40, Cornhill, London
GREAT JEWEL ROBBERY IN CORNHILL
A very daring burglary, by which the thieves carried off a great plunder, was perpetrated in one of the most frequented thoroughfares in the City.
Messrs. Dodds Brothers are extensive jewellers, occupying the house, No. 40, Cornhill. The upper part of the house is used as a residence by one of the firm. The lower part is the shop, filled with a very rich assortment of the valuables proper to their trade. The front of the shop is in Cornhill. The front can scarcely be said to be divided; for the window recedes into a doorway, in which is a door of the light description usual in such establishments when open for business. At night a “stall-board,” of the height of the window-sill, is let into the front of the doorway, and securely bolted into its place, and an iron shutter is then rolled down, and covers the whole window-front and doorway, and is fastened to the stall-board by a thumb-screw. Inside, the shop is shut off from the house by a sliding door covered with iron, which is rolled back during the day. There is a private door to the residence in a court leading from Cornhill, which is closed by an iron gate with a padlock. The inmates of the house were Mr. Dodd, his wife, her sister, an assistant (Mr. G. Williams), a porter named George Ellis, and a maidservant. In the evening of the 11th of March, Mr. Dodd, his wife, and sister-in—law went out; they returned together about 10 minutes past 12. Mr. Dodd examined the sliding-door between the house and the shop, and finding it properly secured, retired to bed. Shortly before 6 o’clock the following morning he was awoke by a violent ringing of the bell, and on going out of his bedroom he found the porter Ellis on the staircase, in the act of going down stairs, although not required to be on duty before 8 o’clock. He was fully dressed. On descending, he found that the sliding-door was still secure; but on entering the shop he found that the cases in which the jewellery is displayed in the window had been broken open, and articles to a great value carried off. The list of the plunder reads like an adventure in the Arabian Nights. Among the articles missing were 100 fine gold Signet rings,120 ladies’ fancy rings, 50 pairs gold sleeve-buttons, 120 gem and gold pins, 36 diamond, emerald, opal and gold bracelets, 60 fine gold guard-chains, 50 sets of gold chains, with lockets, watches, necklets, studs, and every imaginable article of personal jewellery. The total value of the property carried off was estimated at 8000l. The rolling shutter was untouched; but the stall-board showed plainly that it had been tampered with. It was still properly fastened; but the top, bottom, and one end had been cut through at the heading, and the panel had been pushed inwards as far as could be done without breaking its connection with the framework at the opposite end, which was still perfect. The obvious intention of this work was to suggest that the shop had been entered by means of the broken panel. But on examination, it was found that the cutting had been performed from the inside, and that it was not possible that any person could have passed through the stallboard by such an aperture as that offered by the imperfect removal of the panel. It was obvious, then, that the robbery had been committed by some one who either had access to the shop from the house, or who had been concealed in the shop when it was closed, and who had since been let out by the private door. There was no difficulty in fixing on the porter as the principal in the scheme. He had many opportunities of procuring an impression of the key of the padlock which fastened the sliding-door; but even this was unnecessary, for it was afterwards discovered that the staple in the iron door could be taken out after the padlock had been fastened in it; that the door could then be opened and shut and the staple replaced, so as to give the door the appearance of being perfectly secure; and the stall-board was placed during the day-time in a cellar in which he worked when not otherwise employed; and he was found ready dressed two hours before he was required to be at business; and there were suspicious circumstances in his conduct the preceding evening. He was arrested and committed for trial.
The jewellers and goldsmiths have suffered severely from a gang who have directed their especial attention towards their establishments. In January the premises of a watchmaker at Kingsland were broken open, and plundered of goods to the value of 3800l. One party concerned in this robbery proved to be an engineer in the service of Messrs. Perkins and Bacon. The knowledge that he was in possession of a great quantity of jewellery led to his apprehension; and it was then discovered that he had robbed his employers of a great number of unfinished private bank notes, which would have no doubt been completed and circulated by his confederates.
In May, the shop of a jeweller and silversmith in High Street, Camden Town, was burglariously entered, and more than 1000l. worth of property carried off.
This unfortunate trade has also suffered severely from the skill of foreign practitioners. In May, a watchmaker in Clerkenwell sold 500l. worth of watches to two gentlemanly-looking foreigners. The goods were packed up in a cigarcase, which was carefully placed in a black leather carpet-bag, and left in the charge of the seller until it should be called for and the money paid. Suspicion arising, the bag was opened, and the cigar-box was found to contain nothing but pebbles. A diamond merchant in Regent Street was robbed of 750l. worth of precious stones by the same trick, and probably by the same persons, a few days later.
Source: The Annual Register - March 1862
The partnership of Alfred and Francis Dodd was dissolved on the 7th June 1861.