In April, 1902, a case was heard at Southwark Police Court in which it was alleged that a lady by the name of Matilda Gillmer had fraudulently obtained the sum of £700 from the landlord of the Crown pub on Borough High Street.
The case is of interest because that landlord, George Chapman, ran the pub with his wife, Maud Marsh, and, later that year, he would find himself back in court, this time as the accused, charged with having murdered, not only Maud Marsh, but two previous wives, by poisoning them.
GEORGE CHAPMAM JACK THE RIPPER SUSPECT
In 1903, George Chapman would be found guilty of the charges against him and would be executed on the 7th April 1903.
Following his death, the newspapers began linking him to the Whitechapel murders, and a journalist from the Pall Mall Gazette would seek the opinion of Inspector Frederick George Abberline.
The retired detective was reported as having stated that “there are a score of things which make one believe that Chapman is the man,” and thus the name of George Chapman joined the ever growing list of Jack the Ripper suspects.
However, in April, 1902, Chapman was seen as the wronged landlord of a south London pub, and The South London Chronicle took up the story of how he had been defrauded out of the substantial sum of £700 in its edition of Saturday, 26th April 1902:-
BOROUGH PUBLICAN’S £700
A SRANGE TALE OF ALLEGED FRAUD
“An extraordinary story was told at Southwark Police Court on Tuesday morning. when a well-dressed woman, described as Matilda Gillmer, 28, married, was charged, before Mr. Chapman, on a warrant, with obtaining £700 by false pretences from George Chapman, licensed victualler, of the “Crown,” Borough High Street.
THE ARREST OF GILLMER
Detective-Sergeant Smith, M. Division, said that the alleged false pretences related to worthless shares.
He submitted the facts to the Treasury, and was directed that the prosecutor must apply for the warrant on his own responsibility.
That morning. about 1 o’clock, in company with Detective Sergeant Monahan, witness went to 45, Fairmont Road, Brixton Hill, and waited for the prisoner to come home.
He read the warrant to her, and she said that it was ridiculous, and her name was not Gillmer.
IDENTIFIED BY CHAPMAN
The prisoner was conveyed to Southwark Police Station, where the prosecutor identified her and she was charged. She replied, “I have had nothing to do with it. I have not had any money. I had not had £4oo nor 400 pence.”
Four hundred pounds was the sum that was mentioned in the warrant, but £300 additional was charged.
SHE BORROWED MONEY
The prisoner, having been removed to the cells, sent for the witness and said, “I want to tell you the truth. I borrowed £7 in all from Mr. Chapman and gave him the share certificates as security. I did not know that they were worthless. They were given to me by a man to borrow money with. He had been asking me for money, and I could not give him my husband’s money that he allowed me for housekeeping.”
She declined to give her correct name.
The Caledonian Gold Mining Company (shares of which were deposited) was dissolved on March 12th 1900.
A person named Matilda Gillmer, widow of Liscard, was on the list of shareholders.
GEORGE CHAPMAN’S EVIDENCE
The prosecutor, George Chapman, says in his information that he is a licensed victualler, carrying on business at the “Crown,” 213 Borough High Street, S.E.
On March 9th, 1902, a person who represented herself to be Matilda Gillmor, who had been a customer for about four months, called on him, said that she lived at 55, Brixton Hill, that the house was her own property, and that her husband carried on business as a tobacconist at 292, Wandsworth Road.
On March 14th Gillmor showed him two share certificates of the Caledonian Gold Mining Company (Limited), bearing the name of Matilda Gillmor, representing her to be the holder of 1,500 fully paid up shares of five shillings each, and describing her as of 23, Hertford Drive, Liscard, Cheshire. She showed also a certificate in the same company for 5,000 shares.
She said that she was a collector for two large firms of cigar makers at Manchester and Liverpool, and was short of money to make up her accounts. She asked hint to lend her £400, and said that she would leave as security the two certificates, representing 1,500 shares.
Believing her statement, he handed her £400 in notes and gold, as he did not keep a banking account.
The Magistrate:- “Where did you get the money from?”
The Prosecutor:- “A drawer upstairs.”
The Magistrate:- “Have you not a banking account?”
The Prosecutor:- ” I have not had one since 1896.”
He wrote a receipt in pencil in a small memorandum book, which she signed also in pencil.
SHE BORROWED MORE MONEY
On March 15th (next day) she called again and said that she had not sufficient money to settle her accounts, produced a certificate for 2,000 shares of five shillings each in the same company. and said, “Can you oblige me by lending me £300, and I will leave with you as security this certificate. The company pays four-and-a-half per cent, and I should not like to part with the certificate for the money I am asking for?”
She promised to repay the £300 on March 28th, 1902.
He wrote a receipt in the book as before, in pencil, as is her signature. He handed her £300 in gold and bank notes.
The Clerk:- “Did that empty the drawer?”
The prosecutor replied that there was still some money left with which to carry on the business.
SHE CALLED AGAIN
The following day, March 16th, she again called and asked for an advance of £1 on a cheque on the London and South-Western Bank.
He declined, and asked when she was going to repay the £700.
She said she expected the money the first thing in the morning, and she promised to see him at 12 o’clock on the 17th. She did not keep the appointment, and he had not seen her since.
HE WAS AN AMERICAN
Cross examined, the prosecutor said that he was an American, and that he had been in England for ten years.
He was not going to charge the prisoner interest on the £700, and he denied that, when he lent her the money, he was being pressed by the water company to pay their account.
A GREAT UNTRUTH
The prisoner said that she had nothing to say, only that the man was telling a great untruth. The certificates were given to her by a Mr. Clark to dispose of, not to deceive or for fraud of any description. Chapman took them as security for £2 on one occasion, then another £2, and then £3, making £7 in all.
The Prosecutor:- “That is untrue.”
The accused was remanded, and application for bail was refused.”
OBTAINING £700 BY FALSE PRETENCES
It would ultimately transpire that Matilda Gillmor had been in league with a traveller by the name of Arthur Clark, and they both appeared at the County Sessions on Thursday, 19th June, 1902.
The Nottingham Evening Post reported on the outcome of the case in its next day’s edition:-
“At the County Sessions yesterday, Matilda Gillmor, 28, alias Oxenford, married, of Brixton, and Arthur Clark. 32, traveller, were indicted for conspiracy and obtaining by false pretences from George Chapman, licensed victualler, of the Crown, Borough High-street.
THE STOLEN SHARE CERTIFICATES
The evidence showed that at one time Clark lodged with a Mrs. Gillmor, a widow, at Liverpool, and stole some certificates bearing her name, and representing a large number of shares in the Caledonian Gold Mining Company, Limited.
In the early part of March the female prisoner, who had been known to the prosecutor as a customer, and who gave the name Matilda Gillmor, obtained it was alleged, £700 from him on the security of several of these share certificates, which had become worthless.
When the woman was arrested it was found that her real name was Oxenford, and that she was the wife of a traveller.
She said that she obtained the share certificates from Clark, who was a friend, but declared that she borrowed £7 only from the prosecutor.
MRS OXENFORD DISCHARGED
The jury found the female prisoner not guilty, and Clark guilty.
Mr. Loveland discharged Mrs. Oxenford, who, it was stated, had been under the influence of the man, and sentenced Clark to three years’ penal servitude and two years’ police supervision.”
However, later in the year, George Chapman would be arrested for poisoning Maud Marsh, and when the police searched his premises, they found bank notes in an upstairs drawer the serial numbers of which matched those that Chapman claimed to have given to Matilda Gillmor.
Clark was, therefore, released from prison.