Paint theft, from the Police Station!


police stationOn Monday 18th December 1933, the trial took place at Hamilton Sheriif Court before Sheriff Brown of Constable John Swanson, Lanarkshire Constabulary, residing at 45 Victoria Street, Blantyre, who denied stealing, between November 11 and 13 , a quart of paint and five gills of varnish from a cell Blantyre Police Station. Swanson was defended by Mr John Y. Robertson, solicitor, Hamilton, while Mr J. C. Patterson, procurator-fiscal, conducted the case for the Crown.

James Rankin, painter, Mill Road, Halfway, Cambuslang, commented that he had been employed with Lanark County Council Works Dept for 12 years. On Wednesday, November 1, he along with other men in the employment of tho Works Department, commenced the painting of the outside and inside of Blantyre Police Station. Tho paints, varnish, and other materials were kept in a cell. On Saturday, November 11th, he opened new tin of paint and was surprised to find that it was only two-thirds full!

James remarked to a constable standing near, ” See what you have to put up with here. You are supposed to get full tin of paint and it is only two-thirds full.” James had not used any of the paint in that tin when he ceased work to find out who had pilfered his paint (and in a Police Station too!). At noon on the Monday following James resumed work and discovered that about a quart of paint had disappeared besides five gills of varnish.

The Fiscal—Did you make any complaint to the officer on duty

On the following morning James was shown by police in Blantyre, two jam jars produced in Court. James in comparing the paint in jam jars with that in tins, discovered it was similar. In reply further questions by the Fiscal, James explained that, he had thirty years’ experience in mixing paint. The value of the paint that disappeared could be placed 4s and the varnish at about 2s 6d. Cross-examination took place.

Mr Robertson—Can you say the paint in the jam jars is the same as the paint in tin?
James—lt is the same shade.
Mr Robertson —If the contents of these jam jars were put into the tin the quantity would still be far short of what was there originally ?
James —I don’t think so.

Questioned about the cleaner at Blantyre Police Station, James replied that her name was Mrs Sharkey. Witness admitted that he gave her the use of a blow lamp, paraffin and petrol, and that he had visited her yesterday. James further admitted that he was at Blantyre Police Office yesterday on private business to see Mr Mathie, but that had nothing to do with this case.

Mr Robertson —Is Mathie a police constable there.
James —Yes. I was paiting Mrs Sharkey’s door .
Mr Robertson —Did you notice that the paint was still off Mrs Sharkey’s door when you visited her yesterday.
James —I did.
Mr Robertson—Do you know what she going to paint it with ?
James—Stain and varnish.

James admitted that he spoke to Mrs Sharkey about this case and it was there the suggestion that the only person who could have taken it was Police Constable John Swanson.

Mr Robertson —Did Mrs Sharkey ever ask you for paint?
James—l only gave her a little drop of light paint, which she returned.
Mr Robertson —Was there any talk in the police office about giving her paint and the use of the blow lamp?
James—l never heard of it, but I have also given police the use of blow lamp.

The Fiscal questioned the relevancy of the cross-examination at this point. It was said this was to be a special defence set up that the crime was committed by someone else then notice of that special defence should have been given. Tho Sheriff said that provided the agent for the defence kept within the bounds relevancy he would not be stopped. He must, however, endeavour to carry his cross-examination along the lines of relevancy.

With little evidence of any wrongdoing by Constable Swanson and the stories of James and Mrs Sharkey aligning, the case fell apart and the heresy could not be relied upon. The question of who stole the paint at Blantyre Police Station remains unsolved to this day.

On social media, we had some wise cracks (which did make me smile!):

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