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John Meads 2013
The Case of the Stolen Cape

The Horse & Groom
The Horse & Groom, scene of the dispute over a cape during a dance
in an upstairs room 1859. The pub is now the Olde Victoria.

From the Northampton Mercury Sat 9 July 1859

Burton Latimer – Mary Ann Nichols, a single young woman, of Burton Latimer, charged a youth named Edward Miller, of the same place, with stealing a cloth cape, on the evening of the 14th of last month, value 6s.  Mr. Rawlins was for the defence: Complainant said that on the evening in question she was dancing at Miller’s public-house (The Horse & Groom). When she entered the dancing room she had a cape, which she took off and hung upon a peg. Saw Edward Miller take the cape from the hook, put it under his arm, and remove down stairs with it. Followed after him, and on asking him to return it he swore dreadfully, and after telling her she should not have it back, slapped her face. He slapped her face when she had nearly succeeded in getting the cape away from him, as she strove hard to gain her rights. Asked him again for the cape, when he replied he had not got it then. Although the cape produced was rendered worthless by scuffling to get it away from him, she could identify it as her own property. 
Cross examined by Mr Rawlins, did at first say defendant did not take the cape from the hook.  Said this to the policeman, who was in the dancing room. Told the policeman she did not want a piece of work about it, as she thought he might bring it back again. There is not much difference between the colour of her cape and the apron of the defendant, only one is cloth and the other calico. Was sure it was her cape, and not his apron, he had under his arm.  Does not dance with shoemakers when they have their aprons on. Believes she has seen men dancing with their aprons on, but will swear it was not his apron but her cape he had with him, and which was under his right arm. Did at first consider it a joke, and thought he might bring it back to her. Perhaps there might be 50 dancing in the room at the time.
Martha Whitney is a single person, residing at Burton Latimer: Does not know anything about the affair excepting what Mary Ann Nichols had told her. Was not in the dancing room at all that night. There had been a club feast on that day. On the Tuesday in Whitsun-tide week Mary Ann Nichols came down to their house. Mother was present at the time. Mary Ann Nichols said to witness:  Did you see the young man take the cape? Witness said, No, I did not. She said she would pay all her expenses if she would come and swear it he had taken it, but mother was unwilling she should go. Saw the policeman on Tuesday, and told him she should not go without being summoned. Mary Ann Nichols told her she saw Miller take the cape from off the peg.

The Red Cow many years after the incident
The Red Cow, many years after the incident when Edward
Miller assaulted Mary Ann Nichols in the yard at the rear.
Now demolished.

Mary Ann Sturman lives at Burton Latimer. Was at Miller's public house dancing on the evening of 14th June. Did not see the cape at Miller's after Mary Ann Nichols told her it was gone. Followed defendant with Mary Ann Nichols to Quincey’s public house yard (The Red Cow) heard her ask him for the cape, when he used awful language, and said he would not give it to her. Saw defendant leave the yard. Heard her ask him again for her cape, when he became uproarious, and smacked her face. The cape produced belonged to Mary Ann Nichols, and she should know it any time. In the scuffle between the Mary Ann Nichols and Miller heard the cape tear in two. Saw defendant in the dancing room. Her cape hung on the top of that of Mary Ann Nichols, on the same peg.
George Waddups is a police constable stationed at Burton Latimer. On Tuesday, 14 June, went to Miller's public house. Saw Mary Ann Nichols there and also Edward Miller, and charged him with stealing a cloth cape, when he became tremendously put out, and pulled off his coat as if he meant fighting. Searched him, but did not find the cape upon him. Heard her say she would give him whilst morning to bring back the cape. On Saturday, the second inst., the cape was brought to him in the state it is now in, having been alleged to have been found in the garden.
Joseph Sturman lives at Burton. Found the cape now produce in Mr Wignall's garden rolled up. Took it to Mary Ann Nichols, and asked her if it belonged to her, when she opened it directly.

Showing Mr. Wignell's garden
Mr. Wignell's garden on the corner of
Church Street and The Cross where
Joseph Sturman found the cape. It is
on the way from the Horse & Groom
to the Red Cow.

The magistrates, after retiring for a full quarter of an hour, said they had carefully weighed the matter over, and had come to the conclusion to dismiss the case on the prosecutor's own evidence, that she supposed the accused would bring back the cape.

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