George McDonald was a ‘well-known’ thief. In 1853 he’d been sentenced at Ipswich assizes to 12 months for housebreaking. On release he had again been in trouble with the law but another spell of imprisonment doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on him.
In August 1858 he was stopped while walking down the Blackfriars’ Road by a constable on his beat. PC Jones 157L was suspicious of a man carrying a large bundle at 6 in the morning and asked him what it was. McDonald said he had no idea, he’d been given it by someone ‘to carry’. It was possibly the oldest excuse in the world (along with ‘I found it’) and so PC Jones arrested him.
Back at the station house the bundle was found to contain ‘two pieces of cloth, two coast, a shawl, a dress, a table cover’, and ‘other articles’. The police also discovered a screwdriver and ‘an instrument for turning door keys round from the outside’. The station was soon informed that a property on Queen Street, Blackfriars, had been burgled that night.
The owner, a tailor named Charles Wheeler, identified the missing items in court as his property. McDonald was ‘a notorious burglar’ the court heard and the magistrate had no hesitation in committing him for trial. George doesn’t appear in the Old Bailey but that was probably because he ended up at the Surrey assizes. I have no doubt he was soon back in prison.
[from The Morning Chronicle, Wednesday, August 25, 1858]