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


20th October 1779

John Staples

Violent Theft - highway robbery divider

487. JOHN STAPLES was indicted for that he in the king's highway, in and upon Thomas Harris Carzey, did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person two guineas in monies numbered, the property of the said Thomas, September the 10th.


O On the 10th of September I had been into Piccadilly, on a message, at near eight o'clock in the evening, and coming back up Park-lane, just by Grosvenor-gate, the prisoner overtook me; we entered into conversation; he walked along with me down as far as Berners-street, Oxford-road, which is where I live; when we got to the corner of Berners-street he catched hold of me by the collar, and asked if I knew who I had been talking to;

I told him I did not; he said he was one of Sir John Fielding's men, and if I would not instantly produce him six or eight guineas he would swear an unnatural crime against me; he continued to hold me by the collar, which greatly alarmed me; he pulled me down as far as St. Giles's church, holding me by the collar and shoulder all the way, there he asked me what money I had;

I told him I had but little money about me, the most I had was a guinea and two shillings; he swore a good deal, and said that would not do; he asked me if I had any friend I could borrow some of, for money he must have; I told him I had a friend in Bond-street that I thought I could depend upon for a guinea; he still kept hold of me by my shoulder and arm, and went as far as Bond-street with me.

O At what time was this?

O A little after eight.

O Did he treat you roughly and violently all this time?

O He used a great deal of ill language as he had me along.

O Was there any force?

O He had hold of me all the way.

O Were there many people in the street at this time?

O I do not remember that there were.

O This was between eight and nine?

O A little after eight.

O Were there not a great many people in the street at this time?

O I do not remember that there were; I was so afraid of my character, and so much surprised, that I did not know what to do to get out, of his hands. I went to a friend in Bond-street and borrowed a guinea; the prisoner seised me again when I came out, by the shoulder and arm, and asked me if I had got any money; I gave him two guineas immediately; he insisted upon it directly.

O Did you give it him from a fear and apprehension of being carried before a magistrate?

O Yes, I did. He continued to hold me till I gave him the money.

ODid he then go away?

O Not till after swearing a great many oaths; I promised to meet him next day, to give him two guineas more.

O Did he leave you then upon your promising him that?

O Yes.

O Did any criminal familiarities pass between you and him at that time?

O Never.

O Had you ever known the man before?

O I never saw him before in my life.

O There was no toying between you was there, or any thing previous to this business?

O Not the least in the world; I never saw him before in my life.

O Did you meet him again;

O Yes, on the day following.

O Where?

O At the Feathers in Oxford-road.

O How came you to meet him again?

O It was by appointment.

O How did he know where you lived?

O It was by my master's house he first seised me.

O What passed at the Feathers?

O Nothing particular.

O Did you go into a room with him?

O Yes, I did.

O Was any body else in that room?

O Several people came in whilst I was there, but nobody that I had any knowledge of.

O Were you in a private room?

O No, a public room.

O How long did you stay there?

O Half an hour.

O Did you drink with him there?

O He was drinking a pint of beer; when I went in he asked me to drink with him.

O Did any thing in particular pass between you then?

O Not any thing in particular.

O How long did you stay there?

O About half an hour.

O How came you to stay so long?

O I did not think it was so long at the time.

O Then you passed the time in drinking and conversation?

O No further than to beg I might never be troubled with him again.

O And then you gave him the other money?

O The other two guineas.

O How came you to do this?

O I considered I had a very good place, and a good master, and for fear of loosing my place I smoothed him a little.

O What do you mean by smoothing him?

O I talked to him very kindly, I did not use any ill language, but I desired to get rid of him.

O Was that the same day you gave your boots to him?

O No.

O When did you see him afterwards?

O Four or five days.

O Was it by appointment you saw him four or five days afterwards, or by accident?

O Not by appointment; he came to my master's house; one of the maids opened the door and let him in.

O What time of the day was that?

O Some time in the morning; I was at the pantry at work; the maid directed him down to me, not thinking any ill. He came down into the pantry to me; he asked me for more money.

O Did he make use of any threats or any violence at that time?

O Yes, he said he would give an information against me if I did not give him a guinea; I was ten times more frightened then than any time before, having a great deal of plate in the pantry.

O Did you give him any money then?

O No. He saw my clothes hanging up in the pantry; he said those clothes would suit him; I told him I thought he had had enough of me already; he said no, be must have them; he took them off, coat, breeches, and shoes, and went away directly. I was obliged to go into Gloucestershire for a fortnight; as soon as I came back again, the prisoner came to my master's.

O How did he know when you would come back again?

O I do not know how he found that out. He came in two or three days after I returned; I did not see him, but he left this note (producing it).

O How do you know it was he that left this note?

O The house-maid ( Sarah Harding ) who took the note in, said it was him, but she is not here.

O Do you know his hand-writing?

O Yes; I have seen him write; I have a good deal more that corresponds with it.

O Is this his hand-writing?

O I believe it to be so.

(The note read as followeth.)

Friend Thomas,
NOT having it in my power to call at two o'clock, according to promise, I made free to call at your house this evening, but not finding you at home, I have left you these few lines to acquaint you that I am still in distress for money and crave your assistance; therefore hope, if it is not in your power to meet me to-morrow at twelve o'clock, you will leave me a line at Mr. ---'s.

O The prisoner called the same day; my master was within; I was greatly surprised. He wanted a guinea; I gave him sixteen shillings, which was all I had.

O Did he go away when you gave him the sixteen shillings?

O Yes.

O Did you ever see him after that?

O The next day, I think it was, after that, he sent a chairman to our house, with two letters, my master was at dinner then, I have the two letters in my pocket, one in closed in the other, the one addressed to me, and the other to the house-keeper.

(The letters read, as followeth)

To Mrs. Tomkins, at Mr. Evans's, No. 5, Berners-street, London.
Mrs. Tomkins,
BEING well convinced of you along with your other fellow-servant having intercepted a letter of mine, addressed to your fellow-servant, on Friday night last; I here make free to acquaint you, that you and your companions may make yourselves ready for your defence and examination at Sir John Fielding 's, on Wednesday next, as I never submit to any such freedom with me and my connexions without exemplary punishment.
From your's, John Staples.

Bow-street, Monday 12 o'clock.
To Mr. Thomas Harris, at Mr. Evans's, No. 5, Berners-street, London.
Mr. Thomas,
AS I intend not to put up with so gross an affront any longer, I send this inclosed to the polite women in your house, that they may be convinced of their error; you may read it, and put a seal in it and deliver it to Mrs. Tomkins. I am ready at the corner to see you, but you are always ready to shun me.
Your's, John Staples.

O What did you do upon that?

O I went to him in the evening, to the Berwick Arms, the corner of Berners-street.

O Did you deliver the letter to the maid?

O No.

O How came you to go that night?

O I thought to take him the next morning.

O What time did you go?

O At seven o'clock; the porter that brought the letter said he would be there; I found him there; then he wanted more money; I told him I had not any, but if he would meet me at twelve o'clock the next day, I would get him some.

O What means did he use to get money of you then?

O All the same threats he had made use of before. I told him I would meet him at twelve the next day.

O Was he satisfied with that?

O Yes, he went away quietly.

O Where did this conversation pass; in the publick-house?

O Not in the publick-house, it was in the street.

O Did you go into any room with him in the publick-house?

O No.

O Did you go out immediately?

O Yes, immediately.

O You did not stay to drink?

O No.

O How long were you with him in the street at that time?

O Three or four or five minutes.

O Did you meet him the next day as you proposed?

O I went that evening to state the case at Sir John Fielding 's, and made a complaint against him, in consequence of which he was taken up the next day, and carried to Sir John Fielding 's.

O Was you present when he was examined?

O Yes.

O Did you state the case before Sir John Fielding against him?

O I did.

O Did he deny it?

O Yes.

O The first time you met him in Park-lane he entered into conversation, and walked with you to Berners-street?

O Yes.

O Did you know him before?

O No, I never saw him in my life.

O What did you talk about?

O About the soldiers, and one thing or another all the way down Oxford-road.

Prisoner. Whether it was in Park-lane or Hyde-park, that I saw you first?

Harris. I never saw him till he came out at Grosvenor-gate, and I saw him in Park-lane.

O He came from the park?

O Yes.

Prisoner. Whether we did not go into a publick-house in Park-street, and drink two pints of beer together?

Harris. Never in my life.

Prisoner. You are sure of that?

Harris. Very sure.

Prisoner. Whether I did not see you first within fifty yards of the gate that goes into Kensington-gardens in Hyde-park, did I or did I not?

Harris. I never was in Hyde-park that evening.

Prisoner. He says I took the boots and breeches from his master's house; whether he did not bring them from his master's house to the Red Lion, facing Grosvenor-gate?

Harris. I do not know where that is no more than the dead.


O Mr. Clarke, myself, and another officer belonging to Sir John Fielding, took the Prisoner.

O Where did you take him?

O In Berners-street.

O In the street?

O I believe in the street. I was watching at one end, and Clarke went up the street, and took him.

O Did you search him?

O Not till he came to Sir John Fielding 's, he was searched there.

O What did you find upon him?

O Nothing upon his person. I went to search his lodgings, and found these things (producing a pair of shoes, a pair of boots, and a pair of nankeen breeches) which the servant says he took from him; the prisoner gave Sir John Fielding a direction to his lodging. I had the things of his wife.

Prosecutor. These are the things he had of me in the pantry.

O Are you sure they are your's?

O I am.

To Prothero. Was you present at the examination at Sir John Fielding 's?

O Yes.

O What did the prisoner say to the charge?

O He denied it, and made a terrible defence, that is not proper for me to mention.

O He alledged that indecenciesindecencies passed between him and the prosecutor?

O Between the prosecutor and another gentleman, he said he saw them in the very act of Sodomy in Hyde-park.

O What did he say to the things that were produced?

O He said he had them of this man.

O He was committed after this examination was he?

O Yes.

O Was the examination of Carzey taken in writing then?

O It is in court; I believe I brought it myself. The prisoner said that the first night he charged him they went to the Golden-Lion, and drank pretty freely there; the publican was at Sir John's; the prisoner sent for him in his behalf.

O What is his name?

O I cannot say. Essom, I believe, or some such name. I know the man by sight very well.

O Is he here?

O I do not know.

My Lord,
Upon the 10th of September, between five and six in the evening, I was in Hyde-park, along with a great many more of my acquaintance, seeing the Westminster voluntiers exercising against the new battery that is raised at the wall towards Basewater, almost at the gate that leads into the garden.

I staid some time among the croud; there was a gentleman who I thought seemed to have a desire of conversing with me from his looking very earnestly at me. I looked at him, but did not know him, and therefore inclined to a different part of the crowd. As soon as the exercise was over I saw this gentleman and the prosecutor walk off together; seeing him take such notice of me I followed them towards Kensington-gate; when I came near the gate the prosecutor and this gentleman were arm in arm together; when they saw me they separated, the prosecutor went towards the gate;

we joined in company, and began to talk concerning the soldiers exercise till we came into the hollow of the park, where there was a grove of trees and two springs; he asked me to drink a glass of water; he said he had a glass in his pocket; we went to the well, and each drank a glass or two of water; we came softly from the well; he asked me which gate I went out at; I said it was immaterial; he said he was going to see a friend in Piccadilly, and asked me to go with him. I said I had no objection.

When we were under the trees this gentleman that was with him came up; I said that is the gentleman you were in company with; he said I do not know upon my word, very likely it might. We said nothing to the gentleman, nor he to us. As we were walking towards the road to go to the gate to go to Piccadilly, we had a dispute about a tree, he said it was on one side of the road; I said it was not; he said he would lay me a pint of beer of it, and said that will not hurt you nor me;

he clapped his hand on my shoulder; we came to the tree; I found it was on the side he had said it was; he said he had won the wager; I said he had; and we would have the beer at the first publick-house; he said then as it was so late he should not go to Piccadilly, but would go out at Grovesnor-gate; we then came from the tree; he kept his hand on my shoulder, and we came out at Grosvenor-gate.

I then asked him to go into Mr. Essom's, the Golden-Lion; I told him it was a house I frequented; he said he had rather go a little farther up the street; we then went into Mr. Gilbert's, the Barley-mow, in Park-street, and had two pints of beer, I paid for one and he for the other. I was then going to bid him good night; he said I should not leave him yet; we walked down Oxford-road to Berner's-street; we came to a door; he said, "I live here; my master is at home, d--n his eyes I thought he would not sup at home to night;" he said he was going to call upon a person, but he would not go in.

He kept his hand upon my shoulder, or rather round my neck. We went up to the Middlesex-hospital. I was going to leave him; he would not let me; he said he was going but a very little farther. I said I did not like it; I thought it dangerous; it was a very lonesome place. He said it was only a pleasant walk, and but a little farther. I found he was going into the field.

He then used some indecencies; he rubbed his face against mine. I told him I was not such a man, and would not suffer such usage. He rubbed his hands along my breeches, and things of that kind. We then came back. I said he was a very bad man, and so I believed was the person he was with, and I had a mind to have him taken up to bring them both to justice. He said he was a very innocent, harmless, honest man, and begged my pardon, and offered to go down on his knees.

He then asked me to go and drink, and we walked up to the end of Oxford-road together as far as St. Giles's church. He said he would be a friend to me if I would forgive him. I said I would forgive him if he was sensible of the crime he had attempted to commit. He said he was very sensible of it. I asked him if he had any connexion with the gentleman I saw him with. He said he never had, and did not know him. He desired me to accept of any thing that he had. He said he had very little money about him.

I said it made very little difference, I could see him at another time if he would give me his address. He begged that we might not part that evening till we had had some more conversation together; that he was going to call on a friend in Bond-street. We went together arm-in-arm to Bond-street. He said at the end of the street if I would wait there he would come to me. He went to a house and knocked at the door, and I suppose spoke to somebody. He came to me, and said he had some money at home, but he could not go in to get it, for fear his master should order him to wait at supper, and he could not come out to me again.

He gave me a piece of money in a paper, which was a guinea, and said he had a bottle of wine in his pocket that he meant to give to a friend, and desired me to take it. I said I would not; that my family would wonder how I came by it. He put it into my pocket, and made me have it, and said he should be the most unhappy creature if I did not meet him at two the next day at the Feathers, a publick-house facing Blenheim-steps.

I went at two o'clock; he said he had been there two or three times to see for me, and said he was afraid I should not come. He gave me a guinea that day, and begged I would never want money; that he would always be a friend to me. I refused the money; he insisted on my taking it. I then asked him again if he knew that gentleman; he said he never saw him before. I said that it was likely that on Monday night he would have a probability of seeing him again in Hyde-Park. He asked me it I would be there. I said no, I did not design it, but I would if he desired me.

He desired I would, and I accordingly went and saw this gentleman there again, and he walked up to this young man, and seemed as if he asked him to go aside with him; he looked at me as if he meant to ask whether he should go or not. I fled from them to the other side. At the end of the firing I saw them walk away as they did before; they walked the same road as they did before. I walked backward and forward, and saw them in very close conversation together.

I stood behind a tree that they might not see me. I took notice of them. I saw them in the most indecent posture imaginable. I got from behind the tree, and went up to them. The young man fled from me. I laid hold of the gentleman. The young man then came up, and said he was glad that I came up, for he never saw such a man in his life; that he was like to tear him all to pieces. I laid hold of the gentleman, and said I was sorry to see them guilty of such practices.

The gentleman wanted to push himself from me. I said I would not quit him till I got assistance to take him before a magistrate. We walked in the Park an hour, during which time he offered me any thing he had in the world; he drew out a gold watch, and offered me that, and said if I would go to the Thatched-House tavern he had something that would please me. I said I would not have any thing of him, and would not quit him, if I staid all night. He said I see you are a good-natured man, and that it would hur me very much to put a man to such a trial as I could put him to. I said I would do it.

Then he walked to the gate that goes to Piccadilly. He said he would go to any house, that the matter might be investigated. As soon as we got out of the Park he made a push, and got into the Green Park. I called to the people to stop him; they did not observe me. I followed him into the Green Park, and overtook him by the trees where the rookery is. I said he now convinced me that he was a worse man than I thought he was, and I would not quit him till I got assistance to secure him. He got me down to the trees where there were some more of the same sort of people. I was frightened and quitted him, and was glad to get out of their company, and I never saw any more of him from that time to this.

On the 15th I went to this young man's master, and asked for him; the maid said he was not at home, but he would be in presently; he came in, and took me into the pantry. I talked to him about this man. He persisted in it that he did not know him. I said he did. We talked in the pantry of the scantity of clothes his master allowed him. He said the boots that hung up in the pantry he brought out of the country; he said he was going to sell two pair, and thought they would not fetch him above half a crown, and he asked me if I wore boots, I said no; for since I had hurt my leg I never wore any.

He asked me if I would have a pair of the boots; as he set so little a value as half a crown upon both, I said I would have a pair of them, but I could not take them with me at that time. He put on a pair of the boots, and said he was going into the city to his master, and should be glad to see me in the evening. I told him I should be at the Golden Lion, at seven in the evening; he came in the evening, and brought a pair of boots, and a pair of nankeen breeches. When he came into the room he seemed to be in a violent hurry. I asked him what was the matter; he sat down and told me that his master had turned him away at a moment's warning.

I said I was sorry, for it. He said he did not care, he was glad he had parted with him, as he was a bad man, and he was tired of his service. He said he was going down into the country to his aunt, who was at the point of death, and would leave him a good deal of money. I saw a letter from his aunt, which said she was at the point of death, and would be glad to see him. I advised him to go. He went down into the country. He opened a handkerchief, and gave me the boots and nankeen breeches. I said I thanked him; it was more than I expected. He told me he had more things for me. I said I did not want any more.

We went from thence to another house at the end of Park-street. He said he would have another pint of beer. He told me he had a good deal to say to me, but he did not like to say it in that house where I was known. He said he had received seven guineas of his master; he gave me two wrapped up in a paper. I said I did not desire them; he said he should have enough when he went into the country, and insisted on my taking them. He made me promise to meet him the next day at eleven o'clock, as he was going into the country. I went to the Golden-lion, which was the place appointed; he did not come. I left a line there, that if he came I would meet him at twelve o'clock.

He came just after I was gone as the waiter told me, and left me a note that he would come at my time. I met him there; we drank a pot or two of beer and then went up into a bowling green at Mary-le-bonne. There we drank a bottle of ale; he insisted we should drink tea together, which we did in the gardens. Then we came to town, to the White-horse Cellar, there he took the coach at eight o'clock, and gave me a direction where to write to him at the George at Stroud, in Gloucestershire; I gave him a direction to me; he told me his name was Thomas Harris.

I wrote to him about ten days after he was gone; in about a fortnight after I went to his master's to ask the housekeeper if he was come to town; I knocked, and he came to the door; I said I was surprised to see him there, as he told me his master and he had parted; he said his master told him he might come into the house again, but he would only stay till he could get another place; I went down into the kitchen and staid dinner; he said my hair wanted dressing, and if I would sit down he would dress it and shave me; he begged I would always come, and not be a stranger to him, that he should always be unhappy if I did not leave a line when it was not convenient for me to speak to him, and I did once or twice.

This prosecution I believe to be brought against me by the person he was with, that they might not be brought to justice; and he has perjured himself in almost every part of the trial; there were no witnesses present, therefore I cannot call any. I told this story to the gentlemen that frequent Mr. Essom's; I believe they were all here to-day; but as they thought my trial would not come on, I do not know whether they are here.

Carzey. He sent for the publican, Mr. Essom, to Sir John Fielding 's, and he (Mr. Essom) said he never saw me with him in his life.

To Prothero. Is that true?

O Yes; and he said, why did he send for him to hurt him; for that he had charged another man in the neighbourhood in the same stile, who quitted the neighbourhood on account of it.

For the Prisoner.


O I have known the prisoner about ten years.

O What is he?

O Something in the Excise; when he was at Carlisle I knew him there. I am but lately come to town; last July was the last time I saw him.


O I have known the prisoner four years; he has a good character.

[Verdict: Guilty - Punishment: Death]

Tried by the Second Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.



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