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Monmouthshire Merlin 1862

4 January 1862

GLASCOED.-SHEEP- STEALING. John Rees, 33, labourer was indicted for stealing thirty-one sheep, value £,15 10s. the property of John Davies, at the hamlet of Glascoed, on the 26th of October. Mr Somerset prosecuted; Mr Smythies defended the prisoner. The prosecutor said that until within the last month he had a farm at Cwmtillery. On a mountain he had some sheep feeding. He asked prisoner where the best place was to sell the sheep. Prisoner said Usk fair was the best. On a Friday prosecutor got the sheep together, and took them, accompanied by the prisoner, to Mamhilad. They called at a public house, and prosecutor said they were taking the sheep to Usk fair which was to take place on the Monday following. The publican said there was to be no fair, at which the prisoner affected surprise. Some conversation took place as to putting the sheep on tack. They then got on the spree. While together prosecutor sold eleven lambs to the brother of a man named Robins, for 8s. 6d. a piece. He had no recollection of signing a paper. A sovereign was paid on account, and the remainder was to be paid on the following Wednesday. Prisoner received the sovereign, and gave it to prosecutor on the Sunday. They then went to James Lewis's, at Glascoed, to put the sheep on tack. They slept at Lewis's. On Monday morning they went out to look at the sheep. There were fifty-seven. Prosecutor then gave the prisoner a sovereign to get a sheep mark, some vitriol, and some victuals instead of what they bad eaten belonging to Lewis. Prisoner went to Pontypool for these things, and was a long time away. When he returned he told the prosecutor that the people at Pontypool could not make out prosecutor's name, and he bought a sheep mark, "I.R.," prisoner's initals. Prosecutor complained of this, but prisoner said it did not matter as the sheep would soon be sold. The prosecutor then caught the sheep, and 52 were marked with prisoner's initials - five having been sold to Lewis. The sheep remained on tack at Glascoed for a month. Some time afterwards Lewis signed a paper produced by Rees, but which Rees did not read. A week after prosecutor missed a number of sheep, and tracked them on the way to Newport, near to which town he overtook the prisoner, who had with him thirty-four of prosecutor's sheep, and one belonging to Lewis. Prosecutor said—" Where are you going with my sheep?" Prisoner stood in the road and said —" Nowhere." Prosecutor took the sheep, which bore the mark I.R. back to Glascoed. The prisoner went towards Newport. The sheep were put on Lewis's land. Next day prosecutor saw prisoner at Glascoed. Prisoner's brother was present. Prisoner said prosecutor had better have let him sell the sheep—he would have brought back the money for the best sheep, and brought back the worst sheep. Prisoner and his brother wanted to take the sheep away, and a scuffle ensued between prosecutor and his wife and prisoner and his brother. Ultimately the latter went away leaving the sheep behind. The night after, about half-past one, when in bed, he heard a noise outside. He got up and went out and saw prisoner and his brother. The latter was gathering the sheep. Prosecutor went back and got a gun, and fired. Prisoner said-" Holloa, John Davies, what's that ?" Three men who were with prisoner and his brother then attacked prosecutor and beat him. Meanwhile the prisoner and his brother got the sheep together. One of the men said—" Are you all right with the sheep?" The men threatened to kill and bury him. Having dragged him a quarter of a mile, they left him and took the sheep away. He lost 50 sheep that night. Some time after he found nineteen on James Rees's land. The other thirty-one he had not seen since. He did not authorise John Rees to take away any sheep. The nineteen he found were marked I.R." Cross-examined: When I left with my sheep for the fair, I did not know my sheep were about to be seized on account of a judgment in the County Court. Twenty-two sheep were afterwards seized. I had not agreed with my wife to get all the money we could, and go off to Australia at once. We intended to go in the spring. I don't know that I sold the sheep to Rees at Mamhilad. If I signed a receipt I don't remember. I was drunk. Rees did not sell the eleven sheep to Robins as his own.  I said nothing at the time to Rees about, receiving the sovereign. I asked for it afterwards. I don't know that Rees gave a receipt in his own name. My wife never swore at the County Court, that the sheep were Rees's. I agreed for tack by the week. In further cross-examination, prosecutor said he had a sheep mark of his own at home, but it was cheaper to send for a new one to Pontypool than to send to Cwmtillery for the old one. He had never run away on seeing the prisoner with a policeman coming after the sheep. He knew the prisoner had been to the magistrate about the sheep, and the magistrates said they were to remain where they were for a fortnight. It was on the same night that prosecutor fetched them away. He had left his farm some weeks ago, but his holding was not up until Candlemas. The sheep were partly tacked with a man named Hickey. When prisoner and his brother were taking the sheep away, he heard Hickey say—" You shan't take the sheep until you pay me for the tack." Could not say whether Rees had paid. He (prosecutor) had not;-not likely that he would pay for the tack and lose his sheep besides. He had sold the nineteen sheep he had found on Rees’s land.

Ann Davies (prisoner's wife), in the course of her evidence, which was chiefly corroborative of her husband's, said that on the night the prisoner and other men took the sheep away, she got out of bed and went outside after the gun was fired. She saw her husband on the ground, and two men on his chest. She called out, but received no answer. A man named Charles Jones then went towards her, held a stick over her head, aid threatened if she did not “hush" he would kill her. She begged that he would not kill her, and she would not say a word. She then went backwards into the house, afraid of turning her back to him. She saw Lewis sign the paper at Rees's request, and dry it by the fire, and Rees then asked her to go with him to Tredegar and say the twenty-two sheep were his (Rees's) property, and he would have the sheep o a pound a piece for them, back again with that piece of paper. They had not given up their farm, the time would not be up till spring, but a man had taken the farm from them. While her husband was away the county court officers seized twenty two of theirs sheep. John Rees came back first, and reported that her husband had gone to America. Then the sheep were seized. They did not leave the farm because they were pressed by creditors. On the day her husband went to Newport after the sheep, before she knew her husband missed them, a policeman and Rees were at the house. The policeman said to Rees- And you say they have killed your sheep ? Rees hung down his head, and said "I suppose so." The policeman said she had great impudence to kill another man's sheep, and asked where were the skins. She replied, the skins were sold at Pontypool. The policeman said to her, her husband was afraid of the “bobby," and she asked what for- what had he done. He said, if she did not mind he would take her. She said, he had better, if he thought she had done anything deserving it. When the policeman and Rees left, the policeman said" You have pushed your foot into the d___'s mouth, and you must get it out as soon as you can." The policeman turned back, and asked who Rees was, and where he came from. When Rees wanted her to go with the papers, she refused to swear the sheep were Rees', when they were her husband's. On the Friday after this, both she and the prisoner and his brother, went to the magistrates about the sheep, and the magistrates said the sheep had better remain where they were, and appointed a day when they were to attend again. That same night the men took away the sheep as alreadv stated.

Ann Richards, daughter of James Lewis, Glascoed, said she was present at Glascoed, when the prisoner brought the pitch mark and pitch. Prosecutor asked prisoner where he had been so long. She corroborated the prosecutor's version of what took place, as to the cause of prisoner bringing the initials of his own name. Prisoner expressed regret that he could not get prosecutor's initials. About three weeks after, prisoner, witness's father (James Lewis), and prosecutor and his wife were in Lewis's house. Rees asked Lewis to write a word or two on a piece of paper. He said —Yes, what is it ? Prisoner replied—Nothing to do you any harm. Afterwards Lewis wrote his name, but did not read the paper.

Cross-examined: After the paper was signed heard prisoner ask Mrs. Davies if she was ready. She and the others understood that the paper was to get the twenty- two sheep from Tredegar. Mrs Davies did not refuse to go. There was an arrangement that Mrs Davies was to meet Rees at the Horse and Jockey. It came to rain, and witness persuaded Mrs Davies not to go that day. She sent a little boy to the Horse and Jockey to explain this, but Rees never appeared at the Horse and Jockey.

James Lewis said: He was a farmer living at Glascoed. Remembered Rees and Davies going to his house with some sheep on a Sunday morning in November.  There were fifty=seven sheep. He agreed with Davies to tack the sheep. He was not present when the pitch mark was brought, but he afterwards asked Davies why he marked them with Rees's name, and Davies replied that he had left his own at home. The paper produced bore his signature. He had never read a word of it.- [The document was handed in, and read by the Clerk of the Peace. It was a receipt professedly given by Davies to Rees for a certain sum, for which Rees was to have the whole of Davies's sheep on the mountain and elsewhere. It bore date September 28th, and was signed by James Lewis, as witness.]

Cross-examined: Had not read the paper out had gathered from what he had heard that it was a paper to get the sheep. Previously to Rees asking witness to sign the paper Rees and Davies had been talking together at a short distance.

By the Learned Chairman I did not see Davies's signature on the paper. I did not see the paper in Davies's hand. I was net asked to sign the paper as a witness. Davies saw tbe paper.

Mr. Smythies addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner. He did not deny the fact of the sheep being taken away, but contended that the whole proceedings were grounded upon a point of contested ownership. He maintained that there were discrepancies in the evidence as to dates, &c., end argued upon the improbability of a farmer being persuaded that a fair was being held at a certain place when there was no such fair. Was it likely that a man would be so gulled, when the fairs were published in every penny almanack ? The Learned Counsel contended that the prosecutor had intended to run away from his creditors and that the statement of Rees that he had gone to America was believed by his wife, as proved by the fact of her giving up the farm. Else, why should prosecutor and his wife leave their comfortable home and go into lodgings with perfect strangers, for months before the term for which they held the farm had expired ? Besides, as another proof that prosecutor was making as much money as he could on his property, in order to leave the country, was the fact that, according to prosecutor's own showing, 22 sheep had been seized for a debt, of about £3, and he never went to see what the sheep were sold for, in order that he might claim the balance, which was his right. Mr. Smythies also dwelt upon the improbability of Rees saying that persons could not make a “D" but could make a “R." Was it likely that the prosecutor would believe that? And if he did, what could possess the man to mark his sheep with another man's initials! Or granted that he might do so, why could not Davies drop a line to Mrs. Davies (who was going to Lewis's house in a day or two after) and instruct her to bring the sheep mark, and then re-mark them? But beyond all this, there was the fact that when Lewis asked Davies why he had marked the Sheep “I.R.”, Davies said nothing about the improbable story to which he had alluded, but simply made a reply that he had left his own mark at home. The Learned Counsel then referred to the parties going to the magistrates and asking advice, and remarked that Rees, having purchased the sheep, did not like to leave his sheep on the mountain for a fortnight, fearing that Davies would have sold them, and left the country by that time. He therefore went to an attorney, stated his claim, and produced proofs in support of his claim. The attorney thereupon advised him to take the sheep, if it was true he had bought them. Consequently, he acted upon that advice, and hence the present proceedings. But, said the Learned Counsel, there was no ground for a charge of sheep stealing—the case ought to have been heard as one of disputed ownership of property in the county court, Rees having a receipt showing that he had purchased the sheep, and, therefore, having grounds for making claim upon them. The Learned Counsel having commented at considerable length upon the evidence, contending that there was a large amount of trickery upon the part of prosecutor, and that the facts of the case showed that there had been a sale of the sheep to Rees, stated the principal points of the evidence which he purposed calling for the defence.

William Robins, innkeeper, of Mamhilad, sworn: He remembered the prisoner and Davies coming to him and asking him to put some sheep in. He heard Rees ask Davies for a receipt for the sheep, saying he always had a receipt. Witness wrote the receipt produced at Davies's request. Davies afterwards signed it by putting his mark. Davies said he came over the mountain to help Rees with sheep, he then asked about the trains, but he did not go by the train. As he was going out of the house, he shook hands with Rees, who asked him if was going to stand something to drink. Davies replied you ought to stand a jug, as you had those sheep cheap. Davies and Rees had some drink, and stopped there that night. Witness's brother bought eleven sheep of Rees, and gave him a sovereign. Davies was standing by at the time. Witness's brother promised to come on the following Monday to pay the balance. He did come and instructed witness to pay the money. The money was paid to Rees who gave a receipt for the same. Davies was near and saw all the transactions.- Both Davies and Rees were strangers to witness.

Cross-examined: The receipt was signed about two hours after the parties came to the house. They had several jugs of drink, but were sober.

Thomas Hickey, deposed, that he took some sheep to tack and was paid for them by John Rees, They were not marked at that time. There was some dispute between Rees and Davies about taking the sheep out. Davies came to him and said if he let the sheep out Rees would never pay him a farthing.

P.C. Burrows said Rees came to him and said a man named Davies had taken thirty-five sheep from him on the Newport road, in the parish of Malpas. Rees produced a receipt. Witness went with Rees and overtook Davies and the sheep at a turn of the road. Davies took to his heels and ran away. Rees and witness secured the sheep in a field. Witness afterwards saw Mrs. Davies, and she said her husband ran because he knew there was a warrant from the County Court at Tredegar, and he thought witness had power to apprehend him, From the statement of the two parties witness refused to interfere further unless Rees obtained a warrant. Witness put the sheep in a field at Glascoed. Mr Bell, the superintendent at Pontvpool, gave Rees the same advice as witness.

Henry Roberts, solicitor, remembered, that on th8 25th October. Rees and his brother came to him, and asked his advice about some sheep. He said he had purchased some sheep, and had had possession of them. Witness advised him that he might go and take them.

Cross-examined: Did not tell him to take them by violence. I told him to seek the assistance of the police.

James Llewellin, Superintendent of Police at Usk, deposed that Rees and his brother came to him by the advice of Mr. Roberts, and asked for assistance. Witness said he could not that day spare a man, but they could have one on the following morning at seven o'clock.

Mr. Somerset, in addressing the jury, contended that one fact was uncontradicted throughout the case, viz., that the prisoner and four other ruffians did, in the middle of the night, seize the sheep with force and violence, and against the wish and desire of the prosecutor. If they did this it constituted larceny, with which the prisoner was charged. He also argued that the absence of the man Robins, who was said to have bought the sheep, was very suspicious. Then, why should the prisoner have stated that the prosecutor had gone to America? As to the extraordinary story about the Pontypool people not being able to make a D," his learned friend did not deny that that tale was told- he explained it, and the jury might take it for granted that when a counsel explained a thing, that thing was a fact. In recapitulating the evidence, the Learned Counsel said it was clear that the prisoner wanted Mrs. Davies to commit a fraud, in swearing that the sheep belonged to him (the prisoner), and that Mrs. Davies denied to be a party to that fraud.

The Learned Chairman said her evidence was contradicted, and that it appeared from another witness, that the woman was going with the prisoner, and was only prevented by the weather.

Mr. Somerset contended that Mrs. Davies was going to some public house, but that she refused to take an oath that the sheep belonged to Rees. Then there was another point: If ever the sheep were purchased by Rees, they were purchased at Mamhilad. But against the supposition that Rees had bought the sheep there was this circumstance: On the Monday following the prisoner was sent to Pontypool by prosecutor to obtain a sheep mark bearing the initials of prosecutor. And again, in the presence of prisoner, prosecutor stated that the reason he marked the sheep with prisoner's initials was that he had left his own mark at home. But if the sheep had been purchased by Rees at Mamhilad, why should Davies have wished them marked with his initials at all? Besides, the prisoner was present when the prosecutor had stated that he had his sheep marked “I. R." because his own mark was at home. Why did not the prisoner have his mark put upon the sheep, without the interference of the prosecutor, if he had purchased the sheep at Mamhilad? The Learned Counsel contended that the fact of the prisoner forcibly taking away the sheep at night, conjointly with the other circumstances of the case, favoured the presumption that the prisoner had no claim upon the sheep, and that, therefore, he was guilty of the offence with which he was charged.

The Learned Chairman, in summing up, remarked that this was a case of unusual aggravation, and upon an extensive scale. But he must first caution the jury that they were not there to try civil causes-that was, questions of right between two persons. If in the present case there was a question as to whom the sheep really belonged—if there were any doubt about the matter- then it ought to be tried in another Court. If the jury found that the prisoner had any belief-whether it was well founded or not—that he had a right to the sheep, then they could not find him guilty because it was the foundation of all criminal cases that what was done was done fel oniously, and without any colour of right to do it. If the statement of the prosecutor was true, then there was a complete case against the prisoner.-The Learned Chairman minutely went through the evidence commenting upon it, and at the close of the summing up.

The jury gave a verdict of Acquittal.