Monday, April 27, 2020

John Cameron - A Theft From Marischal Street

This mugshot from 1872 features John Cameron who was tried by the Circuit Court of Justiciary in Aberdeen in September 1866 and found guilty of theft for which he was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. 

The photograph shows that Cameron was a reasonably well dressed and well groomed individual. The Aberdeen Press & Journal of 26th September 1866 reported the trial as follows, "John Cameron (31) of Aberdeen was next charged with the crime of theft, in so far as on the 22nd August last, he stole from a store on Marischal Street, occupied by the Aberdeen, Leith & Clyde Shipping Company a quart bottle of wine and a tin jug". 

"Cameron had been twice previously convicted. The prisoner plead not guilty, and a jury having been empanelled, the case went to proof. After hearing the evidence, the jury unanimously found the prisoner guilty as libelled".

"Lord Jerviswoode said that there could be no doubt that the articles that the prisoner had stolen were of no great value; but they did not know, and no one but the prisoner knew, what his intention might have been on this particular occasion, if he had been at liberty for longer in the cellar. The jury had found that he went there with a theftuous intent; and he had been previously sentenced in this court to four years' penal servitude. The sentence must be one of penal servitude for seven years". 

Once released from prison in May 1872, Cameron reported to the police on a number of occasions over the next year or so. He is variously listed as living at 21 Forbes Street and 54 East North Street in Aberdeen, along with a brief sojourn to Banff in April 1873.

Cameron was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Asylum on the 23rd June 1879 (National Records of Scotland, MC7/4 p.363)

Thursday, April 23, 2020

William Allan - A Theft on the Spital

The image for this particular criminal portrait is unfortunately very faint, having faded since it was taken in 1872. Remarkably, a closer inspection of the image reveals most of a fingerprint near the centre of the photograph, probably a vestige from the original glass negative.

The subject is William Allan who was given seven years penal servitude for theft by housebreaking on 21st September 1866. The Aberdeen Journal of 26th September that year reports Allan's appearance in court as follows: "William Allan (19) Aberdeen, was next charged with theft by housebreaking, in having on the 16th or 17th of August last stolen 20s. and a wooden box belonging to Mrs. Simpson, a widow, residing in the Spital. Allan had been five times previously convicted of theft in the Police and Sheriff Courts. The prisoner pleaded not guilty and the case went to trial. After a short proof, the jury unanimously found the prisoner guilty as libelled".

The page in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen (see below) on which Allan's picture is pasted states that he reported to the police only once following his release, on the 23rd April 1872. His subsequent fate is a sad one as he is detailed as being, "Sent to the infirmary and lost his eyesight from venereal disease".

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Robert Sanderson - "Striking a Superior Officer"

The brief details provided alongside each of the mugshots in the Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen are usually sufficient to then unearth more information about the individual from the contemporary newspapers or census returns. Occasionally however, further details prove to be elusive as is the case with this Criminal Portrait which features one Robert Sanderson.

The scanty information accompanying his image (see below) hints at an intriguing story: 28 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches tall with a fresh complexion, sandy hair and blue eyes, Robert's crime is described as "Military - Striking a Superior Officer" for which he was sentenced to 5 years penal servitude on 11th May 1869. Was he in the army or navy? Presumably he was discharged for the offence? Released in 1872, the entry mentions that his sentence was commuted (or reduced) and also states that he was "app[rehende]d for theft etc", although no date is given. A Robert Sanderson did appear before the Sheriff & Jury Court in Aberdeen on 17th December 1872 charged with stealing a sum of money from the Commercial Club in Aberdeen on the 8th or 9th of November. He is described as the "keeper" of the club, a post presumably akin to caretaker. Given that we don't have any supporting facts however, it is impossible to say whether this is "our" Robert.

Friday, April 3, 2020

John Patrick or Sullivan - an "uncivil push" and pocket-picking at Laurencekirk

John Patrick or Sullivan was one of a group of three individuals tried for "pocket-picking" in Laurencekirk, his accomplices being Mary Patrick and Alexander Leitch. According to the Dundee Advertiser of 22nd September 1866 the crime took place in or near the Royal Hotel and involved the theft of a pocketbook belonging to James Taylor, farmer and miller, Mill of Mondynes, containing a £20 bank note, a £10 note, a £5 note, six £1 notes, a deposit receipt for £25, a deposit receipt for £10 and several bill stamps and other papers. The previous convictions of the three are listed including the fact that John Patrick had been tried for theft under the name John Sullivan at the Police Court in Edinburgh on the 16th November 1861.

The three accused pleaded not guilty to the theft, so a jury was convened with a detailed report subsequently appearing in a number of local papers. James Taylor was evidently attending the market in Laurencekirk on 23rd August 1866 during which he conducted a number of business transactions. On entering the Royal Hotel in search of 'refreshment', one of the accused men passed by his left hand side and gave Taylor an "uncivil push". Post-refreshment, Taylor encountered the landlord's daughter in the lobby of the hotel when leaving and shook her hand. It was at this point that he, "Felt distinctly a pressure at his breast where the pocket book was. That made him feel again, when he found his book was gone. He cried out, "I have lost my pocket-book, my pocket-book is gone, and these are the parties who have taken it". The parties to whom he pointed were the two men, and they were taken before they had gone ten or twelve yards. James Stewart, innkeeper, Montrose, who was in the house - "an active young man" - ran after them and captured them. He (the witness) immediately identified them. He was quite sober".

Further witnesses were able to corroborate the evidence and establish that once Taylor's pocket had been picked, the book was then passed to Mary Patrick who concealed it prior to its ultimate recovery. The jury did not even need to retire to consider its verdict: the miscreants were found guilty with John Patrick and Mary Patrick both receiving seven years penal servitude, while Alexander Leitch was sentenced to ten years.

The Register of Returned Convicts from which the image is taken (see image below) contains an error with regard to the date of John Patrick's sentence: it is given as 21st July 1866 whereas sentence was in fact passed on the 21st September 1866. This is perhaps as a result of the register being completed on the release of the prisoner in 1872 and the date being recalled incorrectly or perhaps mis-transcribed.

Thomas Jackson or Johnston - A Theft at Braemar Followed by Escape From Forfar

According to The Weekly News  of Saturday November 21st 1885, Thomas Jackson (alias Johnston) was a joiner by trade who came originally from...