The scene of the very extraordinary case of this person was Liverpool, where he had for a considerable time occupied the situation of confidential clerk to Mr. Wolstenholme, a cotton-broker of that city. On Saturday the 14th of October, 1837, he was taken in the custody of Whittle, a police-officer, before Mr. Hall, the chief magistrate of Liverpool, charged with having embezzled a sum of money amounting to 8,264l. the property of his employer: and at the same time a fat and somewhat vulgar woman, named Frances M'Lean, alias Flood, alias Butler, and Richard M'Lean, were charged with having participated in the proceeds of the robbery.
The circumstances of the case were remarkable, and afforded a striking instance of the extent of delinquency which may be produced by the commission of one error. Darwell was about fifty years of age, and It appeared that some years before his apprehension he had formed an intimacy with Mrs. M'Lean, the result of which was the birth of an infant. Alarmed for the effects which a general knowledge of this circumstance might produce upon his character, he was induced to hand over to her various sums of money, to secure her silence as to the paternity of her child; and his own means being exhausted, he at length gave her money which was the property of his employer. Having thus taken one false step, every month served to increase his difficulties; and the new demands which were made upon him, accompanied by threats of exposure if they were not complied with, in the course of a considerable length of time, drew from him various amounts, until at length he had appropriated money to the extent of upwards of 8,000l., of his master's property. The abstraction of so large an amount, it may be presumed, could not long remain undiscovered, and at length Whitty having received certain information upon the subject, he took the prisoner into custody. Darwell at once candidly confessed to him his criminality, and explained to him the manner in which he had disposed of the money; informing him at the same time that he would find Mrs. M'Lean residing in Junction-street, Manchester. Whitty, in consequence, proceeded thither, and finding the male prisoner M'Lean, he demanded to know whether he was acquainted with a person named Darwell? He answered in the negative; but the officer having searched the house, found a great number of documents in the handwriting of Darwell, which appeared to be letters in which money had been transmitted to the female prisoner. M'Lean, it was ascertained, had been recently married to the woman, and it was also found that he had engaged largely in the business of brick-making, and had a stock valued at between 2,000l. and 3,000l. Mrs. M'Lean was not then in the house, and upon his return to Liverpool Whitty found that she had just before arrived there, having started upon another expedition to procure money from Darwell. Upon his finding her, he acquainted her with the fact of the apprehension of Darwell, when she declared her regret for what had occurred, and admitted that she had received about 8,000l. from him; but assured the officer, that she had always believed that the money belonged to Darwell himself, whom she took to be a person of property. She expressed her willingness to give up all that she retained, but asserted her innocence of any felonious intention. The officer added, (in his evidence), that he had found books in the possession of the female prisoner, in which the amounts, which she had received from Darwell, were regularly entered and posted up; and he ascertained from them, that since the preceding Christmas, he had paid her no less than 2,273l.
These were the main facts of the case, and a legal gentleman, who attended for the two M'Leans, contended that there was nothing in the proofs to implicate them in the felonious charge. The prisoners were all remanded; but after another examination the M'Leans were set at liberty, and Darwell was committed for trial.
Between the period of the inquiry before the magistrates, and the final investigation of the case before the jury, upwards of 5,000l. were given up by the M'Leans to Mr. Wolstenholme; and a singular circumstance in the transaction was elicited, in the fact that Mrs. M'Lean, at the very time at which she was so unscrupulously receiving such large sums from Darwell, was in the possession of a handsome annuity, granted to her by a merchant resident in America, in respect of the same child, which had been the cause of the unfortunate Darwell's crime.
At the Liverpool sessions, on Friday the 27th of October, Darwell was put upon his trial. The facts of the case were clear and uncontradicted, and a verdict of "Guilty" was returned. Mr. Wolstenholme recommended the convict to the mercy of the court; and in consideration of the atonement which he had made, by his confession and interference to procure the return of the money, he was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment only.