London Evening Standard

Gross Outrage

Wednesday, 19th April 1854

Gross Outrage by a Gang of Gipsies upon Two Ladies.

Matthias Cooper, aged 37 years, Eliza Cooper, his wife, and Patience Smith, their sister, who carried an infant seven days old in her arms, were brought before Mr. Paynter, charged with having committed a gross outrage upon Mrs. Rachel Swiss, a young lady residing at Ealing, and her sister, Miss Louisa Wilson.

The prisoners, who belong to a gang of gipsies located at Ealing, were accompanied to the court by five ragged and cunning-looking children, who called the male prisoner their father, and during the hearing of the case they were put outside. There was a more serious charge against another of Cooper's children, on suspicion of stealing three sovereigns from the person of Mrs. Swiss, and it was stated that she had been sent out of the way and could not be found.

Mrs. Swiss, the complainant, deposed that between six and seven o'clock on the previous (Monday) night she was returning home from the Sudbury railway station with her two children and sister, and while passing along the Upperton-road a gipsy girl, about 14 years of age, came up to her and solicited charity. She declined to give her anything, and the girl immediately seized hold of her dress and tore her pocket, which contained her money. She afterwards missed three sovereigns, but she could not swear that she stole them.

Witness, finding that she was attacked by the girl, instantly struck her with the parasol she had in her hand. The girl screamed out 'Murder!' and witness and her sister hastened away. They had not gone far when she found that they were being followed by the male prisoner, who rode after them on horseback, and two women, whom she believed were the other prisoners. They had some kind of weapons in their hands, and she did not know whether they were sticks or knives. They alarmed them very much, and used very bad language to them. The male prisoner was not so violent as the women. They caused a mob to gather round them, and their lives were threatened.

The witness, at the request of his worship, stated some of the expressions, which were most offensive, that were used to her and her sister. The male prisoner denied having used the language, and said he only called her a good-for-nothing lady for beating his child. The male Prisoner's wife, who seemed to be very ill and weak, said she was not there at the time, as she had only been confined seven days, and was in bed in their tent.

Miss Louisa Wilson was then sworn, and she corroborated the statement made by her sister. She was positive that Smith was one of the women that followed them and used the language, and she fully believed that the other female was there too. Cooper said his wife was in bed at the time. They were sitting quietly in their tent when they heard their child, who had gone for water, scream out murder. He went out, but his wife remained behind.

The worthy magistrate then described the conduct of the gipsies as being most gross, and said that as the female Cooper had not been so positively sworn to as the others, and only been so recently confined, he should not punish her this time and he therefore ordered her to be discharged. With respect to the others, he fined them 20s. each, or three weeks imprisonment. His worship then said that the girl could be apprehended for having committed an assault upon Mrs. Swiss, if not for the robbery.

Mrs. Swiss begged, as they were poor people, that their fines should be reduced. Mr Paynter said the prisoners' conduct had been very bad to her. He would mitigate the penalty upon the female to 10s., but the male prisoner would have to pay the 20s.

The prisoners were then locked up.

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London Evening Standard - Wednesday, 19th April 1854
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  • Eliza Cooper
  • Matthias Cooper
  • Patience Smith