Preston teen thief spotted by victim after stealing shoes and cash

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at the case of a girl, 14, who was caught out after a distraction theft.

By Henry Widdas, Communities Content Page Manager
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 5:15 pm
Broadgate near Penwortham Bridge where the girl was waliking
Broadgate near Penwortham Bridge where the girl was waliking

In mid June 1917 the Preston Borough magistrates, chaired by Alderman Cartmell, had a serious case to consider in the Juvenile Court.

Before the magistrates was a 14-year-old girl charged with stealing a bicycle valued at £8, two pairs of children’s shoes and four shillings in money.

Clarence Hadley, aged 14, employed by bootmaker Henry Turner of Church Street as an errand boy, police constable Robert Bridge and Arthur Lee Butler Tindall, the owner of the bicycle, all testified before the court. From their evidence a picture of events that unfolded was painted.

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According to Hadley he had been on the previous Monday morning near Penwortham Bridge on the Preston side, when he saw the defendant walking along Broadgate with a bicycle.

He claimed that as he was passing the girl she asked him if he could ride a bike and if he wanted to ride on it.

He answered in the affirmative and the girl then asked him to give her something to hold so that he wouldn’t run away with it.

He agreed to leave the money and the shoes with her that belonged to his master.

After a five minute ride he had returned to the spot where he had left the girl, only to discover she had disappeared along with his goods.

He did not see her again until late afternoon when he spotted her walking along Harris Street where he approached her and accused her of theft saying she had to go to the police station with him. The girl reacted by screaming and bit him on the finger before she fled onto Church Street.

With curious bystanders watching she ran into a shop on Church Street, followed by Hadley and P.C. Bridge who had noticed the commotion.

After Hadley had explained the circumstances, the girl was taken into custody by the constable.

P.C. Bridge testified that he had cautioned the girl and that when he charged her with stealing the money and the boots she had remarked that she had spent the money, thrown the shoes away in Penwortham and was very sorry.

The constable, after making inquiries, found the shoes at Penwortham Police Station, where they had been handed in by a man who found them on the river bank. Tindall, who claimed the bicycle was his, stated that he had left it outside premises on Winckley Square on the Monday morning and a few minutes later when he returned it had gone.

He confirmed that the accused was a stranger to him and had no right to have taken the bicycle.

The defendant’s father who worked as a driver was then asked to address the court and he stated that he kept his daughter at home to look after the household as his wife worked in a munitions factory.

And that she had previously attended St. Augustine’s school and spent six months weaving at Horrockses mill, but had to leave because of eye trouble.

The Chief Constable then informed the Bench that the girl had recently been dismissed and cautioned for stealing cigarettes from a local tobacco factory.

He then stated that recently the police had received numerous complaints regarding her stealing from other girls in the street.

The father was then spoken to by Alderman Cartmell who quizzed him about the girl’s behaviour.

He replied that he was unaware of the troubles she had been in and stated that he needed to be sterner with her in the future and not allow her as much freedom.

After a short adjournment the magistrates returned and, addressing the girl, Alderman Cartmell informed her she would be bound over for a period of two years.