Serial thief jailed after duping Preston jewellers and drapers

A draper on Fishergate was conned by the woman
A draper on Fishergate was conned by the woman
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Local historian Keith Johnson takes a look a thief targeting high street shops

At the beginning of March 1882 Ann Ellis, aged 41, a dressmaker, described as a respectable person, appeared on remand at the Preston Police court accused of obtaining money and clothing by false pretences.

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The prosecution, led by Mr Jukes, alleged that firstly in June 1880 she had obtained a gold ring valued at over £2, the property of Mr Lyons, watchmaker, of Orchard Street

Elizabeth Lyons told the court that she was familiar with the accused who had prior to that occasion often visited the shop.

She claimed the woman, who gave the name of Mrs Singleton of Singleton Farm in Ashton, after looking at the ring asked to take it on approval as she wanted it for her daughter who was due to be wed. John James Miller, an assistant at the shop, corroborated the evidence of Mrs Lyons, and said he went to Ashton for purpose of finding the prisoner’s house but was not successful.

In response the accused, who was conducting her own defence, said: ”I never got a ring in Preston in my life. That is all false.”

The next charge involved Mary Ann Wilkinson, draper, of Church Street, who claimed that in early February 1882 the prisoner had visited her and asked her to make a black bonnet, trim a hat and make two collarettes as her mother had died and the funeral was due the next week.

She gave her name as Mrs Jones of Luke Farm in Garstang, and she returned the next evening asking if she would make another bonnet and also a black cashmere dress for her daughter.

She then asked Mrs Wilkinson to lend her four shillings until the next week when she would be receiving the cash from her mother’s death policy. That being the last she saw of her.

George Garrett, draper, of Fishergate told the court the prisoner had called in late December, 1881 to purchase an ulster coat, but as none fitted her she had asked him to make one.

She claimed she was a farmer’s wife from Scorton and he provided her with some pink cashmere and embroidered handkerchiefs. She left on the understanding she would call the following Saturday for her coat and pay her bill, which she failed to do.

Mr Iveson, draper, of Lancaster Road, was next called and he also told the court of an order for an ulster by the prisoner in January 1882.

On this occasion the woman, who claimed she was Mrs Mills, a farmer’s wife from Garstang, had returned the same evening asking Mr. Iveson if he could lend her four shillings as she was short of cash until the bank opened in the morning. She told him she was being put up at the nearby Stanley Arms were she frequently stayed when in town. That was the last he saw of her.

Police Inspector Brown told of the prisoner’s arrest at Garstang and said that she had been living in lodgings in St John’s Place since last year, although before that she was in Blackpool.

When asked by the magistrates if she had anything to say the prisoner replied: “It is all perfectly right, except the gold ring.”

She was then committed for trial at the Preston Sessions in early April. Appearing before the Chairman Mr WH Higgins, the prisoner Ann Ellis entered a plea of guilty to all the charges and was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.