Thursday Flashback

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1914 Police Court

Today at the Scarborough Police Court, an interesting case was heard, an auctioneer of cheap jewellery being charged with having obtained £1 from a visitor by means of a trick.

Prisoner was Herbert Osborne (36), salesman, described as of the Golden Last Hotel, Eastborough. He was charged with having stolen by means of a trick the sum of £1 in money belonging to Alfred Atkinson, hardware dealer, 10, Livingstone Road, Lincoln, on July 28th.

Prisoner pleaded not guilty.

Mr J Whitfield, solicitor, appeared on behalf of the prosecution, and Mr GB Parker was for the defence.

In his opening statement Mr Whitfield said that prosecutor, who was a visitor staying at Scarborough at the present time, went into the auction room, 35, Newborough, along with his wife. At the time they entered the auction room, there were some ten or twelve people present. At that particular time the auctioneer, who was not the prisoner, had a small table quite close to the front of the shop and some distance in front of the ordinary rostrum. Gradually the audience were beguiled further into the shop by means of the table being lifted gradually and gradually nearer the rostrum, and eventually the auctioneer, who was at that time in charge, got on to the rostrum. He (Mr Whitfield) was not able to speak or to give evidence as to what took place when the first auctioneer was in charge. So far as his client knew the prisoner himself was not present in the earlier part of the proceedings, but eventually as these people had been edged nearer and nearer the rostrum, he got on to the rostrum and almost immediately afterwards prisoner took the place of the first auctioneer.

He thanked the people who were present for giving them certain pennies which were at that time on the rostrum, and thanked the audience for the trust they had shown in the firm by handing those pennies up. He then asked persons to hand him a shilling, which he would return to them, and would give them several useful articles. Six people handed up a shilling as requested, his client said he had no change in his pocket but handed the auctioneer a sovereign. He was told you can’t lose anything, “you will get your money back.” The auctioneer kept everybody waiting for their shillings, one of the objects appearing to have been to keep people waiting some considerable time before fulfilling any of his promises, no doubt to confuse people and also to keep his audience there. The prisoner did not return the money but kept his client waiting.

His client waited some considerable time, about three quarters of an hour, and the business was proceeded with, the auctioneer then told one of his assistants to wrap up the articles and “Give them to that gentleman,” pointing to the prosecutor. His client opened the parcel for the money but failed to find it. Failing to get any satisfaction, he went to the auctioneer, and asked for the change. He said, “We don’t do business like that. We are not a 2½d bazaar. Go round to the back of the room.”

His client did so and had a conversation with the man who was selling at first, and eventually prisoner came to the back, and after something like a row his client was told to come back in the morning, there would be the auctioneer’s commission to add on. The lights went out and prosecutor left the premises.

In the morning his client went for the money and he was told he ought to have been there at nine o’clock. The “Governor” was out, and nothing could be done. He then came to the police officer and proceedings were decided on.

Witness admitted that he arranged to see prisoner at 9 o’clock in the morning, but did not arrive until 9.30.

Prisoner went into the box, stating that prosecutor bid a sovereign for the articles.

By Mr Parker: He had no intention of obtaining the sovereign by a trick. He honestly thought that a sovereign was offered for the things.

Continuing, prisoner said he was only practically a beginner at the business. He had not been in trouble before.

The prosecutor said the auctioneer asked for the confidence of the people by their handing him a shilling. If it cost anybody a penny he would forfeit a golden sovereign to everyone present, and would give £5 to any charitable institution. He also asked them to hand up 6s, and it would not cost them a penny.

Prosecutor’s wife said they were poor, and could not afford it, at once witness told them to go to the back.

Mr Whitfield: Was that to get them out of the way?

Witness: No, to see the guv’nor.

At this stage, owing to one of the magistrates having to leave to go away by train, the bench adjourned the case.

Replying to Alderman Ascough, Mr Parker said that it was denied by prisoner that prosecutor asked for the money back.

Bail was allowed in the sum of £10.