An intriguing case was heard at the North London Police Court on Thursday, 13th September, 1894.
The Western Daily Express published a full account of the court proceedings in its edition of the next day:-
CHARGE OF PERSONATING A POLICE INSPECTOR
“Yesterday a tall, well-dressed man, describing himself as Henry Pringle, 34, auctioneer, of Williamson Street, Camden Road, was charged at the North London police court with falsely representing himself as an inspector of the Metropolitan Police, with intent to gain admission to the house of Dr. Daly, 1 Fairbridge Road, Holloway. The prisoner was further charged with fraud and theft, and the police said they believed that he was wanted for a number of similar charges.
Dr. Daly said he knew the prisoner slightly, because of his having come to his house and represented himself, first as Inspector Croft, of the Kentish Town police, and next as Inspector French.
The prisoner came to the surgery late at night on the 31st of August, and brought two men with him. He said wanted a bed, but he (witness) said it was a surgery not a lodging house. The prisoner opened the door and told his two companions to get out, at the same time saying to them, and to him, that he was an inspector of police.
HE WAS ALLOWED TO STAY
When the men had gone, the prisoner told him the men just gone were burglars, and were going to break in.
On this representation, the prisoner was allowed to remain in the house all night, and he left after breakfast the next morning.
Mr. Lane:- “He told you that the two men who were with him on the night were burglars?”
The Witness:- “Yes.”
Mr Lane:- “And did you think that story within the bounds of possibility?”
The Witness:- “Well, I thought he was a police inspector.”
The next morning, he went away saying his name was French, not Croft. The prisoner came back at night and said that there was a plan that at night burglars were going to break into the house, and he had stationed two constables, one in plainclothes and one in uniform, outside the house.
On that representation, he was allowed to stay in the house another night.
A LATER VISIT
The next visit from the prisoner was on the 3rd September, but he ( the witness) was out. His assistant, however, told him that Inspector Croft had called, and had promised to call again.
On the 5th inst. he (the witness) called at the shop of Mr. Watson, hosier, of Holloway Road, who told him that a man answering the prisoner’s description had obtained an umbrella on the representation that Dr. Daly had authorised him to have it, and would pay. On this, an arrangement was made that Mr. Watson and a detective should be in waiting at the hour of the prisoner’s next promised visit. The prisoner came with another man, and told him ( the witness) that he wanted him to go down to the police station with him, and, as somebody had taken from the hall a hat and stick belonging to his assistant, he believed him.
But, just then, Mr Watson and Detective-sergeant Couchman came in, and the prisoner was identified as the man who had got the umbrella by fraud.
Mr Lane:- “And when he called he had one of the two burglars with him, did he?
The Witness:- “Yes, and, when Couchman came in and took him into custody, he impudently told me that I had authorised him to get the umbrella.”
Mr Lane:- “I am not sure that you (Dr. Daly) were not treated better by fortune than you deserve.”
The Witness:- “There was nothing against Pringle; he did not take anything out of the house that I know of.”
In answer to the prisoner, Dr. Daly said that the two men who went to the house with them had previously slept at the house, but certainly not in the same bed.
The prisoner:- “I slept your room. And you invited to come when I liked?”
Dr. Daly:- “Yes; because I thought you were a police inspector.”
Prisoner:- “Didn’t we drink a bottle of brandy together before you told me that I might order the umbrella?
Dr Daly:-“Certainly not. More than half the bottle of brandy still remains. I did not get drunk.”
Mr Lane (To Dr. Daly):- “How did you come to let those other two men sleep in your house?”
Dr. Daly:- “One night, I was going home, and two men said, “Good night, doctor.” I did not know if they were burglars, or what they were. They asked me for a glass beer, and I said, “I do not know you.” They said I had professionally attended their people, and I replied that if they liked to come to my place I would give them a glass beer. They said they were builders’ workmen. They asked if they might remain in the house, and, as they did not seem inclined to go, I allowed them to stay.
Mr Lane:- “You are a bachelor?”
Mr Lane:- “I inferred that. I am afraid that you are a great deal too good for this world. (To the prisoner) Do you seriously say that this gentleman told you that you might order the umbrella?”
Prisoner:- “Yes. Dr. Daly said that a hat and stick had been taken from the hall, and I replied, “I hope they haven’t taken my old umbrella.” He said, “You need not trouble about the umbrella. Go to Watson’s, and ask for one.” I said, “You had better give me one of your cards,” and he said, “oh, no; say you are one of my assistants.”
Dr. Daly denied this,
The prisoner now told the magistrate that the men who took him to Dr. Daly he did not know, beyond that they tried to rob him at the Archway, and then said they would take him to the doctor’s. When he got there, he wanted to stay, because it was a wet night, and that was why he told them to get out, he was a police inspector. Dr. Daly invited him to stay, and have half his bed.
MARTHA HOARE’S TESTIMONY
Mrs Martha Hoare of 5, Williamson Street, Camden Road, was called.
She said the prisoner came to her house as a lodger. He at first said he was a buyer at Covent Garden Market, and afterwards said, “I might as well tell you, I am Detective Sergeant Peel, of Scotland Yard.”
She missed a gold watch and chain, and, being suspicious, she searched the prisoner’s pockets and found the chain broken. She told the prisoner of this, and he admitted taking the watch and chain, adding that the watch was stolen from him when was drunk at the Archway.
She believed it was a fact that he was an auctioneer and surveyor, and that he was highly connected, but she told him that he would have to leave her house.
He coolly said that he would not go unless she gave him half-a-guinea, and to get rid of him she gave him that sum, and told him not come near the house again.
Mr Lane: “This a most philosophic person.” (Laughter.)
The witness:- “I wanted to get rid of him; but had there been anybody else in the house I would have given him into custody.”
Prisoner:- “I did not consent to your wearing the watch and chain. I gave information at the Kentish Town Station about the loss of the property.”
MR. WATSON’S EVIDENCE
Mr Edward Watson, hosier, Holloway Road, said the prisoner came to him on the 4th inst., and said that he was reading up aft Dr. Daly’s and that he had the doctor’s authority to get a 10s 6d umbrella on credit.
The doctor would pay.
Finding that the prisoner knew a good deal about the doctor’s house, he allowed him to have the umbrella; but when discovered that Dr. Daly had no knowledge of Pringle and had given no such authority, he informed the police.
THE POLICEMAN’S TESTIMONY
Detective-Sergeant Couchman, who proved the arrest, said that he saw the prisoner and another man at Dr. Daly’s.
He told the prisoner that he was a police officer, and the latter did not believe it; but he (witness) remarked significantly, “Ask your companion who I am “and the companion assured him of his bona fides.
When searched at the station, the prisoner was found to have nine shillings in money and fourteen pawn tickets.
A remand was asked for and granted, though the prisoner protested that had not stolen anything.”
HIS COURT APPEARANCE
Henry Pringle appeared at the Middlesex Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green, on Tuesday, 16th October, 1894. He was found guilty of theft and was sentenced to fifteen months hard labour.