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A SEillOUS CHARGE. At Worcester assizes Alfred Frederick Compere and Eliza Compere have been indicted for maliciously set- ting fire to a certain mill on the 5th of December, 1866, at Blockley, with intent to defraud the Royal Insur- ance Company. In a second count they were charged with committing the same offence with intent to de- fraud one Isaac Stanley. It appenred from the opening speech of Mr. Powell (for the prosecution) that in the month of J; na, I860, the male prisoner became tenant to a Mr. Isaac Stanley, who resided at Moreton-m-the- Marsh, in Gloucestershire, of a certain mill, called the Good Intent Mdl, at Blockley, for the purpose of carrying on a pasteboard manufactory. Ihe lease under winch the prisoner occupied was one for 14 years, at a rent of 15.51 a year, and contained the usual clauses, to the effect that in case of damage by fire the rent was to be proportionately diminished, and that the lessor should rebuild. The mill was a large building, consisting in the front of three stories, and one additiouallowor story m the rear, with a row of seven windows to each story on either side. The ground floor was divided by a partition into two parts, one of which was kept locked up, and con- tained only a number of silk machines belonging to Mr. Stanley, and used by him formerly in the silk manufactory which he carried on on the same premises. In the other part of the ground floor, at the time of the fire in question, there were a few pasting machines and a cutting machine, and a number of bags of waste paper. On the middle floor there were five implements which, the learned counsel said, resembled troughs, but he did not know their use. Nothing was kept in the upper story nor in the lower story in the rear of the building. In the manufactory, which was carried on OIl the ground floor, three boys only were em- ployed by the prisoner; and the prisoner's brother, Mr. George Compere, occasionally lived at the mill and assisted. At one end of the mill was the office and the dwelling-house occupied by the two prisoners, who were brother and sister, and their mother. A stone wall, 21 inches thick, separated the mill from the office and dwelling-house, the only com- munication left being iron doors on each floor, and on the ground floor a small window opening into the office. Now in October or November, 1866, the prisoner Alfred Compere effected an insurance with the Royal Insurance Company to the amount of 4001. on his stock in trade, and Sool. on his machinery in the mill, but no insurance was effected on the furniture in the dwelling-house. This being so, on the evening of the 5th of December, 1806 (the night of the fire), at 7 o'clock, the three boys left the mill, alld saw it locked up by Alfred Compere, the lights- namely, candles in glass lanterns, always used in the mill- liavins been safely put out. No fires were ever lighted in the mill. The only direct evidence against the prisoners was, as the learned counsel admitted, of an extraordinary character. On the same night, the 5th of ))eoeiiiber, a man named Richard Gregory, a farm labourer, living at Moreton- in-the-Marsh, was out with his gun, no doubt for purposes of poaching. Having been first to a place called Bourton- wood, the property of Lord Redesdale, and found some keepers there, he walked thence to Blockley, and spent half an hour, from 10 to 10.30 p.m. in a public-house. He then went back to Bourton-wood, but, finding the coast not yet clear, lie returned to Blockley, and wandered towards the Good Intent Mill. As he approached, between 11 and mid- night, he saw a, light in the 1 ill, and placing himself on a raised bank opposite the front windows, he saw a man and woman, whom he would identify as the two prisoners, first rolling a barrel out of the mill, and then deliberately setting fire to something on the floor in two places, upon which a blaze followed. TTpon this Gregory called out, the two per- sons vanished, and Gregory went away, and never gave any at. count of what he had seen for three months afterwards. Later in the night, the fire was discovered by various per- sons, and eventually, having raged till three or four o'clock in the morning, ended in the mill being completely gutted. In confirmation of Gregory's story and of the guilt of the prisoners, various circumstances which occurred previously to the fire, at the fire, and subsequently, were relied upon. Thus, for instance, on November the 20tii the male prisoner bought two pieces of sheet iron from a iAIr. Ellis, which he ap- peared to want in a hurry, and the suggestion was that these plates were put up by the prisoner to shut off the communica- tion with the mill through tlw office window. The plates fit- ted that window, and were found oil the ground near the win- dow after the fire, much warped by the action of fire. Again, on the fire being discovered, and the prisoner's door broken in, the prisoner, who was partially dressed, was very angry, though the fire was then ragins, and gave no "assistance to the firemen. His mother and sisters were also fully dressed, and immediately after the alarm appeared to have been packing np. Then after the fire, on the] oth of December, the male prisoner sent in a claim to the insurance company for 1.298Z. 17s. 2d., whereas, the learned counsel said, there was not 2981. worth of property belonging to Alfred Compere on the premises. The claim included several valuable machines never seen in the mill, and of which no traces were found in the ruins. 701, was claimed for a pasting- machine, the outside price of which was 201., and so on, and 121. 10s. was charged for a cutting machine, which the pri- soner had bought just before for 51. 15s., though "to make something of it" the prisoner had induced the seller to give him a receipt as for 121. 10s. There was also some common paper bought by the prisoner's brother for 181.. which found its way to the mill, and a charge was made for paper for 12 61. Such having been the opening speech of the learned counsel for the prosecution, the evidence in many points supported it and supplied some new points but in one important particular it fell short. Gregory, the poacher, though he entirely adhered to the main features of his story as narrated by Mr. Powell, stated that the woman in the dock was the woman he saw setting fire to the mill, but that the man in the dock was not the man, as the man he saw had sandy hair, while the prisoner's hair was light brown, though he had a reddish beard. He said, however, that he had pointed out the man before, and had identified the man who wras before the magistrates, and the person so pointed out and identified by Gregory wTas shown to have been the prisoners. One of tile boys, on being re-called, stated that the prisoner's brother George had dark black hair, and that the prisoner Alfred's hair looked lighter now than it used to do. For the defence Mr. Huddleston commented severely on the evidence of Gregory, and showed that in many respects the evidence as to exorbitant claims was not satisfactorv, and contended that the conduct of the prisoners throughout was entirely consistent with in. nocence. At the close of his Lordship's summing up the jury almost immediately returned a verdict of Guilty against both prisoners, and the learned Judge sentenced Alfred Frederick Compere to 10 years' penal servitude, and his sister, Eliza Compere, to 18 months' imprisonment, with hard labour. The male prisoner protested his innocence.


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