Alleged fraud over motorbike purchase

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1914 Court

A statement was made by a prisoner at the Scarborough Police Court, the gist of it being for a previous offence in London, instead of being dealt with in the ordinary course of the law, he had been sent to an asylum, where he had been detained nine and a half years. He assured the Bench that he was sane, and he feared being sent back again as he was out “on licence”.

Prisoner, a tall, clean-shaven, well-dressed man, was described as Alfred Bransby Walter (29), motor car proprietor, Cliff House, St Margaret’s Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, and he was charged with having, by false pretences, obtained from JWF Tranmer, 33, Trinity Road, Scarborough, a motorcycle and side car, of the value of £90, on May 2nd.

Mr J Whitfield, solicitor for the prosecution, said that Mr Tranmer had had a motor-cycle and sidecar, which were practically new, for sale. After Mr Tranmer had advertised the turn-out in one of the motor-cycling papers, there was certain correspondence between Mr Tranmer and the prisoner. As a result of that correspondence the prisoner came to Scarborough on Saturday, May 2nd, arriving by the six o’clock train. After he had taken a room at the Manor Boarding House he went with Mr Tranmer for a trial run on the machine. He then 
arranged to buy it, and the price was fixed at £90. He asked prosecutor whether he was prepared to accept a cheque, and a cheque for £90 in payment was handed to Mr Tranmer. The machine was then taken to a local garage by Mr Tranmer and prisoner, as the latter said he wished to leave early on the following morning. The cheque was drawn on a bank at St Leonards-on-Sea, it was duly presented, and it was returned dishonoured, and marked: ‘Another signature required’. Enquiries were made and it was then found that prisoner had opened an account at the bank in question in December, 1913, a joint account in the name of himself and his wife, Alice. At the time the cheque was given the balance in the bank was 4s 11d.

After considerable difficulty the police were able to arrest the prisoner. An application for the prisoner was made to be remanded for a week, as it would be necessary to call witnesses from St Leonards-on-Sea.

Prisoner said that he had no objection to a remand, but he would like to make a statement to the court before he was 
remanded.

The Clerk: The court will not go into the case now. Is it in regard to that?

Prisoner: It is vital to me that the statement should be made.

The Bench agreed to hear the statement.

The prisoner then said he did not want to detain the Bench longer than necessary, but in 1902 he was charged in London with obtaining money by means of bogus cheques, his father was in a good social position and in view of that fact was made out that he was not in his right mind at the time.

The Mayor: Speak up, please. The Bench cannot hear you.

Prisoner: I am not well this morning, and this makes it difficult for me to talk. Continuing, he said, that in regard to the case in London, instead of the law taking the ordinary course, he was confined in a criminal lunatic asylum, where he was detained for nine and a half years, he being a boy of 17 at the time. He considered that was a great hardship to him. Had the law taken its course he would have only received a short term 
imprisonment. He was released from the asylum after agitation in one of the newspapers, after he came out, he took over a boarding house – a private hotel.

At this stage the prisoner asked if he might sit down, and the Bench agreed.

Continuing, prisoner said he carried on that business for two years with success. He had a manageress, opened a banking account, and made it a good business. Then, his failure was gambling. He began gambling at Monte Carlo, and that was the commencement of all this trouble.

The Clerk: Haven’t you told the magistrates all you want now?

Prisoner: No. I have not, it leads up to the vital point. I was released from the asylum on a conditional licence, but I am perfectly sane, and I know what I am doing. I am afraid my fear is that in regard to this offence, there may be an effort to set up that I am not accountable for my actions. I could not have committed these frauds had I not been in my right mind and known what I was doing.

Concluding, he said that having been released on 
licence he was afraid that during the adjournment he might be taken back to that place – because the licence was so worded that they had that power – whether he committed himself or not.

The magistrates remanded the case for a week, the Mayor telling prisoner that he would be kept under remand at the prison, and the authorities would keep him under observation.