Cruising and/or Extortion, 1840s

NOTE: It seems to me that many alleged attempts to extort money from men in public places, especially in parks late at night, by accusing them of making indecent advances to them, actually begin as attempted solicitation, either by the extortioner or by the gentleman himself. Here are some typical cases that merit close consideration.

Wednesday 29 May 1844

A gentleman, named John Thomas, was placed before Mr. Rawlinson yesterday, on a charge of having committed an indecent assault upon the person of William Smith, who desdribed himself as a valet, residing at 19, Tichfield-street, Portland-place.
          The circumstances of the case prove that there are yet scoundrels who, undeterred by the fate of the notorious Stringer, levy contributions upon the timorous, by threats of preferring charges of an unnatural character against them.
          Mr. Rawlinson inquired the gentleman's address, but he stated that he could not, while resting under the odium of such a charge, think of giving it.
          The prosecutor was not in attendance, and it had been ascertained that he had given a false address at the station-house.
          James Joy, a park constable, said, that on the evening before he had been told by the man Smith to take the prisoner into custody for the offence stated in the police sheet.
          Prisoner: Did I not also tell you to take him into custody?
          Witness: Yes, you did.
          Mr. Rawlinson: Why don't you tell all the truth, sir? Let me know all that passed. – Witness: Yes, sir. Then the prisoner said several times at the station house he would give the man in charge.
          Wm. Wall, inspector of the park constables, said that he also heard the prisoner give the other man in charge, which was not taken. He had been to the address given by the prosecutor, and had ascertained that he did not live there.
          The prisoner said: I am quite innocent of this charge. I was walking in the inner circle of the Regent's-park, and the man Smith came up and entered into conversation with me. After talking of one thing and another, he said at last, "What will you give me?" I replied, "What do you mean? are you miserable?" He rejoined, "I am; and if you will not give me something, I will charge you with having tried to commit an unnatural offence." I refused him money, and he then called the constable and gave me into custody.
          Mr. Rawlinson said that he could not, for a moment, think of detaining him, and he was therefore discharged.
          The gentleman expressed his determination of tracing out the mimscreant, and bringing him to punishment. (Evening Chronicle)

Sunday 23 June 1844

AN AMBIGUOUS CHARGE. – Jacques Joly, a native of France, of very gentlemanly appearance, and said to be respectably connected, was indicted for committing an assault on John Smith, on Wednesday, the 5th instant, with intent to commit an unnatural offence. The last count stated the commission of a common assault. Mr. Robinson appeared for the defence, and Mr. O'Brien stated the case to the jury. The prosecutor stated that he formerly lived as footman with J. Ashdown, Esq., but has been out of place for three months. He met the prisoner in Belgrave-street about noon on the 5th instant, and he asked him if he was looking for a friend. Witness said "No – I am looking for a place." They went to a public-house, the Feathers, in Grosvenor-street, and had some beer. While there the prisoner took the hand of witness, and squeezed it in a peculiar manner. He said he could get him in a situation, and if he would meet him at the Feathers at 9 that evening would give him half-a-crown. Witness went; but he told two persons about it, and they went with him, viz. Charles Rogers and G. Coleman. They left the house, and, at the prisoner's request, went into Hyde-park, and then he behaved in the indecent manner described, whereupon he called his two friends to come up. The prisoner then ran away through Stanhope-gate, but was overtaken, and after a severe struggle, secured. – Cross-examined by Mr. Robinson: You say the prisoner gave you a particular squeeze of the hand; why did you think so? – Witness: Because I have been with a gentleman of this sort before this, about a month ago. – Mr. Robinson: Indeed! Well, and what did he do to you? – Witness: He took my hand, and behaved indecent. – Mr. Robinson: Of course you resented it? – Witness: I met him twice after that; I told a Mr. Scott what had passed, and he told me to beware of him. – The witness here detailed what passed at the interviews. – Rogers and Coleman were called to prove that the prisoner ran away, but all they knew of the indecent intercourse they learned from Smith. They only saw the parties walking together. – Mr. Robinson said the prosecutor was not confirmed by a single witness as to the charge, and he would put it [to] the Jury whether he should proceed after the character the prosecutor had given of himself. The jury consulted, and expressed that they could not give credence to the statement of the prosecutor, and returned a verdict of acquittal. – Mr. Commissioner Bullock coincided with the view the jury had taken. – Monsieur Joly declared that the charge was preferred to attempt extortion. (Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper)

Tuesday 3 December 1844

John Ogilvie, a young man apparently about 19 years of age, was placed at the bar, charged with a robbery by menaces, &c., on Frederick Louis Mieville, and stealing a purse, containing 5 10s.; a gold watch, value 35; and a gold chain, value 10, his property.
          Mr. Clarkson conducted the prosecution; the prisoner had no counsel.
          The particulars of this case have been already fully laid before the public. It appeared that the prosecutor, a gentleman belonging to the Stock Exchange, residing in Hanover-square, was returning home on Sunday evening, October 6. He stopped at the top of Tottenham-court-road to meet an omnibus. The prisoner, who was apparently waiting also, and who was attired very respectably, addressed him, and said that no omnibus could be had that night, and proposed to him to take a cab to Piccadilly, and offered him a seat as far as he was going. The prosecutor agreed. They stepped into the first cab on the rank, and were driven to Half-moon-street, Piccadilly. When they got there the prisoner demanded 20, and said if the prosecutor did not pay it he would give him in charge for attempting to commit on him an unnatural crime. The prosecutor being greatly alarmed, pulled the check-string for the purpose of getting out, but the prisoner ordered the cabman to drive to the station-house. They both eventually got out, and the prosecutor having paid the fare, tried to run away, being greatly alarmed lest he should be brought before the public on so dangerous and ignominious a charge. The pisoner followed him, and the prosecutor gave him his watch and chain, and purse, containing 5 10s. On the 5th of November, the prosecutor met the prisoner again. The latter accosted him, but the prosecutor recognising the man who had robbed him, and fearing a renewal of the charge, ran away. The prisoner followed him to his counting-house, in Angel-court, Throgmorton-street, and after several ineffectual attempts to make the porter call down to him "the gentleman who had just gone up stairs," he went away, having ascertained the prosecutor's name and address. Meantime the prosecutor had informed his brother of the entire transaction, and measures were at once arranged to effect the capture of the prisoner. On the following Friday week (the 15th Nov.) he was seen at the same place (near the Bank) where he had waylaid Mr. Mieville on the 5th, and at once given by that gentleman into custody.
          The prisoner called but one witness, his uncle, who only proved that the prisoner had been in gaol before, and had been turned out by him for drunkenness and misconduct on the 7th October, having come home about two o'clock that morning.
          The jury begged to spare the Recorder the trouble of summing up. The case was so perfectly clear that they had all made up their minds.
          The Recorder would put to them one question. They would say whether the prisoner had effected the robbery by menacing to charge the prosecutor with the commission or attempt at commission of an unnatural offence, as they would thereby establish the groundlessness or otherwise of such an imputation against the prosecutor's character.
          The jury found the prisoner guilty of the entire charge, and expressed the fullest belief and confidence in the truth of the prosecutor's statement. They entirely exonerated him from having given the slightest foundation for such a charge.
          There was another charge of a precisely similar nature against the prisoner for robbing a Mr. Neilson of 1s., but it was not gone into.
          Mr. Neilson merely stated that the prisoner had accosted him, and demanded money on a threat of making a certain charge. He (Mr. Neilson) took refuge in a shop, but thought it better to give the man a shilling and get rid of him, than be annoyed further. When he entered the shop, the prisoner ran away. He had often since searched for the prisoner, but never could find him until he was taken on the charge of Mr. Mieville. He then went to the police-office, and at once recognised him, as did also the gentleman in whose shop he had taken refuge.
          The Recorder then addressed the prisoner, and sentenced him to be transported for life.
          It was circulated in court, after the sentence of the prisoner, that he was a nephew of the notorious murderer Greenacre, and he appeared as a prosecutor in the New Court last session, against a man named Tozer, who was charged by him with the commission of an unnatural offence, but who was acquitted, in consequence of the jury disbelieving Ogilvie's story. He prosecuted under the name of Ward. (Morning Chronicle) (The Reading Mercury for 7 Dec. gives an additional detail: "The Recorder said, that for the sake of the family of the prosecutor, he would ask the Jury if they entirely believed the statement made by Mr. Mieville?
          "The Foreman. – Entirely, my Lord. – On hearing that declaration, which was most emphatically pronounced, the prosecutor, who had risen under manifest feelings of strong excitement, burst into tears and sank into his seat.")

Sunday 23 August 1846

EXTORTING MONEY WITH MENACES. – James Button, aged nineteen, a labourer, was indicted with having, with menaces, demanded moneys of John Fielding Daniel. The evidence went to prove that the prisoner was one of those scoundrels that infest the metropolis, and extort money from persons by threatening to charge them with a nameless offence. In this case he met the prosecutor (who is a highly respectable man) in a dark street (in which there are several public urinals), and asked him for some money. Prosecutor refused, and he had the audacity to give him in custody of the police, and appear against him the next day at the police-court, when the magistrate discharged Mr. Daniel, and ordered the prisoner in custody for the offence with which he stood indicted. The jury found him Guilty. Several of the police gave the prisoner a bad character, and he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and hard labour. Mr. Baron Platt recalled Mr. Daniel, and told him that the jury entirely disbelieved the prisoner's story, and that there was not the slightest stain on his character. (Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper)

Wednesday 26 August 1846

G. West was indicted for assaulting Joseph Scott, with intent to rob him. He was also charged with an attempt at extortion.
          The prosecutor, a respectable countryman, stated that he had been in London on the 7th of July last, when he met the prisoner in Hyde-park. Being a stranger he inquired his way, and the prisoner directed him to go by the shrubbery. He did so, and the prisoner followed him. When witness got to the shrubbery the prisoner came up, and said abruptly, "Have you got any money?" Witness said "I only have 2d." The prisoner then said I will have your money, and drew near as if to use force. Witness raised his stick, and showed signs of resistance. The prisoner then whistled, and six men darted out of the shrubbery and attempted to rob him. Witness used his crab-tree with so much effect that they all began to sound a retreat, and left him. It would seem that the prisoner followed him out. When witness got to Blandford-street, he went to a house for the purpose of getting a pint of beer, when, to his surprise, the prisoner came in and drunk the beer all off (laughter). He then threatened that unless witness would give him money, he (prisoner) would charge him with having committed a hateful offence. Without appearing to regard the threat, witness went on to his lodgings, but on his way the prisoner again repeated it, and said he could call witnesses. He whistled, and four men came up, but went away. Soon after they returned with a policeman, and charged him (Mr. Scott) with an unnatural crime. He was taken next day before a magistrate, when as no witness appeared, he was set at liberty. Afterwards he gave the prisoner in charge.
          The prisoner, with much effrontery, repeated the foul charge against the complainant.
          The Common Sergeant summed up, and the jury returned an immediate verdict of guilty.
          The learned Judge was about to pass a sentence of imprisonment, when he was informed that there was a former conviction against him.
          The learned Judge said that the prisoner had been convicted, on satisfactory evidence, of a heinous offence. He had not only made attempts to rob, and extort money, but also he had made a charge as false as it was foul, and calculated to ruin the character of a respectable man, who luckily had nerve sufficient to resist them. The sentence was, that he be transported beyond the seas for seven years. (Evening Chronicle)

Wednesday 23 June 1847

Edward Fox, a stonemason, was brought before Mr. Bingham yesterday, charged with endeavouring to extort money from Thomas Hill, by charging him with attempting to commit a nameless offence.
          The prosecutor stated that he was a waiter, and resided at No. 9, Orford-place, Marlborough-road, Chelsea. On the 16th instant he went into Hyde Park to see the review, which he found was put off till the following day in consequence of the wet. He left the park and proceeded towards Hyde Park-corner. On arriving opposite St. George's Hospital he entered one of the screens. He had not been there many minutes when the prisoner and a third person came in. After witness had left the place he proceeded towards Knightsbridge, but had not walked many yards when the prisoner came up to him, and entered into conversation with him about the weather. By this time prosecutor had arrived opposite the White Horse public-house, where he had a pint of porter; and as the prisoner had stated that he was out of work, witness invited him to partake of it. They afterwards left the house, and had another pint of porter at the Clock-house, Knightsbridge. Witness, after leaving the latter house, walked towards Piccadilly. On arriving opposite the Green Park, the defendant said he was not going any further. Witness replied, that as he understood that he (prisoner) was residing at Pimlico, the nearest way would be across the Green Park. Witness was about leaving the prisoner, when the prisoner said, "I must have something before you go." Witness asked him what he meant? The prisoner rejoined, "You know what I mean. I want some money." Witness replied that he could not have any from him, as he had none about him. The prisoner then said, "That be d—d. I have given a fellow three months this morning, and he told me that he had no money about him, and I'm d— if I do not give you three months also without you give me some." Witness said that he (prisoner) must be a bad base fellow to make such a threat. The prisoner replied that he wanted the money, and said he should give him (witness) in charge to the first constable that came up. Witness then walked towards Berkeley-street, and was about turning the corner when the prisoner came and stood in front of him, and would not let him pass. Witness then took him by the collar, and told him that he would not let him go till he had given him in charge for attempting to extort money from him. The prisoner said, "Now I will give you another quarter for collaring me," and added, "that he (witness) might bounce and tell the matgistrate, as the other fellow did, but it would be of little avail, as the magistrate would not listen to him at all." Subsequently a police constable came up, when the prisoner called out to him, "I give this man into custody for indecently assaulting me." When the constable was about to take witness in charge, the prisoner said, "I have not charged him yet." Witness then requested the constable to take the prisoner in charge for attempted extortion, and that he (witness) would accompany him to the station. The constable then proceeded toward the station in Vine-street, but before they arrived there the prisoner wished the constable to let him go to Pimlico to speak to his "mates," and then he would come to the station. The constable told him if he attempted to go away he would take him into custody, as he would not be trifled with any longer. The prisoner then went to the station, and gave witness in charge. On the following morning witness was brought to this court, and was discharged in consequence of the non-attendance of the prisoner. Witness met the prisoner in Castle-street last night, and gave him into custody.
          Mr. Emanuel, artificial florist, residing in Houndsditch, proved a similar charge against the prisoner.
          The prisoner, with the greatest effrontery, denied the charge, and said the statement of the first witness was false from beginning to end. He hoped the magistrate would look over it, and let him go.
          Mr. Bingham said that he (prisoner) was likely to be kept in pretty safe custody for some time. He should remand him till Wednesday next. (Evening Chronicle)

Tuesday 28 September 1847

John Coggs, alias O'Connor, 23, servant, was indicted for demanding money, with menaces, from Robert Brailey.
          It appeared that the prosecutor was a waiter, and while walking at the west end of the town, he met the prisoner, who entered into conversaton with him. About ten o'clock at night they went into the City, and upon the prosecutor going up a passage for a certain purpose [i.e. to urinate], the prisoner laid hold of his shirt, and demanded ten shillings, or "transportation for life," his object evidently being to insinuate that he would make a charge of an unnatural crime, and under the terror inspired by the prisoner's conduct, the prosecutor gave him a scarf, and a handkerchief, and a small sum of money.
          The Jury found the prisoner Guilty; and the Common Sergeant sentenced him to be transported for ten years. (Morning Advertiser)

Monday 8 May 1848

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. – Mr. Edward Camps, a gentleman, seventy-two years of age, residing at No. 5, Green-street, Grosvenor-square, was brought before Mr. Hardwick, charged with indecently assaulting Henry O'Neil.
          It appeared from the evidence of the prosecutor, that he was an agricultural labourer, out of employment. Yesterday morning, at eight o'clock, he was washing his face in the Serpentine, in Hyde-park, when the defendant came up to him, and made some remarks, which were unfit to repeat. The prisoner also touched him in an indecent manner with his stick, and was proceeding to further indecencies, when he told him he should give him in charge. Complainant went in search of a constable, and gave the defendant into custody.
          Two constables said they had for some time past had their eye on the prisoner, in consequence of communications made to them of the defendant's indecent conduct towards boys and lads bathing in the river.
          The defendant denied the charge.
          Mr. Hardwick said the circumstances were of a suspicious nature, and the statement, both of the complainant and the policemen was very straightforward. He should, therefore, remand him until Wednesday.
          Mr. Hardwick agreed to accept good bail. (Morning Chronicle)

Saturday 8 July 1848

Mr. Ryland, in the absence of the Attorney-General, appeared for the Crown; and Sir F. Thesiger, with Mr. H. Wilde, for the defendant.
          The defendant, a gentleman of respectable appearance, appeared to take his trial upon an indictment, which charged him with having committed an indecent assault, on the 27th of June, 1847 [perhaps an error for 1848], upon a lad named Louis Courquin, while standing upon the seat in one of the recesses on London-bridge, looking at the steam boats. the indictment had been originally preferred and found at the Guildhall session, but had been removed to this court by the defendant by write of certiorari.
          The boy, Louis Courquin, was called as a witness, and stated his case, which was quite unfit for publication. Among other things he said, that immediately after the assault complained of had taken place a city policeman, named George Scott, dressed in plain clothes, came up, and after inquiring into the particulars of the defendant's conduct advised the prosecutor to give the defendant into custody; but on his expressing a discinlination to do so, the policeman told him that he had better do so, and he would get rewarded for his trouble. It appeared from the cross-examination of this witness that he had lived in several places for very short periods, and had always been discharged for loitering about when sent on errands, and that his masters had accused him of giving false accounts of the causes of his delay. The policeman, George Scott, was called as a witness for the prosecution, and contradicted the statement made by the boy as to the reward; but he confirmed his statement as to the facts of the transactions, and added that he had been watching the defendant for half an hour, and distinctly saw what he did to the prosecutor, as at the time he was standing close by him in the recess. This last part of the policeman Scott's evidence was, however, directly contradicted by another policeman, John Davis, who was called by the prosecutor and who stated that he and Scott were watching the defendant on the opposite side of the road, and when they saw what he had been doing they crossed over together to the defendant, who was then taken into custody.
          Sir F. Thesiger rose to address the jury for the defendant, but was stopped by
          Lord Denman, who said, he thought that after the direct contradiction which existed between the statements made by the two officers as to their opportunities for observation, the jury would scarcely find the defendant guilty. If there was that discrepancy, however it had occurred, it might save time if the opinion of the jury was at once taken.
          The jury immediately delivered a verdict of Not Guilty.
          Lord Denman said, that the verdict which had been given did not impute falsehood to the two officers, as some time had elapsed since the transaction took place, and the discrepancy might have arisen from a mistake. His Lordship added, that it would be much better in such cases if the police, instead of waiting and allowing such matters to grow into an offence, would interfere at once, and let the parties whom they suspected know that they were watched by decent people, and that they were on the edge of ruin if they advanced one step further. (Windsor and Eton Express)

Saturday 12 August 1848

John Ross Gosney, 32, was indicted for extorting a sovereign from Mark Anthony Stanley, by threatening to accuse him of an infamous crime. Mr. Phinn stated the case to the jury. The prosecutor, a captain in the army, who had served in almost every climate, returned to England in a very enfeebled state of health in 1829. About nine months since he took up his residence in Bath, and was in the habit of taking frequent walks in the Victoria Park. Here he was accosted several times by the prisoner, who entered into conversation with him. On the last occasion previous to the transaction which formed the subject of the trial, the prosecutor saw the prisoner at the sale of Miss Whitehead's property, at Weston. On the 23d June, Capt. Stanley met the prisoner in the Park, and then it was that Gosney pointed out to him a secluded walk, which he said was one of the most beautiful spots in the park. Captain Stanley almost mechanically turned into the walk, where he was followed by the prisoner, who seized the opportunity of accusing him of an abominable crime. Gosney continued to walk after Captain Stanley, and succeeded in extorting a promise that he would give him a sovereign the next day. Unfortunately, Captain Stanley did so, and some days after, as he was leaving chapel, he was followed by the prisoner to his residence. The day after he received a letter alluding to the former interview, and repeating his demand. Captain Stanley then took the course which it was to be regretted he had not taken at first. He consulted his friends, and under their advice he put himself under the protection of the law. The matter was put into the hands of Mr. Hall, the chief officer of Bath, and he apprehended the prisoner, who at once admitted that he was the author of the letter received by Captain Stanley. As the prisoner was undefended, the learned counsel stated to the jury that as late as last week Captain Stanley had been charged with an indecent assault, the date of which was laid long antecedent to the present transaction. It was made publicly before the magistrates, and then was publicly refuted, the case being dismissed, and Capt. Stanley would that day solemnly swear that there was not the slightest foundation for such a statement. Having referred to the legal bearing of the counts of the indictment on the charge laid, the learned counsel called witnesses in support of his case, and the prisoner having been found Guilty, his Lordship passed sentence in the following terms:– John Ross Gosney, you have, as it seems to me, on the msot satisfactory evidence been convicted of the great crime for which you were indicted, – a crime not improperly stated to be of as great importance as almost any other with respect to the impression produced on society. It is very difficult to conceive anything by which more misery may be inflicted on an individual than a charge of the description which you have made, and made wholly and solely for the base purpose of extorting money. (Here the prisoner made an exclamation of dissent, and raised his hands). His Lordship continued – Those gestures of yours do not in the slightest degree alter my opinion or infuse into my mind the least doubt as to your guilt, and it is but due to the individual whom you have made the subject of your accusation to state that impression publicly, because we know that among the misery caused by accusations of this kind to the person who is made the subject of them, the greatst is, that however justice and good sense may concur in believing it to be entirely unfounded, yet there always remains after it a something which leaves a sting on the mind of the innocent individual, and it therefore the more becomes those who have the opportunity of so doing to express themselves publicly in such a manner to do, in fact, all they can to remove that impression. The sentence of the Court upon you is that you be transported beyond the seas for the term of fifteen years. (The sentence was received with a buzz of approbation, and the prisoner made loud lamentations as he left the dock.) (Bristol Times and Mirror)

Wednesday 19 December 1849

NEW COURT. (Before Mr. Bullock.)
William Tarbuck, tallowchandler, was indicted for feloniously, with menaces, demanding of William Russell the sum of 2l., with intent to steal the same.
          The prisoner pleaded not guilty.
          The prosecutor, who is in the service of Messrs. Lewis and Allenby, silk-mercers of Regent-street, stated, that at about nine o'clock in the evening of the 8th of this month, as he was returning home from Knightsbridge, he had occasion to enter a place of public convenience, where he saw the prisoner, who spoke to him. Prosecutor instantly left and walked away, intending to cross the park, but finding himself followed by the prisoner, he turned round with the intention of getting into the main road again, when the prisoner came up, and catching hold of him in a most indecent manner, said "you are a gentleman, and must give me 2l." Witness tried to get away, and called for the police, when two came up, and he at once stated the charge, when the prisoner threatened to give him in custody for indecently assaulting him.
          The constable who took the charge said he had seen the prisoner for some long time hanging about the secluded parts of the park. When searched at the station a small packet of rouge was found in his pocket, a duplicate, and a few pence.
          The Jury immediately found him Guilty.
          The prisoner, who said that he could bring a clergyman to speak to his former good character, was ordered to be brought up on a future day to receive judgment. (Morning Advertiser)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, as cited.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Cruising and/or Extortion, 1840s", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 15 November 2016 <>.

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