BANK ROBBERY


Postcard view of Epsom High Street with Bank building indicated.
Postcard view of Epsom High Street with Bank building indicated.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum


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2 November 1850 (The Morning Chronicle)
5 November 1850 (The Morning Chronicle)
31 March 1851 (The Morning Chronicle)

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The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, 2 November 1850


ROBBERY at the WEST SURREY BANK

APPREHENSION of TWO of the BURGLARS

EPSOM, Friday.-The inhabitants of this little town were thrown into a state of alarm and excitement this morning by the discovery that a burglary, attended with circumstances of great daring} had been perpetrated during the preceding night on the premises of tile West Surrey Bank, nearly opposite the Clock-house, and in the centre of the High-street of Epsom.

The alarm occasioned by the announcement was in some degree allayed when it became known that the thieves, or at least a portion of them, had been captured with all the booty they obtained in their possession; and that Sergeant Kennedy, the active police superintendent of this district, had them safe in his custody.

The facts collected with the burglary may be briefly told as follows :-The West Surrey Bank, which belongs to Messrs. Mangles Brothers, and has its head office at Guildford, has a branch in this town. The office consists of two rooms on the ground-floor of the house occupied by Mr. R. Moore, carrying on business as a. fellmonger. The house is detached on one side - Mr. Moore's yard, enclosed in lofty gates, running between his own residence and that of a Mr. Holland who lives next door. The apartments occupied as the bank are a front office and one small room behind, which latter is lighted by a window looking into Mr Moore's yard. This window was fixed upon by the burglars as their point of entrance, in effecting which, they adopted very similar means to the Frimley robbers. The window alluded to was an ordinary sash, strengthened inside by three iron bars. The thieves first cut away and removed the sash, which they deposited very carefully in an outhouse in Mr. Moore's yard, and then observing the fastening of one of the bar, they forced it inwards, and bending it up, obtained sufficient room to admit a man's body. Having thus secured an entrance, they struck a light, and commenced ransacking the place. Whilst they were thus engaged, Mr. Holland (Mr. Moore's next door neighbour), who sleeps in a room overlooking the yard, had occasion to get out of bed. On going to the window, he at once observed a light in the little back office, belonging to the bank, and as it was now about two o'clock, he felt satisfied that all was not right. Mr. Holland spoke to his wife on the subject on returning to bed, and, with the natural curiosity of a lady, Mrs. Holland got up to peep. She soon discovered what she thought were the figures of two men; and, summoning Mr. Holland to make a second observation, they both clearly saw two individuals in the little back office of the bank, busily engaged in ransacking the place, one ,of them holding a lighted candle in his hat, and the other armed with a. chisel or screwdriver, forcing cupboards and drawers open. Mr. Holland's first impulse was to open the window of his bed room and give an alarm, and with that view he threw up the sash and called out, as loud as he could, "Is that you, Mr. Moore?" The burglars heard him call, and instantly decamped, having first put out their light. Mr Holland hastened to put on his clothes, and in. a very few minutes was on his way to the police-station. Almost immediately upon leaving his own door be encountered a man in the High-street, whom he addressed, without obtaining any reply. This man walked off in another direction, and Mr. Holland proceeded to give an alarm to the police. He had scarcely arrived at the station when two prisoners were brought in by the officers of the local police, and charged on suspicion of having stolen property in there possession. Mr. Holland having communicated to Sergeant Kennedy what he had seen, that officer ordered the prisoners to be put back while he himself proceeded to ascertain the state of affairs at the bank. On arriving there he found the house bad been entered as above described, and on making an examination it was discovered that the thieves, after ransacking; all the cupboards and drawers in the bank, had entered Mr. Moore's private apartments, and, after regaling themselves on bread and beef and wine, had stolen several articles there from. Happily the plunder obtained was altogether very small. The iron safe in the back office of the bank resisted all the efforts of the rascals to break it open, although considerably injured by the rough usage it had received. The point of a jemmy, used in attempting to force it, was found sticking in between the doors, and the corresponding portion of the instrument was subsequently discovered on one of the prisoners by Sergeant Kennedy. A cupboard in this room was broken open, and a bottle of wine taken out; and from a desk, which was also forced. several blank cheques were abstracted. The front office was entered by cutting away the bolts of the door communicating between the rooms, and here 12s. 6d. in silver money was taken out of one of the tills. Happily all the other cash, in accordance with the usual custom, had been taken to his private residence by Mr. Everingham, the manager of the bank, on the previous evening. The door leading from the front office of the bank to Mr. Moore's private apartments was forced, and in all the lower rooms the robbers committed great havoc, breaking open drawers, and strewing their contents about the doors. The only articles missed, however, were a great coat and some silver spoons. Mr. Kennedy having completed his search, returned to the police-station accompanied by Mr. Moore. On the prisoners being called forward, Mr. Moore at once identified his coat on the back of one of them, and in the pockets being searched, the silver spoons stolen from Mr. Moore's kitchen were discovered. The broken "jemmy" and the blank cheques were found upon the other prisoner, and all doubt as to their participation in the robbery being removed, they were at once put back into the cells. One of the prisoners gave his name as George Roberts, and described himself as a gunsmith but refuses to give his address. The other man calls himself Charles Dowe, and says he is a labourer. Both stale that they are last from Guildford.

The circumstances which led to their apprehension are these:- Police-constable 307 V was on duty at the London end of Epsom, about half-past two o'clock this morning, when, observing two suspicious-looking strangers hurrying out of the town, he challenged them. Failing to obtain any satisfactory reply, he sprang upon them, and seizing both men by the collar, held them until he obtained the assistance of two brother officers, 2nd thus secured his prisoners.

Both the fellows were brought up before the local magistrates this morning and underwent a private examination. The Baron de Tessier and Mr. Henry Gosse were upon the bench and Mr. William Everest, the clerk to the magistrates was in attendance, The evidence of the police-officers having been taken Mrs. Moore (in the, absence of her husband) was called to identify some of the articles stolen. This having been done most satisfactorily, both the prisoners were remanded until Monday next, when it is expected the evidence against them will be complete.
Among the articles left behind by the prisoners is a razor firmly fixed into a wooden handle, leaving a strong suspicion that, had they met with any resistance in the house murder would have happened. Great credit. is due to Sergeant Kennedy and. the force under his command for their admirable conduct in the apprehension of the thieves.

Roberts appears to br about 32 years of age, and 5ft. 6in. in height. He is respectably dressed, and his linen is marked "F.S." Dowe is about 18 years of age, and 5ft. 4in. in height. He is very swarthy, and has a mole upon his left cheek. Both prisoners were conveyed to Kingston this evening.

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Photocopy of a West Surrey Bank 20 note.
Photocopy of a West Surrey Bank 20 note.
Image courtesy of Trevor Howard

The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, 5 November 1850


THE BURGLARY AT THE WEST SURREY BANK

EPSOM, MONDAY.-The two men, George Roberts and Charles Dowe, charged with breaking into the West Surrey Branch Bank, in this town, Oh the night of Thursday last, were brought up for re-examination this morning, before the bench of magistrates, sitting at Clueless's, Coffee-house, in High-street.

The Baron de Tessier, chairman of the bench, presided; Mr. Henry Gosse and Mr. E. H. Northey were also present.

The evidence having been taken proving the circumstances detailed in The Morning Chronicle of Saturday.

The prisoners, having been duly cautioned by the chairman, were asked if they wished to say anything to the charge made against them.

Roberts said: Yes, sir, I do. I was in Guildford on the 31st of October, and while all my way to Epsom, or, more properly speaking, to London, I met my fellow prisoner. We came on together, and on our way through this town we sees a parcel tied up in a handkerchief. We took it up and carried it behind the engine-house, where wc opened it. I thought it might have been a child. When we see what it contained, Dowe put on the coat and put some things in his pockets, I put some in mine, and as the things was found so I found 'em in the parcel
.
The Chairman: Is that your statement ? - Roberts : Yes. The coolness with which the prisoner made this extraordinary explanation excited some risibility in the court.

The prisoner Dowe had nothing to say.

The Chairman then told the prisoners that they stood severally committed for trial for the crime of burglary; and warrants having been placed in the hands of the proper officers, the accused were removed in custody.

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The Morning Chronicle, Monday, 31 March 1851


ASSIZE INTELLIGENCE

HOME CIRCUIT-KINGSTON, MARCH 29.
CIVIL SIDE.

The Lord Chief Justice has been engaged during the last two days in trying common jury cases, and the list has been gone through with such celerity, owing to, the absence in many cases of anything like a defence, and in others to the causes being entirely undefended. that there are very few common jury cases remaining to be disposed of. The special juries will be taken in their own order on Monday morning.

CROWN SIDE
[Before Mr. Baron Parke.]

George Roberts, 32, and Charles Dowe, 18, were indicted for a burglary in the dwelling-house of Resta Moore, and stealing three Silver spoons, a pair of gold spectacles, a. coat, and other articles, his property.

Mr. Garth conducted the prosecution.

It appeared from the statement of the learned counsel for the prosecution, and the evidence that was adduced in support of it, That the prosecutor occupies a house at Epsom, a portion of which, on the ground floor, was let as a branch or the West Surrey Bank. The robbery in question was committed on the night of the 31st of October, and it was evidently the intention of the prisoners to have plundered the bank from whence they, no doubt, expected to have obtained a large booty. The house was all locked up as usual on the night previous to the robbery, and about two o'clock on the following morning a person named Holland. who lived next door to the bank, was awoke by a light shining into his window and, upon looking out he saw two men, whom he clearly identified as the prisoners, in the act of examining the drawers in the back office of the bank. He afterwards saw a. third person, and, upon his giving an alarm, the light was extinguished and the prisoners and their companions attempted to make off. The two prisoners were, however, stopped by the police close to the spot, and upon their being searched several articles that had been stolen from the bank were found in their possession, and also a chisel, the size of which corresponded with marks that appeared upon the iron chest of the bank, and also upon some other places of deposit, which the prisoners had succeeded in forcing open.

Dowe said nothing in his defence, and Roberts said that he met Dowe by accident near the town of Guildford, and that as they were walking along he saw him pick up a bundle, which contained all the articles that were found in their possession.

The jury, without any hesitation, returned a verdict of guilty against both prisoners.

Mr Baron Parke said, in passing sentence, that the crime of burglary had been so much on the increase that it was absolutely' necessary it should be put down by severe punishment. If any evidence hall been adduced to show that the prisoners had been convicted of any other offence, he should certainly have sentenced them for life, and as it was they must expect to pass the greater, if not the whole, of the remainder of their existence, in a state of slavery, He then sentenced the prisoners to be transported for 20 years.

Both the courts rose to-day at at three o'clock, and they were adjourned to ten o'clock on Monday morning.

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