Territorial soldier in theft of barracks items

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1913 Court

Today at the Borough Police Court, before the Mayor (Mr CC Graham), Alderman V Fowler, and Mr AJ Tugwell, Benjamin Watson (21), groom, 42 Hampton Road, was charged on remand with having stolen from the North Riding Field Artillery Barracks, St John’s Road, 9 pairs of leather leggings, 2 pairs of khaki trousers, 2 pairs of riding breeches, 6 girdles, 5 cardigan vests, 1 pocket book and 1 typewriting eraser, valued together at £2, the property of the North Riding Territorial Association, between December 15th and 18th.

The Chief Constable said the case had been twice adjourned to allow the stolen articles to be recovered. The search had been fruitless, however, and he, therefore, asked permission to substitute an amended charge, referring to the articles found in prisoner’s possession, namely, a girdle, a pocket book, and a typewriter eraser, valued together at 1s 6d.

Prisoner elected to be dealt with by the magistrates.

The Chief Constable said that the facts briefly were that during the night of December 16th the barracks were broken into, a window having been broken, and the caretaker had missed a number of articles the following morning. Later in the day prisoner was found in possession of the articles mentioned in the amended charge.

Sergt-Major Workman kept his stores in naptha, and the articles smelt of naptha.

The prisoner said he bought the belt when in camp. There had been four books in the stores, and one was missing. Prisoner said the book which he had in his possession had been given to him by a boy named Cooper.

Sergt-Major Workman corroborated the evidence of the Chief Constable. In consequence of a report made to him by Sergt Stephenson he “took stock” and found the articles missing. He identified the articles as of the type issued to the army. Prisoner was a member of the Territorial Force, a belt having been issued to him twelve months ago.

The belt produced had not been worn, and he could not say that defendant had worn the belt issued to him.

The book was a type not issued to privates. In answer to a question witness said he did not think prisoner had ever been on parade in blue uniform.

Wm Stephenson, caretaker of the barracks, spoke as to having left the barracks secure on the night in question. He had next morning found the storeroom upset, and with Sergt-Major Workman had discovered the articles were missing.

Wm Watson said his son didn’t sleep at home on December 16th. His son’s belt was the worse for wear. He had worn it under his ordinary clothing, and he had warned him that he should not do so.

Fred Cooper, 54, St John’s Road, had seen prisoner at his (witness’s) home at 9.30 on December 17th. He knew nothing of the pocket-book, and did not give prisoner any of the articles. At half-past one he had seen prisoner writing in the book.

Prisoner said witness had seen him writing in the book at a quarter to twelve.

Detective Inspector Nawton said he saw prisoner at the Police Office on December 17th and cautioned him. He said with respect to the girdle, “I got it from a Whitby lad when in camp.” He also alleged that he had had the pocket book, which was quite clean, in his pocket for about a year.

Detective Sergt Yeoman, who had investigated the case, said that when searched by PC Wellburn, defendant had said the belt had been given to him.

Cooper signed a statement to the effect that he had only seen the book for the first time the previous day.

PC Wellburn said he had accompanied Detective Sergeant Yeoman. He had heard prisoner say that he had had the articles in his possession for a year and, in front of Cooper, that he had received them from Cooper on December 17th. He added that defendant was wearing rubber heels and that he had pulled them off in the cell. A pad beneath the broken window at the barracks bore the imprint of a rubber heel.

The Chief Constable said that there were the other articles recovered, and he would have to take advice as to what to do.

Prisoner said he had torn one heel off in the cell accidentally, and had pulled the other off. He alleged that PC Wellburn had bullied him in the cell.

With regard to the charge, he had received the goods from Cooper. If things were cleared up he would take proceedings for his having been imprisoned for nothing.

The magistrates retired, and on their return the Mayor said the bench found prisoner guilty, but in consideration of his youth, and it being the first time he had been before the bench, they would take a lenient view. He would be kept under probation for 12 months, in the sum of £10 to come up for judgement if called upon.