Fleeced at Burne’s Expense


speakeasy-optimisedA Blantyre man was sent to prison for three months, with hard labour in Tower Bridge Police Court on Saturday 16th April 1927, following  a remarkable incident.

John Cunningham, (30) of 47 Tenison Street, Lambeth, and later of 27 Central Buildings, Blantyre, was charged on remand with stealing £80 (about £4,500 in todays money) from Private Thomas Burne, of the Seaforth Highlanders, a time-expired soldier who had been some years in India.

The evidence was that Private Thomas Burne had drawn £94 (over £5,500), and was making merry in the neighbourhood of Waterloo, London, when Cunningham accosted him, saying, “Hallo. Jock, I’m a Jock myself, but hungry and out of work.

They befriended each other and visited a number of public houses, at which Burne changed banknotes freely, and then, with two women, went to a restaurant for food.

There Burne changed another £5 note, whereupon Cunningham said, “All right, Jock, I’ll look after it for you.” He then picked up the money and handed it to one of the women under the table.

However, a woman at another table noticed the drunken action, and he threatened to strike her. Burne took off his tunic, and was prepared to fight in her defence. Cunningham intervened and picked up Burne’s tunic, and put his hand in the inside pocket from which Burne had been taking his money out from all evening.

Burne was eventually induced to put back on his tunic, and the party left the restaurant. When outside, Burne quickly realised he was missing his money, and the same woman in the crowd, pointed to Cunningham and said, “He’s got your cash!”

Burne, by now in some condition, was eventually detained by the military police, and when saw Cunningham in a Strand public-house the following evening, he called police to get  him into custody.

Cunningham, in the witness-box, denied the restaurant incident, but admitted that he had been drinking at the soldier’s expense all day, and that they were in company until 11 p.m., long after Burne had discovered the loss of his money. A corporal of the military police, however, said he arrested Burne at 9.30 p.m. on the day in question, and other evidence showed that although Burne was drunk, Cunningham had been undoubtedly sober, perhaps biding his time.

Mr Tassell, the Magistrate, addressing John Cunningham, said, “Having got hold of a fellowcountryman with too much to drink, you fleeced him absolutely. I shall convict you for stealing money from him, but it impossible to say how much.” He sentenced Cunningham to three months’ hard labour.

From “Blantyre Explained” By Paul Veverka (c) 2016
1920s Bar scene for illustration only

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