CRIME IN OLD ROTHERHAM: Incitement to Robbery

IN May of 1846 two girls were brought before the magistrates charged with a felony which had been committed on April 10. They were Ann Stothard, aged 15, and Ellen Habershon, aged 18. The latter was acquitted but Stothard, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced

The chief constable, Mr Bland, told the court that Sarah Ann Hague was charged with being the person who had urged Stothard, to steal money from her father. He said that Stothard had gone to work as a nurse for Hague, who lived next door to the house she had previously shared with her parents. Mr Bland told the court that Hague had asked Stothard if her father had kept any money in the house, and she told her that he did and it was kept in a locked box in his bedroom. Soon afterwards her mother Mrs Stothard left the house locked up, and took the key next door for her daughter to keep until she returned.

After her mother had gone, Hague gave Stothard a set of keys which she claimed could open any box, and persuaded her to take some of her father’s money.

Mr Bland stated that on that occasion Stothard came back with a sovereign and half a sovereign, but told Hague there was parcels with more money inside the box. The girl then went into Rotherham to change the coins and gave Hague 8s 6d on her return. With the stolen money they decided to hold a party consisting of the two women, Mr Hague and the servant Ellen Habershon. The chief constable then described how the following Sunday, Hague called Stothard into a passage and asked her how much more money her father had in the box. The girl admitted that she did not know. Hague told her that she had heard that two people who lodged with her parents, Mr and Mrs Self, were leaving the house on the following Wednesday, and told the girl to take the rest of the money and the lodgers would get the blame for it. Stothard seemed uncertain and simply replied that ‘she would see’.

The next day Hague saw her neighbour going out of the house, although Mrs Stothard did not leave her daughter the key as she had previously. Hague told Stothard to get the money whilst her mother was out, and when the girl said she did not have a key, Hague gave her own door key saying that it would fit the lock. When she appeared reluctant again, Hague told her that she would go with her and keep watch.

The two women went to the house, and Hague stood at the bottom of the stairs whilst the girl went up to her father’s bedroom. She took out two parcels with a total of £20 inside. Going downstairs she gave Hague one of the parcels. That night there was a company of horse riders in the town, and the two women went to see them. Mr Bland told the bench that on the Wednesday morning, as arranged Mr and Mrs Self left her mother's house, and shortly afterwards the money was missed. Mr Bland said that the theft had been reported and he had sent a policeman to interview Stothard about the money.

Hague had told her to say that her mother had previously told Mr and Mrs Self about the box in which the money had been kept. Hague threatened her to ‘stick to the story and no one could prove otherwise’. Nevertheless suspicion was cast on Stothard, and she was arrested and charged. The girl finally confessed her part in the crime to the matron, Mrs Page whilst being held on remand in Wakefield Gaol. She said that Hague had, through her greed, persuaded her to steal the money. On hearing the confession Mrs Page had written to the girl’s mother and told her of her daughter's admission, and Sarah Ann Hague had been arrested and brought before the magistrates. On hearing the details of the case, the chair told Hague that: “It was a most atrocious crime to incite a young girl to steal money from her parents, and then endeavour to put the blame on two innocent people. The decision of the court is that you will be sentenced to four months imprisonment with hard labour, and you might consider this a very lenient sentence.”

Sarah Ann Hague remained impassive as she was removed from the court.


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