A fine load of mugs they all sounded in the witness box today, the victims. Taken for a ride, all right: motor car or otherwise. It was as if they were falling over themselves: a sovereign here, ten shillings there. But he was a plausible chap, Hewson, with that load of old guff about the Canadian cricket team. Then his claim to be “Lord Dudley’s son”.
But let me start at the beginning. Wednesday 22nd July – more than a week ago now. Thomas Marshall’s enjoying a quiet game of billiards at the YMCA in Causewayhead, taking a break from his duties as secretary. Chauffeur drives up, and a chap gets out of the car – it’s Hewson, of course, but he introduces himself as “Captain Hughes”. Makes out he’s “captain of a Canadian cricket team, who were playing matches at Lords and the Crystal Palace”. Says the team – his “boys” - are all Temperance men, and have won nearly all their matches. Well, that’s exactly what a YMCA man likes to hear. And when ‘Hughes’ offers to arrange a match in Penzance, to raise cash for the YMCA, it’s music to the ears of Thomas Marshall, who’s falling over himself to arrange lodgings all over town for this Canadian cricket team that’s supposed to be on its way.
The next day, ‘Hughes’ indulges in some classic softening-up. He’s found lodgings all over town for the “boys”, who are supposed to be arriving that very evening on the train. He’s taken a room in a guesthouse in Lannoweth Road, and – with his chauffeur - takes several of the other guests out for a spin. When he gets back, he’s after “some change, as he wanted to get some petrol”. He’s off to the bank, will pay his landlady back directly. Pockets his first sovereign, and then later in the day chances his arm, asks for more, “to go to the station to get his luggage”. Well, a landlady won’t have that sort of nonsense from anyone, motor car or not, especially when they haven’t even brought any luggage in, and she points out that he hasn’t paid back the first sovereign yet. He says he’s going “out on the Promenade” for an hour or so. And that’s the last she sees of him, until today in court. The chauffeur? He comes back the following morning, as arranged, and hangs about for a few hours. Then gives the whole thing up as a bad job and goes back to Devonport with neither his customer nor his pay.
There’s no need to go into the weary detail, but the long and short of it is that ‘Hughes’, who’s meant to be promenading, goes back to the YMCA and asks Thomas Marshall to “let him have a pound or two until the morning, when he would cash a cheque”. Later that evening he’s over the other side of Causewayhead at Mr Richards’ hairdresser’s, cool as you like, holding up the sovereign he’s just got from Thomas Marshall and asking for another to go with it, if you please. Spins a yarn about a motor car that needs repair. Says he’s just off to see Thomas Marshall, and will return the cash in a minute. And of course that’s the last Mr Richards sees of ‘Hughes’ – or his money - until he’s called to Newquay police station the next day. When the 11.30 train arrives, both Thomas Marshall and Richards are there, waiting to meet the “boys”. But there is no sign of them – nor, for that matter, of ‘Hughes’.
Enough for one day, you might think. But there’s more to come. Hewson’s made his way to St Ives, and phones for a car to take him back to Devonport. Now Taylors’ driver, Cyril Courtney Towl Gill, perhaps has a bit more sense than the rest of them. Says that the fare’s £5.10s, and that it’s to be paid in advance. Hewson says that’s "a bit stiff," and starts telling a pack of lies about an accident, someone running into his own car, and demands to see Taylors’ foreman, Mr Pender – who turns out, even though it’s the middle of the night by now. Hewson’s got a new story, tells Pender he’s "Philip Dudley, Lord Dudley's son." And Pender falls for it. The next day, Mr Gill is told to take to ‘Philip Dudley’ to Devonport. ‘Philip Dudley’ asks Mr Gill to drop him off at the hospital and meet him later. All part of the story about the accident – Hewson now claims he has relatives injured in that “car accident at St Ives”, and wants to arrange treatment for them. Gill, at least, gets his breakfast and lunch paid for. But - as he probably expected –neither hide nor hair of his passenger is to be seen when the time comes to meet him at the hospital.
In due course, P C Bicknell brings Hewson back to Penzance- to face the music in court today . Apparently, on the journey, Hewson “expressed regret for what he had done. And in court Chief Constable Kenyon has a piece of paper: “Police Station, Penzance, 29th July, 1914. This is to certify that I am not the son of Lord Dudley, neither am any relation that family. I only assumed that title for my own purposes. (Signed) SAMUEL HERBERT HEWSON.”
Hewson was chatty enough when he was being ‘Hughes’, and talking about his cricket team and his motor car all around the town. He convinced Mr Pender he was the son of a lord. I reckon he even pulled the wool over the eyes of Chief Constable Kenyon – and that, you’ll agree, is no easy feat. Kenyon requested special permission for him to sit down in the dock, on account of his health being “not good”. While the rest of us took our turn in the witness box, all standing up, looking like fools. But last week, when P C Bicknell read the warrant for his arrest – and again today in the dock - he has nothing to say. He’s shown an MCC fixture card – no mention of a Canadian cricket team; no mention of his Canadian cricketing “boys”. The charges are put to him. He makes no reply.
Hewson will get his just desserts, whatever the state of his health. His case is adjourned until the Quarter Sessions, and he’ll be cooling his heels in the jail until then. And a good deal after, I’ll be bound.
At the Quarter Sessions, Herbert Hewson characterised himself as a hardened, professional criminal, confessed to throwing a woman to a death from a train during a bag-snatch, and stated “there is nothing in a life of crime I am not familiar with… I have been under the hands of some of the smartest crooks in London from a child”. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison with hard labour on 23rd October 1914.
Cornishman Thursday 6th August 1914, page 2; Thursday 29th October 2014 page 3