Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Beware of those bearing good news

Repeatedly the Quarter Sessions make clear some things are timeless.

In 1864, Mark Clark, a widow of Luton received a visit from George Howard.  George Howard bore exciting news for her; he said he was there on very important business.  Firstly he ran through some routine questions with Mrs Clark, asking her if her husband was dead and if he had died in the asylum.  Mrs Clark confirmed he had, at which point Mr Howard revealed a legacy was due to her.  Howard initially stated a sum of £48 a year was due to her and £850 for each of her husbands children.  Wisely, Mrs Clark sought the advice of her neighbour, and Howard explained there were 6 cottages, 160 acres of land, a mansion and furniture at Wellingborough and further property at Wootton.  He went into more detail explaining the property was due to be auctioned at Bedford and that his boss, the solicitor Mr Middleton, anticipated her share to be £48,000.   He told her that there was certain paperwork necessary for the claim such as her children’s birth certificates, her marriage certificate and her husband's death certificate.  All she need to do was [here we go....] give him the small sum of 11s 2d 1/2 , which would in the longer term save her £6 10s 0d.  She gave him the money in the presence of her neighbour and Howard left to catch his train back to Bedford.  Mary had fallen for a scam.

Mary and her husband John, had both been born in Wootton and moved to Luton with their family.  John was a gardener whilst Mary was a laundress.  The 1861 census shows Mary, in Albert Street, Luton and her husband listed as being in the Alms Asylum.

The con man was captured by local police whilst drinking in the Engine public house.  He confessed to his crime and was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment.


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