Victorian London - Crime - Thieves - Shoplifting

At Westminster, Mary Shadgett, 59, a well-dressed woman, who after felony convictions, was under police supervision until March last, was placed in the dock on remand before Mr. Sheil, charged with robberies at the Army and Navy Stores, Gorringe's, and other premises. Mr. Warburton, who prosecuted, said that the prisoner had been trapped in a really clever way by two young women - Miss Payne and Miss Lange - employed in the detective department of the stores. They followed the prisoner on several occasions, and patiently waiting caught her red-handed with stolen goods about her. It was proved that the prisoner was systematically watched and followed on several occasions to publichouses, pawn-brokers, and to Gorringe's Bazaar, where she was seen to commit a robbery. The prisoner was arrested with a packet of 36 pawntickets in her possession, and several of the tickets related to silver-mounted pocket-books, a fur-trimmed mantle and other articles identified as stolen. Mr. Sheil complimented the young ladies who followed the prisoner, and committed her for trial.

The Times, January 4, 1901

    IN the latter part of the month of April 1828, about four o'clock I in the afternoon, I was called from my duty at the Office to go with a young man to his employer Mr Simpson, a Silkmercer and Haber dasher of Regent Street near the Oxford Circus. I asked him on our way what it was for, and he told me that a young "Carriage lady" had been detected stealing ribands, and before entering the shop I saw an elegant carriage with a pair of high spirited horses, attended by two gorgeously dressed servants in livery, who were standing outside the shop door.
On my entering, I saw a young lady deeply veiled holding her pocket handkerchief to her eyes, and who appeared in great distress She was attended by two others, one elderly, the other about the age of twenty.
The proprietor pointed to the one that was crying, and said, I charge this lady with theft. She has been observed stealing and putting into her reticule some rolls of valuable ribands from a drawer that was placed upon the counter, during the temporary absence of the shop woman.
I searched her reticule and found inside three large rolls of ribands Her mother and sister were not aware of the theft and expressed great surprise and implored me not to take her, and made powerful appeals to the proprietor; but he was inexorable. The accused was deeply veiled and reluctantly came with me, the two livery servants looking at us hard in the face wondering where I was going to take her. At this moment the carriage door was opened by them for her mother and sister, and they drove away at a rapid speed. I walked side by side, my prisoner crying and sobbing most bitterly all the way to Marlboro Street Office.
At the period I am referring to, the Magistrates held their sittings daily from ix o'clock in the morning till three o'clock in the afternoon, and again from seven to eight o'clock in the evening. This circumstance occurred about four o'clock in the afternoon, the Magistrates, Clerks, and Officers were therefore all away, except myself, who was what was termed the officer of the day, the office never being left, the officers taking in turn to perform this duty, and being eight in number the turn came every eighth day.
There was a bright fire in the clerks' office, and not wishing to add more trouble to this young lady, I allowed her to sit in a chair before it to make her under these unfortunate circumstances as comfortable as I could. She, however, kept on crying, and I pitied her very much, thinking what a serious business it was for a lady of her evidently high position to be placed in so degraded a situation.
It was about six o'clock when I heard the sound of swift trotting horses, and the noise of carriage wheels approaching fast, suddenly ceasing in front of the Office door. The letting down of carriage steps was followed up by a tremendous and violent knocking at the door. I hastened to open it, when a stout fine handsome looking elderly gentleman walked from the Carriage and enquired if a young lady was here, who had been brought from Simpson's in Regent street about four this afternoon. I answer'd him in the affirmative.
He said, "I am a Peer and a Magistrate, and not for twenty thousand pounds must this case be made known ."
He enquired the name of the Magistrate sitting that evening and where he lived and how he could get to see him, all which was spoken in one breath.
I replied, "My Lord, the Magistrate's name is Conant and he lives next door.
Then he said, "No time must be lost, for I must see him immediately, and pray shew me the way."
I said, "Oh, yes, by all means, My Lord, if you follow me and if he is at home, I will speak to his servant and deliver your Lordship's message."
He gave me his card and ultimately he was introduced. I left them together and returned to the Clerk's Office to look after my charge, and in about half an hour the Magistrate's servant brought his Lordship to me with a message that I was to allow him to see the young lady. I did so and retired out of hearing of their conversation.
When the hour of seven was near at hand Mr Fitzpatrick, the chief clerk, came in, look'd about him, and quietly asked me what the gentleman and lady wanted. I took him into the next room and while I was telling him, Mr Conant came in, and called Mr Fitzpatrick to - follow him into the private room. By this time our Chief, Mr Plank let himself in with his key into the presence of the Magistrate and Chief Clerk, and in a short time afterwards his Lordship was admitted, and then the Prisoner. I was ordered to remain outside till wanted.
His Lordship soon came out in great haste, went away and turned to the right in the direction of Regent Street, returning again in about ten minutes. After a pause of about five minutes I was asked by the Chief Clerk if Mr Simpson was in attendance, who gave the prisoner into custody. I replied he was not; I was then asked whether Mr Simpson understood me that after he had given the lady into custody he was to be there at 7 o'clock.
I replied, "Most certainly he did, for I distinctly told him.
"Then, said the Chief Clerk, "go to the door and call out for him two or three times."
I did so and had no reply.
He then said, "As no one appears, the prisoner must be discharged."
She was then led by Mr Fitzpatrick down the passage, followed by his Lordship and Mr Plank into the hall of the Magistrate's house. The door was immediately closed after them, and the four were observed - walking down the private garden at the back of the Magistrate's house into a long passage leading out to Marlboro' Mews, where there was a carriage in readiness to receive the young lady and her friend the Peer, which drove away at a rapid pace with them. The carriage was followed to a mansion not a great way from Hanover Square, where, in the hall, were her Mother and several ladies and gentlemen all  evidently waiting in great anxiety to receive and cheer up the spirits of this young lady, who had been guilty of such folly.
    After the evening sitting was over I was informed by Mr Conant that the matter I had had in hand that evening was to be considered - as of a private nature, and the names in connection with it were not to be divulged, as a general knowledge of the affair would distress the Countess and be her daughter's ruin. I replied that as far as I was concerned, it should never escape my lips, and from that time to the present, it never has.

Henry Goddard, Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner, 1956