The extraordinary robbery to which these persons were parties, involved circumstances probably more singular than any other which ever came before a court of justice. The affair has generally been known by the name of the "Gold-dust Robbery;" the produce of the plunder being gold-dust of the value of upwards of 4000l.; and the facts which attended the investigation of the circumstances most forcibly illustrated the adage, that "When rogues fall out honest men get their own." As will be observed from the names of the culprits, the persons who were convicted were of the Jewish persuasion; and truly, the proverbial cunning and habits of cheating of these people were most singularly exemplified throughout the whole course of the inquiry.
On Monday afternoon the 25th of March 1839, the robbery was effected. It appears that two boxes of gold dust, from the mines of the Brazilian Mining Company in South America, had reached England on the 18th of the month, and had been landed at Falmouth from H.M.S. Sea-gull, from whence they were to be forwarded to London, consigned to Messrs. Marsh and Co., the agents of the Company. At Falmouth they were put on board the City of Limerick steam-ship, and on Monday morning, the 25th of March, they were landed at the wharf of the Dublin Steam-packet Company at St. Katherine's. On the same morning a letter was received by Messrs. Hartley and Co., the agents of the Dublin Steam Navigation Company, in John-street, Crutched-friars, to whom the City of Limerick steamer belonged, purporting to be from Messrs. Carne and Co., of Falmouth, apprising them of the transmission of the gold dust, and instructing them to hand it over to a person who should call at their office, and produce certain documents. This letter was opened by Lewin Caspar, a clerk in the establishment; and on the same afternoon a person drove up to the counting-house, and presenting certain papers desired that the boxes of precious metal should be delivered to him. From his manner no suspicion was raised, and the credentials which he produced, giving a description of the boxes and the marks upon them, tended to remove all doubt as to the authenticity of the character which he had assumed. His right to the boxes, therefore, being apparently established, he paid the wharfage dues, and the trunks with their golden contents were placed in the cab in which he had arrived. He gave the foreman of the wharf a shilling for his civility, and then drove away without the smallest suspicion being excited that he was not fully entitled to the goods which he had claimed.
In a few hours, however, an authorised agent of Messrs. Marsh, the consignees, arrived at the counting-house, and making known his character, and demanding the gold-dust upon the authority of vouchers which he produced, the fraud was discovered. The contents of the boxes were valued at 4600l., and as this loss would fall upon the Dublin Steam-packet Co., the consternation which was created among their servants at this event may be well imagined. Instant steps were taken to secure the individual by whom the robbery had been so ingeniously effected, and Lea, and Roe, police-officers, were engaged to pursue the necessary investigation. In the course of the same day the cab which had conveyed the thief to Messrs. Hartley's wharf was discovered, and the driver questioned, but the only information which he could afford was, that the individual who had employed him had hired him in Cheapside, and he had driven him back to Wood-street, where he had quitted his vehicle and had entered another cab, which proceeded in a direction towards Holborn. A clue so vague was not easily to be followed; but the officers pursued their investigation with unabated vigour and determination, and at length after infinite difficulty they traced the thief to No.12 New-street, London Hospital; from whence, however, they found he had now removed to a house in Mansell-street, Goodman's-fields, with all his furniture, but from which again he had absconded no one knew whither. From the inquiries made by the officers they ascertained that the name of this person was Moss; and that he was foreman to Mr. Hyams, a watchmaker in Goodman's-fields; that before the robbery, as well as on the day of its commission, he had been observed to be in frequent and earnest conversation with Ellis Caspar, whose son, Lewin Caspar, as we have already stated, held the situation of confidential clerk to Messrs. Hartley and Co. No time was lost in taking these persons into custody, and then it was elicited from the servant of Moss, that both those individuals had occasionally visited her master;-- that on the day of the robbery, Moss, contrary to custom, went out in his best clothes, and that in the evening he came home in a cab with two boxes corresponding in appearance with those which had contained the gold-dust, and the half-burned fragments of which she subsequently saw under the grate of the sitting-room. Some mysterious whisperings after this took place between Moss, and his wife, and her sister; and on the next morning they quitted New-street for Mansell-street. The description which was given of Moss exactly corresponded with that of the thief; and the exertions of the officers were now applied to secure his apprehension.
In the course of the inquiries which were now made, the circumstance of the purchase of a large quantity of bar-gold by Messrs. Bull and Co., bullion-dealers in Cheapside, from Mr. Henry Solomons, a gold refiner at No, 58, Strand, was elicited, and Messrs. Bull and Co. instantly afforded every assistance to the police. On Saturday, the 6th of April, Mr. Solomons was examined at Lambeth street police-office, when he admitted having sold 1200l. worth of bar-gold to Messrs. Bull; but he stated, that that gold was the produce of a large quantity of snuff-boxes and other articles which he had melted, the precise nature of which he could not describe; that he had received the 1200l. and had paid a great portion of it away; but finally, he protested against being further questioned, and refused to give any more information upon the subject.
At a subsequent examination Mr. Solomons was placed at the bar with the two Caspars as a principal in the robbery; and then Moss, who upon an understanding that he should be admitted in evidence against the prisoners, had surrendered himself into custody, appeared as a witness. The effect produced upon the prisoners, by his presenting himself in this capacity, was remarkable; and it was observed that Solomons, no longer confident, appeared to be applying himself to devise means to be placed in the position of his late coadjutor. The evidence of Moss explained the whole transaction, and showed the extraordinary workings of the system of villainy which was carried on. For the present his statement was not published, as there were yet other persons to be secured; but it was understood that it amounted to a complete revelation of the whole of the circumstances attending the robbery.
On Tuesday May the 7th, two new prisoners were placed at the bar, named Emanuel Moses, or "Money Moses," as he was familiarly called, and Alice Abrahams, his daughter, who was a widow; but as there were still other parties not in custody, who had been participators in the transaction, it was deemed advisable that secrecy should still be observed upon the subject of the evidence which had been obtained. From other witnesses, however, the fact of the sale of a large quantity of gold-dust by Moses and his daughter to Solomons directly after the robbery was elicited; and it was also shown that the latter in melting it down, had thrown copper and silver into it, in order to change its exact character, and thereby prevent its identification.
On Saturday, May the 25th, another examination took place of the prisoners, when Solomons was also admitted in evidence; and at length, on Friday the 21st of June, the prisoners, Lewin and Ellis Caspar, Money Moses, and Alice Abrahams, were committed for trial.
On Monday, June the 24th, the trial commenced at the Central Criminal Court, before Mr. Justice Littledale, but it occupied a period of no less than eight days, only terminating on Tuesday the 2nd of July.
The prisoners were indicted together with one Isaac Isaacs, alias Davis, not in custody. The indictment alleged the robbery to have been committed by some evil-disposed person, and then stated that before the said felony was committed, the prisoners, Lewin and Ellis Caspar, did feloniously incite and encourage the said evil-disposed person to commit the felony; it then alleged that Ellis Caspar, Emanuel Moses, and Alice Abrahams, had received the stolen property, well knowing it to have been stolen.
Mr. Clarkson stated the facts of the case to the jury, and then proceeded to the examination of the witnesses.
The arrival of the gold-dust at Falmouth by the Seagull was proved, as well as its subsequent transmission to London by the City of Limerick, and its arrival at St. Katherine's on the morning of the 25th of March. It was then shown that on the 23rd of March, Messrs. Came and Co. of Falmouth, despatched a letter to Messrs. Hartley, informing them of the valuable commodities which would be delivered to their keeping; and it was also proved, that on the arrival of the City of Limerick in London, the boxes were delivered into the custody of the younger Caspar, the clerk at the wharf, who promised to take care of them. It was shown that young Caspar exhibited great anxiety about the boxes, and that on the messenger coming for them, he at once delivered them over to him, although he had previously expressed some fears lest the papers which he brought should not be genuine documents. Caspar on that morning had gone unusually early to his office; and upon the letter arriving from Messrs. Carne, he opened it, and subsequently went out. He came back, however, before any application was made for the gold-dust, and remained until it was handed over to the messenger who went to fetch it. When the robbery was discovered, he affected great consternation and alacrity, and proceeded at once to give a description of the person by whom the boxes had been obtained; but he so falsified the account which he delivered, that but for the fact of his having been seen and observed by other servants in the warehouse, who correctly described his person, all clue to his identity must have been lost.
Henry Moss, the approver, was then called, and his evidence showed that a design, such as that which was at length completed, had long been in contemplation by the two Caspars, but that a favourable opportunity for putting it into execution did not occur until the month of March 1839. He stated that he had been acquainted with the elder Caspar, who was a watchmaker living on Finsbury Pavement, for about sixteen years, having for some time acted as his foreman. Young Caspar learned the business of a watchmaker from him; but subsequently he ascertained that he had procured employment as a clerk in the service of the Irish Steam Packet Company. He had been frequently in the habit of seeing the two prisoners during the last sixteen or eighteen months before the robbery; and in October 1838, at the invitation of Ellis Caspar, he called upon them at their house. He was subsequently frequently requested to visit them, but he did not avail himself of the invitations; and at length the cause of their apparent friendly disposition was exhibited by old Caspar saying that he wanted him "to do him a favour." He said that he was willing to do what he could for him; and then he desired him to meet him at Williams' Coffee-house, St. Martin's-le-grand, where a person would join them, who would explain the business to him. He went there and met old Caspar, but he took him away from the house; and having entered a cab with him, they drove to Charing-cross, where he said they should meet the person he had spoken of. They went into a coffee-house, and there they saw Lewin Caspar; but as the room was crowded the subject was not then broached, and they all walked out into the park. Here old Caspar desired his son to explain what he wanted done, and after some preliminary observations he began. He said that he wanted the witness to carry a letter for him to Crutched-friars, and to take away some boxes, which he was to deliver to his father. Old Caspar would give him the letter on the day when he was to carry it; and he (young Caspar) would give him the boxes. He added that if he would do them this service, they would amply recompense him, and that they employed him in preference to a ticket-porter, who could do the business as well as he, because the matter required secrecy, as his father must not be seen in it. The letter which he referred to was to be carried on the next morning; and he was to meet old Caspar at a coffee-house near Monument-yard. He went to the specified spot, and presently saw old Caspar; but he said that he had not yet seen his son, from whom he was to obtain the letter. He went out, but returned in about a quarter of an hour, accompanied by his son, who had in his hand what appeared to be a letter. Lewin Caspar then said that the box which he was to fetch was to come by a ship which had not yet arrived, and that they must all meet again in the afternoon; but on their second assemblage at the same place, he declared that an accident had occurred in two ships having run foul of each other, in consequence of which the delivery of the box, which was at the bottom of the cargo, would be delayed until the next day. On that day they met again; but then Lewin Caspar said that the box would be too heavy for him to carry, and having given him ten shillings, they dismissed him with an intimation that they should require his aid on some other occasion, and that they would write to him. He subsequently received several notes from them, and met them according to appointment, and he was then employed in copying various letters, which from his description of them, appeared to have had the same object of plunder, as that on which, in the present instance, the gold-dust had been delivered. At length, on the 24th of March, he met the two Caspars in Turner-street, Commercial-road. They went with him to his house in New-street, and then they told him that they should want him on the next morning, and they desired him to meet them at the corner of Mark-lane. He went there at half-past ten o'clock, and saw them together; but Lewin quitted his father, and the latter then came up to him, and said that he had something to give to him, but did not like to do so in the street. They, in consequence, went to a Coffee-house in Mark-lane, and there old Caspar handed a letter and a blue bag to him. He was desired to take a cab and go to Lewin Caspar, at his office, and he was told that he would there receive something which he was to carry to Wood-street, Cheapside. He accordingly proceeded to the office of Messrs. Hartley, in John-street, Crutched-friars, and having sent in the letter Lewin Caspar came to him. He compared the letter which he (Moss) had delivered, with another which he held in his hand, and then he said that he must go into the office. In a few minutes he gave him an order on the back of the letter, with instructions that he should present it at the Dublin Steam-wharf, Iron-gate Stairs, adding that he should be there as soon as he. The witness, before he proceeded to the wharf, delivered some articles for his master, and he also took a fresh cab in Cheapside, having left that in which he had before ridden in King William-street. On his reaching the wharf he presented the order, and two boxes were delivered to him by Mr. Bristoll, the foreman, which he put into the cab. He gave a receipt for them, signed in the name of Dunn; and he ordered the cabman to drive him to the Cross Keys, Woodstreet. Ellis Caspar was not there, and the boxes were carried into the office, but in a few minutes he got another cab, and drove to the London Hospital. He took one of the boxes and carried it to his own house, where he deposited it in a cupboard, in his bed-room, and he was returning for the other, when he met Ellis Caspar. He told him that he had acted imprudently, in going so near home with the cab, and desired him to drive about for an hour before he took away the other box, and then to take it out at a distance from New-street, and carry it home. He accordingly did so, and having at length quitted the cab at the Iron Bridge, Commercial-road, he entered an omnibus with the box, from which he took it to his own house. There he found Caspar waiting for him, apparently in a great state of trepidation. He told him to send his servant out of the way, and that he must get rid of the boxes as soon as possible; but he (Moss) declared, that having received an assurance that he should suffer no harm from what he had done, he was not afraid. Caspar said that the officers were already on the look out, and that he must quit his house immediately; but he answered that he could not do so, as he had not given notice to his landlord. To this Caspar replied that he must sacrifice every thing, and directed him to meet him on the next evening, when he would pay him whatever he required. At eleven o'clock the boxes were taken into the back parlour, Ellis Caspar, Mrs. Moss, and the witness, then only being present. The boxes were opened, as Caspar said, in order that their contents might be divided, to be carried away; but inside there appeared to be tin cases; and as these were small, it was decided that they should not be broken, but that they should be divided among them, and carried off. Caspar then went away; and after he had retired, the witness and his wife set about burning the boxes. It was daylight before they went to bed. On the next morning the witness opened one of the tin cases, and found it to contain gold ore. He wrapped all the boxes in paper, and put each into a separate trunk, and they were on that afternoon carried to Mansell-street, in a truck. On the same evening the witness met Ellis Caspar at the Horse Guards, and he told him that the boxes must be again removed. The witness wished him to remove them, but he refused, saying, that his son was already suspected, and he expected that his house would be searched. He advised him then to get his sister, Mrs. Levy, to take a lodging, and to carry away the gold in trunks to her. They were then to be sent down to Bath, to a direction which he gave, and the two Caspars were afterwards to go and fetch them. This plan, however, was subsequently abandoned, and by the desire of Caspar the witness went out of the way, because it was said that the officers were in search of him. He went to the house of his father-in-law Davis, in Coventry-court, and the gold was brought there to him. He kept it for some time in a cupboard, but then Davis would not let it remain there any longer, saying, that his (witness) house had been searched, and Davis and Mrs. Abrahams carried it away in small portions. Mrs. Abrahams subsequently told him that it had been sold to Solomons, for 2000l.; but he complained that this was short of the actual value, and she declared that she had taken all she could get. She then handed over to him an I O U for 1807l., signed "H. S.", and money and bank-notes, which raised the sum to 2000l. The witness subsequently went out of the way to Peckham, and other places; but at length disclosed his knowledge of the transaction, and surrendered himself into custody.
It may be mentioned here as a singular circumstance in the case, that the witness was induced to give information of what had occurred in consequence of an apparent disposition on the part of Solomons to deprive him of the fair price of the gold. So far, too, did all the parties carry their schemes of mutual plunder, that Mrs. Abrahams "welled" 13l. which she procured for the shakings of her pockets in which she had carried the gold-dust, of which she gave no account to her father or any of the other parties to the transaction.
The evidence of Solomons distinctly implicated both Moses and his daughter. He stated that on Easter Tuesday the former entered his shop and intimated a desire to speak to him privately. They went to his sitting-room, and then Moses informed him that he had a quantity of gold-dust for sale. He agreed to purchase as much as fifty ounces, at 3l. per ounce, and Moses went away, saying he would send his daughter with some of the gold, and adding, "Mind, you don't know me, nor I don't know you." In a short time Mrs. Abrahams entered the shop and said, that she had brought what her father had spoken about, and she directly went with witness to his melting-room, which was on the ground floor, at the back of his house. He put a crucible on the furnace, and she produced from her bosom and other parts of her dress a large quantity of gold. He melted it and then placed it in skillets, in which he took it into the shop and weighed it. There were one hundred and two ounces. He was alarmed and agitated; and Mrs. Abrahams perceiving his terror, took his hand and swore a Hebrew oath that she would never disclose what she knew. Before she went away, he gave her a memorandum of the weight of the gold, and paid her 350l. in notes and sovereigns for it. In about three-quarters of an hour she brought more, and she subsequently went and came six times, producing gold upon every occasion. The witness had to send to the city for money, and at the end of the transaction he was still in her debt to the amount of about 2500l. He gave an I O U for the amount, but that was returned to him, and then he gave her another for 1807l. He also paid her 13l. for some gold which she produced, and which she said were the shakings of the bag. The witness went into the minutiae of the transaction between him and Mrs. Abrahams, and admitted that he for some time refused to pay his I O U, on the ground that there had been a great stir made about the gold, and that after his examination at Lambeth-street he had exerted himself to procure the notes which he had paid to her cashed. He had sold a part of the gold to Messrs. Bull and Co., and a part to Messrs. Cock and Johnson, and he had made "good profit "of the transaction. The total amount which he was to pay Mrs. Abrahams was 3700l.
Both Moss and Solomons underwent long and searching cross-examinations by the counsel for the prisoners. Each admitted his knowledge of the felonious nature of the proceedings in which he was engaged, and neither attempted to deny the feelings which had actuated them throughout the transaction. A disposition had been shown to put off Moss with the paltry amount which he had received beyond the I O U for his share in the transaction. He sought to appropriate to himself the whole of the proceeds of the robbery in preference to handing it over to the Caspars: Mrs. Abrahams and her father. Money Moses, cheated Moss, by declaring that they were to receive much less for the gold than had been actually agreed to be paid: Mrs, Abrahams, again, cheated her father, by appropriating to herself the 13l. for the shakings; and Solomons sought to "Jew" the whole party, by retaining in his possession 1800l. worth of gold, for which he gave only his I O U, and for which he refused to pay, in consequence of the stir which was made about the robbery.
On Monday, the first of July, a variety of legal objections were taken by Mr. Serjeant Bompas and Mr. C. Phillips on the part of the prisoners to the indictment, the most prominent of which was, that until, by the conviction of the thief, the robbery had been proved, the receivers could not be found guilty. On the part of Lewin Caspar, however, it was also urged, that the indictment was bad, as alleging him to be an accessory before the robbery, which was stated to have been committed by an evil-disposed person, whose name was not mentioned.
These objections were overruled by the learned judge as being unfounded; but, upon the application of counsel, they were reserved for discussion in the Court of Error, and on Tuesday, 2nd July, the case was left to the jury. His lordship's charge occupied a period of eight hours, and at its conclusion the jury retired.
In about an hour, however, they again came into court, and delivered a verdict, declaring Lewin Caspar "Guilty of inciting Moss to commit the felony, and the whole of the other prisoners guilty of the offence of receiving the gold-dust, knowing it to have been stolen." Ellis Caspar was declared to have been an accessory both before and after the robbery, and Alice Abrahams was recommended to mercy, on the ground that she had acted under the advice and influence of her father.
On the 10th of November in the same year, the objections which had been raised on the trial were argued before the judges in the Exchequer Chamber. Their decision was not immediately made known, but on the 6th February 1840, the prisoners were ordered to be placed at the bar.
Mr, Justice Williams then addressed them, and said that, after a full inquiry into the objections raised in their behalf, the judges had come to the conclusion that the judgment upon Lewin Caspar must be arrested, and that with regard to the other prisoners, they had been properly convicted. The learned judge then sentenced Ellis Caspar, and Emanuel Moses to be transported for fourteen years, and Alice Abrahams to four months' imprisonment.
Upon the application of Mr. Clarkson, Lewin Caspar was ordered to be detained.
On the 6th of March 1840, Lewin Caspar was again placed at the bar, to plead to another indictment which had been preferred against him, in which the error which had been discovered in that on which he had been already tried was corrected by the "evil-disposed person" by whom the robbery was committed being stated to be Henry Moss. The indictment alleged that he had incited and moved Moss to commit the felony, and Moss was also charged as the principal. Caspar pleaded "Not guilty," but Moss, on being brought up, confessed himself "Guilty."
Mr. Clarkson intimated, that the prosecutors were not desirous of proceeding against Moss, in consequence of his having assisted the due administration of justice, by disclosing all he knew in reference to the transaction, and he was sentenced to twenty-four hours' imprisonment in Newgate.
On the following day Caspar was arraigned upon the indictment against him, which still remained to be tried.
The same evidence which had been before detailed was now again produced, Moss being the principal witness in the case, and the prisoner was found "Guilty."
The learned Judge, in sentencing him to be transported for seven years, expressed his sincere regret that he had not the power to inflict upon him a more severe punishment. The prisoner was then removed from the bar, and was sent abroad, in obedience to the judgment pronounced upon him.
The positions and rank of all the persons connected with this extraordinary transaction have been referred to in the course of the details which we have laid before our readers, with the exception of Emanuel Moses. There were few persons well acquainted with the vicinity of Covent-garden to whom the person of this man was not familiar, although his particular character and practices may not have been so well known. He was, as we have already intimated, of the Jewish persuasion, and he resided in the midst of a neighbourhood in which the fullest opportunities were afforded for his carrying on a system, the nature of which may be pretty well guessed from the circumstances disclosed in the case which we have just related. The landlord of "The Black Lion" public-house, in Vinegar-yard, Drury-lane -- it was pretty generally known that he was one of the most daring and successful "fences," or receivers of stolen goods in the metropolis. The ramifications of his business were well ascertained to extend to every species of roguery which existed in London, and it cannot but be matter of surprise, that a person whose reputation was so universally known should have so long continued, in the very teeth of the authorities, to pursue his trade of plunder. Such an event as the conviction of "Money Moses," almost the father of his particular line of trade, produced an amazing consternation among his fellows; but the metropolis is to be congratulated, that a person whose character was so notoriously mischievous, should have been thus removed from the scene of his operations. During the period of Moses's imprisonment in Newgate, a striking change took place in his appearance. Originally exhibiting upon his person all the signs of indulgent living, his confinement reduced him to the shadow only of his former self; and there were to be heard amongst his friends, at the time of his receiving sentence, regrets at his faded aspect, and apprehensions that the voyage to Australia would complete the work which the air of a prison had commenced.
It will have been observed, that the manner in which the whole of the lost property was discovered has been disclosed in the course of our recital of the extraordinary circumstances of this inquiry. Messrs. Hartley and Co., upon whom the loss would have fallen in case of the non-recovery of the gold, suffered comparatively small damage. A very considerable portion of the gold itself was produced; and, for that which was not actually forthcoming, we believe there is good reason to suppose that an equivalent was eventually paid.