Theft of Fowls at Conisborough – Trial at Quarter Sessions

April 1901

Mexborough and Swinton Times, April 19.

Alleged Theft of Fowls at Conisborough.

Trial at Quarter Sessions

A highly interesting case from Conisborough, was dealt with at the West Riding Spring Quarter Sessions at Wakefield, on Friday in the second court, Mr G.B.C. Yarborough being the presiding magistrate.

The juryhad to decide as to the guilt or innocence of Albert Frost, aged 34 years, a miner, living at Conisborough, who was charged with having stolen two live fowls, value of 6 shillings (30p), the property of George Grindle, at Conisborough, on December 31, 1900.

The accused was committed for trial in the first week in January, and was released from prison on bail on the 17th of that month. He was defended by Mr J.F. Kershaw, barrister (instructed by Mr W. Baddeley, solicitor, Doncaster) and Mr A.W. Bairstow, barrister, Leeds (instructed by Mr R.A.H. Toby, solicitor, Doncaster), conducted the prosecution.

Mr Bairstow, in opening submitted that, though although no one actually saw the theft there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to warrant a conviction.

Martha Grindle, living at Beech Hill, Conisborough, said that on 31 December, she had 21 fowls, 19 in the fowl place, and two in a pen in the garden. Next day she found that the two last mentioned fowls, both black Minorcas have been taken away. The head of one fowl was in the garden, and a quantity of feathers. The ground was soft, and footmarks could be seen leading from the next garden (Richard Hudson’s) into that of the witness. Sgt Brown brought some boots next morning, and she saw him make marks on the ground with the boots, and the marks corresponded with those first found.

Annie Elizabeth Thomas, who lives in Marshgate, Conisborough, next door but one to the prisoner, said she was still at her front door at midnight on 31 December, and she saw the prisoner and another man come from the direction of Grindle’s house. They went into the prisoner’s house and within a few minutes they walked away again towards Mrs Grindle’s house.

In reply to Mr Kershaw, the witness said the direction from which the prisoner came was also from the Eagle and Child public house. The prisoner spoke to her about the New Year. The direction in which he went was also towards the Co-oprative Terrace, where his sister lived.

Elizabeth Hudson, wife of Wardrobe Hudson, said the attention of herself and her husband was called to a footprint inthe garden, and that of Mrs Grindle’s, which was next door, on the morning of New Years Day. The police Sergeant and her husband afterwards covered up the footprints.

Police Sergeant Brown, stationed at Conisborough, said he examined the two gardens on New Year’s morning, and found some wire netting broken, and a number of footprints, some of which he covered up with a board. He also found the head of a fowl and some feathers. The witness traced the footprints, and they led into Chapel Lane, the nearest way to the prisoner’s house. The distance between Grindle’s fowl place and the prisoners home was about 100 yards, and he traced the feathers to within 40 yards of the prisoners home. Later, the witness obtained a search warrant, and found in the prisoner’s house a stew jar, in which there was the larger part of a fowl, which appeared to have been skinned. The fowl had both wings on. The witness found another wing on a table.

The witness had a conversation with the prisoner’s wife, and later saw the prisoner in her presence. Frost declared he could account for the fowl in the stew jar. He said, “I have bought that fowl.” His wife joined in the conversation and said, “I have told him your mother gave it to you, and you brought it home from South Kirkby, and it was a brown one.” Frost said, “I know what I am b—- well talking about. I bought that fowl from George Cocksedge on Sunday.”

The witness apprehended the prisoner, and when charged at the police station, with stealing two black Minorca fowls, he replied, “All right.”

On the following morning, New Year’s Day, the witness took the prisoners boots to Grindle’s garden and found that the footmarks corresponded with some made by the boots. There was one nail missing from the centre row of nails in the sole of the left boot, and a corresponding mark was to be seen in the footprints. Attached to one of the boots the witness found a small feather. When asked to explain this later the prisoner said “I have been knocking about in the Eagle and Child yard and it might have got on there.”

Cross-examining, the witness said that when first he saw the prisoner in his house, he charged with having stolen two fowls, but he was not quite sure the prisoner heard him say two.

Re-examined: The prisoner had not given any explanation about the second fowl.

The prisoner was sworn, and denied that he was in Mrs Grindle’s garden. On that night he was in the Eagle and Child public house, and left at 10 o’clock to go to his home, where he remained until just 12 o’clock. Fred Davies was with him. When part way up the hill from Marshgate to Chapel Lane he found he had forgotten his pipe, and went back for it. When he and Davis came out again they saw the witness Thomas, and spoke to her about the New Year. Heand Davis then went on to 5 Co-operative Terrace, the house of his sister and stayed there all night, again going to the Eagle and Child public house in the morning. One of the fowls found in his house he got from George Cocksedge. At that time he was employed at South Kirkby, and he came home at the weekend. He brought a fowl from his mother’s house at South Kirkby, on 29th December, and bought another from Cocksedge on Sunday 30th. James Smith came with him from South Kirkby to Mexborough, on Saturday the 29th.

Cross-examining, the prisoner said he did not call Davies, Smith, his wife, or mother as witnesses at the police court. Both fowls were cooked on Monday. He had beef or is Sunday dinner. The family consisted of himself, his wife, and four children, the eldest, which was 14 years – all eaters.

George Cocksedge, miner, Denaby, stated that on Sunday, December 30, he sold a half bred Brown fowl to the prisoner for two shillings.

Mary Dent, housekeeper to the last witness, said she was present when the prisoner bought that fowl from Cocksedge

Rebecca Frost, an elderly woman, said she was the mother of the prisoner, and lived at South Kirkby. In December last the prisoner worked at South Kirkby, and lodged with her, going home to his wife at Denaby at the weekends. On 27 December, the witness went to Grimethorpe to see her daughter, who gave her two fowls. She returned to South Kirkby on the 28th, taking the fowls with her. As a son, the prisoner, was leaving on the 29th to go to Denaby. She told him he could have one of the fowls if he liked, and he took one.

Asked by Mr Bairstow in cross-examination, what the prisoner did with the feathers the witness could not say. She would not have destroyed the feathers, but kept them to be used.

Mr Bairstow: You keep the feathers? – The Witness: Yes, but I don’t keep them when I give them away with the fowl. (Laughter.)

J. Smith, a miner, said he in December last worked at South Kirkby, and came home to Mexborough at the weekends. He lodged with the prisoner at the house of Mrs Rebecca Frost. On the 29th December year the prisoner came by train from South Hemsall to Mexborough together, and the prisoner then had a brown fowl, which had been given him by his mother.

Rebecca Burton, married woman, said she was the sister of the brother, and lived at 5 Co-operative Terrace, Conisborough. About 12:15 on New Year’s Eve, her brother and a man named Davies came to her house to be to let in the New Year. They stayed enjoying themselves until half past eight next morning, and then went away.

Frederick Davies, 17 Marr Street, Denaby, stated that he was with the prisoner on the night of December 31. They left the Eagle and Child Hotel at 10 o’clock, and went to the prisoner’s house, where they stayed until nearly midnight. Then they started to go to the house of the prisoner sister to let in the New Year. The prisoner turned back for his pipe, and the witness turned back with him, and waited for him outside. They saw the witness Thomas and spoke to her. They went round by the church, and got to Mrs Burton’s house about 12:10, where they remained until morning. There were never in Grindle’s garden; the witness did not know where it was.

In reply to Mr Bairstow the witness said that at the prisoner’s house between 10 and 12 o’clock they had some bread and cheese for super.

Mr Bairstow: But no fowl? – The Witness: I had no fowl, we had a turkey at our house. (Laughter.)

Why did you stop at the sister’s house all night? – Because they had something nice.

What was it? – They had some whiskey and smokes (renewed laughter)

Mr Kershaw, addressing the jury for the defence, said the prosecution had been brought because the prisoner had a nail missing from his boot, and because he happened to have the remains of two fowls in his house. Counsel submitted that the evidence of footprints was unreliable, and said there was now seldom a case where the police relied upon footprints. He pointed out that there was corroborative evidence in support of the alibi set up by the prisoner.

Council for the prosecution laid stress upon the missing nail from the boot, and said the possibility of there being another similar boot was extremely small.

The jury returned a verdict of “not guilty,” and the prisoner was discharged.

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