Tuesday, June 14, 2022

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 Cambridge. As the newspaper report of his arrest reveals, his crime of choice was breaking into hunting lodges, 

"The Aberdeenshire Police have just apprehended a man on a charge of breaking into a shooting lodge at Glenclunie, Braemar. It appears that he had obtained permission from the housekeeper at the lodge to put up for the night in an outhouse adjoining the lodge, and during the evening the housekeeper left the premises temporarily. On her return she found the lodge lighted up, and on proceeding to ascertain the cause of its being so the man rushed past her. Information was given to the constable at Braemar who soon apprehended a man in a barn at Auchallater, whom the housekeeper identified as her lodger. In his possession were found a large quantity of miscellaneous household furnishings, such as blankets, bed curtains etc." 

Further enquiries alerted the attention of the police at Forfar who recognised the description of the items as matching those stolen from a shooting lodge at Mount Blair, in the area north of Blairgowrie, but south of the Spittal of Glenshee. 

Thomas Jackson's story would be a fairly unremarkable one of rural petty theft were it not for what subsequently happened when he was transferred to the prison at Forfar. The Aberdeen Evening Express of Wednesday December 16th takes up the story under the headline "Escape of a Prisoner From Forfar Prison" which reveals some of Jackson's cunning as well as the pressures on the prison system at the time,

"Thomas Jackson, an Englishman sentenced last week by Sheriff Robertson to six months' imprisonment for breaking into Mount Blair shooting lodge in the parish of Alyth, escaped from prison yesterday morning. Forfar prison is a short sentence prison, 14 days; but during the last week or two, prisoners sentenced to longer terms have been kept a portion of their time in Forfar and then transferred to Perth. Jackson had not been removed. There was only one man in charge of the prison, Inspector Morris of the county constabulary, and he had had his prisoners up at work as usual at six o'clock, and between seven and eight o'clock made them one by one clean out their cells. As each prisoner was disposed of he locked the cell door; but it would seem that in the case of Jackson a quantity of hemp had prevented the door locking, and while the keeper was attending to some other duty Jackson got out, and the other doors being also open, he escaped. The inspector a few minutes later missed his man by seeing his cell door open and his shoes lying in his cell. At that time a milk boy called, and in answer to the inspector said he saw a man in moleskins running along the Prison Road. Assistance was got and a chase instituted, the prisoner having about 15 minutes' start. He left the highway and cut through the Market Muir, and casting off his prison jacket called at a house in the suburb called Zoar and asked for a coat. This he did not get, and he then proceeded along the Brechin Road. His footmarks were traced to a wood at Carsegray, fully a mile from Forfar. By midday a regular search party went out, but up till evening Jackson had not been found. He is a man of spare build and about twenty-six years of age".

The following day, December 17th 1885, a report in The Daily Free Press describes Jackson's fate, 

"The prisoner, Thomas Jackson, who escaped from Forfar prison on Tuesday, was caught late at night at the Bridge of Finhaven. He had concealed himself in a wood all day, and had also got a coat and a pair of boots. His intention was to get over the hills to Aberdeenshire".

Given that it was the middle of December, Thomas Jackson's return to a prison cell was perhaps marginally the warmer option than tramping over the Angus hills. 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

James Crabtree or Wilson - A Violent Bigamist

 This is the first time in the blog that I have been able to feature the criminal and the victim in the same photograph. James Crabtree (otherwise known as James Wilson) was a house painter by profession. He married Charlotte Ashton Findlay, a domestic servant, at St. Andrew's Episcopal church on King Street in Aberdeen on 27th June 1895, with the couple subsequently living at 77 Loch Street. The picture above may well have been taken on their wedding day when they surely would both have been looking forward to many years together. However, James had a secret: he was already married.

Under the headline of "Bigamy in Aberdeen" The Aberdeen Journal of the 28th July 1896 provides more details about the case,

"James Crabtree, alias James Wilson, was charged with having, on the 27th June...then being the lawful husband of Julia Hirst or Crabtree, 16 Lapage Street, Bradford, bigamously married Charlotte Ashton Findlay, domestic servant, 77 Loch Street, and cohabited with her as her husband. Accused pleaded guilty. Mr. W.M. Sellar, solicitor, in his behalf stated that Crabtree had left his first wife after living with her for two years, and that, having been unable to pay the aliment, for which decree had been given against him in an action for separation, he had come north where he had met the second woman, whom he had married while on the spree and in a state of intoxication. The Procurator Fiscal stated that the girl Findlay whom the accused [had] married was a respectable domestic servant, and that Crabtree, by false statements, had induced her to leave her employment. He was perfectly sober when married. Both wives gave him a bad character. Accused was sent six months to prison".

I am sure the fact that Crabtree was intoxicated when he proposed to Charlotte Findlay but "perfectly sober" when they married would have been little consolation to her.

A subsequent report in The Aberdeen Journal of the 13th January 1898 sheds more light on quite what a nasty piece of work James Crabtree was, 

"In the London Divorce Division yesterday, before the president, Sir Francis Jeune, a case was heard in which Mrs Julia Crabtree, of Drass Street, Bradford, petitioned for a divorce from her husband, Mr James Crabtree, printer, on the grounds of his cruelty, desertion, misconduct, and bigamous marriage with Charlotte Ashton Finlay, a seamstress, of Aberdeen. The suit was undefended...The petitioner gave evidence that she was married to the respondent on the 5th January 1889 at Bradford. Her husband threatened to shoot her, and had also threatened her with a knife. In 1893 he tried to strangle her, and she summoned him before the magistrate. He was convicted. The next she heard of him was that he had gone through a form of marriage at Aberdeen. Charlotte Ashton Finlay, a seamstress of Aberdeen, said that the respondent made her acquaintance through living in the same flat, and in 1895 he was married to her in the name of James Wilson. They had lived together in Aberdeen. A brother of the petitioner, Albert Hirst, said he had identified the respondent who was undergoing nine months' imprisonment in Northallerton Gaol".  

A dissolution of the marriage was granted.

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...