1917 crimes: Man peels back jacket to reveal stolen spuds

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At the Scarborough Police Court, Joseph McConville (20), soldier, 2a, Phillips Park Road, Manchester, was charged on remand with absenting himself from the 5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers on October 9th.

He was also charged with having stolen four and a half pounds of potatoes, valued at 4d, the property of Harold Foxton, The Farm, Scalby Road, five keys and a padlock, valued at 2s, the property of Martin Ireland, 2, Columbus Ravine, one key, valued at 1s, the property of Wm Wilson, Sitwell Street.

The prisoner, aged 20, and very slightly built, pleaded guilty to the first two charges, but denied taking the keys and padlock.

In answer to stealing the five keys and a padlock he said: “No, I picked them up off the floor.” Replying to the fourth charge of stealing a key he said: “I never took any keys.”

As to the first two charges the chief constable said that PC Ward, about eight o’clock on the morning of October 14th saw prisoner near the police station wearing an overcoat.

The pockets were bulky and Ward took him into the police station and found the potatoes, the subject of the charge in his pockets.

Ward made enquiries and found the prisoner was also an absentee from the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The man admitted, after some questioning, that he took the potatoes from Foxton’s Farm. Mr Foxton had left three barrels and five sacks of potatoes there.

Prisoner said he was sorry he took them and was sorry the “case” had occurred.

It was the first case against him and he would watch it that no other case occurred.

As to stealing the five keys and a padlock Mr Ireland, a grocer, who has a garden at Donner’s allotments, Scalby Road, had accidentally left the padlock and keys.

PC Ward said he found these on the youth, who said they belonged to his father, and he had had them all the time he had been in the Army, he brought them from Manchester.

Prisoner, in the box, alleged that he saw two men coming from the gardens and he found the keys.

The chief constable said the youth had told him so many lies he (the chief) would not advise him to tell any more.

The mayor: If you found these keys why did you tell the constable they belonged to your father?

The youth: Well, there were so many against me.

The mayor: There was no one against you at all.

The youth: There were so many, they were all asking questions. I can only tackle one at once. And one fellow insulted me.

He added that he had not been insulted before.

In the remaining charge the owner Wilson, a constable in the North Riding Force, had left the key after locking his greenhouse at his garden, Osborne Park, Scalby Road, in the lock as another man was going to use the greenhouse to put tools in.

PC Ward said the youth had stated that he found the key.

The youth repeated this to the bench.

The chief constable said that since being an absentee he had been sleeping out, in sheds and so on.

His captain said the youth joined up on June 10th, and they were trying to get his discharge as he was of no use to the army.

He had been in some trouble for being absent before, but nothing very serious.

He had been absent several times. The youth was a carter in civil life, and had a mother and a step-father.

The magistrates, on the charges of stealing, sent the youth to prison for 14 days on each charge, the sentences to run concurrently.

At the end of that time he would be handed over to the military as a deserter.