Mistaken Identity

The Magistrates decide Thomas Wheeler was not poaching

From the Herts Advertiser, 4th November 1869



St Albans


Thomas Wheeler, cowman to Mr. [Edmund] Smith, farmer, Barnard's Heath, was charged with trespassing in search of conies [rabbits] on land, the property of Mr. Peppercorn, in St Peter's on the 11th instant.

Mr. Annesley appeared for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Watson said: On Thursday, the 11th instant, with the permission of Mr Stapleton, who has the right of shooting, I and a friend went out rabbiting on Mr. Peppercorn's land. On reaching a field where there is a place called Moodies Dell. I saw, about 100 yards off, defendant with a dog and gun, I thereupon gave my gun to my friend, and ran as hard as I could after the offender about 50 yards. He leaped over a fence into Mr. Marten's path, and escaped. I have no doubt whatever that Wheeler is the man. He left his dog behind, and it was picked up and given to a boy to hold. There were plenty of rabbits about.

By Mr. Annesley: It was about 11 o'clock when I first saw the defendant. I afterwards went to his home, but he was not there. I have not seen the dog since. I saw him at his master's. I did not ask him to put his jacket on in order that I might identify him. When he was running I did not call to him. On seeing him at Mr. Smith's I told him that if he would go to Major Stapylton and tell the truth he would be forgiven, but he denied that he was the man, and declined.

James Ives, a boy, stated that he saw last witness running after a man, but could not swear it was the defendant. He afterwards got a dog to hold, and this he recognised as Mr. Smith's cowman's dog. The animal was tied up, but broke the string and got away. The field in question was about a mile from Mr. Smith's house.

Mr. Annesley then addressed the court. He submitted that Mr. Watson had been mistaken from first to last as to the man, and, after commenting on defendant's refusal to go to Major Stapleton as indicative of his innocence, called

Sarah Thorne, cook to Mr. Smith, who deposed that the defendant was at work at the house [Heath Farm] on the morning of Thursday, the 11th instant. From half-past ten to eleven he was feeding the bullocks, from eleven to twelve scrubbing the milk pans in the kitchen, and from twelve to one milking. In the course of the afternoon Mr. Watson arrived, and enquired what the defendant had been doing all morning. She told him. She ascertained the time by a clock in the Hall near the kitchen.

The Chairman said the bench had agreed to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, and accordingly dismissed the case.

There is a web page for Thomas Wheeler

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Page created November 2007