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CHARGE OF ARSON. At Winchester assizes, Elizabeth Masters, Mar- garet Masters, and William Masters have been indicted for setting fire to a house at Aldershott, on the 7th of March, with. intent to defraud the Sun Fire Office. Other counts varied the charge as regarded the persons intended to be defrauded. The case assumed great importance in consequence of the unusual array of counsel brought into this court. Mr. Coleridge, in opening the case, stated that this was a prosecution instituted by the Sun Fire Office to bring to justice, if the facts would warrant it, the parties who were guilty of this charge. It was difficult to overstate the mag- nitude of the crime, because to set fire to a dwelling-house, which might lead to the destruction of human life, was an offence of the most heinous description, and an insurance- office would ill discharge its duty if it did not cause the matter to be investigated and bring the guilty par- ties to justice, although it was against the interest of an insurance company to dispute the payment of any policy. It would appear that in 1863 William Masters took a house at Aldershott of Mr. Ilatrick for a term of seven years at a rent of 251, per annum. There were two houses adjoining each other, one occupied by Mrs. and Miss Masters and the other by a family named Toynton, who kept a shoe shop there. Mrs. Masters kept a miscel- laneous shop, containing articles of no great value. In December, ISC)5, Mr. Masters effected an insurance in the Sun Eire-office for 3501. on his mother's goods and furniture. William and Henry Masters had insured their goods oil other premises where they lived in Aldershott. There was a fire in William Masters's house in February, and he employed a Mr. Searle to make out his claim in respect of that fire, and he told Searle that it was his confident expectation that there would be other fires in Aldershott. On the 7th of March there was a fire in the house of Mrs. Masters. Mr. and Mrs. T-ynton, who lived in the house adjoining that of Mrs. Masters, went to bed about twelve o'clock on the night of the 6th of March. From noises heard in Mrs. Masters's house at that time, it was supposed that the inmates had not gone to bed, and persons were heard moving about at a much later period. About two o'clock Mrs. Toynton was awakened and found the house full of smoke. She alarmed her husband. They went to their children, and all went downstairs into their garden at the back of their house. They then saw smoke and flames in their house, and shadows of persons moving about were seen in Mrs. Masters's house. There was a light upstairs. The Toyntons gave an alarm of fire, and Mrs. Masters came down, having on a cloak. Mrs. Toynton said to her, "We are on fire." Mrs. Masters re- plied, "We are not; and, mind, the fire did not break out in my house." Mrs. Toynton begged her to let her go through her house into the street. As she was passing through the house she saw flames along a sheH in the shop on the opposite side from her house. Mrs. Toynton said to her, Why, you are all in flames." Mrs. Masters replied, Oh, dear GO I am." At the street door they met a special constable, who said to Mrs. Masters, "Now, you have time to look after your things and your money," Alrs. Masters said, "I am insured, I have my money in my pocket, and I have removed my most valuable things." She shut the door and said she would not allow any one to go in. Two persons, named Atkins and Jones, were at the back of the "Carpenters' Arms," which adjoined these premises, engaged in removing their goods, thinking the fire might reach their house, and they did not see anything brought out of Mrs. Masters's house. They afterwards saw Mrs. and Miss Masters standing close to their privy in their garden; there were four or five very large boxes on the ground close to them, one of which was corded. Mrs. Masters sa i, Plai}k God the people could not say the fire broke out this time at the llasterses. They said the things m tue boxes belonged to their customers, and were of great value. They asked her why she did not get her goods out, and Mrs. Masters said she was insured." The goods which had been in the shop might have bedl put in one of those boxes. When Mrs. Masters was told that her kitchen was on fire, she said, "Never mind, we have got out aU that is not insured. It was suygtmed, from the fact of the boxes being tnere, that the ftre had been anticipated. When the boxes were taken away one was so heavy that it required. three people to carry --t. The door of the privy had been nailed up. Henry Masters went and opened it; there were several boxes in it, and they were carried to the Carpenters' Arms. Tliis was said to bG a suspicious circmvist&uoG, and would require explanation. Two or three days after the fire Mrs. Masters told some persons she had lost everything, and had saved notkin," not even a chemise. One of the Metro- politan Bvigaue came down and was making inquiries of Mrs. Masters when Henry Masters said, Mother, you know nothing about the policy, answer no questions," and after that she refused to give any information. Mrs. Masters sent s A as r, in a claim for which was tar beyond the value of the goods. It was suggested that this was a fraudulent claim, and that the conduct and observations of the prisoners would lead to a conclusion that they were guilty. Upon the suggestion of Mr. Cole that there was no evidence opened against William Masters, he was at once discharged. After a. few witnesses had been examined, some of whom stated that they saw no fire in Mrs. Masters s 1 house for twenty-five minutes after they had seen it in the Toyntons' house, Mr. Justice Keating asked the counsel for the prosecution what their theory was, be- cause the evidence seemed to negative the opening. Mr. Bere, in the absence of Mr. Coleridge, said that the idea was that the person who had set fire to one had set fire to the other. He proposed to call every witness, and then his Lordship would state his opinion. Mr. Coleridge, having come into court and con- sulted with his juniors, said that if the evidence did not prove his opening he should ill discharge his duty if he persevered with the case. With regard to another indictment against the same parties for a conspiracy to defraud the insurance-office, it was so completely connected with the charge of arson that he should offer no evidence. The learned Judge said that the evidence of Mrs. Toynton fully justified the offiee in instituting this inquiry, but the theory of the prosecution had been negatived. It was a most serious charge, and should be clearly proved, but he thought there was not evi- dence upon which the jury could safely find a verdict of guilty. He must say that the information the office had received fully justified the Sun Fire-office in in- stituting these proceedings, and that they had acted with the greatest possible propriety. The jury found the prisoners Not Guilty, saying they did not think there was sufficient evidence to convict.