Mrs Ada Wigg was clearly at her wits end when she presented herself at the North London Police Court in early September 1898. She said she needed the magistrate’s helping in finding her missing son, Frank. The Wiggs lived in Shrubland Grove, Dalston and on Saturday 3 September she had despatched Frank (who was aged 11 and a half) to Sailsbury Square in the City on business.
The boy came home in a hansom cab paid for by a ‘gentleman’ he had met. This man had apparently bought the young boy dinner, given him a shilling and told him that if he came again he would ‘keep him and make a gentleman of him’.
For a young lad from East London (even one from a family that sounds like they were doing ok) this might have sounded very tempting, to his mother it must have been horrifying. Ada told her son that he was forbidden from ever seeing the man again and hoped that was that. Unfortunately on Sunday Frank went off to church as usual at 10.30 in the morning, but hadn’t been seen since. Mrs Wigg went to the police and they followed up enquiries around the boy’s known haunts, even sending a telegraph to Lichfield where they had friends, but to no avail.
It is hard to look back in time with any degree of certainty but it looks from here as if young Frank was being groomed. Mr D’Eyncourt thought it an ‘extraordinary story’ and hoped that by reporting in the newspapers the boy might be noticed and found. His mother gave a description that was carefully recorded by the court reporter. Frank was:
‘Tall, fair and good looking, with blue eyes. He was wearing a light Harrow suit and patent shoes, and carried a silver lever watch and chain’.
Mrs Wigg had not seen the gentleman concerned but the boy had told he was aged ‘about 50, tall and grey’.
Two days later The Standard carried brief follow up to the story. The reporter at North London said a telegram had been received at the court which read:
“Frank Gent Wigg found safe at Clapham. Grateful thanks to Magistrate, Police and Press”, Mrs A Wigg.
So the publicity worked on this occasion and whatever the mysterious gentleman had in store for Frank – even if it was simply a benign desire to give him a leg up in life – was averted.
[from The Standard, Tuesday, September 06, 1898; The Standard, Thursday, September 08, 1898]