Criminal ancestors may have been a source of shame to our families in the past, but for today’s family historians their antics have created many useful and well-archived documents. Court records and newspaper crime reports are particularly rich seams of material for researchers. Searching online, I was delighted to discover my great great grandfather’s appearance in an Old Bailey court proceeding from 1911.
Thankfully, my ancestor Henry Joseph Barnes (known to his family as “Nen”) wasn’t in the dock. Instead, he had a small part in the misappropriation of a large collection of sweets by 37 year old clerk, John Stone. At the time, Nen was working as a carman for Thomas Handyside Ltd of Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners.
From the census, taken two months before this trial took place, I know that in 1911 Nen was living in Boleyn Road, Islington and that his sister lived just north of there in Allen Road, Stoke Newington, where some of the following events took place.
Old Bailey Proceedings, 27th June 1911. Reference Number: t19110627-43 The full account can be found online at the website, “Proceedings of the Old Bailey: London’s Central Criminal Court 1674-1913”
STONE, John (37, clerk) , obtaining by false pretences from Thomas Andrews two hundredweight in weight of mixed caramels and other articles, the goods of Nathan Baras Walters, from William Mason, a quantity of confectionery, the goods of Simon Flatto, and from Henry Joseph Barnes five hundredweight in weight of confectionery, the goods of Thomas Handyside Limited, in each case with intent to defraud: attempting to obtain by false pretences from Frederick Charles Wimble a quantity of chocolate, the goods of F. L. Cailler; from Walter George Scott a quantity of chocolate, the goods of Jean Bear, and from Frederick Nettleton one ton of cocoa shell powder, the goods of Frederick Nettleton and others; (forging and uttering and publishing as true a certain writing purporting to be a business reference from Jacob Mehlburg, with intent to defraud).
Mr. Walter Frampton and Mr. Roome prosecuted; Mr. E. H. Coumbe defended.
Mr. Coumbe objected to the indictment as charging a number of separate misdemeanours followed by two counts charging forgery and uttering; the prosecution should be put to election as to which count they go upon.
Judge Rentoul said that he had some doubt as to including the last two counts; evidence of similar acts of obtaining by false pretences could always be given even where not a part of the indictment; the first eight counts were unobjectionable.
The last two counts were struck out.
FREDERICK CHARLES WIMBLE , assistant manager to F. L. Cailler, 4, Upper Thames Street. On March 6, 1911, I received letter (produced) from “J. Stone, tobacconist and confectioner, 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington”: “Dear Sir,—I have for some time dealt with Nestlé and Co.,” ordering a quantity of sweets and giving reference to Bond and Co., 110, Matthias Road, and Bloom Stores, Brick Lane. I wrote the letter (produced) of March 11, stating that on receipt of cheque the goods would be forwarded. On March 13 prisoner telephoned, saying that he was surprised at receiving a pro forma invoice, and asking if the references were satisfactory. I told him the references were satisfactory, but they were not in our trade, and as it was his first transaction we should prefer to have a cheque. He replied: “There is no difficulty about that. I will send you a cheque, but I must have the goods on Wednesday morning without fail.” That was on Monday at 11 a.m. After 4 p.m. I received letter (produced), post-marked “2.15 p.m.,” containing cheque for £10 1s. 6d. The following morning I had the cheque specially presented; it came back dishonoured. I wrote expressing surprise and stating that on receipt of the cash the goods would be forwarded. I heard nothing further from the prisoner.
Cross-examined. My firm is a member of the Confectioners’ Alliance, whose solicitors appeared at the police-court. We did not prosecute, but I appeared as a witness.
WALTER GEORGE SCOTT , chief clerk, chocolate department, Nestlé’s Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, owned by Jean Bear. On March 6, 1911, I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods and referring to Bond and Co. and the Bloom Stores; I forwarded pro forma invoices of £7 1s. 9d.; prisoner sent cheque, which was returned marked “R/D.” I wrote expressing surprise and heard nothing further. I did not part with the goods.
NATHAN BARAS WALTERS , 122, High Street, Poplar, manufacturing confectioner. On March 15 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering sweets to the value of £5 11s., which I sent with invoice, when the carman brought me cheque produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, who wrote that it was owing to a cheque of £8 9s. 10d. paid into his account being dishonoured and stating he would write when we could present it again. I have not been paid.
THOMAS ANDREWS , carman to N. B. Walters and Co. corroborated.
HENRY HANDYSIDE , managing director of Thomas Handyside, Limited, 166 and 167, Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners. On April 3 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods. I wrote with invoice stating the goods would be delivered for cash, on April 6 sent them by my carman and received cheque for £4 14s. 6d. produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, applying for the money and received no answer.
HENRY JOSH. BARNES , carman to Handyside, corroborated.
SIMON FLATTO , trading as the Anglo-Russian Confectionery Company, received similar order, sent goods and received cheque for £5 2s. 4d., which was returned marked “R/D.”
WILLIAM MASON , carman, corroborated.
FREDERICK NETTLETON , of Nettleton and Morris, 8, Colonial Avenue, E.C., confectionery merchant. On April 19 my firm issued a circular recommending cocoa shell powder to confectionery manufacturers; it is an article only of use to manufacturers. On April 24 I received letter from prisoner asking for quotation, which we sent, and on May 2 received letter produced ordering one ton and giving references to Bond and Co. and to J. Mehlburg, of 193, Whitechapel Road (to whom we had sent a circular). I wrote to both references and received letter produced purporting to come from J. Mehlburg stating that prisoner was good for £20 credit.
Mr. Coumbe objected to the evidence as embarrassing to the prisoner and as tending to bring in the charge of forgery.
Judge Rentoul held that this evidence was admissible as evidence of false pretences.
(Examination continued.) I believe the letter from Mehlburg to be genuine, but after making other inquiries wrote prisoner offering to send the goods on receipt of cash. On March 17 I received letter with cheque for £10 (produced), which was paid into my bank and returned marked “R/D.” I paid the cheque in again with the same result. I wrote prisoner asking for an explanation, but received no reply.
Cross-examined. I do not know J. Mehlburg and have had no dealings with him; my circular was sent to him as his name appeared in a list of confectioners.
JACOB MEHLBURG , 193, Whitechapel Road, confectioner. I have known prisoner seven or eight years; he was a clerk to a solicitor and used to collect money and write letters for me. About seven or eight months ago he opened at Allen Road and had £3 worth of goods from me for which he paid. On Saturday, March 11, he asked me to change a cheque for £10 for him. I said if he would call on Monday morning if I had the change I would do so. On the Monday he called, but I had not the money. He said could I get the bank to change it. I said no, he had better open a small banking account. I then introduced prisoner to the London Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road, where he opened an account and received a cheque book. Prisoner used to call on me once or twice a fortnight. I do not know Nettleton and Morris, have never written to them or authorised anyone to do so. I did not write letter produced or ask anyone to write it for me. It is written on my notepaper.
Cross-examined. I have been 11 months at 193, Whitechapel Road, and formerly carried on a confectioner’s business at 14, Vallance Road. My wife and family assist in the business when I am out. I am an Austrian and have been 12 years in England. I occasionally deal in job lines in confectionery; I have bought three lots from prisoner for which I produce receipts: April 8, £9; March 31, £6 12s.; March 21, £8 0s. 3d. I did not buy goods to value of £4 9s. 8d. from prisoner in May. I have had no dispute with the Confectioners’ Alliance. I had no occasion to buy through the prisoner from Nestlé or Cailler—I have bought direct from those firms. Cocoa shell powder is of no use to me, as I do not manufacture. I do not know what it is good for. I never told prisoner I would buy some from him. I take about £140 a week in my business. I deal wholesale, buying from manufacturers and supplying small shops. I do not owe prisoner any money for goods supplied. I do not know who wrote the letter to Nettleton produced. Prisoner may have written letters for me years ago. I always sign my letters myself.
Re-examined. Prisoner has visited me at Vallance Road. Letter produced is written on Vallance Road notepaper and is signed, “J.
Mehlburg.” I always sign “Jacob Mehlburg.” It is not my brother’s or my traveller’s writing.
DAVID WETTMAN , Wettman and Co., 19, Osborn Street, E., wholesale confectioners. In May last I received an order from a Mr. J. Stone for 4 cwt. of sweets, coming to £4 19s. 6d. I have mislaid the order. They were to be delivered to his place, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. My carman took them and brought back a cheque for the amount of the bill. This is it, signed J. Stone, and dated May 12. I paid it into my account, and it was returned. I went to see the prisoner, and his wife told me to pay the cheque in again, the money was there. I paid it in again, and it was returned. Prisoner kept a little shop; I did not see any of my stock there. I have received nothing for the goods. Mr. Coumbe said he did not challenge any of the deliveries.
JULIUS EARET , J. Karet and Co., 38, Bridge Street, Mile End, wholesale confectioners and manufacturers. We received this latter, dated March 21, from J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington: “I have been dealing with the British Confectionery Company, and on recommendation wish to give you a trial. Please forward 2 cwt. of French nougat, 1 cwt. of chocolate nougat, 1 cwt. of nougat cubes, 1 cwt. of Jap desserts. Please advise when you are delivering.” I told my clerk to book the order, and mark it “C.O.D.” I delivered the goods on March 23. They came to £4 6s. The carman brought the goods back as there was no cash to meet them. On March 24 I received this letter from Stone: “Dear Sirs,—I regret I was not in when goods arrived. Kindly deliver to-morrow, Saturday, and oblige.” I sent them, and the carman brought back a cheque on the London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel, for £4 6s., signed “J. Stone.” I paid it into my account, and it was dishonoured. I went to the prisoner’s place and saw a woman I believe to be Mrs. Stone; she insulted me. I have never had my money nor the goods back. It was a very little shop there.
RICHARD WILLIAM HUMPHREY , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road. We have a customer named Jacob Mehlberg. On March 13 last he brought Stone to the bank. Prisoner opened an account with a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and signed the signature book. These cheques (Exhibits 1, 5 to 13) are all signed by Stone. The cheque prisoner opened the account with was returned dishonoured; it has not been paid. The cheque was never paid in again. Our cheque-book was not returned; we applied for it.
WALTER FREDERICK SISMAN , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Limited, 167, Whitechapel Road. I produce a certificated copy of the account of J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. It was opened on March 13 by a payment in of a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and a cheque-book containing 24 cheques was handed out on that day to Stone. The account is debited with 2s. for it. The cheque for £10 13s. 9d. was returned dishonoured on March 17. On that date a cash payment was made of £2. A cheque was drawn against that on the 20th for £1 10s. The next payment into that account was on March 20 by a cheque for £8 19s. 10d. It was returned dishonoured on the 24th. It was paid in again on the 24th, and returned again dishonoured on the 28th. That was the last payment in. The only effective payment in was £2. At the last there was 6d. to the credit. On March 14 there was a cheque in favour of Cailler’s British Agency, resented for payment for £16 1s. 8d., which was dishonoured. On the 15th one in favour of Nestlé’s for £7 1s. 9d. There were sixteen other cheques presented for payment in favour of different people, all of which were dishonoured because of no funds to meet them. There was an effective payment into the bank to the credit of the account of £2, against “which cheques for £96 13s. 7d. were drawn. On April 3 a letter was written to Stone, asking him to close his account and return the unused cheques. They were not returned, so far as I know. The cheque-book contained 24 cheques; 19 were drawn.
Cross-examined. We should not hear whether any of these cheques had been taken up by him.
Detective-sergeant ERNEST BROCK , M Division. I arrested prisoner on a warrant at 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington, on May 23. I read it to him. He made no reply. He was charged and made no reply. I searched the premises. There was no telephone there. The telephone number on the billheads, “1212 Dalston,” is at a public-house next door.
JOHN STONE (prisoner, on oath). I am 37 years old, and have been a solicitor’s clerk practically all my life. Of late I have been managing clerk to Mr. G. Edgar Mew, practising in the East End. I first went to him in 1907, and left in September, 1910; his practice was not particularly successful, and he gave up. I then went to Mr. Richards, 1, Great James Street, Bedford Row, and was there for about six months. While with Mr. Mew I became acquainted with a Mr. Winfield. He wanted to sell a shop, and I bought it for £10. My wife looked after it. I was occupied in legal business right up to the time of my arrest. The confectionery business took from £7 to £10 a week gross at first, and then it fell off to about 30s. a week. At first I always paid spot cash for goods supplied for the business up to March this year. About the beginning of last March I was not in regular employment. I had known Mehlberg for years through doing legal business for him. He knew I had taken this shop. I told him I wanted to get further stock cheap, as the takings had gone down, and he said he could give me the names and addresses of firms where I could get cheap goods and credit, and give his name as a reference. I went with him to the bank and opened an account. Early in March I had a good deal of money owing to me from Mr. Nunn and Wilson’s Electric Empires, Limited. Mr. Nunn is managing director of Wilson’s Electric Empires. I have done a lot of work for him and for the company as secretary and confidential clerk. My belief in March was that I was going to be paid, and I should then have money. Cailler’s and Nestlé’s names were given to me by Mehlberg. He said to me, “If you pay cash terms you get a good percentage, 10 or 12 1/2 per cent., and I can afford to give you a very small profit, and then can resell again and get my profit over you. If you give these first orders you can get a month’s credit, and then you will get a certain amount of discount.” This was in the middle of March. In consequence I wrote the letters to Cailler’s and Nestlé’s. The cheques to them were sent on the day I opened the account. I fully anticipated the cheque for £10 13s. 9d. being met. As to the £23, if I had received these goods I would then have arranged with Mehlberg to buy them at a profit, and I should have immediately paid that money into the bank. Even if my cheques had gone back I could have gone to the payees’ banks on the following morning and have picked them up. I say that Mehlberg’s denial of any such contract is a deliberate untruth. What I wrote to Cailler’s is perfectly true, that I had for some time dealt with Nestlé’s. I had not dealt direct with the firm, but with their goods. As regards Walters, Handysides and Flatto, when I knew the £10 13s. 9d. cheque had been dishonoured I saw Mr. Nunn, and he said, “You must hold that cheque over.” I fully believed the cheque for £8 19s. 10d. would have been met. At that time I was expecting daily to receive £45, and acting on that belief I ordered these goods. As regards the other goods during March and April, Mehlberg had arranged to pay me, bat he did not do so promptly. I received some money from him, and paid current accounts. The cheques drawn to the Stoke Newington Borough Council and Metropolitan Water Board I tore up and paid cash instead, out of the moneys I received. If I had received sufficient cash from my debtors I should have picked up all these cheques and should have had a balance in hand as well. That was absolutely my intention from the beginning. The three firms dealt with in May were all well known to Mehlberg. He said to me, “You will get the goods from those people, I will buy them from you and you can pay them in to meet your cheques,” which I was going to do. I let him have the goods I received from the Maple Confectionery Company. He owes me the money for them to this day.
(Saturday, July 1.)
JOHN STONE (prisoner) recalled. On May 15 by a friendly arrangement a receiver on behalf of a debenture holder was appointed of Wilson Electric Empires, Limited. My claim was sent in then for £47 19s. 10d., of which £38 was a preferential claim for arrears of salary and admitted. Mr. Wilson is at Bath at present. The reference sent to Messrs. Nettleton and Morris came from Mr. Mehlberg. He requested me to write to them and order a ton of cocoa shell at the price quoted in a circular he gave me and he would give me a sovereign profit, the arrangement being that if I got that they would then give me credit and I could get five tons and he would be able to sell it. The letter from Mehlberg’s looks like his brother’s writing. I do not think he can write Englsh. I have written many letters for him and signed his name to them. Other people have done so as well. I wish to make an offer to assign to a trustee, on behalf of the prosecutors’ debts owing to me amounting roughly to about £72. I say the total of the goods I have had delivered to me is about £33 or £34. The thought never entered my mind of defrauding any one of these persons of their goods or their money.
Cross-examined. I have been a solicitor’s clerk for 23 years and according to my circular the proprietor of a legal agency, but there was very little in it. I know from my legal experience that Criminal Courts will not listen to such a suggestion as I made as to paying these people, but it was a suggestion of mine. The evidence they have given (excepting Mehlberg) I agree is true as to my ordering the goods, but I do not say it is true they wanted cash for them. I left my cheque book at home signed, and if they asked for payment when delivering the goods they were to be asked if they would accept a cheque. I anticipated the delivery of the goods on the usual terms, one month. I say I had a perfect right to draw on the bank. Whether I had or not, unless there was money there to meet the cheques, is a matter of opinion. Many people draw cheques in anticipation of getting money in time to meet them: that is finance. This is a question of finance: I anticipated money. I did not wish the people to believe that money was at the bank at the time nor that I did not have a farthing there; I always had something. I never had more than £2 in the account. With the exception of that £2, against which 30s. was drawn a few days afterwards, and 2s. charged for a cheque book and two dishonoured cheques I received from Wilson and Nunn, I have unfortunately not paid a farthing into my account. When you asked whether when I applied to Messrs. Cailler and Nestlé for goods I mentioned that I was dealing with a rival house you are putting it very broadly. I said to Cailler’s that I was dealing with Nestlé’s and to Nestlés that I was dealing with Cailler’s. Mr. Nunn used to call himself Wilson. I have known him for seven or eight years. He is an undischarged bankrupt. He obtained credit far over £20 without disclosing the fact, was prosecuted and acquitted. He brought an action for malicious prosecution, which he lost. He has not paid any of the costs. I was a witness and managing clerk to his solicitor. I knew his position early this year. I acted for him in a matter of rates. That is the gentleman whose cheque I was accepting to open an account at my bank on March 17. I certainly thought it was going to be met. It was not a shock to me when I found it dishonoured; I have had a good many dishonoured. Although it was that day I drew cheques for £16 to Cailler’s and £7 to Nestlé’s I had every wish to meet them.
Re-examined. Mr. Nunn has an action against the Bioscope Company still proceeding for breaches of agreement in which he claims £1,200. I know they made him an offer of £100 and costs, which he refused and then he brought the action for malicious prosecution.
Mr. Frampton. That action has been discontinued.
Mr. Coumbe. We do not know that. (Evidence continued.) Wilson has paid hundreds of pounds to big firms in the picture business, but his expenses were very heavy.
Sentence, 12 months’ hard labour.
BEFORE MR. JUSTICE DARLING.
(Saturday, July 1.)