1917 Court: Mariner’s gold watch pocketed by a soldier

The story of a sea captain’s drunken spree, and the subsequent loss of his gold watch, which he valued at £7, was told at the Scarborough Police Court when a soldier of the West Yorkshires, Frank Bee, 36 Cross Street, who wore two wound stripes and a good conduct badge, also a bombing badge - battalion bomber - was charged with having stolen the watch from the person of Pierce Roberts, master of a steamship.

The story was an unedifying one. Roberts on Monday, October 15th, not being engaged in connection with his ship was about the town and got drunk. He was wearing his watch and chain when he left his lodgings on the Sandside. A young woman leaving work, and proceeding to her home, saw Roberts in Castlegate in the evening, lying on the ground, and a soldier was telling him to get up. A boy had seen a scuffle, and said that the soldier had knocked Roberts down. The young woman asked the soldier if he could not get the man up, and the soldier said: “He’ll be getting up in a minute. This is what I get for further bringing him home. He is trying to get a rise out of me.” Roberts on getting up, was seen by the young woman to be very drunk.

He made towards Long Greece Steps, and the girl said: “If he goes that way he will fall down the steps.” Just after there was a thud and the soldier, and others, including three youths, followed. Roberts was lying face downwards at the first flight, with his head on the landing and his feet on the steps. The soldier knelt at his feet and the young woman saw the soldier pick up something bright and shiny. The soldier then went away, and the young woman assisted Roberts, who was bleeding, to his home. When Roberts arrived there it was seen that his watch chain was hanging down and there was no watch. Roberts, who remembered practically nothing of where he had been injured on his head in falling, appearing in court with a piece of plaster on the forehead.

One witness, Charles Mennell, noticed that the soldier was wearing a West Yorkshire badge, two wound stripes, and a good conduct badge. Prisoner was subsequently found to be the only soldier of the West Yorkshires wearing such wound stripes and good conduct badge in Scarborough. The soldier had asked a mate of the youth Mennell for a light for his cigarette, and he got one from a lighted cigarette, and the light lit up the soldier’s face, and Mennell saw the badge and noticed the wound stripes and good conduct badge. At 6.50pm Roberts had called at a woman’s house. He was very drunk, and she first, said the Chief Constable, got him 3s worth of whisky. That did not have any effect in sobering him and later on she got him some soda water. He was at her house, and later on she left him on a seat on the North Side and went to a public house to get him soda water, but when she went back he had gone. Shortly after ten o’clock outside her house the woman heard quarrelling and a thud, but did not get up to see what it was. When he left the woman the watch chain was as usual. At nine o’clock Roberts and the soldier, Bee, were seen in company by a woman employed at a common lodging house. Roberts had knocked at the door and asked to be shown the way to Castlegate. Bee was in the house and said: “I will show him.” Bee was sober and Roberts was very drunk. On Detective-Sergeant Yeoman making enquiries prisoner denied all knowledge of the watch. Had he found the watch he could have said so, pointed out the chief to the detective. Prisoner later sold it to Mrs Mary Jackson, stating he had brought it from France and it was a German watch, he was short of money and wanted a sovereign for it. She thought it was a pretty watch, and it would be a nice souvenir, and she got a sovereign to give him for it. Later she became uneasy, and saw prisoner, who told her he had never done a wrong thing in his life, and he could assure her the watch was “all right.” When Detective Inspector Nawton arrested prisoner and charged him he said, “No I didn’t - not guilty.” On being shown the watch on Thursday morning he said: “I didn’t steal it; I picked it up after the scuffle.”

Prisoner told the magistrates he saw Roberts at 8.45 in the Elephant and Castle. Roberts was so drunk the landlord would not serve him. At the lodging-house Roberts asked if he could get a drink, and being told “No” he asked the way to Castlegate, and (Bee) said he would show him. Later Roberts fell down the steps. He (Bee) picked the watch up in Longwestgate after the scuffle. If he hadn’t someone else would. After Roberts fell he (Bee) went home - he was about drunk himself.

The magistrates, after retiring, found the case proved and sent prisoner to gaol for month at hard labour.

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