Theft of Bran in Hatfield Heath

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 22 November 1889Friday 22 November 1889

SERIOUS CHARGES AGAINST HATFIELD HEATH FARMERS

EXTRAORDINARY EVIDENCE

A WITNESS COMMITTED

At the Harlow Petty Session, on Saturday, before C. J. Phelips, Esq., in the chair; and Horace Broke, Esq., Mr. James William Eaton and Mr. James King, trading as King and Eaton, farmers, dealers, and haycarters, at Hatfield Heath, were charged with stealing 17 cwt. of brown bran, one cwt. of broad bran, eight cwt. of pollard, 1½ bushels of peas, and 17 sacks or bags, the property of Mr. Aaron Hawkins, corn dealer, of the same place, on the 3rd inst. -The Case excited much interest, and the court was crowded during the hearing. -Mr. F. J. Snell appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. C. V. Thorneycroft for the defence.

Henry Hawkins said he was the son of the prosecutor, and lived at the Stag Inn, Hatfield Broad Oak; he assisted his father in his business; on the 4th of Nov. witness went into the warehouse and missed 17 bags of bran in his father's sacks, eight sacks of pollard in Webster's sacks, one sack of peas, and a bag of bran in Ayling's bag; he informed the police and P.s. Saunders and P.c. Gardner visited the premises; together they examined the garden, and found footmarks on each side of the footpath leading down the garden to Mr. Cooper's field; they went through a gate at the bottom into the field and saw bran spilt and wheel marks in the field; the marks were followed to an opening in a hedge adjoining King and Eaton's premises; there were four or five wheel tracks; they then went into King and Eaton's barn with King; they there found a bag of bran concealed under some hay; the bag was marked "Ayling" and was turned inside out; it was the same that he locked up in his father's warehouse the previous Saturday evening; they also found part of a bag of bran in a bag of his father's, part of a bag of pollard, also in his father's bag, and 14 empty new bags, marked with his father's name, concealed under rubbish; there were also two of Webster's sacks empty; in reply to Saunders, King said he could not account for them; the sergeant then took King into custody; in a stable witness saw a mash tub full of loose bran with pollard and chaff mixed on top; Eaton was asked where he got the bran from, and he replied, "Bought it of Mr. Hawkins last week;" this was false, none having left the premises; they afterwards found enough bran in a bin in the brewhouse to fill more than 11 bags; they also found about a bushel of and a half of peas in his father's sacks; witness valued the property at £8.

By Mr. Thorneycroft: I have known the prisoners for five or six years, as farmers, at Hatfield Heath; I have had business transactions with them and have found them straightforward; we went to King's premises without a search warrant; he allowed his premises to be searched and offered every facility, assisting to put up the bran; he said he knew nothing whatever about it; Eaton made no resistance to the search; my father's barn was kept locked, and I locked it on Saturday night; a key of the barn was lost some six or eight months ago and a fresh one was made; it is six months since the prisoners had any dealings with my father.

P.s. Saunders corroborated the last witness, and added that on Sunday he went to Little Barrington Hall and was shown some bran, which he took possession of; on Wednesday he went to Mr Ansell's yard and there saw some bran, which he also took.

P.c. Chas. Gardner corroborated.

George Borrow, of Little Barrington Hall, said that on Nov. 1st, King came to his father and exchanged three-quarters of a ton of bran for three pigs; the bran to be delivered in three parts; some bran was delivered on the 4th inst., half was used, and the rest was given to P.s. Saunders; King got down out of the cart, and one of them said, "If the police don't hear about the bran, don't say anything about it."

John Bird, employed at Little Barrington Hall, proved receiving five bags of bran from King and Eaton's man, on Nov. 4th.

Arthur Charles Pratt said he worked for Mr. Ansell; he received a bag of bran and a load of hay from Mr. Eaton on Nov. 4th; the bran was under the load of hay. Eaton would not leave the bran in the bag so it was emptied into two others; the bag was a new one.

Mr. Aaron Hawkins said he could swear to all the property except the pollard.

This was the case for the prosecution, and, in answer to the Bench, King pleased not guilty - Eaton said, "I am guilty of receiving some if it and taking some, which I kept dark from Mr. King; I told him I got it in London in exchange for goods taken up; King knows nothing about it."

A man here stepped up from the body of the court, and, giving his name of Esau Sapsford, said: I am a labourer, living at Hatfield Heath, and wish to give evidence on behalf of King. One thing, I have been taking all this stuff out of Mr. Hawkins's barn; I took it up Mr. Hawkins's garden on a Sunday night, and Eaton took it off my back; I helped Eaton take it; no one else was there; we took it in a wheelbarrow and put it in a loft on King's premises; I shot some of it in a bin; I hid the bags; I never saw Mr. King; Eaton said nothing to me about King; I then took some peas about two months ago and put them in Eaton's stable; Eaton told me not to tell Mr. King, and to let no one know anything about it; I unlocked the door of Mr. Hawkins's shed with a key which I found about two months ago in Hawkins's yard; I threw the key in the pond when I saw the police searching; about a fortnight after I took the peas I went again and took two bags of something, pollard or bran, which I also took to Eaton's stable; I came here voluntarily today.

Cross-examined: On Sunday night, Nov. 3rd, I met Eaton down the Stortford Road near Sullins's Brewery; we walked up and down the heath from 10 o'clock until 1.30; we then went down the road towards Hatfield Broad Oak, and to the back of the premises, to the gate leading into Hawkins's garden; I then went alone to the barn there; I took 14 or 15 bags form the side of the barn nearest the door; we had no lights; I carried the bags one at a time, on my back, over a plank over the ditch at the end of the garden, which I and Eaton had placed there; I then went for a wheelbarrow to a shed on King and Eaton's premises; I drove the barrow through the gap and over the ditch by placing the plank there; I left Eaton at the bottom of Hawkins's premises, and he was there when I came back. Eaton wheeled two bags in the barrow, and I took one on my back; we kept on going until we fetched it all away; it was about 3.30 when we finished; all the buildings at King's were unlocked; King asked me to come here today because I told him I stole the stuff.

Mr. Snell commented on the extraordinary statements made by the last witness. He thought on the face of it he ought to be placed in the dock with the others.

The Chairman: Rightly and justly so.

The defendants King and Eaton were fully committed for trial, and Esau Sapsford was also charged. -Mr. Henry Hawkins repeated the evidence as to the loss of property, and Sapsford was also committed for trial.

Mr. Thorneycroft made a strong Appel for bail for King, but the Chairman said the evidence was of such an extraordinary nature that they could not separate one from the other, and they must refuse bail.

The three were conveyed to Chelmsford Prison the same night.