Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 06 December 2019), June 1856, trial of JAMES MOORE (t18560616-631).

JAMES MOORE, Damage to Property > arson, 16th June 1856.

631. JAMES MOORE feloniously setting fire to a house, the property of George Mustin Simpkins, with intent to injure him.

MR. PLATT conducted the Prosecution.

GEORGE MUSTIN SIMPKINS . I am a carpenter, and live at No. 2, —the house, No. 10, Earl-street, belongs to me—I occupy the whole of the workshops, and let out portions of the house to different tenants—I occupy the whole of the workshops at the back for the purposes of my trade—there are three, one over the other—there is a covered way from the house to the lower shop—the prisoner was one of my tenants when this occurred—it was on Whit Monday morning, 12th May—he lodged in the first floor front room, and had done so about twelve months—I was in my bottom workshop on the Friday before—I left it about three o'clock that afternoon, it was then quite safe—I looked it up, and took away the key with me—I left no fire of any description in the place—I live close by, in sight of the house—on the Monday morning after, about half-past 5 o'clock, I heard a knock at the door, I went to the front room window, looked out, and saw the prisoner at the door—he said, "Get up directly, your workshops are all on fire"—I put on my clothes and went over—the bottom shop was all on fire when I got there, it was blaring—about 145l. worth of damage was done altogether—about half of the building was destroyed—the flooring in the second shop was destroyed, and part of the third flooring, and the roof partly injured, and there were tools and other things destroyed—assistance arrived, and the fire was got under—the prisoner owed me a little rent at this time, about 50s.—I had not said anything to him about it, no more than I might have said several times, "If you don't let me have some money, I shall certainly distrain upon you"—I had been in the habit of saying that.

Cross-examined by MR. LANGFORD. Q. On this morning were you disturbed by a knock, or several knocks? A. Three distinct knocks, very loud—there are seven tenants in the house besides the prisoner—he has always been very civil—I am not sure that I said I would distrain—I am often obliged to say it to the other tenants, but I never do it—I might very likely have said it to him as I have to others—there was not the least cause of quarrel or animosity between us—I believe he is given to drink for about three weeks at a time—his wife drinks worse than he does—he is a very harmless man; I never heard anything different—I cannot tell you who went for the engine—it is very likely that the prisoner might have gone for the engine, he being the first to come to call me—I heard that he helped pump the engine—I did not see him having any drink after the fire was got

under, I did not give him any—he has some children—his eldest girl was brought out of the window—there were people in the house who were bed-ridden, and one old lady, eighty years of age, I brought out in my arms.

WILLIAM THOMAS HORNSBY (policeman, F 14). About 10 minutes past 9 o'clock on Monday morning, 12th May, the prisoner came up to me in Bow-street—he said, "Have you heard anything about the fire that took place in Earl-street"—I said, "Yes, I have"—he said, "It was me as set it on fire"—knowing him for some considerable time, I said, "Nonsense, I will not believe it"—upon that he gave me this letter, addressed to Mr. Simpkins (Read: "Mr. Simpkins,—The fire that occurred at your house this morning was caused by me, but what made me do it I cannot tell; the person that brings this to you will tell you where I am. J Moore.")—the prisoner appeared to be quite sober—he persisted in his statement, and I took him to the station—on afterwards going to the prosecutor's premises, I found that a fire had occurred, and that the building had been partly destroyed—I said to the prisoner, "What motive could you have?"—he said, "I don't know."

Cross-examined. Q. How long have you known Moore? A. Eight or nine years—he is a picture frame maker—I have known him as a harmless man—I never knew him get into any raw—I never knew that he was a drunken character—I did not see him drank on this morning—he told me afterwards that he had been drinking for a fortnight—I did not perceive that he trembled.

JOHN MILLS MITCHILL (police inspector, F). The prisoner was brought to the station by Hornsby, who produced this letter to me, saying that the prisoner had made a statement to him that he had set fire to the premises of Mr. Simpkins in Earl-street—the prisoner said, "It is quite correct"—I asked his name and address, and entered it on the charge sheet—I then told him that he was charged upon his own confession with setting five to the premises No. 10, Little Earl-street, the property of Mr. Simpkins—he said, "It is all right, it is all correct; I did it"—he appeared quite sober and as sensible in my opinion as he is now—he was calm and collected.

HIRAM MCGILL . I am twelve years old I live with my father, George McGill, at Na, 10, Earl-street, Seven Dials—we occupy the front shop and parlour—the prisoner lodged in the first floor front room over the shop—on Monday morning, 12th May, about 5 o'clock, I heard a person come down stairs—I do not know who it was—the person went into the yard, I could hear him—he remained there about ten minutes or quarter of an hour—he was moving about there—I afterwards heard a person come from the yard into the passage, I did not hear him go up stairs—a few minutes after this, the prisoner came running down stairs, crying oat, "Fire! fire!"!"—I knew his voice—he shut his own door.

Cross-examined. Q. What did you do? A. I got up and went out, and called my father and mother—I do not know who went for the engine—I did not see Moore working the engine—I was not near it, I was by our streets door—T did not see the fire put out—I did not see Moore assist or do anything, nor hear him call anybody.

GEORGE MUSTIN SIMPKIN re-examined. The prisoner once attempted to hang himself, and was cut down very nearly dead—the lodgers in the home told me this—it was about six months ago—when he has been on the drink I have found something very vacant about him when he has been coming to again—he has work at home—he has three children—I have reason to believe he was on the drink for a fortnight or three weeks before this—I

have gone up into his room to see if I could get any money, and he has not been there, and the place has been all at sixes and sevens, like a drunken room.

GUILTY . Aged 40.— Confined Two Years.