Exeter & Plymouth Gazette

Axminster Police Court

Friday, 18th May 1883

Last Friday, at the Axminster Police Court, before E.L. Ames, Esq., and the Rev. H. Edwards, John Down, a young man of Axminster, who buys and sells rags and bones, was brought up in the custody charged with setting fire to two ricks of wood, of the value of £9, the property of Mr. Edwin Tucker, of Higher Beaver Farm, Axminster, on Saturday, May 5th. Mr. Tucker proved the ownership of the wood and the value.

He had summoned the prisoner, he said, for stealing his hay on the previous Friday, and he was committed for trial on Tuesday last upon that charge. George Simmons, a carter, in the employ of Mr. Tucker, stated that on the Friday previous to the fire he met the prisoner, who asked him whether his master intended summoning him. Witness said that he did now know, whereupon the prisoner remarked,

'If he does he shan't get anything by it; I will do something for him.'

Benjamin Down, a lad in the employ of the prosecutor, and brother to the prisoner remarked, deposed that on Saturday evening, May 5th, he met his brother at Axminster, and told him that Mr. Tucker intended summoning him. The prisoner then threatened to 'do something' for Tucker, remarking that he did not see why he should have all his spree for nothing, and he (prisoner) have none.

Robert James, a gipsy, who had been living in camp near the spot where the fire occurred, stated that the prisoner passed his camp about ten o'clock on Saturday night with his pony. Witness went out on the road to graze his pony, but did not see the prisoner return. However, when he returned to his camp, the prisoner was there.

William James, brother to the last witness, corroborated as to the prisoner not returning by the road. Mrs. James, wife of William James, stated that on the night in question, while her husband and his brother were out, the prisoner came to the camp in a 'breathless state' and asked her whether she had seen the fire. He was trembling, and appeared to have been running fast. She looked and said that she thought it was on Raymond's Hill, but the prisoner remarked that he did not think that was so. P.S. Pike stated that he apprehended the prisoner on Tuesday night, in the presence of William James, on the above charge.

In answer the prisoner said that he had not been near the place on Saturday night. James said,

'Yes, you went by here with your pony.'

The prisoner replied,

'Yes, but I returned again by the road, and went straight home.'

The prisoner, who denied having set fire to the ricks, was committed for trial, and removed to the Exeter gaol.

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Exeter & Plymouth Gazette - Friday, 18th May 1883
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  • Benjamin Down
  • John Down
  • Robert James
  • William James