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Extract from Northampton Mercury Publication dated:Saturday 19 March 1881

Charge of incendiarison at Burton Latimer

Harry Mason, Burton Latimer, was charged with setting fire to two straw stacks, the property of Mr E H Eady, at Burton Latimer on the 5th of March.

Mr Heygate of Wellingborough, defended.

Prosecutor said he occupied a field near to the village of Burton Latimer, in which were two stacks of straw, which stood near the road in a line with the centre of the field. They contained about forty tons of straw. There were no buildings near. On the night of the 5th of March last they were destroyed by fire. The corn had been threshed in the field, and the barley chaff was taken away, but the oat chaff left near the stacks.

By Mr Heygate: Prisoner had never worked for witness. He was a stranger to him.

John Herbert, son of a farmer, of Burton Latimer, said he lived at a lodge near what was called the Forty-acre road. On Saturday night, the 5th of March, he left Burton at nine o'clock in the evening, and passed Mr Eady's field on his way home about a quarter-past nine. The straw stacks were all safe then.

George Whittering, labourer, Burton Latimer, said he worked at the Ironstone Works, Cranford, where prisoner also worked. On the 5th instnt they were both working in the same pit. Prisoner left his work about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon. Witness left afterwards, and caught him up on the way from Cranford to Burton. They went by the road to Burton together. They there went to the Thatcher's Arms public house. Witness went home, and had his tea, and in the evening joined him again at the Duke's Arms, where they remained until a quaarter to nine. They afterwards went to another public house, where they remained until ten o'clock. Prisoner then left witness and some other men whom they had been drinking with. Prisoner left them at the top of Bakehouse Lane. Wiitness saw nothing more of him that night. It was then raining fast. About twenty minutes to eleven witness heard an alarm of fire. Saw prisoner next morning at his home. He had a cigar and a box of fusees. Witness asked him where he got them from, and he replied, “Moore's”. On the following Wednesday he said he got the fusees from Newmans. The fusees were similar to those produced.

Cross-examined by Mr Heygate: Prisoner had had plenty to drink on the evening in question. He was drunk from six until ten. Did not see him fall down when he came out of the public house.

George Ball Smart, shepherd to Mr Walker, of Burton Latimer, said the cottage where he lived was opposite Lewis's public house. On the night of the 5th March, about twenty-five minutes past ten, he went from his cottage to his master's house. He went down Bakehouse Lane, up past the post office, up to Mr Walker's yard, where he remained between five and ten minutes. When he returned into the street he saw the light from a fire in the direction of Mr Eli Eady's field, or Mr Walker's lodge, which was in the same direction. Witness gave the alarm at Mr Walker's house. As he was returning he met the prisoner coming from the direction of the fire. He was coming down the street.

By Mr Heygate: Into Burton?
Witness: Yes

Examination resumed: He was coming from the direction of the Cranford Turn. He was walking sharp. Witness asked him where the fire was. He said, “ …..... the fire. Is there one? I have never seen it”. Witness drew his attention to the light, and asked prisoner where he had come from as he had not seen it. He said Cranford. Witness asked prisoner if he would go back with him to the fire. He said he would not go unless he could have a stick. Witness went to look for a stick, but could not find one. He then went to Walton's window, and called “Fire,” and Mr Walton and witness went off together. Did not see any more of the prisoner. Witness was the first to arrive at the fire. The stacks were burning at one end and just round the corner.

William Downing, baker, Burton Latimer, stated that on the evening in question he was driving from Haddington to Burton, where he arrived at 20 minutes to eleven. When he got over the railway bridge he saw a fire in the direction of Mr Eady's stacks. It was then small. It afterwards blazed up. Could see straight to Mr Eady's fields. He drove straight into the village. The first person he saw was Smart, the shepherd. He was near Mr Walker's gates, and gave the alarm of fire as he went past. He saw two men one and half miles before he got to the village.

Henry Stokes, lamplighter, Burton, having given evidence corroborative of former witnesses, P C Passmore, stationed at Burton, said he was on duty on the 5th inst. He saw a fire about twenty minutes to eleven pm in the direction of Forty-acre field. He went at once to it across the field. He saw Mr Walker and the shepherd. Then the stacks were in flames. On the following morning he went to prisoner's house, and asked for his boots (produced). They were wet and covered with oat husks. Asked him where he had been. He said, “Up Cranford road.” He asked him what he had been there for. He said he did not know. Asked him if he had been to the fire. He said, “No”. In his pockets there was a box of fusees. Asked where he had them from. He said, “Mr Newman's.” Witness did not see a knife or a cigar. On the following Wednesday he told him he went up the Cranford road to see where the fire was. He took the boots to the scene of the fire on Sunday to see if they had made any impression, but could not see any footprints.

Detective-inspector Swain said on the 9th inst he went to Burton Latimer to make inquiries respecting the fire. He took a number of statements, amongst others that of the prisoner. He was not then charged with this offence. He cautioned him. He then made a long statement.

Without calling on Mr Heygate, the Bench, after an adjournment for consideration dismissed the case.

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