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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

R. v. Halden and others [1823] NSWKR 10; [1823] NSWSupC 10

R. v. Crawley

R. v. Vaughan

R. v. Johnston

R v. Seagar

R. v. Lawes

stealing - steam engine

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

Wylde J.A., 29 September 1823

Source: Sydney Gazette, 2 October 1823

            William Brown Halden, Michael Crawley, William Vaughan, James Johnston, George Seagar, and John Lawes, were indicted for stealing from the stores of Mr John Dickson, of the Steam Engine, on or about the 18th of May last, various quantities of gin, flour, and wheat, together with several bags.

            Mr John Dickson was first called. He deposed that the prisoner Halden had been clerk in his employ, and acted as clerk of the watch during the night - the engine being kept in motion night and day. Four of the prisoners were employed at and about the engine; Johnston was the boatman, and had nothing to do with the internal arrangements about the premises; and Crawley did not belong to the establishment. The four prisoners, viz. Halden, Seagar (another clerk that had succeeded Halden), Vaughan (the miller), and Lawes (the fireman), had free access to the flour stores, from the nature of their employment; but, to the stores which contained the spirits, and which were separated by a stone wall, there was no other admission than that which could be surreptitiously obtained. Mr Dickson could give no idea of the amount of his losses as far as concerned the flour; but to the gin he spoke with more certainty, saying that about 13 cases were gone. The case produced in Court, he had no doubt, formed one of those once in his store.

            Mr Barker, principal clerk in the Steam Engine, deposed, that the direction of the night watches at the milll were vested in him. The prisoner Vaughan was the Miller in the first watch, from 8 to 12. Lawes was in the second watch, from 12 to 4. Seagar and Halden, the clerks, used to change occasionally, and were designated clerks of the watches. The witness relieved the morning watch himself. The keys of the spirit store were always in his possession. Upon detection of this robbery, and apprehension of the prisoner, he ascertained that there were 15 cases of gin absent. Three flour bags were produced in Court, which had been taken by the Police from the possession of the prisoner Crawley, and which he (the witness) identified as the property of his employer. If it were high water, or half flood, a boat of two tons could reach the door of the mill. Mr B. said, it was impossible that the liquor store could have been entered without the privity of all in the mill on duty; neither could the flour have gone, unless the clerks and others participated in the knowledge. This witness confirmed the material parts of the preceding evidence.

            James Lane, district constable, deposed, that he went to the house of one McKinley in Cockle Bay, on the 19th of May: from the Steam Engine this house is a quarter of a mile distant. He took three men into custody; viz the prisoner Crawley, John Crothers (the approver on this trial), and Joseph Laughlin. In the house he found seven bags of flour, and 1 of wheat; three of the bags Mr Barker claimed as Mr Dickson's property. He went to one Ame's, in Market-street, and secured several bottles of gin.

            Joseph Laughlin deposed, that he lived at McKinley's, as well as the approver Crothers and prisoner Crawley. The two latter had only been fellow residents with the witness for 14 days prior to their apprehension. Crawley was a grass-cutter, and used to work in a boat. About 11 o'clock on the night of the 12th of April, Crawley and Crothers left the house, and returned in two hours with several bags of flour. They told him, the witness, that they had procured it at the Steam Engine, from the men there employed. On the 17th of May, at night, they (Crawley and Crothers) went on the same errand, and returned with seven bags of flour. On a Wednesday night 6 cases of gin were brought home in the same manner, which were soon disposed of to various persons, ever ready to take advantage of a good bargain. The witness being somewhat surprised as to the manner of procuring this property became informed that the men at Mr Dickson's store conveyed the articles of the wharf, and were then and there paid for them. The prisoner Johnston, who was said to be one of the thieves, had been with Crawley and Crothers a few minutes before the constable made his appearance; and he only then escaped detention by effecting an escape the back way.

            Esther Ames, who lives in Market-Street, stated that she bought a case of gin from John Crothers (the approver), for which she took a receipt, giving him 10 dollars for the case.

            Alexander Payne, an oilman about the streets of Sydney, said that he wrote the foregoing receipt and was present at the disposal.

            Mrs Hayes, licensed publican in George-street, deposed to the purchase of a case of gin from Payne the oilman, for which she was to give 14 dollars. Having paid Payne 12 dollars out of the money, Crothers called upon her, and desired that the balance should not be paid to Payne.

            Charles McKeever, a resident of 20 Pitt-street, had bought a case of gin from the approver Crothers, which he protected himself by his receipt for dollars. Crawley was in company with him.

            Thomas Williams, a government assigned servant (allowed to be at large by his master in defiance of government and General Orders, to manifest injury of the Public), deposed, that he was a baker. His master was in the custom of paying him a visit occasionally; and after some hesitancy, the witness said, that his master had none of the profits arising from his business, but that he only reimbursed him with the 3s. 6d. a week. He stated, that he only bought flour once of the prisoner Crawley, 600wt: this was on the 14th of May, and he paid 18s. per hundred; 20s. was a fair price then. This witness was ordered to be kept in charge.

            John White proved the hire of his master's cart by Crothers, to convey from the Market-wharf some bags of flour, to the house of a baker Williams.

            William Palmer, master of the preceding witness stated that Crothers employed his cart about four times within eight weeks, to convey flour and wheat from the Market-wharf to Williams's, the baker, in Market-street. Three times he remembered carrying wheat and flour to Williams's, though the latter, in his testimony, swore it was only once.

            The approver, John Crothers, now came to be examined. He was the government servant of one Thomas Russel, who resided in the vicinity of the Market-wharf. About 12 days prior to his apprehension on the present charge, he had changed his lodgings at the suggestion of Crawley, - with whom he had been previously well acquainted, - the boat being nearer the Steam Engine, to convey the property from Mr Dickson's clerks. The first spoliation consisted of 5 bags of flour and wheat; Halden was then the clerk of the watch. The robberies were planned by Johnston, who was the messenger on every occasion. On the first night Johnston told them, if customers were to be found, plenty of flour could be got with the aid of the clerk: this was related in the presence of Vaughan, who assisted to bring the flour from the mill. Most of the bags belonged to Williams, the baker, who had all the spoil on that occasion. Two nights after they went again, and Johnston and Vaughan carried the sacks to the boat; the prisoner Halden aiding to fill the sacks. Crawley paid Halden two dollars a bag for the flour, and advised them to come whenever they required a fresh supply; and that, should they like a few cases of gin, they were to be had; for which Crawley offered £2 a case, containing 15 3-pint bottles. Halden said he would let him know next day by Johnston. The latter accordingly apprised Crawley and Crothers; who went in the night as usual, and found 2 cases ready at the wharf. Halden received £4 for them. In about three weeks after this, Vaughan told the witness (Crothers) that Johnston was gone up the river, but if he would come that night flour would be ready as usual. They were directed to take 9 or 10 bags, there being a new fire-man as well as a new clerk, who was much better fitted for the purpose than the old one. The new fire-man Lawes, was on the wharf in-waiting; he took the bags to the mill, and in a short time Lawes and Vaughan returned loaded: on the occasion, they secured 8 bags of flour, and 1 of wheat. The prisoner Seager, the new clerk, came down, and Crawley paid him 2 dollars for each bag, requesting him not to tell Johnston. Seagar also told him that he would send word by Johnston, when the time was ripe for the gin. Accordingly Johnston saw the witness, who shewed him a new key that had been made for the spirit store. They were to be supplied with brandy, gin, tea, sugar, or any other merchandize the stores afforded. Another nocturnal voyage was decided on, and the little bark was again laden with six cases of gin, which were shipped by Lawes. Johnston and Seagar were present; and the latter received the money from Crawley, who was the treasurer upon all occasions. In a few days after 7 bags of flour were brought away; when the witness saw Seagar, Vaughan, and Lawes. [It may be as well to remind the Reader here, that Halden had left Mr Dickson's about a month, and was succeeded by Seagar.] Four sacks belonging to Mr Dickson were taken away this time. When the Constable (Lane) came to McKinley's, Johnston only had time to make his escape, having called for a sum of money said to be owing to him by Crawley. Relative to the disposal of the gin, the witness corroborated the testimony of the foregoing witnesses, and enumerated the various parties who had brought the high-priced gin. He said that Crawley had sold one of the cases to Elizabeth Fowler, near the Market-wharf, to the truth of which she deposed.

            Mr Dunn, Chief Constable, deposed, that there was little, if any, variation in the testimony given by the approver before the Court, and that which he advanced at the Police Office.

            The evidence for the prosecution here closed. The prisoners were ably defended by Mr Solicitor Rowe; but so positive was the whole of the proof against the prisoners, that professional ability was vainly exerted to extricate the prisoners from the labyrinth of guilt into which they had become so unhappily plunged. A written paper was offered to the Court, purporting to have come from the approver, who, it set forth, proffered to unsay all he had sworn, for six pounds in ready money! But this was too great a monstrosity to be credited for a moment. Halden and Seager, two decent young men, came to the colony free. Johnston had been a mid shipman in the East India service. Of the others nothing remarkable is known. They were found Guilty - 14 years transportation.



Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University