Sensational Allegations Against Pit Sinker and Woman – Tea companies Heavy Losses

June 1911

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 17 June 1911

Conisborough Shop Breaking Charge

Sensational Allegations Against Pit Sinker and Woman

Discovery in Cellar

 Tea companies Heavy Losses

At the Doncaster West Riding Ct, on Tuesday, the hearing was resumed of the charges of shop breaking preferred by Messrs Hunter’s limited again John William Earp, pit sinker and Edith Ann Friebe, single, both of Conisborough.

The prisoners had been remanded on two previous occasions. Mr F Allen prosecuted and Mr GW Andrews defended.

The male prisoner presented a most unkempt appearance. The female prisoner carried a baby in her arms.

In his opening statement, Mr F Allen said the prisoners were charged with breaking into and stealing from the shop of Messrs Hunters, tea merchants, a large quantity of goods, to the estimated value of £35. Messrs Hunters were the owners and occupiers of the lock-up shop at the corner of Church Street and Well gate, Conisborough. The shop premises formerly had a dwelling house attached to them, but some months ago Messrs hunters divided the house from the shop, and made it into a separate cottage. A large cellar run underneath the shop and the cottage, and this also had been divided in two. The doors from the warehouse and the cottage opened into the same yard, which, been surrounded by high walls, was not visible from the street.

About two months ago Earp applied for the tenancy of the cottage, which was then vacant. The manager, not been personally impressed by the man, put him off, some weeks later, after considerable pressure on prisoner’s part, he decides to let him have the house which had been vacant for a few weeks.

Mr Stanley (the manager) went through the house carefully before Earp came in, and was confident that the place was then in proper repair and empty. Since August last Earp, with the woman Friebe, and several children, lived in the house and nothing happened until 24 May.

Managers Suspicions

On that date a complaint to Mr Stanley about the damage condition of the kitchen fireplace. Mr Stanley, went into the house to examine the fireplace, noticed Earp trying to cover a clock on the mantelpiece. This incident arose the manager’s suspicions because an empty clock box had been found in the stock room only a few days before. It was the practice of Messrs Hunters to give certain articles, clocks et cetera as gifts, and such occasions the case or box enclosing the present was always given. After this incident other suspicious circumstances were noticed. Earp was seen wearing a pair of slippers, the property of Messrs Hunters, although it was well known that he was not a customer at the shop.

Mr Stanley eventually obtained a search warrant, and the prisoner’s house was searched and several pounds worth of property, alleged to belong to Messrs Hunters were found therein.

Further enquiry showed that the female prisoner had in a date in April been down to the Conisborough station, with a large quantity of groceries labelled “glass”, which she wished to consign to Crosshills, Codnor, Derbyshire. It was pointed out to her that the parcel being labelled glass would be charged at double the usual rates, and after consultation with the railway officials officials, she left it in the waiting room, remarking that she would take it with her to Derbyshire the next day. She travelled to Crosshills by rail the following day, taking the parcel with her. At Crosshills the police discovered certain property in the house of Mrs Friebe, mother of the female prisoner, and this woman had been subpoenaed to give evidence that day on behalf of the prosecution. She denied all knowledge of the thefts and said she received the articles innocently.

Mr Allen then described how a “tunnel” had been made through the cellar wall separating prisons place from Messrs Hunters. The passage was sufficiently large to admit a person.

Because the prisoners became the tenants of the house the prosecutors had divided the cellars. They filled up the space between the two houses and made a wall on each side. The prisoners appeared to have taken out the brickwork under the premises

Working a Passage.

Before the prisoners became the tenants of the house, the prosecutors had divided the cellars. They filled up space between the two cellars with soil, and made a wall on each side. The prisoners appear to have taken out the brick work under the premises, worked a passage, removed the soil and bricks, and effected communication between the two premises. The boards under the flooring had been worn bright by persons passing backwards and forwards.

Walter Stanley, manager of the shop, stated that the stock-taking revealed a deficiency of £35, which could not accounted for. The prisoners only dealt at the shop for a short time, and exchanged checks for more goods than had been purchased at the Conisbro’ branch. The value of the goods found on prisoners’ premises was £28 14s 7d.

Cross-examined witness said  Prosecutors have nearly 200 branches in the country. The clock and box had each distinctive numbers. His suspicions were aroused in April—a month before—by seeing 13 or 14 pairs of stockings of the same size hanging on the clothes line. Next he noticed the stairs steps covered with tapestry carpets similar to the carpet in stock.

The prisoners were committed for trial at the Sheffield Quarter Sessions, but the Bench allowed bail, the female prisoner in her own recognisances and the male prisoner in £20 and one surety of £20.

A further charge was preferred against Earp of stealing a hammer, trowel, etc., the property of the Yorkshire Main Colliery Company at Edlington, where had been employed. Prisoner was committed for trial on this charge also, bail being granted.