Alleged Female Burglar at School

Illustrated Police News - Saturday 5th October 1901

Saturday 5th October 1901

At the Braintree (Essex) Petty Sessions, Mary Oland, described as a domestic servant, of no address, was charged with burglary at Felsted School, and stealing nine shillings worth of coppers, 263 penny postage stamps, and a blank cheque, the property of the Rev. A. J. Dalton, on the 18th Ult. 

The first witness called was the steward of Felsted School, who stated that on the 18th ult., on going to his room about seven o'clock, he found his door locked. He had not fastened it the night before, and he called one of the boys, who got in through the window, and opened the door for him. On entering the room everything appeared to be safe, but he noticed a piece of paper wrapped round a small piece of board with the muddy impression of a naked or stockinged foot. The night had been a very wet one, and the ground was muddy outside. He went outside, and there found, about 4 ft. from the window, imprints of a stockinged foot in the mud.

The Clerk: How can you say it was stockinged?

I could see the cross ribs of a stocking.

Continuing, the witness said it must have either belonged to a boy or a girl, and he was of the opinion that it was the same foot, which was traceable for over a hundred yards away from the building. Later in the morning he missed some stamps and coppers, valued at £1 4s. 5d. He received a telegraph from Messrs. Grittall and Winterton, of Braintree, with reference to a cheque, and he reported the matter to the Rev. A. J. Dalton, headmaster of the school, who discovered that a blank cheque had been torn out of the cheque-book. Witness immediately wired back telling them to detain the person who presented the cheque. He afterwards identified it at the police-station as the one that was missing. The accused had been employed at the school as a linen-maid.

The Rev. A. J. Dalton said he missed two postal orders as well as the blank cheque. The papers had been disturbed in his drawers. His study was a considerable distance from the steward's room, and on the night of the burglary a large portion of the building was unoccupied.

Sergeant-Major George Moody, employed at the school, said he saw the accused pass through the village about 8.30 on the evening before the theft. She was wearing a fawn coat and a black skirt.

James Peter Wallis, landlord of the Swan Inn, Rayne, stated that early in the morning of the 18th the accused, dressed in a dawn coat and black skirt, called at his house and asked for some tea, saying that she had been to visit some friends at Dunmow, and was going to London.

The wife of the last witness gave corroborative evidence, and added that the prisoner, in the course of a conversation, said she had a lot of coppers, and asked for a pen to back a cheque with.

Wm. Winterton, a dealer in fancy goods at Braintree, stated that he sold the prisoner a small bag on the morning of the 18th. She paid for it in coppers, and she afterwards asked him to cash a cheque for £25 bearing the signature of the Rev. A. J. Dalton. Having his suspicions aroused he wired to Felsted.

Evidence was then given to the effect that the accused cashed stamps to the value of £1 1s. 11d. at the Braintree Post Office, and Police-Sergeant Boyce stated that when arrested at Calne, Wiltshire, she said, "I haven't been to Braintree; in fact, not in Essex at all. It is simply prejudice because they know I have been in trouble before."

The accused, who had nothing to say, was committed for trial at the next Essex Assizes.