1918 court: Police dig deep to find missing garden fork

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John William Southwick, general dealer, Scalby, was summoned at the North Riding Police Court with stealing a garden fork value 3s 6d, the property of WE Crosier, innkeeper, Scalby, between the 19th and 23rd April at Scalby. Defendant did not appear, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was apprehended and brought before Mr F Baker, in the chair, and Mr AH Robinson, at a special sitting. Defendant pleaded not guilty.

WE Crosier said he last saw the fork on April 18th, and he missed it about the 23rd of April. A few days later he reported the loss to the sergeant and shortly afterwards showed him a fork, which he identified as his missing property. He got the fork from a gentleman named Hudson, and his name was stamped on the handle, front and back. These had been scratched out but there still remained the name on one side. He identified the fork now produced as his property. Defendant: I got that fork a long time ago.

Acting-Sergeant Daykin said on Monday last, about 3 o’clock, the last witness reported the loss of a garden fork. Witness made enquiries, and visited defendant’s warehouse at Scalby, where he saw a fork answering the description of the one missed by Mr Crosier. He examined it and noticed that an attempt had been made to erase some marks on it. He asked defendant if he would lend him the fork for a few minutes, and he consented. Witness took it across to Mr Crosier, who at once identified the fork as his property.

Mr Crosier accompanied witness back to Mr Southwick’s warehouse and witness told defendant that Mr Crosier had identified the fork as his property. Defendant replied: “If it’s Mr Crosier’s let him take it away.” Witness told defendant he would be reported for stealing it. He replied, “I bought it at a sale” and then he said “Some soldiers brought it into my garden.”

Defendant: No, I said some soldiers had been using it. Defendant said the constable borrowed the fork as he said he wanted to plant some potatoes. He let him have it until the following morning but in a few minutes he came back with Mr Crosier and Mr Crosier said it was his fork. He (defendant) said Mr Crosier could have it if it was his. Defendant added that he had a large number of forks and this was left at a garden he had taken over recently. There had been some men working there and he told the constable they had been using the fork.

Mr Crosier said he did not wish to press the case. Defendant was a hard-working man.

The Chairman said the bench considered the case was clearly proved and defendant would be fined 10s or in default seven days hard labour.

Defendant: I am not guilty of stealing it; but I will willingly pay.