Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 06 October 2022), September 1907, trial of MORRIS, Edward John (59, dealer) (t19070910-41).

EDWARD JOHN MORRIS, Theft > receiving, Theft > burglary, 10th September 1907.

MORRIS, Edward John (59, dealer), who was found guilty at last Session (see page 539) of feloniously receiving five bronze figures, two daggers, and other articles, the goods of Charles Armand Heghton, well knowing them to have been stolen, was now further indicted for burglary in the dwelling-house of Charles Wortheimer, and stealing therein 18 snuff-boxes, a watch, and other articles, his goods, and feloniously receiving same.

Mr. C. F. Gill, K.C., and Mr. P. M. Beachcroft prosecuted; Mr. George Elliott defended.

ARTHUR WM. STONE , butler to Chas. Wertheimer, 21, Norfolk Street, Park Lane, W. At 11.30 p.m. on February 11, 1907, the windows and doors were properly festened, and I went to bed in the basement. At 5.50 on the following morning I was aroused by the burglar alarm, caused by the opening of the street door. I called Mr. Wertheimer, awoke the servants, and communicated with Mr. Berry, the custodian. I found that a number a snuff-boxes were missing from the smoking-room, and that two pictures had been cut from their frames in the drawing-room. About nine or twelve months before the robbery the snuff boxes were kept in a cabinet in the drawing-room. On February 12 that cabinet had been opened.

WILLIAM CHARLES BERRY , 16, Manchester Street, W., custodian of Mr. Wertheimer's art collection at 21, Norfolk Street. On February 11 everything was secure when I left at 6 p.m. I was called in on the morning of the 12th and found that the house had been broked into by forcing the catch of the smoking-room window over the protice, apparently with a knife, which I found in the smoking-room, where I also found a piece a candle and some finger stalls (produced). The knife has a crack down the handle and bears the address, "So, Harrow Road." There had been stolen 18 snuff-boxes, a gold watch a scent flagon, an etui, two miniatures and two pictures which had been cut from their frames—Hon. Mrs. Yorke, by Reynolds, and a portrait of Nancy Parsons, by Gainsborugh. All the property has now been recovered, except the two pictures and one snuff-box. I produce photos of the two pictures and the missing snuff-box. The

same afternoon photos of all the stolen articles were given to the Press, and very extensively circulated.

Cross-examined. The two pictures were well known in the art world, and also that they were Mr. Wertheimer's. It would, therefore, be extremely difficult for a thief to have found a purchaser for them.

FELIX RODONI . On May 31 last I pleaded guilty in this Court to this burglary under the name of John Smith (see p. 306), and afterwards made a statement to the police. I first knew prisoner in 1901 as a customer, when I was employed at Gargini's Restaurant in Whitcomb Street, Leicester Square, for about two months as a waiter. It was a very small restaurant, and I was employed without salary. I had previously been convicted. I met prisoner again in August and September, 1906. I had been out of employment three months and was rather hard up. I was married, had two children, and was expecting a third. Prisoner stopped me in Leicester Square, looked me up and down, and seeing me very poorly dressed said I seemed to be very low down in the world. I said I had been out of work for three months, and that I had been convicted for forgery—I knew they all knew in the West End; that is why I told him that—that is why I could not get a good employment. Prisoner told me to go and see him at 58, Studley Road, Clepham. I went the same evening. Prisoner said his wife had been ill for some time, and that althought he kept it from her he had been pawning everything he had in the place to keep himself going. The next day I met him in the "Leicester" public-house by appointment, and he gave me 2s. He said, "Of course, as you have been convicted it is no good your trying to get a living honestly—you will not succeed. If you like to risk doing a little job, I know where I can send you to some stuff which I can easily sell because it is in my line of business." I had then been six years out of prison and had married. I said, "It is a very risky thing. I know I have lost my character, but I have got a wife and children now to study. I should not like anything to happen for their sake." He said, "You need not be afraid of that. I will look after them if anything goes wrong." I afterwards went to his house several times, and he told me to go to 13, Hyde Park Terrace, where I stole a number of bronzes and other articles, nearly all of which I handed to the prisoner. This is the case in which I have already given evidence. He afterwards told me that Inspector Stockley was inquiring into that robbery. About February 4 prisoner first spoke to me about the Norfolk Street robbery. I was then in great difficulties, my wife had been confined, and there was another child. I was living in two rooms in the basement of Mrs. Barrett's house, 4, Lansdowne Gardens, South Lambeth, paying 7s. 6d. a week with my wife and three children. During January I had been going to prisoner's place nearly every evening because he had been promising me 30s. to go away, and he made several appointments which he did not keep. He said he could not find the money, he had been trying to get it.

I said, "If you do not want to let me have it why do not you say so?—I do not want to be humbugged here every day—I might have been trying to get it somewhere else." He said, "If you think of chancing another job I know a place where you won't get bronzes this time"—that is how he came to it. I said, "What is the use of doing jobs to let you get all the stuff and then we get nothing out of it?" He said, "Oh, no, I have been already in correspondence with some of my pals over the water"—he mentioned France and he showed me one or two letters—"directly the stuff is here you bring it to me and then you need not worry any more about it. When it is here I will bunk off to Paris at once; it is a matter of 24 hours, and I will let you have some money." I said, "Yes, it is all very well, you cannot keep on doing this sort of thing without falling one of these days—without getting into trouble." I mentioned again my wife and children, and said, "What an awful thing it would be for them." He said, "Do not be afraid. If I am to sell my house out I will see to them if anything happens." That was about a week before the robbery occurred. After that I saw him, and three days before the robbery said, "Can you let me have some money tomorrow night?" He said, "I will try—you come here," and I kept going, and every night we spoke about this affair in Park Lane. I asked whose house it was. He told me it belonged to Mr. Charles Wertheimer, and it was snuff-boxes. I did not know the gentleman, and I asked who it was. He said it was a gentleman who had heaps of money. "It won't be bronzes this time—something better—it is snuff-boxes." He told me they were in the drawing-room. Then I said, "They do not always keep that snuff in the same place." He said, "They do not always keep that stuff in the same place." He said, "You need not be afraid. If you get in there you won't go away empty-handed, and at the very worst"—he took up a knife—"with this knife you can cut out a couple of the pictures; they always fetch £5 or £10." I took the knife. I went to him every evening—it was the same thing, he could not let me have anything, so I tried a dodge to try him. I went on the Monday evening and met him as he was coming home with a lady, and said, "I want to speak to you." The lady went on and he stopped. I said, "I have got the snuff-boxes and the pictures, I have done the job." Of course, it was not true—I thought by saying that he would let me have the 30s. He said, "All right, you come up to the Prince of Wales public-house and wait for me outside." That was in the Clapham Road. I went these and he came up in ten minutes. He said, "So you have done it." I said, "Yes, I have got the snuff-boxes at home and two pictures." He said, "Well, that is good." We had a drink, and I said, "Can you lot me have the 30s. to-night. I want to pay me rent." He said, "No, you bring me one of the boxes to-morrow morning and I will sell it for you at once, in no time. You will get the money at once." I made an appointment to bring it at seven in the morning. I went home. I was in want of money for arrears of rent and to live, and went through the West End to try and get some. At about twelve I returned and went out again and walked about till 4 a.m. I was

upset. I then went to Park Lane, got up on to some railings on a sort of shelf over the door of the next house, and on to the balustrade, forced back the catch of the window and got into the smoking-room. It was all dark, and I went straight for the drawing-room, ransacked the drawers, and could not find any money or the snuff-boxes. I cut two pictures out of the frames, went back to the smoking-room, struck a match, and then I saw the case containing the snuff-boxes. I then lit the candle, took the snuff-boxes, wrapped them separately in newspapers lying on the table, rolled the two pictures round them, went downstairs and out at the front door, causing the alarm bell to ring when I opened it, went down Park Lane, and got home at 6.45 a.m. I left the knife and candle in the house. I then went to prisoner's house, arriving there at 6.55 a.m., and knocked at the side door, which was opened by prisoner's niece. She said Mr. Morris was not up. I said, "Well, he ought to be—he has an appointment with me at seven o'clock." As I said that I heard him come downstairs, and I was let into the back kitchen. I told prisoner that what I said last night was not true—that I had not done it, but that I was just come from doing the burglary, and that I had got the snuff-boxes and the pictures. He was very delighted, gave me some coffee, and said, "We will not have to do anything more of this kind for some time, at any rate." Of course there was nothing in the papers then. He gave me a few shillings, and came to my place at 9a.m. To get to my rooms he had to come down the area and through the passage. I took him into the bed-room and showed him the snuff-boxes and the pictures. He said the pictures were not up to much—they were faced. I believed him, as I had a picture myself worth about half a crown that looked just as nice. He said he could get a few pounds for the things. He took the pictures and one of the snuff-boxes, because I told him I could hide the snuff-boxes from my wife, but I had not got a place for the pictures. He said he would let me have a few pounds during the say. He wore a felt hat with a flat top. When he was in the dock at Marlborough Street he had the same hat on. He made an appointment to meet me at the Oval at four p.m. that day, but did not keep it. I afterwards met him at seven p.m. with a lady. He sent the lady on, and said to me, "I could not get you much," and gave me £2. when I got home I found the landlady had made a bit of a fuss about his coming, and wanted to know who it was. I paid the rent that evening out of the £2. I saw in the evening papers very full particulars of the robbery, with copies and descriptions of the stolen goods. I met prisoner the next day. He seemed very much upset, and said he was being followed. I kept going to his place or meeting him outside for three or four days, and on Sunday he said. "We will never be able to sell any of that stuff. I have pasted the two pictures together with brown paper, and sent them somewhere safe, where they will not find them for years. The snuff-box I had to break up—it was not possible to sell it. I should advise you to do the same." I said, "No, I should never do that. It was bad enough to steal them without putting

them in the melting pot; and, besides, if I was to be caught and the things had been destroyed I should cop it very stiff, whereas I" they are found undamaged I might get off with a little sentence." He said, "No, you won't; you will find yourself mistaken about that"—and so I have. He said it was impossible to sell the stuff because it had been made too hot the police had made too much notice about it—he thought when this burglary had been found out the prosecutor very likely would have sat down in the drawing-room and whistled a tune until the stuff came back. He said it was quite impossible to sell anything—he had broken the snuff-box up and advised me to do the came with the others. He told me not to come again to his place; he might have some money for me on the following Wednesday, to send my wife, and meanwhile to think about melting the things down, and he would send me round the pots. I sent my wife on the Wednesday, and she came home with 12s. and a parcel containing two earthenware melting pots. I smashed them up. I afterwards met him at the Stockwell Tube Station, and told him I had been to his place, and his sister told me not to come any more. He said, "If you cannot take my advice to put the things in the melting pot I will wash my hands of it entirely." I said, "You cannot do that," and left him in a temper. I told him. "It is a nice way to treat anybody; now that you have brought the whole of Scotland Yard on me you wash your hands and you are off like a Frenchman." He said, "I cannot help it." I was entirely without means, and about a fortnight afterwards I got into communication with a man who turned out to be an agent of the police, to whom I sold some of the snuff-boxes, and was arrested with the remainder in my possession and the money that I had received from him. When in prison I told my wife to write to prisoner. I pleaded guilty to this case, and made a statement to the police with regard to this and the Hyde Park Terrace case.

Cross-examined. Before I met prisoner in 1901 I had been twice convicted for forgery and burglary; prisoner had nothing to do with those crimes, and I did not know him. Prisoner told me to take the pictures. He said there were plenty of pictures in the place, take a couple of them. He said he could always get £5 or £10 a pieces for them. I do not know of my own knowledge what prisoner has done with the pictures or the snuff-box.

HARRIETT RODONI , wife of Felix Rodoni, 4, Lansdowne Gardens, Sough Lambeth. I have been married five years, and went to live at Lansdowne Gardens about Christmas, 1906. During my married life my husband has never been convicted. I had two children and was expecting a third in September or October. About that time my husband sent me to 58, Studley Road. Prisoner let me in at the side door, and gave me £20, which I handed to my husband. One night in February, 1907, my husband was away all night. On the following morning prisoner came, and was taken into the bedroom by my husband. He was warning a hard felt hat with a flat top.

My landlady spoke to me about his calling. We then owed two weeks' rent, which was paid that evening. Shortly after I went to Studley Road when prisoner gave me 12s., and a paper parcel which my husband opened, and I saw it contained two earthenware pots. I saw my husband in Brixton Prison, and in consequence of what he told me wrote to the prisoner twice.

Cross-examined. I do not remember my husband leaving me for a few days at any time, or going to the continent.

Re-examined. Before my marriage I was in domestic service. Before my husband's arrest I had no idea that he was committing crime.

REBECCA BARRETT , 4, Lansdowne Gardens, South Lambeth. About Christman, 1906, Mr. and Mrs. Rodini, with two children, came to occupy two rooms in the basement of my house. In February they owed me two weeks' rent. On Tuesday morning, February 12, which was my washing day, at about 9 to 9.30 a.m., my attention was directed to a man leaving Rodini's bedroom. I only saw his back; he had white hair and was wearing a flat-topped, hard felt black hat and an overcoat. It was an exceptional occurrence—I had never seen any other man there. I spoke to my husband about it. They paid me the rent the same evening.

Cross-examined. I did not see the man's face. I am sure it is the prisoner from the back view I had of him. I do not think I said at the police-court, "I do not say prisoner is the man."

Detective-inspector HENRY FOWLER , W. Division. I have been in charge of this case. After Rodini's conviction he made a statement with regard to the robbery at 13, Hyde Park Terrace, and Norfolk Street. On may 31 at 11 a.m. I arrested the prisoner in the Clapham Road. I said, "We are police officers, and I shall arrest you are feloniously receiving two valuable oil paintings and a gold enamelled snuff-box, the property of Mr. Charles Wertheimer, of 21 Norfolk Street, Park Lane, well knowing them to have been stolen." He said, "I know nothing about them; this is very awkward." I said, "I shall take you to Brixton Police Station." On the way he said, "I know the man you are speaking about—Rodini. He used to be a waiter at Gargini's, where I used to go. I am a picture dealer, and I should not touch them. I know a picture when I see it. These dammed Italians are a curse to this country." I had not then mentions Rodoni at all. At the station he said, "Are you going to keep me all night?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I know Mr. Wertheimer, and have been to his house and done business with him." The next day I conveyed him in a cab to Marlborough Street Station. On the way he said, "You know that Mrs. Rodoni wrote to me after his arrest for assistance. I did not answer the letter. I suppose this Is the Italian vendetta." I searched at 58, Studley Road, with Sergeant Ebbage, and we found a knife with "80, Harrow Road, upon it exactly similar to the one found at 21, Norfolk Street. When arrested prisoner was wearing a hard felt flat-topped hat which he wore when in the dock at Marlborough Street. He has been since in custody, but would have no difficulty in changing his hat.

Cross-examined. At the time he mentioned Rodini's name the charge against Rodoni had been published.

Detective-sergeant ROBERT EBBAGE , W. Division. I have been in touch with this case from the commencement, was with Fowler at the arrest, went to Studley Road and found the knife produced, which has "80, Harrow Road," and is similar to the knife found at Norfolk Street.

Mr. Elliott submitted that there was no case to go to the jury, as there was no material corroboration.

The Recorder said that even without corroboration the case must go to the jury, but the similarity of the knife alone materially corroborated Rodini's story.

(Defence.)

EDWARD JOHN MORRIS (prisoner, on oath). I have been in business as a picture-dealer for many years in the City, West End, and various places. About 14 years ago I was at 5, Crosby Square, afterwards in partnership with Canini, in conjunction with whom I have carried through a large number of transactions with all the principal firms in the trade. I knew Rodini as a waiter at a restaurant; after that I missed him for many years; one day he spoke to me and I asked him to have a drink; I also met him in August or September, 1906; 15 or 16 years ago I went with my partner Canini with a picture in a cab to Mr. Wertheimer's house, but no further than the steps. I could not pick out the house now. Rodoni's statements are all false. I never gave him the knife—he must have taken it from my breakfast room unknown to me. I never suggested any robbery to him. I should be simply mad to have anything to do with such pictures as he stole—nobody could have sold them. I agree with what Berry said. It is simply ridiculous for me to have said I could get £5 or £10 for such pictures. I have never given Rodini money for anything I bought of him—it is all false. I gave his wife £2 for him to go to Southampton to help him. I have never been to his house. If I had known of the robbery I think I should have gone for the £1,000 reward. I am quite innocent of the charge—I cannot understand how such a tale could be concocted.

Cross-examined. For some time past my business had been carried on without any business premises, either in public-houses or in the street, or sometimes in gentlemen's houses. It would be an ordinary transaction for a man in a public-house whose name I do not know to give me something to dispose of. Rodoni's story is untrue. He has been to my house lots of times, in the evenings, and coming to the side door. I had nieces staying with me. When arrested I wore a hard felt hat with a flattish top, which I bought at Hope Bros. for 7s. 6d., and I wore it at Marlborough Street police Court. I gave it away to a prisoner at Broxton. Rodoni's wife has been to my house about twice. I never gave her £20. I gave her £2 in February when Rodoni was going to Sothampton. I never gave

her a parcel with things that looked like flower pots. I have received one letter from her. I told Rodoni that my sister objected to his coming to my house because he pushed open the door. When I was in trouble over the bronzes I told Rodoni I was being bothered by the police, and I gave him the card that Inspector Stockley gave me. It was on the table, and I showed it to Rodoni; that is how he knew the name of Stockley.

Re-examined. When at Brixton I threw the hard felt hat off and one of the prisoners took it. I had a soft one, and did not want the other. I saw the account of the robbery in the papers, the name of Smith, and the description of the property on February 13 and 14. I saw Rodoni on Easter Monday, April 1, on the platform at Waterloo Station. I might have seen him before. He may have come on the morning of February 12. I do not remember—he did come one morning. He did not come the day before I saw the account in the papers—I swear to that—I should have remembered it. He did come one morning about eight a.m., while I was having my breakfast, within a week or two of the robbery, before or after, I could not say which. He used to come to see me sometimes, and I used to give him a shilling or two when he knew of a cheap offer of goods or of men coming from the continent with stuff which he could put in my way, and I could pay him a commission. From the early part of February to Easter he may have come to my house once or twice—I could not say.

Verdict, Guilty. Prisoner stated in reference to the Hyde Park Terrace robbery that he at once told the police where he had sold the bronzes, which he did not know were stolen. He also declared his innocence of the present charge.

Sentence,

Five years' penal servitude for receiving in the Hoghton case; seven years' penal servitude for burglary and receiving in the Wertheimer case; to run concurrently.

BEFORE THE COMMON SERJEANT.

(Friday, September 13.)