From an article on the Carmarthenshire Spring Assizes in the Cambrian:
, the Learned Judge took his seat on the bench at nine o’clock. The Court, from an early hour, was extremely crowded, in consequence of the trials of several parties upon charges of Rebecca riots and burglary.
Thomas Powell, John James, Evan Davies, David Evans, Thomas Thomas, John Thomas, and John Thomas were placed at the bar, on a charge of having, on [the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser says ], at the parish of Llanfihangel-ar-arth, burglariously entered the house of one Daniel Harris, and stealing therefrom various sums of money. In other counts of the indictment, they were charged with assaults on various persons, and in others with having riotously, unlawfully, and tumultuously assembled, and creating a great noise, riot, and disturbance against the peace of our Sovereign Lady the Queen, her Crown, and dignity.
David Thomas was also charged with being an accessory before the fact. The names of two other persons (not in custody) were also in the calendar.
Messrs. Chilton, Q.C., Evans, Q.C., and E.V. Williams appeared for the Crown. Mr. Richards defended the prisoners David Evans, David Thomas, and John Thomas. The others were undefended by Counsel.
Mr. Chilton, Q.C., addressed the jury on behalf of the Crown. May it please your Lordship, Gentlemen of the Jury,— The prisoners at the bar are indicted — seven of them as principals, and David Thomas as an accessory before the fact — for one of the most heinous crimes known to the law — the crime of burglary and, gentlemen, before I proceed to state facts, which will be adduced in evidence, I will observe, that I think it highly probable that, from the circumstance of the great publicity which has been given, and is invariably attendant upon offences of this description, and from the circumstance of myself and my Learned Friends appearing to conduct the prosecution on behalf of the Crown, that you are fully aware that this charge is, in some degree, mixed up with the gross outrages which have lately disgraced the country, under the name of Rebeccaism. Were this an ordinary case of that description, I should, in the performance of my duty, feel it incumbent upon me to caution you against those feelings which it is natural, and in some points of view excusable, that men moving in your stations in life should entertain; for I will not attempt to deny but that there may have been heavy burdens which the agricultural population may have, for a length of time, endured, and which it may be difficult for them to endure longer. I can make considerable allowances for this kind of feeling, but, gentlemen, in this case it will be my duty to lay before you one of the most melancholy instances of the great evil of listening to that most dangerous — most seductive doctrine, of “doing evil that good might come” — of doing that which in itself is wrong and vicious for the purpose of producing some real or imaginary good. In ordinary cases, the evils of Rebeccaism may have this extenuation, though it cannot for a moment be considered either a justification or an excuse, that they have violated the law for the purpose of suppressing and extinguishing some real or supposed public grievance; but, gentlemen, so long as human nature is human nature, and so long as the feelings and passions of humanity are what they are, when once the law is set at defiance, there will, as disclosed in a former case, false Rebeccas arise, and take advantage of the prevalence of lawless violence, and pervert those feelings for the accomplishment of private purposes — either to satisfy private malignity and spite, or, what is worse, private cupidity and love of lucre, as I fear has been the case in the charge before us. Therefore, so far from calling upon you to guard yourselves against feelings in favour of Rebeccaism, I shall call upon you to exercise the greatest care and caution before you convict either of the prisoners at the bar, to see that the charge is fully proved, and clearly brought home to them. As to the commission of the offence, and its commission under circumstances which certainly admit of no excuse or extenuation there cannot possibly arise the slightest doubt. Having made those few observations, I shall now give you a brief outline of the proceedings out of which has originated the present charge. The house which was broken open and entered on , belonged to a very old man of the name of Daniel Harris, who had no more to do with turnpike-gates or turnpike tolls than you, the gentlemen of the jury or myself. He had to pay them, but with that exception he was in no other way connected with them. He resided — I say resided, for I must tell you that these outrages and violence were such — I will not tell you that they hastened his death, but, at all events, he is now no more, and I shall be obliged to put his written testimony in evidence against the prisoners. He resided on a farm called Pantyfen Issa, in the parish of Llanfihangelararth, in this county, and, at the time of the outrage, the old man’s wife, daughter, his son-in-law, a boy, and a servant named Mary Titus, were the only inmates of the house. It is beyond doubt, that in the dead of night, during the night of , they were aroused from their beds by a disguised mob, armed with fire-arms, reaping-hooks, bludgeons, and other implements, and who commenced violently beating the door, demanding admittance in the most intimidating manner, and by their threats compelled the inmates to open the door. That they were compelled to open the door by intimidation could not he denied, when, as you shall hear from the witnesses, they were told by the armed mob that they “would not wait long for them.” Having been admitted, they entered the house to the number of eleven or twelve, and inquired if the old man had received a letter from Rebecca. I believe his son-in-law answered that he had not, when one of the mob replied that he had received more than one; they then demanded the sum of 20l. for a woman named Gwenllian Lewis. The old man told them that he had got but a sovereign and a shilling in the house. They then desired the son-in-law to procure them a candle, and Mary Titus, the servant, having lighted one, ran upstairs and hid under the bed. She could therefore give them no further account of the transaction. They searched the house, but could find no more than the 1l. 1s., which they compelled old Harris to deliver up. One of the mob then drew a ready written stamped promissory note for 20l. from his pocket, and insisted upon the old man signing it for this Gwenllian Lewis; they also insisted upon his son-in-law signing it as a security. This note they compelled them to sign, armed with guns and pistol. Having given them the money, the old man told them they had taken all he had got, that he not even a farthing to buy tobacco, upon which the one shilling was returned to him. You shall hear from the witnesses the enquiries made respecting the time the note became payable, and other details. I have already told you that the mob were not only armed, but that they were all disguised. Indeed, they were so much so, that the inmates of the house do not affect to identify any of them. To prove these facts, I shall call before you James Davies, the son-in-law, and Mary Titus. I cannot call the wife, in consequence of her infirmities, but of these facts there can be no doubt. The next question that arises is, how do I affect the prisoners at the bar. In the first place, it will be my duty to call before you two accomplices. They will tell you that the prisoner, David Thomas, who is charged with being an accessory before the fact, was the prime mover and instigator of the whole transaction. The prisoners first assembled at the house of David Thomas, on , having intended making the attack on that night. But owing to circumstances which will appear by the evidence, they did not make the attack on that night, but met again on at the house of the prisoner, David Thomas. There they disguised themselves, and went and did that which has been briefly detailed to yon. The witnesses will describe to you the part taken by each of the prisoners in the affairs of the night, though I will tell you, under the direction of his Lordship, that it is not necessary to prove what each prisoner did for if it will be proved that they went out together with one common purpose, they are all equally guilty. Now, Gentlemen, his Lordship will tell you, that you cannot with safety rely upon the evidence of an accomplice, unless his evidence be corroborated in some material points by the evidence of untainted witnesses, who have not participated in the crime. Now. gentlemen, how do I corroborate their testimony? In the first place, I shall show you the motive which had actuated the prisoner, David Thomas, throughout the whole transaction. The money was demanded from the old man pretendedly for Gwenllian Lewis. In fact, you will find that David Thomas had a kind of smattering in law. On , he entered into an agreement with Gwenllian Lewis, for the purchase of a supposed claim which she had upon Daniel Harris. He (prisoner) was to give her 13l., free of all expenses, for the amount of her claim, which was considerably more; but he was not to pay the 13l. until he had got the sum claimed from old Harris. Now I conclude, from the circumstance of no proceedings having been taken , as he did not go to law, that he found the claim was not good; but in the meantime Rebecca had arisen, and he made use of the terrors of Rebeccaism to enforce a claim which he could not do by the law of the land. The son-in-law will prove that he saw one letter upon the subject in the possession of the old man, Harris. In addition to that, it will be proved by David Lewis, who will be called, that the prisoner, David Thomas, offered him 1l. if he would go that night to Pantyfen, bringing with him a pistol, a sword, or any other implement. He made some excuse, and did not go. I will also state, that another witness was offered 8s. by David Thomas, for going to the same place. Another witness, John Jones, whose conduct I cannot commend as being entirely free from blame, yet who cannot be considered or treated as an accomplice, actually went to Thomas’s house on , and saw all the prisoners at the bar there. After they had dressed themselves in disguise, he told them that he had seen a person on the road who would be a likely party to give information to Mr. Price, the Magistrate, if he saw them. In consequence of that intimation, it was agreed that they should meet and proceed to Pantyfen on . David Thomas then said — for it was often found that the ringleader shrunk from the danger — “I will not go with you, but shall show myself at Blaenpant, that Morgans might be a witness that I had nothing to do with the matter.” There are, Gentlemen, many other facts connected with the case, which I have thought it unnecessary to state, but which you shall hear from the witnesses. You shall also hear a confession which has been made by one of the prisoners, John Thomas, of Blaenrhidian; but that you cannot consider as evidence against any of the other prisoners. You shall also hear the statement of a witness, to whom David Thomas gave an account of the proceeding. He told him much of what had taken place, and added, that he thought they had acted too leniently — that he should again go there himself, and compel the old man to pay them 40l. in cash. He had, ere that, discovered that a promissory note, obtained under such circumstances, could not be worth a penny, and that any idea of enforcing it would be futile. In point of fact, he did go to Pantyfen, but as that will be the subject of another prosecution, I forbear dwelling upon it. There is one circumstance connected with the prisoner, David Evans, that he fled the country; vigilant search had been made before he was discovered. He was, however, subsequently found concealed under a rug. I do not request you to give that circumstance more than its due weight. I believe I have given you an outline of the most prominent features of the case. You will attend and watch the evidence, and see that the charge is clearly brought home before you convict, and I am confident your verdict, whatever it may be will give satisfaction to the country.
James Davies examined by Mr. Evans:— I am the son-in-law of the late Daniel Harris, of Pantyfen. I lived with him in . He is since dead. He died on . Pantyfen is in the parish of Llanvihangel-ar-arth. I remember , being the night before the Carmarthen August fair. I, my wife, and father-in-law slept at Pantyfen on the night in question. Mary Titus and a boy also slept in the house. We were disturbed about twelve o’clock that night. We had retired to bed about nine or ten o’clock. I, my wife, and the old man slept in the same room. We were disturbed by strange people beating the doors and calling out. We were very much alarmed, and I rose and opened the door. After I opened the door, they said they required money for Gwenllian Lewis. Before I opened the door, they told me to open it in five minutes, or they would destroy the old man’s property. It was a fine moonlight night. On opening the door, I saw a number of people, about ten or twelve, strangely disguised — their faces were painted. I cannot describe their dresses, as I was too much alarmed. They told me that they had sent two ’Becca letters to the old man. Several of them came to the house, there being two of them with guns, one with a pistol, and another with a sword. They said they wanted money for Gwenllian Lewis. There was one who had a red coat. My father-in-law got up, and came to the passage. He said he had not such a sum of money in the house, for they had then named 20l. as the sum required. The old man had said he had only 1l. 1s. in the house. They ordered me to light a candle. They said, if I would not they would destroy the things. I called on Mary Titus to light a candle; she did so, and then went up-stairs. One of the men then pulled out of his pocket a ready-written note for 20l., After reading it, he requested the old man to sign it. He did so. They then said that I must sign it. Those who had guns, &c., stood at this time each side of the door. My father-in-law said he required two months to pay. One man said he should have three months to pay. The old man requested them to write the time he was to pay it. One of them then wrote something on the back of the note. Harris asked where he was to pay the money. One of them said into Morris’s Bank. Another told him to pay it into Wilkins’s Bank. The old man had the shilling back, to pay for a quarter of tobacco, after he had paid them the sovereign and the shilling. The mob remained in the house for about half-an-hour.
Cross-examined by Mr. Richards:– I can write, but that night I only put my mark to the note. My father-in-law likewise only put his mark.
The undefended prisoners put the witness no question.
John Lloyd Price, Esq., is a Magistrate for the county — took the examination of Daniel Harries, in the presence of the prisoners. The examination of Daniel Harries was taken in Welsh, and translated into English. After it was written, it was explained to deceased witness the second time. He signed it by attaching his mark to it.
By the Court:— The prisoners were taken into custody, and brought before me by warrant, in consequence of information received after the outrage. Daniel Harries had given witness information of the outrage, and in three or four months time one of the accomplices informed against several of the prisoners whom the police, by the direction of witness, apprehended.
Cross-examined by Mr. Richards:— The party who gave me information, first gave evidence voluntarily, but understanding that he had been tampered with, I sent for him. I do not remember whether the proclamation offering rewards for the destruction of gates and houses by fire was then published. I did not offer the informant any money.
Cross-examined by John Thomas:– I never promised to keep the prisoner safe and give him work if he would make the same statement as Evan Davis.
Re-examined by Mr. Chilton, Q.C.:— [Handing a written statement to witness.] John Thomas made the confession contained in this paper. I did not offer him a reward, or held out a threat or anything else.
Cross-examined:— Prisoner made the confession before Mr. Prytherch, myself, and the Clerk, Mr. Spurrell. He made it voluntarily, as he wished to become Queen’s evidence.
Daniel Prytherch, Esq., was called, said he was present when prisoner signed the confession. No threat or reward was held out to him.
Mr. Richard Spurrel examined:– I am Clerk to the Magistrates. I took the examination on . This witness corroborated Mr. Price’s evidence as to the mode adopted in taking the examination.
The examination of Daniel Harris, the deceased, was then put in, but the Court objected to it, as it had not appeared by the evidence that the prisoners were present when it was taken.
Mr. Price was recalled to prove this circumstance.
The examination of the deceased was then put in, and translated to the prisoners. It was in substance the same as that given by his son-in-law, the first witness called.
The confession of the prisoner, John Thomas, was then put in and read. The deposition said that he had been induced to go there by the other prisoner, his master — that they went to Penlan, the house of one of the prisoners, and there disguised themselves. He then named the parties present, and described the weapons carried by each of the prisoners. Prisoner himself carried a gun, and the others various other arms, such as pistols, hooks, &c. The rest of his evidence corroborated the deposition of the deceased and his son-in-law’s evidence.
Mary Titus, the servant of the deceased Daniel Harris, of Pantyfen, was then examined by Mr. Vaughan Williams.— She corroborated the evidence given in part, but not as to all the facts detailed, as she had retired up stairs as soon as the mob appeared.
Evan Davies, one of the approvers, now gave evidence. He said that John Thomas, one of the prisoners, came to his house, requested him to go with him to Pantyfen, to get money. He said there was an agreement between him and Gwenllian Lewis, that he was to raise 40l. — that he was to divide 5l. between the company. Witness assented. He went to the prisoner’s (John Thomas’s) house, on . There were several persons there — David Richards, Llethermelyn, John Thomas, Penlan, David Richards, David Evans, John James, of Groft, David Evans, of Penrhiwfach, John and Thomas Powell, John Thomas of Blanrhidian, and Thomas Thomas, of Cwmygor. There were more there who were not at the bar. There was a man named John Jones, a carpenter, there. We blackened our faces, and disguised ourselves that night. I can’t say how far the house is from Pantyfen. It might have been 10 o’clock. They did not go to deceased’s house that night, for David Thomas said they had better not go, as it was too late, and some person might tell Mr. Price, the magistrate. They agreed to go on the next night. David Thomas said, that as he was the most forward about the money, he had better not go, lest they should suspect him, but that he would show himself by going to Blaenpant, to buy a horse, and take Morgan with him as a witness to prove where he was on that night. On , they again met at the house, and a number of persons, whom witness named [all who were there on the previous night with the exception of John Jones and David Thomas], then went to the house, and having blackened their faces and disguised themselves in various ways, commenced their journey. Witness was dressed in a gown, and the others in various dresses — John Powell in a red coat. David Thomas said he was going to Blaenpant. They then went, all on foot, and when near Glangwilly they met a person with a cart, and also saw some boys in a wood near Glangwilly. One of the party ran after the boys. David Evans had something like a bayonet. David Richards and John Powell carried guns. I do not know who carried the pistol. They arrived at Pantyfen, and knocked and kicked at the door, and threatened, if they did not open it, they would do some injury. A candle having been lighted, several of them went in. This accomplice’s evidence corroborated the evidence of the residents of Pantyfen in every particular, and was very similar, with the exception of his describing the names of of the various prisoners who took part in the transactions of the night.
Cross-examined:— I did not go for the sake of getting a share of the 5l. I was afraid of David Thomas. I was examined before the Magistrates on , and in . I think I told the Magistrates about 5l., but am not quite sure that I did. [Mr. Richards then put in the witnesses depositions.]
Examination continued:— One of the guns was fired in Pantyfen yard. He had not drank anything before going, but on returning they drank a little beer at Pencader. They did no violence to the old man. David Richards, Llethermelyn, gave the old man the shilling, and the latter thanked him. He did not appear pleased. His (witness’s) object in going to Mr. Price was, because he saw that the county was in a bad state — that there would soon be no order or law, and he was constantly troubled by his wife about it. I know Margaret Richards, Abergwilly. I never spoke to her about this business. I remember I am on my oath. I will swear, and swear an honest oath, that I never told her Mr. Price had offered 50l. for informing. I know Benjamin Jones — I never spoke to him about this. Never said to Margaret Richards, if I knew Talog as well as she did I would inform against some one. I don’t know Thomas Stephen. I never told him that I had money, and was subpœned to give evidence against the prisoners, but that I had nothing to say against them but what one of the prisoners told me. [Mr. Richards here put in the depositions relative to a burglary alleged to have been committed by the same prisoners on the 22d, with a view of proving, that, in giving evidence relating to the second transaction, nothing relating to the first was mentioned by witness, but on reading the deposition it did appear that he had mentioned the former.] This witness’s examination and cross-examination lasted for two hours.
John Jones examined:— I am a carpenter living in Abergwilly. I know David Thomas, the prisoner. Saw him on . He asked me to come with him to Pantyfen. I did not know where Pantyfen was. He said he wished to get money from Gwenllian. I said I did not like to go, but at last promised to go. We were to meet at David Thomas, of Penlan’s house. He said he was not going himself. He went on ], and named the persons who were present. They were the same as those mentioned by the last witness. All the prisoners were there besides two not in custody. Witness described the circumstance of their having blackened their faces and changed their dresses, but thinking it too late they left and agreed to meet the next night. They did so all with the exception of John Jones, of Caerphilly. He was not present on the second night. The evidence relating to the arms and weapons borne by each of the prisoners was precisely the same as, and corroboratory of, the other evidence. The description given of the conduct of the parties at Pantyfen was also the same as that already given.
Cross-examined by Mr. Richards:— The old man said that he owed nothing to Gwenllian. I never heard of the proclamation offering a reward before I gave the information. Never heard of Colonel Trevor’s proclamation. Never told Mr. Benjamin Jones that Mr. Price, the Magistrate, had offered me 50l. reward for informing.
Re-examined:— Witness had been ill in bed from the time of the occurrence to the present time.
John Jones, Derllwyn, examined:— I remember hearing of people having been at Pantyfen. I was on that night by a wood near Glangwilly. There were two other boys with us. We saw about ten people walking on the road. This witness’s evidence was deemed immaterial, and he was dismissed.
David Davies examined by Mr. Chilton, said that, on one occasion, the prisoner David Thomas requested him to go with him to Penlan to get 40l. for a woman. Witness refused to go. He then wished to borrow two guns, which witness would not give. On the following day, David Thomas told him they had been at Pantyfen, and had got 1l. 1s., and had given the old man one shilling back — that they had got the note signed.
William Lewis examined, said, that in , the prisoner, David Thomas, requested him to go with him to Pantyfen, to bring a gun, pistol, and sword with him, and that he should have a sovereign. He also had asked him . He did not speak about being armed on the second time. Told him first time he would go. The second time he requested me to go with him, and I said, no I would not.
Esau Daniel examined:— Remembers previous to August fair that prisoner, David Thomas, requested him to accompany him to Llanfihangel-ar-Arth, and would give him a share of 5l..
John Jones, Caerphilly, said, that at the request of John Thomas he went to the first meeting at his house. He named all the prisoners as being present, and two others not in custody. They all disguised themselves but witness. He said that he would not go with them to Pantyfen, as he had seen David, of Bryn-amlwg, passing through the yard. David Evans was disguised in a stuff-cloak and bonnet. They left the house, and postponed going that night, and agreed to meet on the following night. Witness did not go that night. He refused to have anything to do with them.
John Guy, of the A division of Metropolitan Police, examined:– Had been a long time in search of David Evans. Went in to his father’s house. His sister denied his being in the house. On searching, he found him concealed.
Edward Edwards, was called to prove his having seen the signature of David Thomas, the prisoner, and Gwenllian Lewis attached to an agreement. The agreement was read. It was one entered into between Thomas and the female, by which she agreed to sell the alleged legacy due from Daniel Harris to her for the sum of 13l., and if he could not recover it the agreement was to be void.
John Davies proved that shortly before the outrage, John Thomas told him to go where they had been to before. Witness understood he referred to their having been at Pantyfen. Prisoner said that they had dealt too leniently with the old man, and that they were going again, that he would go there himself, and make him pay in money. He asked witness if he would come? Witness said no. He asked if his son should come. Witness declined acceding to his request. He then said, “I could procure enough of men, if I could get horses.” At last witness consented to lend him a saddle.
Mr. Chilton now announced that this was the case for the prosecution. Mr. Richards then addressed the jury for the three prisoners, David Evans, David Thomas, and Thomas Thomas, and in doing so he wished it to be understood, that he perfectly agreed with the observations made, with becoming solemnity, by the Learned Counsel (Mr. Chilton), who led for the Crown, on the atrocious enormities which had been lately committed in that county; but he contended that neither of the three prisoners represented by him were present at the time alleged. There could be no doubt but that a great outrage, as detailed in evidence, had been committed by some persons at Pantyfen, on the night in question, and he also agreed with his Learned Friend who represented the Attorney-General, that, on this occasion, the outrage was one of a private nature, under the garb of public utility. Mr. Richards then commented upon the unreasonableness of the proceeding adopted to get the vote by David Thomas when he might have known that payment could never have been enforced. The Learned Gentleman then commented upon the whole of the evidence. He referred to the rewards offered by Government, and attributed perjury to the witnesses for the prosecution. Having remarked at considerable length upon the evidence given for the prosecution, Mr. Richards proceeded to state that he would call evidence to prove that David Evans was at a distance of miles off on the night in question, having called at the house of a friend at Soar, which is nine miles distant from Pantyfen.
John Thomas, one of the prisoners, addressed the jury, and said that he had been in the same room in gaol as the witness Evan Davies for about an hour — that Davies wished the prisoner to turn Queen’s evidence, and state the same thing as he did, and that he should get a share of the 50l. which Mr. Price had given him — that he had got John Jones and another witness for the prosecution to swear the same things, and that he (prisoner) said he did not like to tell untruth about his neighbours, and that Mr. Price, the magistrate, said he would be quite safe if he would inform; but he would not do so, as he knew he had a soul. [This is the prisoner who made the statement in confession to the Magistrates].
Evan Evans was then called as a witness to prove an alibi on behalf of David Evans. He swore that the prisoner called at his house on the night in question, to make arrangements about going to Hereford.
In cross-examination witness said, that he was the prisoner’s uncle, and he fixed the time so exactly, because prisoner called at his house on the night previous to the fair at Carmarthen.
Evan Jones said he called at Evan Evans’s house on the night in question, and saw the prisoner there. This witness contradicted the last in one very material point.
Enock Jones was called to prove the same thing.
Mary Evans was called for the same purpose.
Margaret Richards, sister of David Richards, one of the parties charged (but not in custody) with being one of the burglars, gave evidence to prove an alibi for Thomas Thomas. She also proved that Evan Davies, one of the prosecution witnesses, said that he had been offered 50l. for swearing about Pantyfen.
Benjamin Jones was brought on to prove a similar thing.
Mary Richards, the wife of one of the parties charged, but since absconded, came to prove that one of the prosecution witnesses made to her a statement, but which had been contradicted in cross-examination by that witness.
Several witnesses to character having been called, Mr. Chilton was in the act of replying, when the Judge intimated that, as the case had occupied the whole day, and would in all probability occupy some hours longer, the Court had better be adjourned. Accommodations for the night were then ordered to be provided for the jury, and the Court was adjourned.
. — the burglary case was proceeded with. — Several witnesses were called to give the various prisoners good characters.
Mr. Chilton then addressed the jury in reply. He commenced by vindicating the characters of the witnesses for the prosecutions from the attacks made upon them by Mr. Richards. He was extremely sorry that in his defence his Learned Friend had found it necessary so indiscriminately to attack all the witnesses, from the Magistrates who performed their arduous duties so fearlessly during the late alarming state of the country, to the policeman who did his duties, and acted under the direction of the Magistrates. The Learned Gentleman then proceeded to point out the gross contradictions and inconsistencies in the evidence of the witnesses who were called to prove alibis, all of whom, with the exception of Benjamin Jones, were relations either of the prisoners, or of those who, being charged with the burglary, had absconded. Many of the discourses said to have been made use of about the proclamations, were stated to have taken place even before the rewards had been offered. Mr. Chilton then dwelt at considerable length upon the evidence of accomplices. It would be dangerous to convict upon the evidence of an accomplice, unless corroborated in some important points by the evidence of untainted witnesses. Such, he contended, was the case in this instance. The Learned Counsel for the defence had contended that it was extremely improbable that David Thomas should have committed himself into the confidence of so many persons as he was represented to have done; but it indisputably appeared that the offence had been committed by some people. Some persons had committed themselves into the power of so many people. Then came the questions, Who did so? Who had a motive for doing so? He (Mr. Chilton) contended, that a strong motive was proved by the agreement entered into between the prisoner Thomas and Gwenllian Lewis — that the former should pay her 13l. in case he should, by any means, procure a larger sum from Daniel Harries, the deceased. How could the accomplices have known anything respecting that agreement, had they not been informed about it by the prisoner? But even setting aside their evidence, the guilt of the two Thomas’s was proved by that of untainted witnesses. Mr. Chilton went over the whole of the evidence, and concluded a very powerful address by entreating the jury to give the case that weight and consideration which its importance deserved and give the prisoners the benefit of any reasonable doubts.
The Learned Judge then summed up the evidence. The first question for the jury to consider was, whether an offence of the nature of that described by the witnesses had been committed. It was his duty to tell them that, if entrance was effected into a house by threat or intimidation, in law, it amounted to burglary, though the door might have been opened not by force, but by its having been opened by the inmates of the house. However strong the evidence against David Thomas, as an accessory before the fact, might be, yet, if the others were not guilty, he could not be convicted, for he was charged with having abetted and procured them, and not other persons. His Lordship then directed the jury how to receive the evidence of accomplices. The law empowered juries to convict upon the evidence of accomplices only, yet it was never safe to convict upon their evidence, unless corroborated in some important points by other evidence given by untainted witnesses. His Lordship then read over the most important portions of the evidence, and contrasted the various parts corroborative of, or apparently inconsistent with, the rest of the evidence.
The jury then retired, and after about forty minutes absence, returned a verdict of Guilty against all the prisoners.
You may note that this account tends to report the prosecution’s case as fact and often neglects to say what the defense witnesses actually said (summarizing instead, often in an unflattering way). Maybe they just weren’t very credible, or maybe this is another case of bias in the English-language press in Wales.
There’s another, briefer, account in the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser that differs in some respects (including even such things as the names of some of the witnesses and those they testified about).
One difference is that Evan Davies, one of the accomplices turned informer, made an explicit “Rebecca” connection, saying that during the robbery: “We told the old man that Becca had come there to get the money which he owed Gwenllian Lewis under a will.”
Another is the account of John Jones’s testimony. In this version, he says that it was David Thomas who came to him to ask him to join the conspiracy. Also, this version lists the people in attendance at the meeting: “John Jones, (one of the witnesses,) Thomas Thomas, Esau Davies, John Thomas, David Richards, John Powell, John James, David Evans, and John Thomas, Penlan, father of David Thomas, who was also there.”
The description of John Guy’s testimony of how he found David Evans is more detailed: “I then searched the house, and found the prisoner in a loft under some straw, with a rug wrapped around his head, to conceal his face. There was no bed there. His clothes were brought from below, by one of his sisters, I think.”
But this account is even more sparing on presenting the case for the defense. It just gives this one-sentence summary: “Mr. Richards, for the prisoners, whom he defended, addressed the jury; and called witnesses, who gave several of the prisoners good characters.”