The songbird and the ungrateful sailor


In August 1888, just before the Whitechapel murder series began in earnest. Edward Muir was charged at Thames Police Court with stealing a songbird – an East India rock (or ‘common’) myna to be precise.

It belonged to John Hyam who kept a boarding house on St George’s Street. Muir had been in a desperate state when he met Hyam and the man offered him a place in his house because he took pity on him.

The paper reported that Muir had ‘repaid his kindness’ by stealing the valuable bird and its cage and sold it for 5s (when it was worth £5). Muir claimed however, that it was his to sell and that he another similar bird on board a German ship ‘to which he belonged’.

Mr. Lushington chose to believe the boarding house owner not the sailor and he sentenced Muir to six weeks hard labour for the crime.

[From The Morning Post, Friday, August 24, 1888]

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