Transcription of a case heard at the Old Bailey, where Isaac Henry Sercombe was a witness, 3 April 1843

Reference Number: t18430403-1180

SUSANNAH LAYTON was indicted for stealing, on the 15th of March, five sovereigns and 1 10s. Bank-note, of our Lady the Queen, in her dwelling-house.—2nd Count, stating it to be the property of Joseph Timm.

MESSRS. ADOLPHUS and BODKIN conducted the Prosecution.

JOSEPH TIMM. I am solicitor for stamps and taxes—I have an office in Somerset-house—Mr. Sercombe, a clerk in my office, hands over to me every day the amount he receives—about four o'clock, on the 15th of March, I received from him two 10s. notes, and five sovereigns—I wrapped the sovereigns up in the notes, and put the whole into a drawer in the office, kept for the purposes of the revenue—I locked the drawer and left the office—I returned between ten and eleven o'clock next morning, and found the drawer locked—on opening it, I found that the notes had been disturbed—I immediately examined, and missed one of the notes, and five sovereigns—there were two Post-office orders still in the drawer, and one 10s. note left behind—I know the prisoner—I had her up the day after, and she admitted she was the person whose duty it was to clean my room—I did not know that before she admitted that she cleaned it on the afternoon of the 15th of March, and dusted it the following morning, according to her usual practice—on the 5th of April, Mrs. Collins, a charwoman in the office, brought a key to me—I applied it to the drawer, it opened it—the prisoner had been employed in the office some years.

Cross-examined by MR. CLARKSON. Q. You put questions to her? A. Yes, next morning—she came as usual on the morning after the robbery—I am not aware that she told me any falsehood—I have discovered nothing to lead me to suspect so—she told me what I have reason to believe now is a falsehood, for she denied knowing anything about the robbery—I asked her if she cleaned my room the previous day, she said she did, that she came about five o'clock, and left after seven in the evening, during that time she saw the gentlemen of the office about, and the watchman, but did not see anybody likely to have committed the robbery; that on the following morning she came again, I think, about seven, and dusted the room—she was given into custody on Sunday, the 2nd of April—I believe the witness Gilbert was taken into custody the day before—he made no statement to me—I heard he had made a statement, on Monday morning, the 3rd of April—the prisoner was given into custody before a statement was made by anybody to me.

ISAAC HENRY SERCOMBE. I am cashier in the office of the solicitor of stamps. On the 15th of March I wrote on these two 10s. notes which I have in my hand, the names of the persons I received them from, and handed them over to Mr. Timm, with five sovereigns—the name of "Gregory and Co., 15—3—43," was written on the one which was taken—this is the very note I handed over—I wrote that at the time I received it.

JAMES GILBERT (a prisoner). I live in George-street, Adelphi—I was taken up about this note—the Magistrate committed me to be tried for receiving it—I have now come out of Newgate as a witness—I have known the prisoner about three or four years—her husband is a coal-porter, and is a tenant of my master, Mr. Thomas, a builder, and lives at No. 6, Herbert's-passage—I remember changing a 10s. note at Miss Fry's, a spirit-shop in the Strand—I got it from the prisoner, last Friday three weeks, as near as I can guess, in the evening, at her house—nobody else was present—she told me she had a note, and asked me if I would change it for her, as she did not wish her husband to know nothing about it, as he was a man given to drink—I told her I would do so—I bought a bottle of wine at Miss Fry's the same evening—it came to 3s. 6d.—I got the change—I gave the prisoner 7s. and 3d. she gave me till I was able to pay it back again—the wine was drank at the place I was lodging at, No. 18, George-street—I went from Miss Fry's to my own place—I took the change to the prisoner afterwards—she did not come to my place—she had nothing to do with drinking the wine—I, and several more that were living there, drunk the wine—it is a lodging-house, not where women of the town lodge, that I am aware of—I did not take the prisoner the change that night, I gave it her next day—nothing was done about wine on that occasion—her husband was not at home—the prisoner and her servant were at home when I went the first time—there was a person named Hart there—I staid there all day and all night—I do not recollect what I had there—I dined and supped there—we had some porter—her husband was there all day—he did not see me give the 7s. to her—he was not in the house when I first went in.

COURT. Q. What made him entertain you day and night in his house? A. He merely asked me to stop and keep him company—I knew him before.

Cross-examined. Q. You do not know that this is a lodging-house for girls of the town, where you lodge? A. I cannot be positive of it—I have lived there about seven weeks—two girls live in the house—one is married, her husband is not with her—one lives on the second floor, and one on the first—the landlady is Mrs. Freeman—she is not here that I am aware of—I do not know whether they have visitors—gentlemen call at the house—I cannot say whether they sleep there or not—different gentlemen come in, for half an hour or so—I have seen four or five there a day—both the ladies go to the theatre at times—they come home sometimes with men, sometimes without—I pay for my lodging—I work it out—I pay it in this way, the landlady has a different house besides, and when there are any repairs to do I do them—she has a house in Finsbury-square, but not a house of that sort, not a lodging-house— she lives in the house in George-street—a Scotch lady lives in the house, in Finsbury-square—I do not do anything there, only went there to lodge at night—I slept in the kitchen—I work in the day at different places—I worked at building lately, for a Magistrate, who is lately dead—Mr. Timm has asked me some questions about this, and so has Mr. Pearce, the inspector—I said at first that I got the 10s. note from a person named Morgan—that was after I was in custody—Mr. Morgan is a gentleman who came to the b----y-house.

MR. BODKIN. Q. When were you taken into custody? A. Last Saturday fortnight—on that occasion I told Mr. Pearce I had taken it from Morgan—I saw Pearce again on Sunday—I sent for him, and then stated what I have to day.

ELIZA FRY. I keep a wine and spirit shop in the Strand. On the 24th of March, Gilbert came for a bottle of wine, which came to 3s. or 3s. 6d., and gave me this 10s. note—I paid it to Coutts—I wrote on it Mrs. Freeman's name, as he had been in the habit of coming from there—I do not recollect asking Gilbert for any name—I knew Mrs. Freeman as the person he lived with—it was after eleven o'clock at night that he came—I gave him nine sovereigns, and the rest in silver.

HARRIET SCRIVENER. I am in the prisoner's service—I am still living there, and have done so about twelve months—I know Gilbert—I have often met him at the prisoner's house, two or three times in a week, all the time I have been there—he was there on Friday, the 31st of March—he came about one, I think, and staid all day and all night—I have seen him there since—her husband was at home—I had seen him there the same week, I cannot say about the week before.

ELIZABETH COLLINS. I am the wife of John Collins. I have been employed as charwoman at Somerset-house for twenty-one years—the prisoner has been employed there between nine and ten years as charwoman—the prisoner cleaned Mr. Timm's room—I did not see her there on the 15th of March, but I heard her voice, speaking to somebody—I left her there at seven o'clock, in the passage—Mr. Timm sent for me on the note being missed—on the 5th of April, about seven in the morning, I looked on the top of my cupboard, and found a key—the prisoner has a cupboard close to it—a coal-bin separates it from mine—I was frightened, and called the charwoman on the same floor—I gave Mr. Timm that key at twelve o'clock—I saw him apply it to his drawer, and it opened it immediately.

Cross-examined. Q. There are people who come to the premises who have access during the time they are cleaned, and afterwards? A. There is always one watchman and one policeman on duty every night, who go through the whole of the premises—at the time she leaves it is her business to leave the door open—Mr. Timm's door was never locked—the watchmen are ordered to go round four times a night.

COURT. Q. Are there any more cupboards belonging to other people were? A. Not in that passage—anybody in the office passing the cupboard might put the key there—I never saw Gilbert there—strangers go to and fro, but not after office hours, which is four o'clock—a watchman is then placed to prevent anybody going in.

NICHOLAS PEARCE. I am an inspector of the A division of police. I took the prisoner into custody on this charge, at her lodgings, No. 5, Angel-court, Strand—I told her I took her for stealing a 10s. note and five sovereigns from a drawer at Mr. Timm's office—she made no reply—I took her before the Magistrate—I took Gilbert into custody the evening before—he made a statement to me—I was at the station on Sunday—a message was brought to me, and I went to him—he then made another statement to me, on which I took the prisoner on the same evening, Sunday the 2nd of April.

Cross-examined. Q. Did you see the prisoner on the 16th of March? A. I did—she gave me an account of her engagement at the office, both that night and the following morning—as far as I can ascertain it is true—Gilbert first said he had got the note from a Mr. Morgan, who used to visit a lady at this house—that he was in the passage, and he had given the note and change to Morgan in the passage—he gave me a key that unlocked a box at his lodgings, in which I found two sovereigns, and about 17s. in silver—I found no money on the prisoner—the house in George-street is a house of ill-fame—the house in Finsbury-square is kept by the same person—she goes by the name of Freeman.

ANTHONY FREDERICK FEARON. I am office-keeper at the Stamp and Taxes office—Isabella Maria Vasser lives there as housekeeper—she sleeps under the same roof as the offices are.

ELIZABETH COLLINS re-examined. I do not recollect seeing the key on the top of the press the day before—a pair of boots had been lost twelve month before, and we found one on the top of my press—that made me look then; and I found the key—I did not think of that before the 5th of April—it was spoken of by the woman in the office, that brought it to my mind—the boots had been found there, and a messenger was dismissed in consequence of it-the key was just at the edge, in the dust—there was a little bit of the bow of the key shining through the dust—my husband is not employed in the establishment—he is employed at Pimlico—he does not come to the office—I can not say when the key got on the press—I knew the prisoner was in custody when I looked there—there was nobody with me.

Verdict: NOT GUILTY .