LOVELY WOMEN, FAIR BUT FALSE
George Brooke, described by the Western Flying Post as ‘A bill sticker, an old man well known in the town’, appeared before the Yeovil Town Magistrates on Friday 14 September 1866, charged with stealing the sum of six shillings and three pence (6s 3d) from Jane Kean.
Jane Kean told the Bench that on Wednesday 12 September, in company with George Brooke, she had gone into the Half Moon Public House in Silver Street, and called for two half quarterns of gin. She had taken a golden sovereign (£1) from her purse to pay for the drink which came to six pence, and the defendant had received the change of 19 shillings and 6 pence which he had put in the purse and given it back. Jane Kean stated that she had then gone into the parlour and sat down with the old bill sticker. Later, when she had looked into her purse, she found that 6s 3d was missing but had to admit that she was very tipsy at the time. In reply to George Brooke’s solicitor, Mr S Watts, Jane Kean also admitted that she could not remember whether or not she had invited the defendant to accompany her into the Half Moon, but she was certain that she had not given him her purse – he had taken it and put it in his pocket.
The next witness was the barmaid of the Half Moon, a Miss Cross, who stated that George Brooke and Jane Kean had come in together, and the woman had called for gin for which she had paid six pence. The couple had then gone into the parlour and shortly after Jane Kean called for two more half quarterns of gin for which she emptied her purse containing one sovereign onto the table. Miss Cross took the coin and returned with the gin and 19s 6d change in silver coins. She saw George Brooke put the coins into the purse and hand it to his lady companion. Later however, Miss Cross, who could see into the parlour from the bar, observed the bill sticker take the purse and put it into his pocket. He had then shaken the pocket, pulled out the purse and hand it back to Jane Kean. The barmaid told the Bench that she had become suspicious that something was not quite right, and when George Brooke made to leave she had told him to sit down, and she sent for the police. Miss Cross went on to say that Jane Kean had been drinking and did not seem to know what was going on.
Police Constable Everley told the Bench that he had been called to the Half Moon, and found the defendant and Jane Kean, who was drunk, sitting in the parlour. George Brooke was sober and when questioned denied having any change belonging to the woman. Despite this denial, the constable searched the defendant and found 6s 3d in silver coins in his pocket.
Mr Watts then addressed the magistrates on the defendant’s behalf. He admitted that his client had the woman’s money, but he had been holding it at her request. He could only account for the change being found in his pocket was because the purse had no fastening and some of the coins had fallen out by accident. Mr Watts stated that his client had a good character for honesty, and if the charge was proved against him he would lose his club benefit.
The Mayor, who was Chairman of the Town Magistrates, asked the defendant if he had been in Sherborne on the day in question and how much he had drunk?. In reply, George Brooke confirmed that he had, and stated that he had drunk two half pints of ‘half and half’. When he had arrived back in Yeovil he had seen Jane Kean who had called out to him ‘Come here my dear, and show me the way to the Half Moon.’ George Brooke told how he had taken the woman to the public house and had accepted her invitation to have some gin ‘provided she paid’. They had both gone in and Jane Kean, who was very tipsy had sat on his lap and twice fallen off. The defendant explained that when he handed back the purse after paying for the gin she had said – ‘Thee shall have it and I too.’ Every time he tried to leave Jane Kean had pulled him back and would not let him go.
After a short consultation with his fellow magistrates, the Mayor addressed George Brooke saying that this was one of those drunken cases which perplexed the Bench as to how they should deal with it. With the exception of being too fond of drink, the defendant had a good character, and it was because of this the Bench was inclined to be lenient. Believing that the money might have been accidentally emptied into his pocket, and what he had done was through drink and not with any felonious intention, the case was dismissed but at the same time George Brooke was cautioned to keep out of bad company, to give up drinking, and avoid ‘lovely women, fair but false’.
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