This unfortunate young man was guilty of a very extensive robbery upon his employers, Messrs. Ashley and Co., bankers, of Regent-street. He held a responsible situation in the service of that firm; but in the month of May, 1835, he suddenly absconded, carrying with him a sum of 3240l. in Bank-of-England notes, four hundred sovereigns, and 40l. in silver. His accomplice in this crime was supposed to be a person named Jackson, a member of the New Police, and notwithstanding every exertion was made to discover their retreat it was without avail, and for a time they succeeded in getting clear off. Nothing more was heard of them until the month of November, when a paragraph appeared in the daily papers, copied from a journal published at Montreal, in which the fact was notified of the apprehension of Summers at Quebec. Handbills describing the persons of the runaways, and also the nature of the property which they had stolen, it appears, were extensively circulated after the robbery; and some of these reached the possession of the managers of the Montreal bank. In the month of September, a young man presented himself at the counter of that bank, and requested money for a 50l. note of the Bank of England. The particulars of the note were found, upon comparison, to correspond with those furnished of one of the stolen securities; and upon the person who presented it being questioned, he at length, after some hesitation, confessed that his name was Summers, and that he had committed a robbery upon his employers and had absconded with its proceeds, in company with an acquaintance named Jackson. Upon his being taken before a magistrate of the place he made a confession, of which the following is a copy.
"William Summers being charged on oath before me with having, on the 6th of May last, feloniously stolen a large sum of money belonging to his employers, Messrs. Ashley, bankers, London, voluntarily and freely declared that he was clerk in Messrs. Ashley's employ, and that on the day in question he did abscond with a sum of money, of which the notes now produced were a part; and that for this act, he being desirous of making all the amends in his power, by delivering up notes and gold in his possession, amounting to 1,300l., has done so; and further declares, that he had been acquainted with George Jackson (formerly of the Metropolitan Police) for about ten years; that they were in the habit of frequenting gaming-tables together, and that his salary of 36l. a year being insufficient to meet his expenses, he was instigated by the said George Jackson to commit the robbery; that George Jackson had said to him, he had ample opportunity of making his fortune; that with the booty he could obtain from Messrs. Ashley they might both go to America and be independent; that he did commit the robbery, and at two o'clock the same day he went to a coffee-shop in Long Acre, and met Jackson there by appointment; that he and Jackson took a private lodging at Dock-head, and remained for about three weeks, when both went to Dublin; that they remained there about two months, when Jackson, during the absence of witness, robbed him of three hundred sovereigns, and 2,015l. in notes, and left Dublin, and he had not seen nor heard of Jackson since; that it was agreed between him and Jackson they should go halves; that after Jackson left Dublin, witness took a passage to America, by the name of William Smith, in the Friends, Captain Duncan, in August last; that this statement was carefully read over to the prisoner, and he persisted therein and signed it."
The prisoner, therefore, was committed to jail for safe custody, until an opportunity should occur for his transmission to England.
On Saturday the 26th of December, he was placed at the bar of Marlborough-street Police-office, charged with the robbery, and he exhibited no hesitation in at once confessing himself guilty of the charge preferred against him. He was immediately committed for trial, and on Thursday the 7th of January, 1836, having been arraigned at the Central Criminal Court, upon an indictment charging him with stealing the money from the dwelling house of Messrs. Ashley, he pleaded "guilty."
At the conclusion of the sessions, he received sentence of transportation for life.
The unfortunate man, at the time of his conviction, was twenty-eight years of age. He was the son of respectable parents, who lived in Westminster, and who were remarkable for their religious demeanour. Their son was supposed to be equally devout; and it is worthy of observation, that notwithstanding the offence of which he was guilty, and the irregularities of which he accused himself, a memorandum-book was found in his possession, containing a vast number of quotations from the Scriptures.
This case is remarkably similar in its nature to one which occurred with reference to a person named Air, a clerk at Messrs. Brooks and Dixon's banking-house, in Chancery-lane. The consequences to Summers, however, were more severe than those experienced by Air; for while the latter succeeded in effecting his escape to America, where he was free from all criminal responsibility for his guilt, the former remained in Canada, exposing himself to the probability of apprehension, and of transmission to England, to suffer the penalty of his crime.
In the month of November, 1831, Mr. Air absconded from the employment of Messrs. Brooks and Dixon, carrying with him money to the amount of 2,400l. It was soon ascertained that he had immediately set off for Portsmouth, to join an American ship, bound for New York, which had sailed from the river, and only waited a fair wind to be off. On reaching Portsmouth he retired to rest, and had nearly lost his passage by oversleeping himself; and, indeed, would have done so, had not the ship's boat, by a lucky chance for him, been upset, with the captain on board. Through the assistance of a pilot-boat, however, he reached the vessel and escaped. Scarcely had the American got clear away, when one of Brooks and Dixon's confidential assistants, and a Bow-street officer, reached Portsmouth, but they were too late, for the bird had flown. No time was to be lost in pursuing another course. Application was made to the American consul, who advised that an affidavit of debt should be made, and sent out, with a power-of-attorney, to an agent at New York, to act for the interests of Brooks and Dixon. This was done: a fast-sailing ship was on the eve of starting from Liverpool, and by this the documents in question were despatched. The latter vessel reached New York in a very few days after Air, who, on landing, invested his sovereigns in Ohio and Insurance shares, which he subsequently deposited with a banker. The moment the affidavit of debt and power-of-attorney, accompanied by a description of Air's person, arrived, he was arrested and thrown into prison, and the situation of his property being ascertained, an injunction from the Court of Chancery was obtained to impound it. Thus circumstanced, the fugitive had no alternative but to remain in prison, or consent to the restitution of his plunder; he preferred the latter course, gave up the shares, and was discharged. We have only to add, that by these simple means Messrs. Brooks and Dixon shortly after received back from their American agent upwards of 2,000l. of their loss, and at a very trifling cost, while Air was left pennyless, to reap the ignominious reward of his breach of trust, in poverty and disgrace.