Soldier in dock for theft of overcoat

144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14
144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14

William Dawson, 17, Army Service Corps, Snainton, was charged at the Borough Police Court, before the Mayor, Mr CC Graham, and other magistrates with stealing a gentleman’s overcoat value £2 5s, the property of John Hefferman, on September 16.

Defendant pleaded guilty.

The chief constable said Mr Hefferman, whose home was at York, went to the Opera House on the night in question. Before going inside he left his overcoat on the peg stand outside the dress circle door. When the entertainment was over he went for his overcoat and found it was missing. He made enquiries at the Opera House and the matter was afterwards reported to the police. It was learnt that Mr William Herbert Robinson, second-hand dealer, 156 Victoria Road, had purchased an overcoat, which it was afterwards found belonged to Mr Hefferman, and which was taken there by the prisoner. This soldier went to Mr Robinson’s shop on Saturday, September 18, which was two days after the coat had been missed from the Opera House, and said he had to sell it. In reply to Mr Robinson he said it was one he used to wear when in civilian life. As Mr Robinson had previously done business with the prisoner he bought the coat from him for 10s. It was said to be worth £2 5s. The prisoner was motorcycling at the time. There was no suggestion whatever that Mr Robinson bought the coat knowing it to have been stolen. As the prisoner had admitted the case he did not think the case need be adjourned to allow for the presence of Mr Hefferman.

Defendant: I took the coat on the spur of the moment and I did not realise until afterwards the terrible thing I had done. I did think of replacing it, but found it was impossible. It is the first time I have ever been in a court of any description in my life.

It has taught me a lesson but it is too late. If I can speak for leniency I can assure you I shall never do such a thing again.

The chief said there was nothing criminal against him but he was a careless, reckless youth who would do things out of thoughtlessness. He understood he had been serving 21 days’ military punishment for some offence.

Lieutenant Musgrove, the defendant’s officer, said as far as he knew the defendant had had no trial by court martial. They had nothing against him at all in his military work. He could not give full details as to the 21 days’ detention referred to.

The chief said he understood the detention was for stealing a bicycle. It was a civil offence tried by the military authorities.

The mayor said defendant had put himself into a very grave position indeed, but they wished to give him a chance to recover his character and prove himself a useful man and a useful soldier. To give him that chance they ordered him to pay a fine of £2 together with the undertaking that he would repay to Mr Robinson the 10s he was given for the coat. He hoped this would be a warning to him all his life.