1916 court: Mr Crowe's feathers ruffled after hen theft

The adjourned case of fowl stealing came before the magistrates, Mr J Dippie (chairman), Alderman Pirie, and Mr AW Sinclair, at the Borough Police Court.

Saturday, 17th December 2016, 10:00 am

John Wilson, no occupation, 21, Cross Street, was charged with stealing a fowl, value 3s, the property of Ernest Boaz Crowe, on the 14th December.

Defendant had already pleaded not guilty.

The chief constable said Mr Crowe resided at 73 North Street. He had a garden with some hen runs in it at Tollergate, at the top end of Dumple Street. The garden gate leading from the street into the garden was always kept locked, and when one got inside the garden and walked a certain distance there was another gate which separated the hen run and the garden. That gate was kept unlocked, but closed to prevent the hens from getting out into the garden. On the afternoon of the 14th, Mr Crowe was in the garden from 2.30pm to 5pm. He fed the fowls, shut up everything for the night and came away at 5 o’clock. About 6.45pm he sent a boy named John Hoggarth to the garden for a certain purpose and very quickly afterwards this boy returned and made a communication to him. The latter went down to the garden at once. He found the hens running about in the garden, showing that since he left at five o’clock someone had opened the gate. Crowe searched about and found near the wall which separated the garden from the next one the prisoner, crouched down against the wall, and he saw a white fowl run away from the direction of the prisoner as though the latter had just released it. Crowe sent the boy Hoggarth to call a man named Simmonds, who lived opposite. There was no question of identity for they all knew the prisoner very well.

Proceeding, the chief said Mr Crowe put a flash lamp on to the prisoner, so that he saw him quite plainly. They asked him what he was doing there and the defendant made a remark indicating that he had gone there to use the garden as a place of convenience. The prisoner usually wore blue spectacles but he was not wearing them on this particular night. The suggestion was, continued the chief, that he got over the wall to enter the garden as the outer gate was still locked. When the boy Hoggarth went to the garden he found the garden gate still locked. He heard a noise at the far end of the garden - a fowl screaming - so that he did not advance far into the garden, but went back and told Mr Crowe. They afterwards found the inner gate which led to the fowl-run standing open, but the outer one leading to the street was locked, showing that the prisoner got into the garden over the wall. When they made a subsequent search immediately after - the prisoner had gone, they found over the wall exactly opposite to where the prisoner was crouched a fowl lying down. The fowl had evidently been dropped over the wall, and its neck was broken. Mr Crowe identified it as one of his own.

The complainant, Mr Crowe, gave evidence in the course of which he said the prisoner, who he had the flash lamp on, was crouching down on his haunches with his face to the wall. Witness said to him: “Come on my lad - you’re copped this time.”

Prisoner had his hand on top of the wall as though in the act of getting over, but he made no reply. Mr Simmonds said: “Now then, what are you crouching down there for? What are you doing here in another man’s garden?”

Proceeding, witness said the fowl was dead, but quite warm. He had ten fowls in all. There were only eight in on this particular night - the ninth was outside, and the tenth was dead over the wall.

Prisoner, who wore blue spectacles, and had to be assisted on account of defective eyesight, gave evidence on oath. Prisoner said he was almost blind and had to be assisted about. This was the second time he had got into trouble through other people. Prisoner said he went into the garden for a purpose and was assisted there by a man.

Do you have a man to lead you about as a rule? - When I shift very far.

Don’t you walk about the town on your own? - I don’t; I don’t; I don’t.

Well, I suggest that you do. Who is the man you speak about? - I dare not tell.

You refuse to reveal him? - Yes.

Are you afraid of him? - Yes.

You refuse to give the name of your accomplice and you are prepared to take the consequences yourself? - No reply,

There were a number of previous convictions against the prisoner during the period between 1904 up to the present time - stealing a copper set pot, game trespass, theft of a quantity of lead (one month), and cruelty to animals.

The chief said the prisoner was an absolute loafer and sponger.

His father was a respectable man. Prisoner sheltered behind defective vision, and his father and mother had to keep him. He made his weak sight an excuse for not working.

On September 17th Mr Crowe - the same complainant - had five fowls stolen from the same fowl house in exactly the same way. The five fowls had been hidden in St Mary’s Churchyard.

Prisoner was “sent down” for six weeks with hard labour.