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Old Bailey Proceedings - Trial Accounts
London's Central Criminal Court


6th July 1774

John Clarke, John Pullen, William Rooke

Theft - theft from a specified place - Violent Theft - highway robbery divider

533, 534, 535. (M.) JOHN CLARKE, JOHN PULLEN, and WILLIAM ROOKE were indicted for stealing a silver pepper box, value 5 s. a silver strainer, value 5 s. two silver salts, and two silver salt spoons thereunto belonging, value 10 s. four large silver table spoons, value 12 s. five silver tea spoons, value 4 s. a pair of silver tea tongs, value 1 s. another silver strainer, value 1 s. a tortoiseshel snuff box, set in gold, value 10 s. another tortoiseshell snuff box, figured with silver and pearl on the lid, value 1 s. a silver watch, value 20 s. a gold seal, value 10 s. and two silver seals, value 5 s. the property of William Pretty, in the dwelling house of Thomas Jones. May 24th. *

William Pretty. I lodge at Mr. Jones's: I had, on the 4th of May, been walking in Kensington-gardens; I sat down on the bank to rest myself, Clarke came and laid down by me; he unbottoned his breeches and behaved indecently; I got up and went off; he said he was a gentleman's servant out of place, and begged charity; I thought he was in distress and gave him eighteen pence, but I was angry with him; I did not like him; he followed me at some distance; I did not perceive him to be near me; when I came to Grosvenor's-gate, Pullen came up and said if I would not give them half a guinea, they would swear s----y or indecent behaviour against me;

that Clark would go before a Justice and swear I attempted s----y, or some such thing; I was terrified at this and gave them half a guinea; I went home; on the 24th of May they came to my lodgings, I had never seen Rooke before the 24th of May, they all three came together at eleven o'clock in the morning; Mr. Jones and his wife called me and said somebody wanted me; I went up stairs, they all three followed me up stairs; I lodge in the first floor; Pullen spoke first and said unless I would give him twenty guineas, Clarke had got a Justice's warrant to take me up; I said I had got no twenty guineas, nor neither would I give them any, for I was no such person, nor would I give them any thing;

they made use of several oaths and bitter words, and I was much terrified; they said here is plate enough, we will take this plate; I was terrified and thought I should have been murdered; I made noise enough in the room, but they did not hear me below; they unlocked my beauset door and took this plate and snuff box; they said I must give them a note for nine guineas; Rooke wrote the note, what he wrote I do not know, but they made me sign it, and how I signed it I do not know, I was so terrified;

Pullen unlocked the beauset door, all three handled the plate and took it away with them; I said it was but indifferent plate; it was old family plate; it had been my wife's, and had been in the family a hundred years I suppose; they took away the pieces of plate mentioned in the indictment. (Repeating them). When my wife died I broke up house keeping and went to lodge at Mr. Jones's; I thought I should find them by the note; I immediately went to Sir John Fielding 's and had his men for three days in order to take them; they took my rings from the hook, my stock buckle from my stock. I said I would not part with my ring; Rooke bid them let the rings alone.

Q. What time of day was you at Kensington-gardens on the 4th of May?

Pretty. About eleven in the morning; I had been there an hour and a half.

Q. How came you to give Clarke eighteen pence?

Pretty. Out of charity.

Q. Did you think such a man deserved charity?

Pretty. No.

Q. Why did you then give him half a guinea; why should you be terrified, an honest man has no occasion to be terrified in the middle of the day?

Pretty. I did it out of charity.

Q. That is the strangest idea of charity that I ever heard; how came you to give Pullen half a guinea, did you give that out of charity?

Pretty. Because I thought I should hear no more of it.

Q. Did they take away the plate with or without your consent?

Pretty. Not by my consent.

Q. You could have refused signing the note?

Pretty. I was so frightened I did not know what I did. I was below stairs, they followed me up; I did not see who was behind me till I got up stairs; when they came into the room they shut the door but did not lock it.

Q. Had not you seen them in the street before they came up stairs?

Pretty. No; I had never seen any of them from the 4th to the 24th of May.

Rooke. I went and enquired if he lived there; Mrs. Jones said yes; I asked if he was at home, she said yes; Mrs. Jones called him out of the cellar; Pullen spoke to him first and said how do you do sir, you remember me; he said hah, I do, and trembled, and said, walk up, walk up, then Pullen said, come up Mr. Rooke, this is the man I have been telling you of.

Pretty. I did not see Pullen nor Clarke till I got into my room.

Q. from the Prisoners. Did not you unlock the door and give us some rum?

Pretty. They took the bottle of rum and helped themselves; the key was in the door, Pullen unlocked it.

Clarke. He passed me two or three times; he said he had seen me some where before, and turned round and said I was a pretty fellow; he put his hands upon my thigh and asked me if I could make it stand; I called him all to pieces; he bears the character of a s------e; he gave me eighteen pence; I would not have it, but insisted he should go before a Justice.

- Jones. Mr. Pretty is my lodger; I had been out on the 24th of May; when I came home there was Rooke and Pullen there; my wife was on the kitchen stairs calling Mr. Pretty up; Rooke was in the parlour, and Pullen in the passage; Mr. Pretty went up stairs and Pullen followed him; I asked Rooke if he had any business with me, he said no he wanted to speak with Mr. Pretty; I desired him to walk up into Mr. Pretty's apartment, which is the first floor.

Q. If Pretty had made any noise you would have heard it?

Jones. Yes, but after these men were gone up stairs I went out on business; when I came home my wife said another gentleman had gone up; I was behind the Compter, Rooke and Pullen went out, and said they were sorry they gave me so much trouble, going in and out. Mr. Pretty came down to dinner at half after one o'clock; he trembled very much; he did not tell me of it till the Friday morning, when I went to Sir John Fielding 's. The same day this happened, when he came down to dinner he trembled much; I said to him what is the matter, you seem flurried? he told me when these men came in it frightened him in such a manner, he did not know what to do, and he was ashamed to tell me of it; he said they threatened to swear s----y against him if he would not give them twenty guineas; he did not tell me this till the Friday.

Q. When Rooke and Pullen came down stairs, did you see any thing in their hands?

Jones. I saw nothing at all. Mr. Pretty has lodged at our house a quarter of a year, and half a quarter; he lodged at a grocer's a twelve month before; I never heard a bad character of him.

Rooke. Mrs. Jones had a suspicion, what we came about, and said, he bore a very bad character, a publican opposite said so particularly.

Q. Did you ever hear such an imputation upon him that he was suspected of such a thing?

Jones. I never did.

Court. Mr. Pretty, you seem a gentleman, there is something very aukward in this business, I should think it would be proper to call somebody that knows you; when did you make your complaint first at Sir John Fielding's?

Pretty. Not till Thursday.

Thomas Robinson. I am a constable; I was employed to search Clark's lodging. On the 24th of May I had a warrant from Justice Wright, and went in company with Mr. Scott; I forced the parlour door open and found Clarke in bed; he trembled very much. On the top of the corner cupboard I found this snuff box; while he was dressing himself Pullen came in; he said that was the other: Rooke had been apprehended before upon another occasion for extorting money in the same way; Mr. Pretty charged them with having falsely extorted money from him in the first place, and afterwards for robbing him.

John Godfrey. I live in Red-cross-street, in the Borough: I have known Mr. Pretty nineteen years; his brother boarded with me eleven years; I knew his wife and all the family. I never heard a charge of this nature suggested against him in my life; I heard from his brother that about four years ago there was something of this sort, and they got about five guineas out of him; if they had asked him for fifty or a hundred they would have got the money immediately I believe.

Q. Do you look upon him to be a weak man?

Godfrey. Yes, I do, a very weak man.

Pullen and Rook in their defence said, that Clarke informed them that the prosecutor had attempted to commit an unnatural crime upon him in Hyde Park; that Clake desired them to go with him as witnesses to the prosecutor's; that when they came to the prosecutor's lodgings he shut the door, and not having any money by him, he gave them the note, and gave them the plate to keep as a security till the note was paid.

Jones. The morning after he was taken up, he sent his brother-in-law to Mr. Pretty, to desire he would not appear at Sir John Fielding 's, and his plate should be restored to him.

Clarke's Defence. He offered to commit some indecencies with me, and he gave me these things not to expose him.

As the prisoners, in their defence, asserted that the prosecutor had given them the things mentioned in the indictment in order to prevent Clarke's prosecuting him for s--------l practices; they informed the Court that there were some gentlemen present, who if called upon, would declare that the prosecutor had the character of being addicted to atominable practices.

The Court then said, that if there were any persons present, who knew any thing of the prosecutor, it was their duty to give the Court information concerning his character; upon this the following witnesses were examined:

Thomas Eccles. I am an attorney, and live in South Moulton-street, in the same parish the prosecutor lives in.

Q. What is the prosecutor's general character as to modesty, is it the general reputation that he is a s------e?

Eccles. Several in Court I believe have heard it as well as me.

Q. Before the rise of this affair?

Eccles. O yes; I know a gentleman that can bring it home to him.

Thomas Vardey. I am a carver and live near the prosecutor.

Q. Do you know any thing of h is character?

Vardey. I have heard something of this kind thrown out since this affair.

Q. Of suspicions relative to this affair or to others?

Vardey. To others.

All three acquitted.

[Verdict: Not Guilty]


(M.) WILLIAM ROOKE was a second time indicted for that he in a certain field and open place near the king's highway, on Joseph Fowle did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person a silver watch, value 3 £. and fourteen shillings in money, numbered, the property of the said Joseph, May 7th. *

Joseph Fowle. I am clerk to Mr. Jenkins of New Inn: coming home to my lodgings on the 7th of May, at a little past eleven o'clock at night, I met with a young woman; I agreed to go with her into the Park; as we passed near Carlton house, the prisoner crossed the way, and looked full in my face; when we came to St. James's gate I saw the prisoner close behind us; the girl and I went a-cross the Mall to the pails; we had not been there above a minute when the prisoner came up to us, and in a rough way asked me what business I had with that woman, and began to curse and swear very much; upon this the woman went away;

then the prisoner laid hold of my arm and said he must have some money; I told him I would give him none; he then said I had my choice, if I would give him some money it was very well, if not he would charge the watch with me, and accuse me of attempting to commit sodomy with him; I was so exceedingly terrified upon a charge of that kind, and being in so solitary a place, I told him if four or five shillings would satisfy him I would give him that; he said that would not do, he must have all;

I then took out my money, which was fourteen shillings in silver, and some half-pence, and gave it to him; then he insisted upon having my watch, I told him it was of little value, and being a family watch I did not like to part with it; he took hold of the string and pulled it forcibly out of my pocket; then he told me if I would send three guineas to a public house, the Vine I think it was, I should have my watch again; he said his name was William Rooke, but I should put upon the paper W. R. only; I told him I did not chuse to go to a house such people used; then he asked me where I lived, and proposed going home with me;

I told him a different place from where I lived, and that our family would be a-bed, and I should not be able to get the money; then he said if I would meet him in the Park at nine o'clock the next evening and bring him five guineas, I should have my watch again; I promised to meet him at that time; I went at nine o'clock accordingly, and met him in the Park; I gave him five guineas, and he gave me my watch; then he insisted upon having three guineas; when he had got that he insisted upon having three guineas more, and he made me promise to send three guineas next day to the Vine, but I did not intend to do it;

I apprehended I had rid my hands of him; on the next Wednesday, which was the 11th, he came to my lodgings and told me that as I had not kept my word in sending him three guineas he would now have ten guineas; I gave him ten guineas; then he asked me if I had any left off clothes; I gave him some; I asked him how he found out where I lived; he said he accidentally saw me go into the house while he was drinking at a public house.

On the Thursday se'ennight, which was the 19th, a man brought me a letter from the prisoner, the contents of which were, that he was going to be arrested for sixteen pounds, sixteen shillings, and sixpence, and hoped I would lend him the money upon his note; the next day the person that brought the letter called for an answer: I told him it was of such a nature that I would give no answer to it; the next afternoon, which was Saturday, I met the prisoner in the street; he told me he was coming to me for the loan of the money he had wrote for; I told him I had not got the money, but if he would call on Monday evening I would see what I could do for him; I then asked the advice of certain friends how it was proper to act.

Q. Had you mentioned it to any body before this?

Fowle. No, not to any one breathing; I would not for ten times the sum he has had of me have an affair of this sort known; for in a matter of this sort a man's character should stand free of suspicion; my friends advised me to apply to Sir John Fielding to have the prisoner apprehended; and when he came to me he was apprehended accordingly.

Q. Is the woman here that you went into the Park with?

Fowle. No.

Q. Have you ever advertised for her?

Fowle. No, but I have been to several houses where I might expect to meet with her.

Q. You was certainly in a great fright the first night; but how came you to go the second evening and give him five guineas for your watch?

Fowle. I would not have lost the watch for double the money.

Q. Where had you been that night?

Fowle. I had been alone at a coffee-house at Charing-cross.

Q. There are some aukward circumstances in this case; have you any body here that knows you?

Fowle. I have sent for Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Smith.

The prisoner in his defence said he was going through the Park to Petty France; that the prosecutor, who was not in company with any woman, came to him and behaved very indecently, upon which he knocked him down; that a soldier came up upon this, and the prosecutor gave them his watch and money, and begged they would not expose him.

Fowle. That is absolutely false; here is a gentleman or two in court that know me.

Mr. Wells. I have known Mr. Fowle between four and five years.

Q. Intimately?

Wells. Very intimately for about three; I have not been so intimately acquainted with him since he has been in town; he was an attorney at Bristol in a very pretty business; I never heard any thing of this kind of him in my life; he spent a pretty fortune and indeed lost his business by his extravagance with women.

Q. Do you take him to be a man of sense?

Wells. A man of very great sense.

Q. Then you think him not easy to be imposed on?

Wells. I should have thought not, but it is impossible to know how a man would act under such a charge as this; to be sure I should not have acted as he has done; every person of the city of Bristol I am sure would give him the same character.

Mr. Smith. Mr. Fowle has lived in my house half a year.

Q. Does he keep good hours or come in late?

Smith. Sometimes not very early, sometimes he stays late at the office.

Q. You never heard him suspected of a charge of this sort?

Smith. No, never; I have since this affair asked his character of some Bristol people, and find he bears a very good character.


[Verdict: Not Guilty]

Court. I recommend to the prosecutor to indict the prisoner for extorting money from him.



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