Commonly called "Gentleman Harry." Convicted of stealing the Duke of Beaufort's Pendant, 1787
THIS man was styled "A Gentleman Thief." He dresed well, and being of an easy address, and tolerably educated, got admission to the best company, where he could advantageously levy his contributions.
On the King's birthday, in the year 1787, Sterne took up his post at St. James's Palace, where numbers resorted to see the Court dresses and the fashions. On such occasions courtiers pay their addresses to their sovereign in their different orders. The Duke of Beaufort, as a Knight of the Garter, among the other companions of that most dignified order, had his George pendent from its ribbon. It was set with diamonds, and was worth a considerable sum of money. This George was taken from him by Gentleman Harry, for which offence he was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey, on the 12th of September, 1787.
The Duke thereon deposed that on the 4th of June, on returning from the levee at St James's, he found himself surrounded by a vast number of persons, the meaning of which did not immediately occur to his mind, but on putting down his hand to feel for his George he missed it. Calling out very loudly to his servants, they came up. He was asked to point out the thief, but his confusion was so great that he could only point to a man dressed in black, who stood near him. In a short time the Duke saw one of his servants seize a gentlemanly-looking person, whom he had not before observed, and on whom the George was found.
The Duke then produced the precious article to the Court, which, he said, had not been out of his possession since it was taken out of the prisoner's pocket.
On his cross-examination by the prisoner's counsel, when asked if he was sure that the prisoner at the bar was the man who stole the George, the Duke replied his suspicions chiefly rested on the man in black.
Thomas West, servant to the Duke, swore that he seized and searched the man in black, and found nothing; but on seizing the prisoner, and putting his hand in his pocket, he pulled out the George. He admitted that he did not see the George taken from his Grace, but he swore positively to taking it out of the prisoner's pocket.
Shepley, the gate-keeper at Cleveland Row, corroborated the evidence of West, having seen the whole transaction and this closed the case on the part of the prosecution. In his defence the prisoner made a short but neat speech to the Court, wherein he principally rested upon the hope that the passions of the jury would not be prejudiced on account of the many slanders against him in the newspapers. He called no witnesses.
The judge, in giving his charge to the jury, so far agreed with the observations of the prisoner as to hope that their minds were entirely unprejudiced. He observed that there were two separate crimes charged in the indictment:
First.-- That the prisoner committed a robbery on the person of his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, on the highway.
Second. -- For privately stealing from his person.
It was, continued the judge, for the jury to say whether it came out in proof that it was the prisoner's hand that stole the George. If not, they must acquit him of privately stealing, which would, of course, clear him of the capital charge.
The jury withdrew, and after a consultation of fifteen minutes brought in their verdict of guilty of stealing, but not privately.
He was sentenced to be transported to Botany Bay for seven years.