One of the key individuals in A Fascination of Dines is Joseph Dines aka Leigh Dines Halstead (1802-1872). He was convicted of horse stealing, sentenced to death, and then after he was reprieved, he was transported to Australia for life.
Full details are in the book which includes the sources and references but today let’s look at the facts and see if we can answer the question: guilty or not guilty.
First the facts:
- On the 16th of December a patrole (a sort of roving policeman) called Higgins saw Joseph riding through the gate at Epping Turnpike at about 4 pm. A sack had been substituted for a saddle and a piece of rope formed a stirrup. On being questioned Joseph produced a piece of parchment and made reference to his servant and his gig. Concluding that his suspicions were baseless Higgins allowed Joseph to continue.
- On December 17th a watchman called Buswell ( forerunner of the Metropolitan Police) was in his box opposite 8, Great Smith Street where Joseph lodged when, just before 3-0 a.m. he saw Joseph emerge carrying a saddle and a bridle
- Early on the 17th, a time is not given, Henry Bailey finds a grey horse under a tree. It was wet and cold, newly shod, and appeared to have been ridden very hard. He took the horse to the Roebuck Inn in Chigwell at about 7-0 a.m. and handed it to the landlord, Mr Reeves.
- At around 9-0 a.m. Bailey met Joseph in Epping Forest, with a bridle in his hand. He said he was looking for his horse which he had lost overnight when he tied it to a tree while he went to hunt for some rabbits. Bailey went with Joseph to the Roebuck to claim the horse. On the way there Joseph told Bailey that he had swapped a little blood mare and £4.00 for the grey mare the previous Saturday. At the Roebuck the landlord was not an easy man to convince and he didn’t like the look of Joseph so he detained him.
- At about 9-30 a.m. a man Wheeler found a saddle in Epping Forest, partly concealed in the furze and bushes, he took the saddle to the Roebuck because he had heard that a grey mare had been taken there. Reeves persuaded Joseph to write to his friends in town to come forward and verify that he had “chopped” (i.e. swapped) the horse. Joseph did so, addressing it Mrs Jones, No. 8 Great Smith Street. Reeves gave this note to a stage coachman who was passing by, in order to send it on its way. Then for some reason Reeves followed the note to town where he spoke to Lee, an Officer of Lambeth Street Police Office. They then took it upon themselves to speak to the coachman who had not handed the letter into the post office and they intercepted it and then took it to the Magistrates at Lambeth Street.
- Lee then searched No. 8 Great Smith Street where he found a letter addressed to Leigh Domville Halstead, who was an articled clerk who had been dismissed from the house owing to his bad conduct. He also found tailor’s bills belonging to Halstead and bills of sale for horses, made in the name of Dines.
- Then Thomas Jaques, a horse patrole in Chigwell said he went to the Roebuck acting on information received and asked Joseph to show him some proof as to who owned the mare. Joseph is said to have produced a parchment issued from the King’s Bench, signed by Le Blond, certifying that Leigh Domville Halstead was an admitted attorney of the above court. Jaques wasn’t satisfied and took Joseph into custody. He found that he had a martingale, a pair of snare and other things on him.
- Joseph was taken before the magistrate, Mr Abdy, where said that he could prove that the mare was not worth £10.00 and that he had had a dog with him and had been ‘coursing.’ While on his way to the magistrate’s house Joseph was said to have tried to free himself from another prisoner he had been tied to and asked for a gun so that he could kill himself.
These were facts that had been placed before the court, although Lee’s evidence about the search was not allowed. From the moment of his arrest Joseph had been protesting his innocence and both and Reeve and Lee had spoken freely to a local newspaper reporter who had reported at length (he was paid by the word) about the mysterious Mr A, the son of a prominent Cheshire clergyman who had gone through the fortune left by his father some years before as well as £3,000 left by his mother on her death three years previously.
The grey mare in question had last been seen at Knebworth Hall on the previous Sunday but was only realised to be missing on the 16th. One wonders, if it was Joseph riding him on the 16th, why he did not have a saddle? It is also a puzzle as to which horse he left home to go and saddle up in the early hours of the 17th and how did he get to Chigwell if he didn’t ride the grey mare?
What do you think? Was Joseph guilty or not guilty?