, on 29th Nov., and this receipt was given at the time—this cheque for 52l. 8s. was also paid by the treasurer, and this receipt (produced) was given—the cheques were first crossed "and Co." only, they are now crossed "Hankey and Co."—the parish of St. Margaret's owed the Company nothing in June,

1855—we had no transactions with them after Ladyday, 1855, when they paid what they owed—any account in June charging them with owing the Company 56l. 4s. is false.

COURT. Q. Did you see the receipt signed? A. No—anybody might have appeared and signed a receipt—we pay seventy or eighty people at the same time—I believe on one occasion the prisoner's wife came.

JUDAH GREATOREX . I am clerk to Messrs. Hankey. This (produced is the ledger of Nov. and Dec., 1854—on 2nd Dec., 1854, we received from the City Cemetery Company 124l. 8s.—I make the amount paid in between 2nd and 27th Dec., both inclusive, 517l. 3s. 6d.—on 17th Feb., 1855, 52l. 8s. was paid in by them—from 8th to 21st Feb., the amount paid in was 237l. 8s. 8d.

(MR. BALLANTINE contended that no case was made out in point of law, Mr. Bodkin had relied upon the decision in the case of Rex v. Hall, in Russell and Ryan; he submitted that that case was not applicable to the present, here the prisoner was charged with embezzling specific cheques, which, in fact, he had not done, he had actually paid them into the bank entire, at the time at which they were received, and there was nothing to show that they were paid in with the intention to conceal the receipt of other items. MR. BODKIN submitted that the case of Rex v. Hall could not be distinguished from the present case; the prisoner, being in arrear, used the two cheques to discharge himself of his liabilities, on account of other sums which he had received, which was the same as if he had paid some private debt of his own with the money. THE COURT considered that the case could not be distinguished from that of Rex v. Hall, and that if the prisoner, having received the money, and having omitted to include it in his accounts, did so dishonestly, he would be guilty, and could not ease himself of that guilt by paying the money to the bankers two or three days afterwards. MR. BALLANTINE, therefore, addressed the Jury on behalf of the prisoner.)