A rogue servant and the sealskin coat

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Ann Waring was a confident thief who had a clear modus operandi.

In 1876 Ann was 22 years old and she applied for work at a succession of houses in Pimlico. Ann had no references with her but told her prospective employers that they could write away for them. One after another a number families in Pimlico took her in as a domestic servant in Eaton Square, Denbigh Street and the Fulham Road.

Within a few days however, Ann absconded and the families soon realised that they had been robbed. The Aplins of 130 Ebury Street lost a sealskin jacket valued at £20, while Ann Thomas (another sergeant there) had missed a gold sovereign coin.

Louisa Chapman Lewis reported that a gold watch and chain, four gold rings, some ear-rings, a cameo brooch and some other items, valued in total at £30 had been plundered from her home at 26 Denbigh Street. Elizabeth Goldspink, who lived at 57 Fulham Road, told the police she had discovered that ‘a gold watch and chain, a guinea, a 7s piece, trinkets, etc.’ had gone missing shortly after Waring left her employ.

All in all then this was quite a sizeable haul of jewellery and cash that Waring had allegedly stolen and the police were hot on her heels. Detective Buxton of B Division was following up leads about her and eventually tracked her down and arrested her. Once he had her he began to make some enquiries at a number of pawnbrokers and was able to trace most of the items. The sealskin jacket, ‘which was quite new […] had been left for £8 10s at the wardrobe shop of Mrs Caplin , 1, Richmond Road, Kennington Cross’.

In late December Ann Waring was again presented before the magistrate at Westminster where she admitted her crimes. Her plea was simply that her father had ‘been in deep distress, and as his daughter, she had been driven by sheer want to steal’. Detective Buxton said there was a ‘vast amount of property’ that he had yet been unable to trace and therefore asked for another formal remand. The magistrate agreed but also committed her for trial at the Middlesex sessions in January.

On the 8th January 1877 Ann Waring was tried and convicted of stealing a variety of expensive luxury items, including two gold watches and the sealskin coat. She was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, December 29, 1876]

The Police Courts as citizen’s advice bureau

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Two cases today which show how the police courts of the metropolis could be used by members of the public seeking legal advice. Both are from Westminster Police Court in November 1888, just days before the final ‘canonical’ murder in the Whitechapel series took place.

A ‘lady-like person’ first approached the sitting justice, Mr D’Eyncourt, to ask for help in preventing her estranged husband from visiting her place of work and causing trouble.

The unamed woman worked at the home of a naval officer in Eaton Square, in fashionable Belgravia, where she acted as a sort of live-in nurse for the officer’s invalid wife. Her husband had left some time before, leaving her to fend for herself.

Even before he left she had been used to supporting the pair of them for he was a ‘lazy fellow’, much given to drink. Before he left he had ruined them, spending her money and selling their furniture to buy more drink and pay his debts.

Finally rid of him she must have been devastated when he found out her new address and started turning up in Eaton Square demanding money. On Saturday the household’s butler had turned hm away but he at first reused to budge until he was given something for his trouble. She begged the magistrate to help her. Mr D’Eyncourt advised her if she got her mistress’ assent she could prosecute him for ‘coming there without lawful excuse’.  The lady thanked him and said she do as he suggested.

The next case before the court was brought by a ‘well-dressed young woman’ who also asked for advice, this time about a boy. Her parents had brought up their grandchild ‘from eleven months of age’. The boy was ten years old now and his father had appeared to demand custody. Yet the elderly couple had maintained and educated the boy at their own expense and clearly felt he ‘belonged’ to them.

Mr D’Eyncourt was interested in how the boy had come to live with them in the first place. ‘Because the father was given to drink’ he was told, and ‘it was the mother’s – my sister’s – wish that he should be properly looked after’.

The magistrate advised her that the couple should stick to heir guns and refuse to give up the child because the father would then have to go before a judge and make his case for custody, and show supporting evidence.

Both examples show these courts working to regulate and mediate family life and social relations in the late Victorian capital. The magistrate was a respected figure and clearly people felt him to be a person’s whose legal and other advice was worth listening to.

[from The Standard, Tuesday, November 06, 1888]

keywords: advice, Jack the Ripper, D’Eyncourt, Eaton Square, Navy, Begravia, adoption, childcare.