A Gang of Extortioners, 1842

NOTES: The following newspaper reports document the existence of an organised gang of six or seven young men who made a living by systematically entrapping and extorting money from men by threatening to charge them with attempting to having sex with them. Two of the men lived together and passed as brothers. A third man, who joined them on their rounds several times a week, was good-looking and always very nattily dressed, and was nicknamed "Nell Gwynne". He was the "plant", who would strike up a conversation with the victim, and then another member of the gang would come up and pretend to "discover" them in an indecent situation. Several of the gang were also simple thieves, who would knock men down and steal their watches and rings; in many of the incidents the victim's trousers were torn. A question remains as to how many of the victims had responded to the homosexual overtures before they were entrapped. In one case reported towards the end of this series, some letters from the victims were produced, which show that they succumbed to long-term extortion, and which hold out the possibility that they not only wished to protect their reputation, but that they realised that they had done something that would destroy their reputation if it were exposed. A common situation revealed by these reports happens to be commonly used by homosexuals to pick up other men: they would loiter in front of a window of a print-shop, and strike up conversations about the quality of the prints etc., while eyeing each other up in the reflections in the glass. In several instances, the victim was walking late at night in Hyde Park, also a possible indicator that they were searching for sex. One of the victims was a (married) hairdresser, who had a nervous breakdown following the encounter, and used that as an excuse for not bringing charges immediately. A question also arises concerning the sexual orientation of the members of the gang. The two men who currently shared a room in a lodging-house, four years earlier had lived together in an empty public house as caretakers: so they were long-term companions. One witness said they frequently quarrelled with one another, one of them regularly accusing the other of being a queer. The gang were active over a period of several years: four years earlier, one had been convicted and transported for seven years -- so they obviously made a living from it, which suggests a history of success despite the fact that they were all eventually arrested. One of them turned King's evidence so he wouldn't be convicted himself; he claimed there were many others in the gang. Most of the cases reported below came to trial because the extortioners, rather than being content with the mere threat, had actually charged the victims with committing an unnatural crime – which raises the possibility that the counter-charge of extortion was made in order for the victim to excape the charge of indecent behaviour. It is surprising how often in these instances the charge of indecent behaviour preceded the counter-charge of extortion. The lead extortioner pressed charges against the victim for indecent behaviour, and continued to insist on this in his own defence. However, the extortioner usually withdrew his charge (or attempted to withdraw it) before his own trial (which suggests that the indecency charges were not true).

Tuesday 23 August 1842

Yesterday Charles Wm. Fitzgerald, a waiter, was placed at the bar, charged with unlawfully, and by threats, obtaining the sum of 1s. from Richard Watson, a hairdresser, under the following circumstances:–
          Mr. Clarkson appeared as counsel, and Mr. Robinson as solicitor, for the prosecution.
          Mr. Clarkson stated that the prisoner was the brother of a person in custody, who had last week preferred a charge of a certain description, at Marlborough-street, against a highly-respectable gentleman, named Churchill, who was most anxious that every publicity should be given to the case. The Learned Gentleman then called
Richard Watson, of 12, Whitecross-street, who stated that on the evening of the 25th of April last he was looking into a print-shop in the Strand, when the prisoner came up to him, and, pointing to a particular print, said, "That seems a well done thing." Witness agreed that it was; and, after some further conversation, the prisoner said, "You seem a judge of these things. I beg your pardon for asking you, but I am out of employ now, and I have a few very fine relics which I would dispose of for a trifle." Witness consented to go home with him and look at them. He then went with the prisoner into a house in Stanhope-street, Clare-market, the door of which was open, and followed him up stairs. There was a light in the room when witness got up; and seeing a picture hanging against the wall, witness said, "Is that one of the pictures you were talking of?" The prisoner answered directly, "B[last] your eyes! I've got no prints; what are you going to give me!" The prisoner then said, "I'll shoot your b[lasted] head off, if you don't give me all the money you've got." Witness eventually gave him one shillling, which he was induced to do through fear. Witness then turned to leave the room, when the prisoner seized hold of him, tore his shirt, coat, and smallclothes, and said he would give him in charge for an unnatural offence, if he did not give him more money. Witness then went down stairs, and the prisoner followed; almost immediately on getting into the street witness saw a policeman, and gave the prisoner into charge; the prisoner likewise charged witness. The prisoner was committed from this Court to take trial, witness was seized with mandess, and during witness's illness the bill against the prisoner was thrown out, and he (prisoner) liberated. Witness now brought the prisoner up again on the same charge.
          Police constable Still, F 60, took the prisoner into custody last Saturday evening, at the Ship tavern, in Chandos-street.
          The prisoner, when called on for his defence, said that he was committed from this Court, on the above charge, to take his trial. The Grand Jury ignored the bill, and he was discharged by proclamation. He imagined he could not be tried twice on the same charge.
          Mr. Twyford said he was wrong. The Grand Jury having ignored the bill the prisoner never had been tried before a Petty Jury, and consequently was liable to be committed again. If he had been tried before a Petty Jury that would not be the case. He thought it very proper that the prisoner had been brought before him again, as the charge was a very serious one, and as there were other parties concerned he should remand the prisoner till Saturday next.
          William Newton Smith, alias Stringer, and — Fitzgerald, were next placed at the bar.
          Mr. Clarkson said one of the prisoners was brother of the prisoner in the last case, and had appeared at Marlborough-street to prefer a charge against Mr. Churchill. All the prisoners not only knew each other, but they actually lived together, and he was prepared to show, when the case was again heard by Mr. Maltby, that Fitzgerald had been twice transported.
          Mr. Twyford ordered the prisoners to be taken before the Magistrate at Marlborough-street.
          Henry Bellamy Webb, a gentleman connected with the Stock Exchange, residing in Great Queen-street, Lincoln's-Inn-fields, was also charged with an indecent assault upon a person named Addy, described as an assistant to a Sherrif's officer in Chancery-lane.
          The prosecutor did not appear to prefer the charge, and the prisoner, who was put back for an hour, being again placed at the bar,
          Mr. Clarkson said, the absence of the prosecutor, who might have found the other prisoners were in custody, showed that an organised body of miscreants were prowling about the streets after nightfall ready to pounce on any person they supposed unable to defend himself. The prisoner, he was happy to say, was so far from being conscious of having committed any misdemeanour, that he was fully prepared to meet the charge, and would attend at any future occasion, if required.
          Mr. Twyford told the prisoner he had purposely put back the hearing of the case for an hour, to enable him to meet the charge, and as his accuser absented himself, there was every reason to suppose the case was got up for the purpose of extorting money. He was, therefore, happy to order his discharge, with the impression that there was not the least stain upon his character. (Morning Advertiser)

Tuesday 23 August 1842

About ten days ago a highly respectable gentleman, named Churchill, was held to bail by Mr. Maltby, on the evidenceof a low-looking person, who gave the name of William Fitzgerald, for an alleged act of indecency in Hyde park. Owing to some circumstances which transpired after the parties were bound over, Mr. Maltby was induced to pursue the inquiry farther, and having elicited sufficient to show, that in some material parts, the only witness (Fitzgerald) had perjured himself, the circumstances were ordered to be taken down in writing, in order to accompany the depositions. One of the old police (Ruthven) was engaged on the part of Mr. Churchill to follow up the inquiry, and the result was, that yesterday Fitzgerald and a young man named Newstead were placed at the bar before Mr. Maltby under these circumstances.
          Mr. Clarkson, who appeared for Mr. Churchill, said the magistrate would probably have it in recollection that Fitzgerald, one of the two parties then at the bar, had, a few days back, preferred in that Court a charge against Mr. Churchill, a very respectable gentleman, and another man not present, of having been together in Hyde-park the previous night for the purpose of inciting each other to commit indecent practices. On the evidence of Fitzgerald the magistrate had thought fit to send the case for trial. Without referring to the fact of Fitzgerald's false representation, in order to stamp his character with respectability, that he was a porter in the employ of Messrs. Sutton and Shephard, or relying upon Fitzgerald's denial of all knowledge of Newstead, he should merely remark, that Mr. Churchill, feeling restless both in mind and body, thought fit to take further steps, by which he had obtained such evidence as he hoped would satisfy the Court that the charge against him was a foul conspiracy, and that a gang of persons was in existence whose employment was to get up and manufacture charges of an odious character against respectable persons for the sole purpose of extorting money. He should be enable to prove that Fitzgerald had been tried at Horsemonger-lane for a criminal offence, and had been sentenced to seven years' transportation. He had made his excape from his sentence, and he (Mr. Clarkson) now charged him with felony on that ground. Now, with respect to the assertion, on the part of Fitzgerald, that he knew nothing whatever of Newstead, and had never seen him until the night when the alleged occurrence took place in Hyde-park ——
          Fitzgerald. – And I say so now. I never saw him before that night.
          Mr. Clarkson would be able to prove that the parties were well acquainted; that they had been together during the evening, and that they had lived together in the same house in Denville-street, before the time when Newstead entered into the society of Mr. Churchill, under the sham pretence of asking his way out of the park.
          Fitzgerald. – I say the man who was in Mr. Churchill's company is nothing like the man, he is much lustier. I've known that man about two months, but as to knowing any thing of this man before the night when I saw him in Hyde-park, I had no more knowledge of him than I have of the Queen of England.
          Mr. Clarkson said he should call a witness to prove that on one occasion Fitzgerald said to Mr. Churchill, the next time you are here I'll have Newstead, the man you was with in the park.
          Fitzgerald. – I said I'd have Macarthy, the lawyer.
          Mr. Clarkson would also proceed to show that Fitzgerald belonged to an organised and systematic gang, whose infamous livelihood was procured by trumping up odious charges against respectable persons.
          Mr. J. Ellis Churchill was then called and examined. – Lived at 44, Great Marlborough-street. Was in the house of Ellis and Everington, St. Paul's Church-yard. Was nephew of Mr. Ellis, the Member for Leicester. After leaving business was in the habit of walking in Hyde-park when the evening was fine. Took a walk about a quarter before nine, on the 11th of August, in Hyde park, and was returning home by the path that cuts obliquely towards Oxford-street, when a young man, touching his hat, politely accosted him about 300 yards from the gate, and begged to be directed the nearest way to the City. Witness gave him the information, and the young man continued to walk by his side for about twenty yards, when the other man (Fitzgerald) came up, and accused witness of indecent conduct with the young man. Witness in a moment of indignation raised his stick to knock his accuser down.
          Mr. Clarkson. – Had you committed or participated in any indecent act? Mr. Churchill. – Most certainly not. After Fitzgerald made the charge, he said witness must go to the station-house. Witness raised his stick to knock Fitzgerald down, upon which the other one laid hold of his arm, and said, "It is of no use, you had better go quietly." Witness answered, "I see it is no use to make resistance; I will go with you." The prisoner Fitzgerald laid hold of witness's collar, and the other man walked about 20 yards behind. Fitzgerald looked back and said, "That other fellow appears to keep near to us." When near Mivart's Hotel witness requested to be allowed to call upon a friend. Fitzgerald said, "Very well, but what security can you give that you will come back?" Witness said, "I have only my stick and a few shillilngs." At that moment seeing a policeman, witness said, "Here is a policeman, and now here is an end of this." Fitzgerald appeared desirous of avoiding the police, but seeing witness resolute, he seized witness and dragged him towards the constable. While on their way to the station-house, Fitzgerald told witness he had been watching him, three quarters of an hour. Witness was locked up on the charge, and the next day, on being brought before a magistrate, held to bail. On the same evening witness gave Fitzgerald into custody for assaulting him in the park. When leaving the office, Fitzgerald said, in a menacing manner, "You shall have Newstead, the man you were with in the park, before you to-morrow morning."
          Mr. Clarkson. – Now, Mr. Churchill, look at that young man, Newstead, and say if you have the slightest doubt in the world that he is the person who accosted you in the Park.
          Mr. Churchill. – I have not the slightest doubt about the matter. The prisoner Newstead is the man who spoke to me.
          Mr. C. Wallis said, he knew Mr. Churchill to be a gentleman of unquestionable respectability. Was present when Fitzgerald was given into custody for an assault on Mr. Churchill, and heard him say in a threatening manner to Mr. Churchill that he would have Newstead forward the next morning out of revenge for being given into custody. He added, that he had met Newstead accidentally that afternoon.
          Police constable Lester, C 143, said he heard Fitzgerald use the same expressions.
          Ellen Thorn lived at 15, Denzil-street. The prisoner Fitzgerald lived in the same house snce May last, but went by the name of Stringer. He lived with a man who was committed from Bow-street that day, named Fitzgerald. Had seen the prisoner Newstead frequently in Stringer's company. They used to go out together. Had seen Newstead come to Stronger, since last May, about three times a week. Witness was certain of Newstead's identity. She did not know his name, but had noticed him on account of his smart dress, and gentlemanly appearance.
          Eliza Fitzgerald got her living by selling things in the street. The young man at Bow-street this day was her son. The prisoner Fitzgerald was no relation whatever. Had given the prisoner Fitzgerald a character when he was tried for taking a purse from a gentleman's footman at Camberwell, at Horsemonger-lane. The prisoner was transported for seven years, under the name of Stringer. This was about four years ago. He came back last March, and stated that his time had been given up, on account of his good behaviour. When witness saw him at the Court this morning she asked him how he came to take her son's name. He said her son and he had always passed as brothers. He then added if witness told his real name he should be done.
          Mr. Clarkson asked the old woman if she would place herself under the case of an officer, to prevent her from behing tampered with before trial.
          The witness consented.
          Policeman F, 31, heard the conversation with Stringer relative to his being "done," if his real name was disclosed.
          Frederick Clark lived in Broad-street, Golden-square. Knew both prisoners well. Saw them in company on the 11th of August, at six o'clock, near Charing-cross. There was other persons with them. Witness knew them all. Knew the young man. He went by all sorts of names. One of them was Newstead. The other prisoner sometimes went by the name of "Kales Bill." The two prisoners were associates. Had been in their company frequently.
          Newstead. – Why he is one of us. He robbed a gentleman named Bell of a gold watch and ring in Hyde Park.
          Mr. Clarkson. – How came you to know this? Newstead. – I knew it right well.
          Mr. Clarkson. – Your career, young man, is now cut short. Newstead. – Then so ought this man's to be. He is the worst of any of the lot.
          Mr. Clarkson beged to mention that Mr. Churchill was desirous of exoneraing Inspector Plume from all blame in objecting to send for proper assistance when the charge was first brought to the station-house. Mr. Churchill begged to thank the officers for the ready assistance which he had met with.
          Mr. Maltby said he could bear testimony to the good conduct of Inspector Plume.
          Thomas Davis, town traveller, knew the prisoners were associates. Newstead sometimes went by the name of Smith.
          Mr. Clarkson said here he would stop, having, as he hoped, produced abundant evidence to induce the magistrate, for the furtherance of justice, to secure the persons of the prisoners.
          Mr. Maltby. – On what charge? Mr. Clarkson. – That they with a common purpose, went together into Hyde-park; one to plant himself on Mr. Churchill, and the other to find the parties together, in order ot charge them with an attempt to commit an abominable offence, and by this means to extort money from Mr. Churchill. Had they succeeded in obtaining any money, it would have undoubtedly been a robbery; but as they only took Mr. Churchill into custody it amounts to an assault, with an intent to commit robbery.
          Mr. Maltby. – At some period of other?
          Mr. Clarkson. – Yes. And if you think enough has been shewn to induce you to send the case to a Jury, I shall ask you to remand Fitzgerald as a returned transport – the man wwo made the charge against Mr. Churchill, which charge has been submitted to the public, until I can have an opportunity of completing the evidence. Mr. Churchill's character would have been destroyed, had it not been for the vigilance of the officers. We want to take care that Fitzgerald has the means of making his charge against Mr. Churchill.
          Fitzgerald. – I have no charge to make.
          Mr. Maltby asked the prisoners if they wished to say anything?
          Fitzgerald answered in the negative; and Newstead began to criminate the witnesses.
          Mr. Maltby said the association of the prisoners was clearly proved, and he should therefore remand them till Friday next. And here (said Mr. Maltby) I will take the opportunity of expressing the deep satisfaction I feel at the shape the case has taken, and the ample means which Mr. Churchill possesses of vindicating his character from what I now believe to be a completely unfounded charge. It was only because the forms of the law had been completed that I was debarred from releasing Mr. Churchill on the former occasion from the charge.
          The prisoners were then remanded. (Morning Advertiser)

22–24 August 1842

M. – Ever since Mr. Churchill was charged by Fitzgerald on Friday week last with indecent behaviour with another person in Hyde-park, he and his friends, assisted by the police, have been unremitting in their efforts to trace the conspiracy to the bottom, and they yesterday succeeded in apprehending and placing at the bar William Newstead, a good looking, well dressed young man (the person who accosted Mr. Churchill in the Park). Fitzgerald, alias Stringer, alias Skinner, alias Kales Bill, the accuser, was also placed in the bar with him.
          Mr. Clarkson said, that the prisoner Fitzgerald, alias Stringer, and a dozen other aliases, was the person who had accused Mr. Churchill of unnatural behaviour in the Park with a person; that person he should prove was the prisoner Newstead, who was intimate with Fitzgerald, and who had joined Mr. Churchill for the purpose of giving the other an opportunity of making the revolting charge, in order that they might extort money. He should pass lightly over what had subsequently to the first examination been discovered relative to the falsehood of Fitzgerald's statement that he had lived with Messrs. Shepherd and Sutton, and go on to the statement made by Fitzgerald that he had never seen either Churchill or Newstead before. Now, he should bring plenty of witnesses to prove that Newstead and he were intimate companions, and he had too much cause to fear that the present was not the first case of the kind they had been concerned in together for the purpose of extorting money. He should further prove, that Fitzgerald, under the name of Stringer, had been tried about four years since at Horsemonger-lane for felony and sentenced to seven years' transportation, and was therefore a returned transport. He charged him with felony in having been tried for felony. The prisoners had been apprehended together, and he would bring witness after witness to prove their connexion together, and also that Newstead was connected with a number of persons concerned in similar conspiracies. In conclusion, he charged Fitzgerald with assaulting Mr. Churchill in Hyde-park.
          Fitzgerald said, that Newstead was not the person he saw with Mr. Churchill; it was a much stouter man.
          Mr. Clarkson. – You shall have an opportunity afforded you for going before the grand jury to prefer your charge against Mr. Churchill.
          Fitzgerald. – I do not want to go now.
          Mr. Clarkson. – But we will take care that you do go.
          Mr. Clarkson then called Mr. Churchill, who repeated his former evidence; and identified Newstead as the man who accosted him in the Park, and who was walking with him when Fitzgerald came up, and after making the foul accusation took him into custody. Newstead followed them until he saw the police, when he ran off. When he saw Fitzgerald at the second examination, he said menacingly, "You shall have Newstead against you in the morning."
          Lister, 143 C, heard Fitzgerald make use of these words to the prosecutor.
          Ellen Thomas stated that Fitzgerald, under the name of Stringer, had occupied a room at her mother's, 15, Densel-street, Clare-market, since May; a young man of the name of Fitzgerald (who had been that morning committed from Bow-street) shared it with him; they passed for brothers. She knew Newstead well, as he was frequently in the habit of visiting Stringer, and they used to go out together in the afternoon; she could not tell what time he returned.
          An old widow of the name of Eliza Fitzgerald, who said she earned a precarious living by selling laces and such like in the street, stated that Fitzgerald, who had been that day committed at Bow-street, was her son. She knew the prisoner, who called himself Fitzgerald, well, but he was no relation to her. She gave him a character when he was tried at Horsemonger-lane. He was tried for stealing a watch from the servant of a gentleman residing at Camberwell, and sentenced to seven years' transportation. At the time he was apprehended he and her son were living together in an empty public-house, of which they had the charge until it was let. He returned from transporation in March or April, and when I saw him he told me that he had served four years, and the rest of his time had been given up in consequence of his good behaviour. On asking him why he had taken my name, he replied that if his real one was known he should be done.
          Frederick Clark (who admitted that he had frequently been in company with the prisoners and their companions) said, he had many time seen them in company together, and saw them together about 6 o'clock on the night of Thursday, the 11th (the night the accusation was made). They both of them went by various names, and Fitzgerald, among others, Kales Bill. There were a great many more in the gang.
          Newstead said the witness was as bad a character as they were, and had stolen a ring and watch, and he could tell where they were at that moment.
          Mr. Clarkson. – He admits he is none of the best, as he has kept company with you.
          It was arranged that this witness should be provided with lodging at the house of one of the policemen until the trial, to prevent his being tampered with, or threatened by any of the prisoner's companions. Orders were at the same time given that he should have every comfort.
          Comfortable lodgings were also provided for the old woman with a similar view.
          Newstead denied having seen Mr. Churchill before.
          Mr. Clarkson observed, that Mr. Churchill having on a former occasion stated that Inspector Plume had while he was locked up refused him pens, paper, &c., having found that no fault attached to that officer, he begged to apologise, and express his thanks to the inspector and the officers who had so ably aided them in searching out the case.
          Mr. MALTBY could bear testimony as to Inspector Plume being a most active, upright, and intelligent officer.
          Mr. Clarkson said, there was already sufficient evidence to satisfy public justice. I charge them with going into the Park with a common purpose, the one to plant himself upon any gentleman he might meet, and the other, seeing them together, to charge with a foul crime for the purpose of extorting money. If they had succeeded in obtaining any money there would then have been a charge of felony against them. As it at present stood it was an assault with intent to rob. He should ask for a remand until Thursday, when, though he should produce no further evidence, he should be provided with a copy of the conviction at Horsemonger-lane. The depositions would then be taken and the prisoners committed.
          Mr. MALTBY wished to express publicly his extreme gratification at the turn, and on the chance Mr. Churchill had of so triumphantly rebutting hs base accusers. A more foul or detestable conspiracy he had never heard of. He regretted that on a former occasion, the deposition having been taken and signed, the forms of law did not allow him to deviate from the course laid down, or to compel Fitzgerald to enter into any other than hs own bail. (Evening Mail)

26–29 August 1842

MARLBOROUGH-STREET. – Yesterday William Stringer, alias Fitzgerald, and William Newton Smithson, alias Newstead, were brought before Mr. MALTBY for final examination. The former was charged with assaulting Mr. Churchill, in Hyde-park, on the evening of August 11, with intent to rob, &c. Both prisoners were likewise charged with a conspiracy to extort money from Mr. Churchill, by accusing him of an infamous crime.
          Mr. Clarkson, and Mr. Robinson, a solicitor, attended as before for the prosecution. Mr. Churchill was also in court, surrounded by his friends.
          The evidence, already published in our police columns of the 23rd instant, having been read over, the following was taken in addition.
          Frederick Clack, in addition to his former evidence, stated, that having been applied to to assist in the apprehension of the prisoners, who had been well-known to him for some time, he, on Saturday night last, accompanied police constable Hill, 60 F, and two other constables, to the Ship public-house, Chandos-street; on entering the room he immediately pointed out to the officers the two prisoners, and also another person, of the name of Charles Fitzgerald, who lodged with Stringer in Densell-street. The three were then taken into custody. Charles Fitzgerald was on Monday brought before the sitting magistrate at Bow-street, on a charge of extorting money from a person by threatening to accuse him of an unnatural crime, and remanded until Friday (this day). Smithson and Stringer were brought to this court.
          William Thorn, saddler, 15, Densell-street, Clare-market, said that Fitzgerald, by the name of Stringer, took a room in the house where he lodged about the 22d of May last, and resided in it in company with another person of the name of Charles Fitzgerald (now in custsody at Bow-street on a similar charge), where they passed for brothers. Another person frequently visited them. The two Fitzgeralds very frequently quarrelled, and Charles was then in the habit of using the most disgusting epithets towards the prisoner, and imputing unnatural crimes to him.
          Police-sergeant Mitchelson, 17 C, while proceeding on Thursday night, August 18th, along Davies-street, Berkeley-square, with a file of men, met Fitzgerald and Churchill; the former had hold of the latter by the arm. He gave him in charge for indecently exposing his person. Witness asked in what way? He replied with another man in Hyde-park, and if witness would return back wih him, he thought they might see the other, as he had followed for some distance. Witness left Mr. Churchill in charge of a constable, and went with the accuser as far as Grosvenor-gate, but not seeing the man, returned and took Mr. Churchill to the station-house, when Fitzgerald preferred the charge against him.
          Inspector Plume, of the C division, took the charge. He told Fitzgerald, who represented that he lived with Messrs. Shepherd and Sutton, that he must attend at Marlborough-street Police-court the next morning at 10 o'clock to prefer the charge, who replied, that he must first ask his employer's leave.
          Mitchelson. – I hand in a certificate of the former conviction and transportation of Fitzgerald in the name of Stringer, in June, 1838, which I have just obtained from the clerk of the peace of the county of Surrey.
          John Wilton, engineer, 9, Castle-lane, Southward-bridge-road, was a witness against Fitzgerald when he was tried and convicted in 1838, at Horsemonger-lane, in the name of Stringer, for stealing a purse and 7s. from a gentleman's servant. He was sentenced to 7 years' transportation. The prisoner Fitzgerald was the same person then tried.
          This closed the case for the prosecution.
          Mr. Clarkson then said, – Now, Sir, you are aware that Stringer or Fitzgerald is under recognisances to appear and give evidence before the grand jury in support of his charge against Mr. Churchill; I therefore pray that he may not be committed until he has had a chance to going with an officer before the grand jury.
          Mr. MALTBY thought that if the prisoners were committed at once, facilities would be afforded by the authorities of Newgate for Fitzgerald's going before the grand jury. If not, application could be made to a judge.
          After some private discussion,
          Mr. Clarkson observed, that the worthy magistrate was, perhaps, right, and that they had better be committed at once, and that application should be made to the officers at Newgate.
          Mr. MALTBY inquired of the prisoners whether they had anything to say?
          Smithson merely said that the charges against him were entirely false, and only supported by worthless charactes. He had never seen Mr. Churchill until he saw him in this court.
          Fitzgerald (with great warmth) denied the charge altogether. He had been kept out of the way on purpose to prevent him going before a grand jury and exposing Mr. Churchill until the eleventh hour, or until, perhaps, the grand jury were discharged. He publicly denounced Churchill as a filthy miscreant; every word that he had sworn to respecting his conduct was true, and he would stick to what he had sworn to his dying day. His charge was true.
          Mr. MALTBY – There is also a charge agianst you of having been previously convicted of felony.
          Fitzgerald. – I have nothing to say against that charge. I had intended to go before the grand jury on the first day of the sessions and prefer my indictment, but was in the meantime taken into custody on a false charge, and locked up to prevent me. Money had done and will do great things, and Mr. Churchill has been most lavish of his, but not for the sake of justice.
          Mr. Clarkson. – Well, Mr. Churchill and I must endeavour to get out of this charge as well as we can.
          Fitzgerald. – I am sorry to know so much about Mr. Churchill. As a proof how money has flown about, I will state that the two witnesses Clack and Davis, alias Plume, have each received 5l. to give evidence against us, and are promised 20l. each more at the conclusion of the trial.
          Mr. Clarkson (to the clerk). – Be kind enough to make a note of the prisoner's last statement.
          Mr. Clarkson (to Fitzgerald). – Do you wish to go before the grand jury?
          Fitzgerald. – Yes, as a free man, but not as a prisoner. I bring a man here charged with a most infamous crime and am ready to go before a jury. A charge is in the meantime brought against me; I am sent to prison and completely upset, and my nerves are shattered. I have been kept out of the way until the eleventh hour, that I might not go before the grand jury to prefer the indictment.
          Mr. Clarkson. – Instead of being kept out of the way, you were kept in the way. The grand jury will not be discharged just yet, and you will have plenty of time to file your bill.
          The prisoners were then fully committed to Newgate for trial, and the witnesses bound over to prosecute.
          It is expected that all parties will appear before the grand jury to-morrow (this day). (Evening Mail)

Wednesday 31 August 1842

          Charles William Stringer, alias Fitzgerald, was placed at the bar, charged with feloniously assaulting and robbing Henry Watson of one shilling in money. Another count in the indictment alleged that the prisoner had put Henry Watson in bodily fear at the time of the robbery.
          The prosecution was conducted by Messrs. Clarkson and Bodkin. – The prisoner was not defended.
          Mr. Clarkson stated the case as it subsequently appeared in evidence.
          Henry Watson, examined by Mr. Bodkin: I am a hairdresser, residing in Cow Cross-street, Smithfield. I am married, and have six children living. About nine o-clock in the evening of the 25th of April last I was looking in at the window of a print-shop at the corner of Southampton-street, Strand. The prisoner was amongst several of the persons there. He said to me, "That is a well-done thing," meaning one of the prints. I said it was, and moved away to another part of the window. The prisoner followed me, and said he saw I was a judge of those things. I replied, "Not much." He then said, "I beg your parson, sir; I have been out of employment some time – I have a few relics at home, which I wish to dispose of: I don't think they are of much value, but I would be glad to get a purchaser." I said, "I am no buyer, as I don't understand such things: what do they consist of?" He mentioned some prints and books which I do not remember. He then told me that his residence was not far off, and as he mentioned the neighbourhood of Drury-lane, I went with him, as it was partly in my way. He led me to a house in Stanhope-street, Drury-lane. He then went into a shop to procure a candle, and led me into an adjoining door to the chandler. I suggested that he should procure a light, but he said it was not necessary, if I would take his hand, he would lead me safely up. I did not take hold of him, but followed him at a little distance to the third floor. When I came up with him, he had procured a light. I went into the back room, and there saw a print hanging against the wall. I asked him if that was one of the prints which he wanted to sell. He made no reply. I turned round to repeat the qeustion, when the prisoner said, "B[last] your eyes, I've neither prints nor books, what do you mean to give me?" I replied, "Nothing – what have you brought me here for?! He immediately seized me by the trousers, and said, "I'll shoot your b[lood]y head through your shoulders unless you give me all the money about you." I had 25s. in my pocket, but I gave him only one, and said I had no more. He called me a d[amned] liar, and said I had more. I denied, and strove to get out of the room. He tore my dress, and said he would give me in charge for the commission of an unnatural offence. I got down stairs, I don't know how, and gave the prisoner in charge to a policeman. I was taken ill a few days afterwards, and was taken to Bartholomew's Hospital, where I was out of my senses for some time. I was not well until after the May sessions were over.
          The prisoner cross-examined the witness at some length, but without shaking his testimony in the slightest degree. The witness said, on his swolemn oath, that he never was before in any court of justice on such a charge as that implied by the prisoner, either as plaintiff or defendant, accuser or accused.
          Susanna Watson, wife of the prosecutor, deposed to her husband having come home in a state of great excitement, on the night of the 25th of April. On the following Sunday he was taken to the hospital, where he remained for ten or twelve days. He came out, against the orders of the doctors, before he was fit. His mind was deranged and he was sent to the country. Witness attended at the June sessions, to obtain a further postponement of the trial, until her husband could attend, but that was not granted, and the grand jury ignored the bill.
          William Hodson deposed that he was formerly in the police force. He was on duty in Stanhope-street on the 25th of April, and took the prisoner into custody about nine or ten o'clock at night, at the charge of the prosecuitor. The prisoner said something just before the prosecutor spoke, but witness did not hear what it was.
          Ann Lewis, nurse at Bartholomew's Hospital, corroborated the fact of the prosecutor's illness and derangement, and having left the hospital before he was fit.
          Robert Samuel Roberts, the chandler at the house in Stanhope-street, deposed to the prisoner having purchased the candle on the night in question.
          William Hill, a police-constable, deposed to having apprehended the prisoner on the night of Saturday, the 20th of August, at a public house, in Chandos-street, Strand. The prisoner was drinking in company of two other persons known to witness.
          This being the case for the prosecution, the prisoner addressed the jury for his defence, asserting and protesting his innocence most strongly.
          Mr. Baron Rolfe summed up the evidence. He said that the legislature in making a distinction between robbery, and robbery with violence, had it in view to make the offence more penal, but he (Mr. Baron Rolfe) had always found it extremely difficult to define the difference between mere robbery and robbery with violence, because, to a certain extent, robbery was always accompanied by some species of violence. He did not consider in the present case that the tearing of the prosecutor's trousers and shirt, as described, was sufficient to constitute a charge of actual personal violence at the time of the robbery, although it undoubtedly constituted an assault. The decision of the jury must be founded entirely on the credit which they gave to the testimony of the prosecutor, and if they believed him, the safest verdict they could probably return would be that of guilty of a robbery merely, without violence.
          The jury, after a few monents' consultation, returned a verdict of "Guilty of robbery, accompanied with personal violence."
          Mr. Clarkson requested his lordship to pospone passing sentence upon the prisoner until after the next case had been disposed of.
          The prisoner was accordingly put back.

          William Stringer, alias William Fitzgerald, alias Mills, and Charles Newstead, alias Smith, alias Nell Gwynne, were then placed at the bar charged with assaulting and attempting to rob John Ellis Churchill.
          Messrs. Clarkson and Bodkin conducted the prosecution. The prisoners had no counsel.
          Mr. Clarkson stated the case as it has already appeared in the public papers, with the additonal fact that the two persons found in company with the prisoner just convicted, when he was arrested, were the two prisoners at the bar. Mr. Clarkson said that the question for the jury to consider was, what the intention of the prisoners was in making the charge on Mr. Churchill, and they would have the benefit of his lordship's directions on the subject. He then called the following witnesses:–
          Mr. John Ellis Churchill examined by Mr. Bodkin. I am in the house of Messrs. Ellis and Everington, St. Paul's-churchyard. I am nephew of Mr. Wynn Ellis. I live at 44, Great Marlborough-street, Oxford-street. I was in Hyde-park on Thursday evening, August 11, about 8 o'clock. I usually leave business about 7 o'clock in the evening. I was proceeding towards Kensington-gardens, but I turned and went along the path to the right, about 300 yards from the gate going towards Oxford-street. The prisoner Newstead came over towards me, touched his hat politely, and asked me the surest road to the City, stating, at the same time, that he had been spending the day at Kensington. He said he was going to some lane in the City. I forget the name. I said the road I was going was his most direct way. We walked on together. I heard some one coming behind me, and, on looking round, I saw the other prisoner (Stringer). He came up, seized me by the collar, called me a d[amne]d beast, and said I had been exposing my person. I raised my stick to knock him down, when the other prisoner (Newstead) caught my arm, and said, "You had better go quietly with him to the station-house." I remarked, that if there were two of them it was useless for me to resist. I went as a prisoner with Stringer to Oxford-street, Newstead following. We went out of Park-lane, and into one of the streets leading to Grosvenor-square. Stringer said he had been watching me for the last three quarters of an hour, and added, that my friend (meaning Newstead) kept close behind me. I asked Stringer, as he meant to take me to the station-house, to let me go to my house, which was in the neighbourhood, in order to procure a friend. We went down Lower Brook-street, in a contrary direction from the station-house. He asked me what security I would give him if he allowed me to go into my house. I said, what security do you require if you see me to my door? Opposite Mivart's hotel I saw a policeman at some distance, and said, "It will soon be settled, here's a policeman." He immediately said, "You shall not go to your lodging, you shall go to the station-house." He then turned back with me, avoiding the policeman, and turned down Davis-street towards Berkeley-square. We met a body of police, and I remarked the police were coming towards us. Stronger stopped, the other prisoner had gone away. The police approached, we crossed the road, he seized me by the collar, and dragged me as if I was a prisoner towards them. He gave me in charge, and stated to the inspiector that it was for an indecent assault, and that if the sergeant would go back a little way he would probably find the other fellow. We went back, but saw nothing of Newstead. I was then taken to Vine-street station-house. Stringer went into the private office, and made a charge which I did not hear. After he had gone away the inspector read the charge to me. I was locked up and refused pen, ink, or paper, both then and in the morning. No notice was taken of my application.
          Mr. Baron Rolfe said this had nothing to do with the case.
          Examination resumed: The depositions were read to me.
          Mr. Fitzpatrick, clerk of the statin-house, read the depositions of Stringer, which made a charge of an abominable nature against Mr. Churchill, and the prisoner Newstead, who he deposed was a man unknown to him (Stringer). He also swore he was a porter in the employ of Messrs. Sheppard and Co. these two years.
          Examination of Mr. Churchill resumed: I was locked up on that charge. Next day I procured bail, and one of my bail knew Mr. Sheppard, and ascertained that he knew nothing of Stringer. At half-past four Mr. Fitzpatrick proved from the depositions that Mr. Sheppard came to the station-house, and in consequience of what he said, Stringer was sent for. He came about six, and was confronted with Mr. Sheppard. He then said he never was in the employment of Messrs. Sheppard and Sutton, but his brother had been for three years in their employ about two years previously. He then named several persons in whose employment he had been, and said that what he had sworn in the morning about Messrs. Sheppard and Sutton was false. A great number of contradictory statements made by Stringer were then proved by Fitzgerald.
          Mr. Churchill's examination resumed: By direction of the magistrate, I made a charge of assault against Stringer. I went for the purpose, from Marlborough-street, when the magistrate had heard the case, to Vine-street station. After I had made the charge, when I was turning away from him, Stringer said to me, in a menacing manner, "You shall have Newstead before you in the morning, the man who was indecently with you in the park. I have seen him this evening." A friend of mine remarked that he felt sure "Newstead" was not a fictitious name. It was the first time I heard the name. On my solemn oath I never was guilty of anything which would give colour to the charge. I deny the charge of Stringer totally."
          The prisoner Stringer asked the witness several questions regarding the time at which he left his house, and various expressions which he asserted Mr. Churchill had used whilst in his (Stronger's) custody. Mr. Churchill denied the entire.
          Stringer then denied to the court that Newstead (the other prisoner) was the person whom he had caught with Mr. Churchill in the park.
          Mr. Charles Wallace, surgeon, examined by Mr. Clarkson: I was in the station-house when Mr. Churchill preferred his charge against Stringer. Mr. Churchill lives at my house. I heard Stringer say to Mr. Chiurchill, when we were coming out of the station-house, holding up his hand in a menacing manner towards him, "I'll bring up Newstead to-morrow, the man you were with in Hyde-park; I met with him by accident this evening."
          Cross examined by Stringer: I positively swear that Newstead was the name mentioned by you.
          Robert Lyster, police-constable, deposed to Stringer having used the very same expressions sworn to by last witness in his hearing.
          Ellen Thorn examined by Mr. Bodkin: I am daughter of Mrs. Thorn, who lives at 15, Denzell-street, Clare-market. It is close to Stanhope-street. Stringer lodged at my mother's house.
          (Fitzgerald, the convict, was here brought into court).
          That man lived there also. They passed for brothers. I knew one by the name of Fitzgerald, and the other as Stringer. I know the prisoner Newstead. He used to be frequently with Stringer. I remember them being taken into custody. I saw Newstead with Stringer about a week before. I often saw them go out together. I have no doubt about his identity.
          Cross-examined by Stringer: You used, all three, often to come in late together, at two o-clock in the morning. You used often to quarrel very much in your own room, and disturb the people.
          William Thorn examined by Mr. Clarkson: I am brother of last witness. I remember Stringer coming to lodge in the house. About a week after Fitzgerald came to live with him, and they passed for brothers.
          Frederick Clack examined by Mr. Bodkin: I live at Broad-street, Grosvenor-square. I know the prisoners at the bar. I saw them together, at six o'clock, on the evening of the 11th of August, at Charing-cross.
          Cross-examined by Stringer: I have lived at Broad-street about a year. I am an engineer. I left Hoxton-street about a year ago. I didn't break and rob a set of drawers. If you can produce the letter which I stole you may. I lived with a person named Travers. I didn't pass as his brother. I got a gold mourning-ring from him. I don't know if the name "Bell" was engraved inside. I pledged the ring. I also got a gold watch. It was parted with to the landlady of the house No. 9, Hand-court, where we lived. I don't know of Travers having got a sovereign from a gentleman whom he met in Park-lane.
          In answer to a question about 200 by the prisoner, witness said that he had called and seen Stringer after Mr. Churchill had made his charge. Witness, knowing the character of the prisoners, gave information to Mr. Churchill, who, he heard, had given 200 to Stringer to hold back his evidence. He also acknowledged having said that, if it was in his power, he would willingly transport Fitzgerald.
          Thomas Davis examined by Mr. Clarkson: My name is Thomas Plume. I gave the name of Davis to Mr. Churchill. I know the prisoners at the bar. Stringer I have known three months; Newstead about two years.
          In answer to questions put by Stringer, the witness said he did not recollect anything about 200 and going to Holland.
          Mr. Sheppard was called and sworn.
          Mr. Baron Rolfe interrupted the proceedings at this point, and said to Mr. Clarkson that he did not see how the case could be sustained. The charge was one of robbery and assault, and he did not see how that charge could be borne out. The assault as proved had nothing to do with the charge as laid in the indictment.
          Mr. Clarkson said he had hoped his lordship would leave the question of the intention with which the assault had been committed to the jury. The demand which Stringer had made of something as security while Mr. Churchill should go into his house seemed to explain the mystery.
          Mr. Bodkin followed, urging that the case should be allowed to proceed.
          Mr. Baron Rolfe: Let the case proceed.
          Fitzgerald was brought into the dock, and Mr. Sheppard identified him as having been in his employment some years ago. Stringer never was in his employment.
          William Plume, inspector, C division, deposed to having taken the charge made against Mr. Churchill by Stringer, and having told him he must attend next day at Marlborough-street. He said he should get his master's leave to attend, and that he lived at Foster-lane in the city.
          The case for the prosecution closed here.
          Stringer then addressed the jury, and repeated the whole story which he had told at the station-house against Mr. Churchill, which he insisted was perfectly true. He urged that he had extorted nothing from the prosecutor, but that he was aware that he stood in the dock under most unfavourable circumstances. He was aware he had a bad character. He stood there under the unfortunate circumstances of having been previously charged, tried, and convicted; but was that to be brought against him on the present occasion? He trusted to the court and jury not to allow such things to weigh with them against him on the present charge. He again insisted upon the truth of his statement against Mr. Churchill, and said that until his death he would continue to assert it.
          Newstead then addressed the court and jury, and beged their attention to the acknowledgment of the witness, Clack, that he would transport him (Newstead) if it was in his power. The prisoner said that Clack had often said the same thing, and then appearing to burst into tears he laid his face on the bar and said no more.
          Mr. Baron Rolfe summed up the evidence, and the jury, without a moment's hesitation, returned a verdict of guilty.
          There was some applause in the court when the verdict was returned, but it was immediately checked.
          Proof was then given of a former conviction for felony against the prisoner Stringer.
          The prisoners being both placed at the bar, Mr. Baron Rolfe addressed them, and said they had been convicted of a crime of the very foulest description. There was no doubt they had been prowling about the park in the dusk of the evening for the purpose of making charges of a horrible description against any one they might meet, and thereby extorting money from them. Under such circumstances, it was his duty to pass upon them a sentence little short of death. His lordship then sentenced Stringer to transportation for life, and Newstead to transportation for fifteen years.
          Charles William Stringer Fitzgerald, the prisoner convicted in the first case, was then brought forwrd, and sentenced to transportation for fifteen years. (Morning Chronicle

31 August to 2 September 1842

BOW-STREET. – Yesterday a person of the name of Thomas Addy, described as an assistant to a sheriff's officer, was placed at the bar before Mr. HALL, having been apprehended on a warrant granted on Wednesday last, for an assault with intent to rob Mr. Henry Bellamy Webb, a gentleman residing at No. 31, Great Queen-street, Lincoln's-inn-fields. Since the warrant was granted the prosecutor had been before the grand jury at the Central Criminal Court, who had returned a true bill against the prisoner, consequently he was merely brought up to be identified, in order to commit him to Newgate.
          It has been ascertained that the prisoner has for some time been connected with the Fitzgeralds and Newstead who brought charges against Mr. Churchill and Mr. Watson, for which they were convicted at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday last.
          It appeared that the prisoner had preferred a charge of a similar nature, which it is unnecessary here further to allude to, against Mr. Webb, which was to be investigated before the magistrates at this court on Monday last. Mr. Webb was in attendance, but the prisoner not appearing to support his charge, Mr. Twyford immediately ordered Mr. Webb to be discharged, at the same time adding in the most emphatic manner that he left the bar without the slightest stigma upon his character.
          Mr. Robinson attended on behalf of the prosecution.
          Mr. Webb having been sworn, stated that he was charged at this court on Monday, the 22d of August; and the charge in the police-sheet as taken at the station-house was, for having committed an indecent assault upon the prisoner; but as the prisoner did not attend to support the charge, he immediately went to the Central Criminal Court, and preferred an indictment against him.
          Prisoner. – When I accused you of the offence, what did I say?
          Mr. HALL said, he was not going to investigate the nature of the charge against the prisoner with a view to commit him for trial; a bill had already been found against him, and a certificate of his identity had been handed in; he (the prisoner) was merely called upon to show why he should not be committed to Newgate.
          Mr. Robinson. – The simple question is, do you deny the charge?
          Prisoner. – Indeed I do not; but the fact is, I am occasionally insane, which totally prevents my being accountable for my actions, and during the last six weeks I have had many such fits.
          Mr. HALL. – an indictment has been found against you, in which you are charged with assaulting with intent to rob this gentleman.
          Prisoner. – Oh, yes, I heard it read to me last night; but I have no recollectiono of the circumstance, except that as I passed through Covent-garden a person reminded me of it.
          Mr. Robinson. – All I have now to do is to apply for the prisoner's commitment to Newgate.
          Mr. HALL. – Certainly; the prisoner is committed to take his trial at the next session at the Central Criminal Court upon the indictment found against him. (Evening Mail)

Saturday 3 September 1842

BOW-STREET. – The disgraceful system of extortion, so lately practiced by the men Fitzgerald and others, upon people of the highest respectability, must be fresh in the memory of all our readers; and the facts which came out upon the evidence at the examination of the prisoners at Bow-street and Marlborough-street, and their subsequent trial at the Old Bailey, left little doubt in the minds of the police and others conversant with such matters, that the Fitzgeralds were not the only people who had practised such a shameless and disgraceful system of extortion.
          This morning a well-dressed man, apparently about thirty-five years of age, who gave the name of Thomas Addy, but whose real name is believed to be Robert Hyde Eddy, was placed at the bar under the following circumstances:–
          Mr. Henry Bellamy Webb, of 31, Great Queen-street, Lincoln's Inn-fields, stated that on Saturday, the 20th ult., as he was proceeding along Hemming's-row, on his way home, he was met by the prisoner, who accosted him with "a fine night, Sir," or something of that sort; witness shortly replied that it was; the prisoner made one or two common-place observations, to which witness, being not at all desirous of his company, replied very briefly; at length, on arriving at Castle-street, Leicester-square, as the prisoner still kept close to him, witness turned round to him, and said "I don't know what you mean, I don't want anything to say to you, why don't you go away about your business?" The prisoner made no reply, and witness thought he was gone, but on reaching New-street, Covent-garden, witness observed the prisoner still at his heels; witness took no notice, however, but pursued his way towards the Piazzas, near Covent-garden Market; when he arrived there the prisoner came alongside of him, and accosted with "d[amn] your eyes, what are you going to give me?" Witness asked him what he meant, when he said "d[amn] you if you don't give me some money, I'll charge you with an unnatural offence;" and a policeman happening to come up at the time the prisoner gave witness into custody, and he was taken to the station-house, where he remained till the Monday morning following.
          On Monday he was brought up before the magistrate, but the prisoner, deterred no doubt by the rigorous proceedings which in the meantime had commenced against some of his associates, did not appear to prefer his charge. Witness was in consequence discharged without the case being entered into. Witness then proceeded to the Old Bailey, where the grand jury were sitting, and preferred an indictment against the prisoner for feloniously assaulting witness with intent to rob him, and the prisoner not appearing to answer the indictment, a warrant was issued for his apprehension, and placed in the hands of Inspector Plume, of the C division, under which warrant the prisoner was apprehended last night in Castle-street. Witness had not the slightest doubt that the prisoner was the man who accosted him, and gave him into custody on the 20th ult., as above stated. There was not the slightest ground for such a charge.
          The prisoner, in defence, merely stated that he had received a wound in the head, and did not know half his time what he was doing. Such must have been the case when he accosted Mr. Webb in the manner stated.
          Mr. Hall said it was a case for a jury, and fully committed the prisoner to take his trial at the next Old Bailey sessions. (Dublin Morning Register)

Tuesday 6 September 1842

A foul conspiracy has been blown up in London, its object being to extract money from respectable persons, by accusing them of unnatural crimes. Several of the conpsirators have been committed for trial. – At the Central Criminal Court, Chas. Wm. Stringer, alias Fitzgerald, Wm. Stringer, alias Fitzgerald, alias Mills, and Chas. Newstead, alias Smith, – the parties to this conspiracy, were tried, convicted, and sentenced, the first and last to transportation for fifteen years, the other to transportation for the term of his natural life. (North Wales Chronicle)

21–23 September 1842

(Before Mr. Justice WIGHTMAN and Mr. Justice CRESSWELL.)
          Robert, alias Thomas Addy, aged 29, was indicted for feloniously assaulting Mr. Henry Bellamy Webb, with intent to rob him. In another count the prisoner was charged with attempting to extort money by means of threats and menaces.
          Messrs. Clarkson and Bodkin conducted the prosecution, and Mr. Payne defended the prisoner.
          The learned counsel having briefly stated the nature of the case, called the following witnesses:–
          Mr. Henry Bellamy Webb said – I reside at 31, Grand Queen-street, Lincoln's-inn-fields, and am in the house of Messrs. Baring Brothers. On the night of the 20th of August I had been to visit a friend in Hemmings-row, St. Martin's-lane, and on my return I was accosted near St. Martin's-lane by some person, but I took no notice of him, and passed on. When I reached St. Martin's-court I found that the same person was following me. I turned round, and said, "What the d—l are you following me for?" He then turned and went back. I proceeded towards Covent-garden, and whilst under the Piazza, near James-street, the prisoner (who was the same person who had previously accosted me) came up, and said to me, in a low tone, "If you don't, I'll charge you with an unnatural crime." I said, "What!" upon which the prisoner said, "Well, if you don't, I'll give you in charge." He, at the same instant, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and a policeman coming past at the momnent, he gave me into custody, upon a charge of indecently assaulting him. I was then taken to the station-house, where I was for some time locked up in a cell with a person of the name of Fitzgerald, who was tried at the last sessions. I was taken into custody on Saturday night, and remained in confiniement till Monday morning; bail for my appearance was refused at the station-house. On Monday morning I was taken before the magistrate at Bow-street, but the prison did not appear to support the charge. I remained for a considerable time, in order to give him an opportunity of attending, when I was again placed at the bar, and discharged. I immediately afterwards came to this court, and preferred an indictment before the grand jury which was then sitting. I swear that I had not in any manner assaulted any person.
          Thomas Venns, F 37, was on duty in Covent-garden on the 20th of August, when Mr. Webb was given into custody by the prisoner upon a charge of indecently assaulting him. He said that the gentleman had followed him all the way from Kensington, and when near St. George's Hospital committed an indecent assault upon him, and wished him to accompany him into the park, and that he had twice repeated the assault whilst passing along Piccadilly. Witness took Mr. Webb to the station-house, where the charge was repeated. The prisoner remained at the station-house nearly half an hour. He was at that time perfectly sober. Witness observed nothing extraordinary in his behaviour.
          Inspector Logan was on duty at the station-house on the night in question.The prisoner was the person who made the charge. He was in the presence of witness about a quarter of an hour, and during that time he observed nothing particular in his behaviour. He questioned him particularly on the subject, and he answered in detail. The prisoner said he was a sheriff's officer's assistant, and resided at 21, Fetter-lane. He added that he had been to Kensington to see some friends, and on his return met Mr. Webb near Knightsbridge, when he laid his hand upon his person, and wished him to go into the park; that he (prisoner) desire him to leave him alone, but he persisted in following him, and that consequently when he got into Covent-garden he gave him into custody.
          Mrs. Mary Diamond, of No. 21, Fetter-lane, stated that she had resided in the same house for several years. The prisoner never lodged there. Never saw him before that she was aware of.
          Charles Bassnall, a police-constable, was on duty as gaoler at the station-house on the night in question; he locked up Mr. Webb about 1 o'clock. Knew a person of a name of Fitzgerald, alias Stringer; he was also locked up in the same cell that night, and would in regular course be taken before the magistrate on Monday morning; the prisoner was in his presence for about half an hour; he took particular notice of him, but observed nothing strange in his conduct.
          Miss Susan Lloyd stated, that she resided at No. 3, Hemmings-row; was acquainted with the prosecutor; on the evening of the 20th of August he was at their house from about 9 o'clock till nearly 1 the following morning; during that time he never went out.
          Mr. Bowstead, one of the clerks at the Police Court, Bow-street, was present when the prisoner was first charged; he there made the following statement:– "I know nothing of the charge against this gentleman; I am subject to occasional fits of derangement, and do not know what takes place at times, and within the last six weeks these fits have come over me; when I made the charge I could not have known anything about it; I was told by a person in Covent-garden that I had accused a gentleman of committing an indecent assault, and I told him that I knew nothing about any such charge."
          Mr. PAYNE objected to the form on the indictment, and contended that if money had been obtained by the prisoner, it would not, under the circumstances, have amounted to a robbery. Consequently the charge of assault with intent to rob could not be sustained.
          After considerable discussion, the objection was overruled.
          Mr. PAYNE then addressed the jury, and said he was happy to have it in his power to say that not the slightest imputation rested upon the respectable prosecutor, and there were no grounds whatever for the charge which had been made against him. The defence of the prisoner on that occasion would be the defence he made at the police-court, viz., that he was in such a state of mind as not to be accountable for his actions; but before he went into the subject of his insanity, he would suggest to them that the charge against the prisoner had not been sustained by the evidence.
          Mr. Justice WIGHTMAN intimated an opinion that the charge of felony could not be sustained; but still it was competent for the jury, if they believed the evidence, to find the prisoner guilty of a common assault.
          Mr. PAYNE, upon that intimation, would leave the case as it stood, and abandon the defence of insanity.
          Mr. Justice WIGHTMAN, in summing up, said that the very essence of the charge imputed to the prisoner was the intent to rob; and if they were of opinion that the evidence on that point was deficient, they must acquit him of the felony, but at the same time they were at liberty to find him guilty of an assault; it seemed to him that the expression used by the prisoner, "If you don't, I'll give you in charge," was too vague for them to convict him upon the felony; the expression might mean, "If you don't give me money," or it might mean many other things.
          The Jury instantly found the prisoner guilty of an assault.
          Mr. PAYNE said, he did not consider it necessary to go into the case of the prisoner's insanity, but for the information of the Court, he might say that he had for some time been subject to temporary fits of derangement.
          Mr. BODKIN, in answer to that observation, felt it his duty to say, in justice to the prosecutor and the public, that the prisoner had been previously charged with similar offences.
          Mr. Justice WIGHTMAN sentenced the prisoner to 12 months' hard labour in the House of Correction. (Evening Mail)

Saturday 24 September 1842

We see that one of the wretches who make a trade of extortion, by threats of false accusations of a nameless offence, has been convicted of an assault, evidence of robbery having been wanting to sustain that part of the charge; and what is his punishment? One year's imprisonment with hard labour! A sentence passed every day for offences comparatively of the lightest sort. The Court felt that with the evidence before it, it could only convict for the assault; but might not the Judge have been expected to inflict the heaviest punishment in his power on the perpetrator of an assault of such a character?
          The graver part of the charge could not be sustained in this case; the graver part of the charge, in the eye of the law, being the attempt to rob or extort money, as if the incomparably more serious part of the crime were not the attempt to blast character, and in the cruellest way to destroy the innocent man if he resist the attack. A highwayman who puts a pistol to a passenger's head, and gives him the alternative of his money or his life, is a much less odious and less dangerous criminal than the wretches to whom we allude; but does the law regard his threat to shoot as a smaller offence than the attempt to rob? The menace of a false accusation of a horrible nature is, to the miscreant who makes a trade of such charges, what the pistol is to the highwayman, with this difference only, that it is a far more foul, fell, and more dreaded and destructive instrument of robbery; – but the man who employs the more manly and merciful weapon is hanged, or transported for life, and the miscreant who uses the most detestable means for the same end, gets off with a conviction for an assault, and the slight punishment of a year's imprisonment!
          This monstrous inconsistency grows out of a defect which pervades our law, or a vice we should rather call it, – the vice of considering nothing so important as property, and of regarding the robbery of twopence-halfpenny as of more importance than a robbery of character leaving life insupportable. An innocent man, on false evidence, convicted upon one of these false accusations, would be severely punished, and moreover utterly ruined for life; and the perjured miscreant who fails in this attempt, and is clearly found guilty, is, forsooth, sentenced to one year's imprisonment!
          The case to which we have referred was tried at the Central Criminal Court by Mr Justice Wightman, who passed the sentence of such extraordinary leniency. The prisoner's plea was insanity; but the jury, in finding him guilty, discredited the plea, and Mr Bodkin, the junior counsel for the prosecution, stated that the fellow had been previously charged with similar offences. For continuing his career, when his short confinment ends, he has the encouragement of the indulgence of the Bench. (The Examiner)

Saturday 8 October 1842

– Yesterday a young man, named Robert Fletcher, residing in St. Andrew's-street, Seven-dials, who described himself as an assistant to a chemist and druggist, was brought before Mr. Hall, charged with being concerned, with two others not in custody, in committing a violent assault upon James Steadman, a servant out of place, on the 15th of August last, in the Green-park, St. James's, and robbing him of a quantity of silver and a valuable gold horizontal watch.
          The prisoner, it turns out, is one of the ruffians who have frequented the parks for a considerable time for the purpose of extorting money by means of threats to accuse respectable persons, who happen to be alone, with unnatural offences, and to commit robberies. Several of them have been tried at the Central Criminal Court, and received sentence of transportation, among whom were Stringer, Newstead, and Fitzgerald, being prosecuted to conviction by Mr. Ellis Churchill for an assault.
          The prosecutor, being sworn, said he was residing at the King's Head, King-street, Park-lane, and had lately left the service of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. On the evening of the day in question, about ten o'clock, he was walking through the Green Park, and as he approached Hyde Park-corner, he was suddenly pounced upon by three men, who ran up behind him, and felled him to the ground. They then laid hold of him by the throat, and used such violence in depriving him of his property as to tear his clothes. He was perfectly sure the prisoner was one of the men, for he had sufficient opportunity of observing him, so as to be certain of his identity. A short time after the occurrence witness met the prisoner in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, but he instantly made his escape, and yesterday having again met him in Bond-street, he attempted to run away, but witness having gone in pursuit, and given an alarm, he was stopped in Piccadilly, at the entrance of the Burlington-arcade, and having come up he said "You are the person who robbed me of my watch;" upon which he said, "I am gong for 10l. that has been left for me at an hotel in Bond-street, and I'll give it to you if you let me go." He then said he had not got the watch, but it was in possession of a person named Stringer, who had assisted in the robbery, and who had lately been transported.
          Mr. Hall inquired what might be the value of the watch? – Witness replied he had a short time before the robbery purchased it of Mr. Grayhurst, in the Strand, for 25l..
          Mr. Hall asked if the treatment he received while the robbery was committing was of a nature which would show the men were determined to disable him unless he gave up his property: – Witness said he remained in a state of insensibility from the time he was attacked until nearly one o'clock the next morning, although he was perfectly sober, and when the prisoner told him he would give him 10l. he also said he would restore the watch.
          Mr. Hall again inquired if he could positively swear the prisoner was the person who had committed the robbery? – Witness said he could not swear to him, nor could he say he was the person who had in the first instance assaulted him; but he was certain he was one of the party.
          In answer to the charge, the prisoner positively denied having ever seen the prosecutor before; nor did he know anything of Stringer or the robbery.
          Constable 22, A division, said he heard the prisoner say Stringer was one of the persons who committed the robbery, and at the same time promise to recover the prosecutor's watch. On searching him he found three letters, of two of which the following are copies:–

"London, 21st June, 1842.

"This memorandum is to certify that we, Richard Hands the younger, and his reputed father, —— Hands, have made an accusation against Jas. Juatt and —— Elvin, which, if true, would injure them with their friends. We jointly declare that we have falsely accused them; and we declare that we do not know anything disreputable to their character; and in consideration of our acknowledging our guilt, they (Jas. Juatt and —— Elvin) have foregone a prosecution.
(Signed) WM. ELVIN.   ED. HANDS.   RD. HANDS.
Witness, Thos Sladdon."

"29th June, 1842.

"Dear Sir, – In reply to your letter of this morning I have enclosed you a sovereign, and the distress I shall feel in doing so is more than I can describe. The day after I gave the bill, the young man came to me to say, if I did not give him the 8l. on the following day, his father would again go to you as well as come to me, and that they did not care about the consequences either to you or to me. I have made a great struggle, and at the risk of my losing my situation, and taken up the bill, paying the 8l. to the young man. Therefore I have done all I can; and as to my wife and four children, they will be made miserable for the next twelve months. I trust you will take my word, and believe me
          "Yours respectfully,
                    "J. J."
Addressed to Mr. Elvin, care of Mr. Stringer, 15, Denzill-street, Clare-market."

          The other letter contained the same address, and was written in the same hand-writing; and
          Mr. Hall observed, although they contained nothing relating to the robbery, their contents were of great importance.
          The constable added, that he heard the prisoner say Fitzgerald was also concerned in the robbery; and on being questioned further he gave evasive answer.
          Mr. Hall asked if the persons alluded to had been tried?
          The witness replied, that one had been transported for 15 years, and the other for life, within the last two months; and as another robbery had lately been committed in Hyde Park under similar circumstances, for which three men now in custody had undergone an examination at Marlborough street, he had not yet had time to make inquiries if the prisoner was one of the party.
          Mr. Hall accordingly ordered the prisoner to be brought up again in a week. (Morning Advertiser)

Saturday 8 October 1842

ANOTHER MISCREANT. – Yesterday Robert Fletcher, who described himself as a collector of debts, was placed at the bar before Mr Hall, charged with being concerned with two other persons not in custody, with robbing James Stedmean of a gold watch. – The prisoner, it appears, is one of the gang who have for some time past infested the parks, for the purpose of committing robberies, and extorting money, &c., by threatening to accuse respectable persons who happened to be walking late in the evening, of unnatural crimes; and it will be recollected that several of the gang have lately been tried at the Central Criminal Court and transported, amongst whom were persons of the names of Fitzgerald, Stringer, and Newstead. – The prosecutor stated that on the evening of the 14th of August he was walking through the Green Park, when he was suddenly attacked by three men, who knocked him down, and took from his pocket a gold watch, &c. They used considerable violence, and tore his trousers. The prosecutor met the prisoner some weeks afterwars, and identified him. When the prisoner was given into custody he said that when Stringer was apprehended three or four duplicates for gold watches were found upon him, and he had no doubt that one of them related to his watch. He further said, that he would endeavour to get it for him, and would also give him 10l. to let him go. The witness stated that he heard the prisoner say that Stringer and Fitzgerald had committed the robbery, and when asked how he knew that fact, gave an evasive reply. Mr Hall inquired whether any persons of the name of Stringer and Fitzgerald had been lately convicted? The witness replied in the affirmative, and added that one had been transported for life, and the other for 15 years, within the last two months. Another robbery of a similar description had been committed in Hyde park, by three men, only a few days ago; two of those persons were already in custody, and had been examined at Marlborough street, but he (witness) had not had an opportunity at present of ascertaining whether the prisoner was one of the party. Mr Hall said, he would remand the prisoner, in order to see whether he had any connexion with the parties already in custody. Documents showing his connexion with this gang were found upon him. The prisoner was remanded. (The Examiner)

Monday 10 October 1842

BOW-STREET. – Yesteray a young man who gave the name of Robert Fletcher, and desdribed himself as a collector of debts, was placed at the bar before Mr. HALL, charged with being concerned with two other persons not in custody, with assaulting the robbing James Stedman of a vauable gold watch,and about 4s. or 5s. in silver, under the following circumstances:–
          The prisoner, it appears, is one of the gang who have for some time past infested the parks, for the purpose of committing robberies, and extorting money, &c., by threatening to accuse respectable persons who happened to be walking late in the evening, of unnatural crimes; and it will be recollected that several of the gang have lately been tried at the Central Criminal Court and transported, amongst whom were persons of the names of Fitzgerald, Stringer, and Newstead, for the assault upon Mr. J. E. Churchill.
          The prosecutor stated that he was at present residing at the King's Head public-house, King-street, Park-lane; he was lately in the service of the Archbishop of Catherbury, but was at present out of a situation. On the evening of the 14th of August last he was walking through the Green-park about 10 o'clock, and when near the end towards Hyde-park-corner, he was suddenly attacked by three men, who ran up behind him and knocked him down; when on the ground they attempted to throttle him, and at the same time took from his waistcoat pocket a gold watch, and the sum of 4s. or 5s. in silver from his trousers pocket. They used considerable violence, and tore his trousers.
          M. HALL. – Can you recognize the prisoner as being one of the persons who attacked you?
          Witness. – I am quite sure of it. Although I never saw him before, I had quite sufficient opportunity of noticing hium so as to be able to identify him. Witness then stated that a short time after the robbery he met the prisoner in the neighbourhood of Piccadilly, but upon seeing him he immediately ran away, and he (witness) was unable to catch him. Yesterday, as he was walking through Bond-street, he again met the prisoner, who attempted a second time to make his escape; he however gave an alrm, and after running some distance the prisoner was stopped at the end of Burlington-arcade, in Piccadilly. Upon witness going up to him, he said, "You are the person who stole my watch," to which he replied, that he was going to get 10l. which had been left for him at an hotel in Bond-street, and he would give him that if he would let him go. He also said that he had not tgot the watch, but that a person of the name of Stringer, who had been lately transported, had it, and that he (Stringer) was one of the persons who robbed him.
          The witness stated, that when the prisoner was given into custody he said that when Stringer was apprehended three or four duplciates for gold watches were found upon him, and he had no doubt that one of them related to his watch., He further said, that he would endeavour to get it for him, and would also give him 10l. to let him go.
          When asked what he had to say to the charge, the prisoner positively declared that he never saw the prosecutor before; that he knew nothing whatever about the robbery, neither did he know anything of Stringer.
          Mr. HALL said, he would remand the prisoner, in order to see whether he had any connexion with the parties already incustody. He should like to have all the information possible on the subject.
          The prisoner was accordingly remanded for a week. (Evening Mail)EDITED

Wednesday 2 November 1842

Robert Fletcher, who was some time since charged with robbing James Steadman of a watch, value 25l., in Hyde Park, under a threat of charging him with a nameless offence, has been found guilty at the Central Criminal Court, and sentenced to fifteen years' transportation, notwithstanding an impudent attempt of one of his associates, named Butcher, to prove an alibi. (Worcestershire Chronicle)

Wednesday 2 November 1842

Henry Passenger, aged 22, labourer, and Alfred Lewis, aged 21, shoe-maker, were placed at the bar charged with a robbery on the Rev. William Bugden, and stealing one purse and eight shillings, his goods and moneys.
          Mr. Clarkson conducted the prosecution; the prisoner Passenger was defended by Mr. Adolphus; Lewis was not defended by counsel.
          The Rev. William Bugden deposed that he was a Roman Catholic clergyman. About half-past nine o'clock in the evening of the 22d of September last he was passing through Hyde-park. Just as he came to the bridge over the Serpentine he heard a shrill whistle, and immediately three men sprang upon him, one of whom made a blow at him with something like a self-preserver, and all of them called him a d—d —— [damned buggerer], and said they "had seen it all, and there was the soldier," pointing to a soldier who was walking about 500 or 600 yards off. One of the men demanded money, which witness refused. The other two held witness by the arms, whilst the third thrust his hand into witness's trousers pocket and took out his purse, with which he ran away. Witness was greatly frightened, but he believed he called for help. He was told he shouted for help.
          Mr. Fargus, a commercial traveller, deposed that he was walking in the Park about half-past nine o'clock. He heard a whistle, and immediatley afterwards a cry of "murder" and "police." He ran up, and saw the two prisoners holding the prosecutor by the arm and a fourth person running away. Witness desired the prosecutor to hold the prisoners until witness could procure a constable, but fearing lest they might get away, he returned and secured them, until a policeman came up. A young man had meantime also come up to the assistnace of Mr. Bugden.
          Frederick Verey deposed that, having heard the cries of Mr. Bugden for help, he ran up and found the prisoners one at each side of him, one holding him by the throat as if trying to choke him, and the other holding his arm. Mr. Bugden said they, with another man, had robbed him of his purse. The two prisoners said to witness that they had caught Mr. Bugden committing an unnatural offence with a soldier. The words one of them made use of where "we found him;" witness said, "whatever they had caught him at, they need not choke him." One of the prisoners, Lewis, then said "if we let him go he will run away." Witness said, neither party should run away, neither the accusers nor the accused. Witness had met a person running away from the spot, of whom witness asked what was the matter, but he received no answer.
          This witness and the last deposed that they came forward in consequence orf having seen an account of the charge in the newspapers, and the request made by the magistrate that the persons who had seen the transaction would come forward and give their evidence.
          James Jarvis, a master-painter, deposed that he heard the whistle, and met the prisoner Passenger running round the plantation, which would lead him first away and then back again towards the spot whence the whistle proceeded. Immediatley after he passed witness heard Mr. Bugden cry out. On getting up to the spot, witness found Mr. Bugden and the two prisoners: Lewis held him by the collar. Mr. Fergus, the first witness, was there also. Witness asked the prisoners why they were holding Mr. Bugden, and they gave the same answer deposed to by the other witnesses. Some minutes elapsed before a policeman came up. Passenger had merely run round the plantation, and come again and seized Mr. Bugden. Witness said, "You are the man I saw running away." Passenger replied that he had run for a policeman, and could not find one.
          Police constable 4 A deposed that he took the prisoners into custody on a charge of robbery, and making a charge of an unnatural crime against Mr. Bugden. Three or four persons who had witnessed the transaction were requested to come down to the station-house by Mr. Bugden, but they refused in consequence of having their business to attend to next morning.
          The case for the prosecution closed here, and Mr. Adolphus addressed the jury for the defence of Passenger, who, he contended, had actually come up to the assistance of the person whose cries he heard, and was then taken into custody himself by mistake.
          Lewis said that he had been accidentally near the place when a man in a white coat seized Mr. Bugden, and desired him (Lewis) to hold him, on the charge deposed to by the witnesses, whilst he fetched a policeman. He (Lewis) accordingly held Mr. Bugden, not believing his story that the man had robbed him, and Mr. Bugden then gave him into custody as one of the person who had robbed him.
          Several witnesses gave Passenger a good character.
          Mr. Justice Erskine summed up the evidence, and the jury retired at a few minutes after six o'clock to consider their verdict. At nine they returned into court with a verdict of guilty against both the prisoners.
          Evidence was then given of a former conviction for felony against Lewis, for which he had undergone six months' imprisonment.
          The Recorder sentenced the prisoners, Lewis to transportation for life, and Passenger to transportation for 15 years. (Evening Chronicle)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "A Gang of Extortioners, 1842", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 20 July 2016 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1842fitz.htm>.

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