Convict Histories

‘A Desperate Gang of Thieves’ – Charles Kemble and Others.

By Irma Walter, 2021.

When Charles Kemble’s gang of thieves and receivers was broken up in 1862/63 by a series of police raids in and around London, a newspaper summed up as follows –

By these prosecutions, which have occupied this court for many days, and several recent convictions, one of the most numerous and desperate gangs of thieves and receivers which have infested the metropolis and suburbs for many years will be entirely broken up and dispersed, those not yet in custody having fled the country to evade the penalty of their transgressions.[1]

The criminals were known variously by such colourful names as ‘Velveteen’, ‘Six Toes’ and ‘Scotch Dick’. For one crime Charles Kemble was convicted under the name ‘Walter Vatlander’.[2]

The police made good progress in their investigations over a number of months, making use of informers from within the clique, in exchange for reduced sentences. Most of the crimes were for housebreaking and receiving, apart from the last scheme planned by several players, who intended persuading a wealthy foreigner to take a carriage ride out into the countryside, where they would rob and murder him. Kemble’s role in the scheme was to hire the carriage and dress up as a footman, but at the last moment he baulked at the idea of killing the gentleman and the plan was dropped.

During proceedings in the Central Criminal Court in November 1862 Kemble readily pleaded guilty to all the charges raised against him. His quick wit and repartee engendered laughter from onlookers. It appeared as though he was resigned to the prospect of transportation –

London Daily News, 8 November 1862.

Not all of those convicted with him were transported to Western Australia. Those with shorter sentences would have served their terms in England. Charles Kemble arrived here in 1864 onboard the Merchantman (Voyage 2), along with several other gang members, namely John Odin Simpson, Henry Grimshaw and John Yates.


(1) Charles Kemble (1841 -?) (Reg. No. 8047)

An Early Start in Crime

Records show that Charles Kemble was born in 1841 to parents John Kemble and his wife Ann. At the time of the 1841 census they were living at 2 Albion Place, in St Mary Islington East, Middlesex. In 1851 the family was at 25 Woodland Street, in Dalston Village, Hackney. It consisted of father John Kemble, aged 43, carpenter, his wife Ann, 34, and children Mary (13), Charles (10), William (7), Thomas (5) and Lemuel (3) (later ‘Leonard’ in 1861 census).

By the age of 13, Charles Kemble’s life of crime had already begun. He was convicted of simple larceny on 24 July 1854, for stealing a coat at Clerkenwell and serving four months’ confinement as a result. The following year, he was found guilty on 8 January 1855 at Clerkenwell of housebreaking, and due to the previous conviction, was sentenced to six years’ penal servitude, recorded as Prisoner Number 3205.

At Parkhurst Prison he was described as aged 14, height 5’3¼”, with light brown hair, grey eyes, of proportionate build and slightly marked with smallpox. His religion was Church of England and he was able to read and write. He had previously spent three months and four days at Tothill Fields[3] and one month, three days at Millbank. His father was listed as John Kemble, of 25 William Street, Dalston.[4] While at Millbank Prison he was visited on 13 January 1864 by his mother Honora (?) Kemble, accompanied by his sister and a friend. At this time his religion was recorded as RC. He had four episodes of bad behaviour recorded against his name at Millbank.[5]

Boys exercising at Tothill Fields Prison, also known as Bridewell.[6]

Charles was one of 200 convicts sent to Gibraltar onboard the Lady McNaghton [or ‘McNaughton’] on 6 November 1857, to join the public works labour force there.[7] He probably spent his teen-age years housed in one of the prison hulks, building sea walls for the British navy.

No doubt hardened by his experience amongst seasoned criminals, Kemble returned to England to continue his life as a skilled burglar. On 11 May 1863, Charles Kemble, aged 22, appeared in the Central Criminal Court, charged with six robberies and pleading guilty to them all. With his previous convictions taken into account he was sentenced to fifteen years’ transportation.[8]

He spent time in various prisons while awaiting transportation to Western Australia. He was held at Lambeth (now known as Brixton Prison), then in Separate Confinement in Newgate and Millbank (24 June 1863), before being transferred to Portland Prison on 18 April 1864.[9]

Journey to Western Australia

Charles Kemble travelled to Western Australia onboard the convict ship Merchantman (Voyage 2), leaving Portland on 29 June 1864. He was involved with others in taking turns to secretly cut a hole in the deck through to the ship’s hold, in order to steal food. Kemble took responsibility for it, claiming that he could not subsist on the allowance provided. However all twenty-two men involved were placed in hand-cuffs, while Kemble also had his quota of wine stopped for the remainder of the voyage. His conduct during the voyage was recorded as ‘Very Bad’.[10]

The ship arrived at Fremantle on 12 September 1864. Authorities in Western Australia were well aware of Kemble’s reputation and previous record in England and consequently kept a strict eye on his activities in Fremantle Prison, meting out harsh punishments for any infringement. His record is comprehensive. Kemble was forced to wait until October 1870 to be granted his Ticket of Leave –

Record in WA

29/9/64 – Discharged to Mt Eliza.

17/11/64 – Disobedience – seven days’ bread & water. Ordered to be worked in irons for 12 months.

27/11/64 – Special report to be made on this man’s case when he is eligible for Ticket of Leave.

8/12/64 – Absconding and larceny from a barge – three years’ hard labour and 100 lashes. February ’65 – Fighting in the Division – three days’ bread & water.

22/6/65 – Cutting through irons and boring through frame of cell window – 75 lashes.

19/6/65 – Having part of a stolen sheet in his cell – three days’ bread & water, and pay for a new one.

24/8/65 – Illegal possession of library book – cautioned.

24/12/65 – Fighting on Public Works – three days’ bread & water.

10/2/66 – Insubordination and insolence – three days’ bread & water.

8/5/66 – Fighting, etc. – two days’ bread & water.

16/7/66 – Attempting to abscond from Prison – fifty lashes and six months in irons.

19/7/66 – Destroying prison property – to pay for it.

2/9/66 – Governor declines to interfere.

11/10/66 – Having files, etc., in his possession – fourteen days’ bread & water.

26/10/66 – Breaking a hole in his cell – fourteen days’ bread & water.

4/5/67 – ‘I decline to recommend any remission. Kemble’s conduct has been intrageous

[sic].’– Vide 7973/3.

30/7/67 – Fremantle – Leaving the Bakehouse and going to the Printers’ and Barbers’ Yard and remaining absent one hour – fourteen days’ bread & water.

30/7/67 – Breaking into the Store Room and breaking open many packages and boxes of Prisoners’ Property – not sufficiently proven.

13/9/67 – With good conduct may be eligible for Ticket of Leave on 17 October 1870 – Vide 4468/2.

13/4/68 – Attending Divine Service in R.C. Chapel without permission. Falsely telling the

Officer that he had permission to change his religion, and having a newspaper in his possession – four days’ bread & water.

2/5/68 – Using threatening language to his Officer – seven days’ bread & water.

27/5/68 – Stealing various articles of Government Property from the Inner Store Room of the Master Blacksmith’s Shop – twelve months’ hard labour and 28 days’ bread & water.

10/7/68 – Unlawfully leaving cell by means of a false key, passing into the Superintendent’s Office Passage and by means of a ‘jemmy’, breaking into the Superintendent’s Office and stealing a pocket book, coat and 15/-. – Three months’ Hard Labour in irons, first fourteen days on bread & water – not cumulative.

14/7/68 – Six months in Strict Confinement – Vide 9134/25.

12/12/68 – PR to Fremantle Prison.

17/8/68 – Fremantle Prison – Having the ‘Herald’ concealed in his library book – cautioned.

25/8/69 – Granted a Remission of six months’ gang labour. Vide 7973/9.

14/1/70 – If well conducted until 28/10/70, to be released to Ticket of Leave, equal to remission six months.

25/10/70 – Ticket of Leave sent to R M, York.

28/10/70 – Discharged to Ticket of Leave.[11]

31/10/70 – Baker, 30/- per week at York, employer Mr Russell.

1/11/70 – York Depot to Fremantle.

12/12/70 – General labourer, York, employer W. Gale.

31/12/70 – Ditto.

12/1/71 – Ditto, employer T. Russell.

1/2/71 – York to Perth.

3/2/71 – Perth Prison.

6/2/71 – Baker, Perth – employer J Rodereda.[12]

11/2/71 – Perth – ‘Charles Kemble t.l., charged by Corporal Ryan, with having feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling house of Mr. J. Cowie, and stealing therefrom 15s. in silver, and two belts the property of Ellen MacNamara; three years hard labour and 50 lashes.[13]

26/2/71 – Attempting to escape from Fremantle Prison – Three days’ bread & water.

26/10/71 – Attempting escape from Fremantle Prison – 28 days’ bread & water.

7/2/71 – PR to R M, York.

21/2/71 – PR to Fremantle Prison.

19/2/72 – Earlier sentence of three years on 11/2/71 commuted to two years’ hard labour- 10868/7. (Act of leniency)

6/12/72 – Going into number twelve cell occupied by G. Medhouse – cautioned.

12/3/73 – Gen. Servant, Perth, employer G. Radley.

15/3/73 – Perth to Bunbury.[14]

27/6/76 – To Rottnest.

28/3/77 – To Rottnest.[15]

1878 – Charles had a child Anne, with Annie Vagg,[16]

22/1/79 – Issued with Certificate of Freedom, at Perth.[17]

1879 – Charles Lemuel Kemble married Eliza Andrews at Fremantle.[18]

In November 1879 Charles Kemble, his wife Eliza and a man named Copely were arrested, under suspicion of breaking into a warehouse. They were brought up for trial early in 1880 –

On Monday last, John Copely, and Charles Kemble and wife, were brought up on remand at the City police court, charged with felonious entry of the premises of Mr. George Shenton. Bazaar Terrace, Perth. On the application of Mr. S. H. Parker who appeared for Kemble and wife, Mrs. Kemble was discharged from custody and the case as against the male prisoners only was proceeded with. The evidence went to show that Kemble had employed certain workmen to make keys, alleging that they were required to replace keys lost in the bush. The prisoners were committed for trial at the sessions of the Supreme Court in January next. Application for admission to bail made on behalf of Kemble by Mr. Parker, was refused by the acting police Magistrate Capt. Hare.’[19]

As a result, Charles Kemble, baker, was sentenced in the Supreme Court to seven years’ imprisonment, while Copley received four years. At this time Kemble was described as follows –

Charles Kemble, (former number 8047), Reg, No. 10289, aged 39, charged 12 January 1880, height 5’9”, light brown hair, middling stout, hazel eyes, sallow complexion, baker.[20]

[Note: In 1880 his wife, née Eliza Andrews, gave birth to a child, John L Kemble.[21]]

In the October 1882 edition of the WA Police Gazette an unusual notice appeared –

Free Pardon issued to Charles Kemble (Reg. No. 10289) on ……. Convicted at Perth on 7 January 1880 of aiding and abetting, he received a sentence of ten years’ penal servitude. This man is about to leave per ss Macedon for Adelaide on 8th inst. In the event of him remaining or returning to this Colony, notice is to be given to Detective Office.[22]

In response the following appeared in a local paper –


Sir, — The Government Gazette dated 17th October has a notice that should cause some little reflection. Under the usual notices from the Comptroller’s Office is one ‘A Conditional Certificate of Freedom has been issued to the undermentioned Convict — Reg. No. 10,289, Charles Kemble.’ Why has a Conditional Certificate of Freedom been issued to him? Is it because the affairs at Rottnest are so well administered that his presence there is no longer required, and that a wider field is open to him in Victoria? I remember a case some years ago when the ‘ Black Harry’ absconders were tried; the man Campbell, who gave evidence for the Crown, had a Certificate of Freedom issued to him to save him from being maltreated. Had Kemble anything of the sort to fear? Yours, &c, QUERY.[23]

The editor of the Daily News would not have been the only person left wondering at this decision. Had Kemble done a deal with the authorities – freedom in exchange for information? The police in the Eastern Colonies would not have been too pleased at the news.

To the Eastern Colonies

The reason why Charles Kemble was hurried out of Western Australia remains a mystery. Upon leaving the colony and arriving in South Australia, he headed for Victoria, aware that there were rich pickings to be had there. At some stage he became involved with the notorious Douglas family, who in 1883 had also come over from Western Australia. Thomas Douglas (formerly Convict No. 9216) was one of the gang involved in what became known as ‘The Great Manchester Stamp Robbery’, deported to WA in 1868.[24] How long the relationship between Charles Kemble and the Douglas family lasted is not known. (The Douglases later moved on into New South Wales.)

In Victoria, Charles Kemble, by then calling himself ‘George King’ or ‘George Douglas’, was said to be the partner of Douglas’s daughter Rose, who by then was using the name ‘Rose Hathway’ or ‘Hathaway’. It wasn’t long before the two men became involved in criminal activities, reported back in Western Australia as follows –

Two disreputable men, said to have come from this Colony, have recently fallen into the hands of the police of a suburb of Melbourne. Here is the account of them, as it is told in the Melbourne Daily Telegraph of June 24. George King alias Kemble, alias Douglas, and Thomas Douglas, alias Hathaway, were prosecuted at the Richmond Police-court yesterday morning, before Mr. Alley, P.M., and several justices of the peace, charged with being rogues and vagabonds. King was arrested on Tuesday night, in Clarendon-street, by Detectives Ward, Lovie and Charles, who, after lodging him in the local lock-up, proceeded, together with Constables Carmody and Kieley, to a house in Little Clifton-street, Richmond, where they made a search and found a number of housebreaking implements. Douglas, the occupier of the house, was subsequently arrested. The prisoners, who are recent arrivals from Western Australia were remanded until Wednesday next. King alleges that the property belongs to him, and that he left them at Douglas’s place.[25]

Kemble served several terms of imprisonment for breaking and entering, at times following the same modus operandi as he had devised in England, of hiring a horse and buggy and parking it around the corner for use as a quick get-away vehicle. At times he persuaded a younger man to enter the building while he waited outside, then using him later to approach a pawn-broker with the goods, perhaps because his own face was becoming too well-known –


Detectives Lovie, Ward, and Charles, about 9 o’clock on Tuesday night, arrested two men in Richmond, named George King, alias Charles Douglas, alias Charles Kemble, and George Douglas, both believed to be Western Australian expirees, on charges of housebreaking. These men are thought to be part of the gang of burglars (four of whom have already been arrested—namely, Thomas Mason, Thomas Allison, Charles Beggs, alias Best, and George Adams, and are now under committal for trial) who have, within the past few weeks, stolen over £2,000 worth of jewellery in the various suburbs. The plan pursued in their operations has been to drive about with a fast-trotting horse in a buggy, and while the inmates were busy at dinner one of the robbers would climb up the balcony, gain access to the bedrooms, fasten the doors, and then, having secured the plunder, escape by the same means. When the prisoners were arrested a number of skeleton keys, jemmys, crucibles, and other implements used by housebreakers were found in their possession. They were lodged in the Richmond watch-house.[26]

Kemble was said to be part of an organised criminal syndicate of around eleven individuals.[27]

As George King he served three sentences in 1883 – two years at Richmond as a rogue and vagabond on 4 July, then two days later on 6 July he was sentenced to 2½ years’ hard labour for receiving, followed by an additional two years on 3 September, to be served concurrently.[28]

No more is known about Charles Kemble, master thief.


(2) John Odin Simpson (Reg. No. 8119)

Like Charles Kemble, John Odin Simpson was one of the gang of London thieves which was broken up by police in 1862 and 1863. He was a man who lived by his wits, as a burglar and receiver of stolen goods. Some believed that he was the leader of the gang. However, one newspaper declared that he was the son of a post-captain in the Royal navy, and appeared to have been led into the offence unconsciously, and it was only through his information that the police had been able to recover much of the stolen property.[29]

John Odin Simpson must have been quite remarkable in appearance. He was a clerk, 30 years of age, 5’6” in height, well-groomed, and described in one newspaper as ‘a fashionably dressed man, with a profusion of beard and moustache most carefully waxed, and his hair arranged with great precision in three rows of curls on the top of his head’.[30]

There was no loyalty among thieves. Simpson gave evidence against other gang members John Yates and George Clements at their trial at the Central Criminal Court on 5 January 1863. At the time he described himself as having been a publican for several years, and previously having worked for three years as a clerk in Stamps and Taxes for the Department of Inland Revenue at Somerset House.[31]

He was charged at the Central Criminal Court on 6 April 1863 as follows –

JOHN ODIN SIMPSON (30), Burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of George William Skelton, and stealing therein 139 pairs of boots, and 24 skins of leather, his property. Second Count, Receiving the same.[32]

On this occasion John Yates and his wife Janet gave evidence against Simpson, an act of revenge for Simpson having born witness against them in the earlier trial. Simpson denied the charges against him, declaring that he had been framed.

Simpson’s sister Cecilia gave evidence on her brother’s behalf, as follows –

CECILIA SIMPSON. I am the prisoner’s sister, and live at 16, Alpha-place, Cambridge-heath-road—I have lived there about six months—in August last, we lived at 8, Gardener-row, Twig-folly-bridge, Victoria-park—the prisoner lived there too—I remember the 21st of August, 1862, my brother was with us on that day—he was taken very poorly—he is in very weak health—he is never very strong—he was taken very bad with dysentery—I am quite sure about that—I have a reason for remembering the day—we were very badly situated; we had been in business and were very unfortunate—I went round to my sister-in-law, and got a powder for my brother; he remained ill some days—the 21st August is my sister’s child’s birthday, and she was making a little cake when I went down—I am quite sure my brother was at home on that day, and that I am giving a correct account of the matter.[33]

Despite his protestations of innocence, at the conclusion of Simpson’s trial the Commissioner summed up the case as follows – ‘I have only now to pass the sentence. It is perfectly hopeless to let a man like you loose upon the world. I believe that the witnesses have spoken truly, and that one of them rightly judged your character when he said that you would rob a child of its bread and butter. I order you to be kept in penal servitude for the remainder of your life.’[34]

Simpson arrived in Western Australia on the Merchantman (2) on 12 September 1864, along with his co-offenders Charles Kemble (8047) and John Yates (9362). Another accomplice, Henry Grimshaw (8280) arrived on the Racehorse on 10 August 1865.

On arrival John Odin Simpson was described as a clerk, single, aged 33, Protestant, able to read & write, with black hair, hazel eyes, a round face, fair complexion, middling stout, with no marks.[35] His personal belongings were listed as a hymn book, one other book, a tract, letter, a bottle of oil, a broken pipe and a razor.[36]

Record in WA

20/7/68 – Convicted by RM, Fremantle – Having money in his possession when on pass – forfeit money.

19/7/72 – Convicted by LW Clifton, Fremantle – Out after hours – cautioned and dismissed.

17/2/73 – Ticket of Leave on own account approved, Vide 4726/12.

28/6/73 – Convicted by PM Perth – Out after hours – two months’ hard labour at Perth – To serve six months, Vide 4726/15.

30/6/74 – Clerk, £6 per month, Fremantle, on own account.

31/12/74 – Ditto, £5 per month.

30/6/75 – On own account.

31/12/75 – Ditto, 8/- per day.

30/6/76 – On own account.

24/12/76 – Fremantle Prison.

29/1/77 – Admitted into Invalid Depot.

5/5/79 – Discharged.

7/5/79 – Re-admitted into Invalid Depot.

8/9/79 – Ditto.

John Odin Simpson’s life in Western Australia was cut short by ill-health. With official permission he had been self-employed as a clerk in Perth for several years. He gave evidence at several trials during that period. The first case in 1871 was brought by him against Theophilus Carter, in an attempt to get money due to him for work done. The case was unproven.[37] He also gave evidence as a witness in two other cases, in 1873 and 1874. Then in 1875 Simpson, an accountant, brought a case of non-payment for clerical work against businessman Henry Gray. Judgement was given that £3 10s. was to be paid within a week.[38]

John Odin Simpson must have been ill for some time before he died in Fremantle Prison Hospital on 30 September 1879. The cause of death was listed as ‘general debility’. (Vide 14028/102.)[39]


(3) Henry Grimshaw (c1843 – ?) (Reg. No. 8280)

Henry Grimshaw, known as ‘Six Toes’ was charged at the Central Criminal Court in London on 13 July 1863, as part of the same gang of burglars and receivers. He had two previous convictions. Evidence was given that on 2 May 1859 Grimshaw was convicted at Clerkenwell as ‘Henry Thomas’, of stealing household silver, and was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude.[40] He was later charged with having stolen 13 yards of carpet along with James Johnson and selling it to receiver John Yates, who gave evidence against them – verdict Not Guilty.[41] They were then indicted for having stolen three beds and other household goods, disposing of them again to John Yates. For this crime Grimshaw was sentenced to ten years and Johnson eighteen months.[42]

Henry Grimshaw arrived at Fremantle on the convict ship Racehorse on 10 August 1865, described as a labourer, single, aged 22, 5’10 ¾”, with brown hair, light hazel eyes, a round face, pale complexion, stout, and a burn on his left ear. Character indifferent.[43]

Record in WA

30/8/65 – Discharged to Dardinup (Dardanup).[44]

7/10/65 – Having flour improperly in possession and making false charge against Assistant Warder Kavanagh – Two years’ hard labour, six months to be in irons.

21/7/66 – Breaking into Assistant Warder’s Hut and stealing a quantity of bread – Six months Provisional Probation and seven days bread & water.

2/8/66 – Absconding from Barndon Hill Station – Two years’ additional probation & seven days’ bread & water. Ordered to be placed in a Dark Cell on bread and water for such time as the Medical Officer may consider he can bear such punishment. Vide 7541/2, of 2/8/66.

10/11/66 – Stealing Government Property. Six months’ hard labour in irons at CE – (irons remitted).

5/7/67 – Special Remission 7 days, Vide 97/144.

20/9/67 – PP to Fremantle Prison.

1/10/67 – Special Remission one month, Vide 97/157.

1867 – Discharged.

23/10/68 – Fremantle – Having a quantity of new fustion on his person – Twenty-one days

bread & water.

30/3/68 – Fremantle – Sky-larking when proceeding to the Public Works – One day bread & water.

15/10/ 68 – Refusing to proceed to Point Walter and said if he was sent there he would soon shift himself from it – Seven days’ bread & water.

4/5/68 – Entering the house of J. Clayton with felonious intent & resisting the Police and being the worse of liquor – Six months’ hard labour.

23/6/68 – Bar remission – Six days. Vide 9732/48.

26/9/68 – Remission of one year Gang Labour (Act of Clemency) – Vide 10914/1.

11/12/68 – Fremantle, continued idleness on Public Works – Three days’ bread & water.

11/5/69 – Fremantle Prison – Talking in Chapel – One day bread & water.

8/6/69 – Fremantle – Playing cards & refusing to give them up -Three days’ bread & water.

18/6/69 – Granted a remission of fourteen days’ Gang Labour, Vide 97/205. Working at Fremantle and ……?

28/9/69 – Fremantle Prison – Having a pair of new stockings and a plate of dripping in his cell – Three days’ bread & water.

23/12/69 – Fremantle Prison – disobedience of orders – One day bread & water.

4/2/70 – Fremantle Prison – Mutinous conduct – Four days’ bread & water.

3/2/71 – Handed a remission of one years’ hard labour. Vide 10914/4.

21/8/71 – Perth. Prison Insolence and bad language – Reprimanded & cautioned.[45]

5/1/72 – Received from Perth Prison.[46]

12/2/72 – Serve twelve months’ Additional Probation & four months’ strict Separate Confinement – Vide 12827/39.

27/2/72 – Fremantle Prison – Insolence – Two days’ bread & water.

27/9/72 – If conduct continues good until 1/11/72 will be released from Discipline Class and allowed to visit inside prison walls.

21/11/72 – Remission three months ….., Vide 9588/109.

28/1/73 – Discharged to Ticket of Leave.[47]

28/1/73 – Labourer, Perth, 4/- per day, employer J. Nunan.

30/6/73 – General Labourer, £7/4/- per month, Geraldton, J. Nunan.

27/10/73 – Conditional Release sent to RM, Champion Bay.

5/11/73 – Received Conditional Release back from RM at Champion Bay.

16/7/74 – Certificate of Freedom to RM, Champion Bay.[48]

While in Fremantle Prison Henry Grimshaw frequently sought medical treatment for minor ailments. However he led a long life in Geraldton, where he raised a family with wife Janet Gallagher and died on 23 January 1926.[49]

[For further details of his life see Midwest Convict Register, at ]


(4) John Yates (c1823 – ?) (Reg. No. 9362)

John Yates mostly made a living as a receiver of stolen goods.

On 5 January 1863 John Yates (37) and another man Clements were charged with breaking into a house at Hackney and stealing a dressing case and other items to the value of £10. John Odin Simpson gave evidence of having received some items of jewellery from Yates and selling them to a pawnbroker. Yates was found guilty and due to a previous conviction for a felony committed in 1860, he was sentenced to ten years’ transportation.[50]

There was a falling out among this gang of thieves. During 1863 John Yates was taken from Millbank Prison to give evidence at the Central Criminal Court as a witness in the trials of various other members of the gang. He identified himself as a boot and shoe maker, formerly of 86 Wheeler Street, Spitalfields. At times his wife Janet was also called upon as a witness. In November that year Yates also faced trial for perjury but was found not guilty of the charge.[51]

John arrived in Western Australia onboard the Corona on 22 December 1866. He received his Ticket Leave on 20 May 1867 and his Certificate of Freedom on 6 November 1870.[52]

He was self-employed as a bootmaker in Fremantle when he was robbed of two new pairs of boots.[53]

In 1874 at the age of 59, Yates was convicted at Perth WA and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for perjury during a trial, where he gave evidence that an acquaintance named Hurley, who was accused of housebreaking, was at his house during the time of the robbery. Yates was sentenced to seven years. At this time he was described as 5’5¼”, with brown hair, brown eyes, a full face, swarthy complexion and a stout build. He had tattoos in the form of a sailor, a wreath, dove, J.B.M. on his right arm, and on the left arm P.B.S., and two hearts pierced by an arrow. He had a speech impediment and was a widower with one child.[54]

During his term of imprisonment John Yates (as Colonial Convict No.10140) was treated for Paralysis, or Emipelegia (probably Hemiplegia, or stroke), from 14 January 1877. The early hospital entries came under the heading of ‘Names of prisoners under treatment for mental disorders, real or feigned’.[55] He was kept in hospital, suffering from paralysis, until he was finally discharged to Ticket of Leave on 9 October 1878.[56]

Whether he was able to resume his trade is unknown. He was received back into the prison Invalid Department on 7 January 1880 and was discharged on Ticket of Leave on the same day.[57] He was admitted back to hospital on 15 January 1880.[58] On 19 January 1880 he was released to RC Class.[59]

Despite his health problems, Yates survived for ten more years. On 1 December 1890 he was received back into Fremantle Prison from the Invalid Depot.[60] Then on 3 December 1890 it was recorded in the Daily Medical Journal that ‘pauper John Yates (No. 10140) died yesterday at 2p.m. of paralysis, aged 69.’


[1] London Daily News, 8 November 1862.

[2] Central Criminal Court – Reference Number t18621124-101.

[3] Note: Tothill Fields House of Correction was in the Westminster area of Central London.

[4] UK Prison Commission Records, Parkhurst Prison Register of Prisoners, 1853 -1863.

[5] UK Prison Commission Records, Millbank Prison Register of Prisoners, 1862 -1863.

[6] Wikipedia,

[7] England & Wales Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770 – 1935, at

[8] Durham Chronicle, 15 May 1863.

[9]UK Prison Commission Records, Portsmouth Prison Record of Prisoners.

[10] U K Surgeon Superintendent Dr William Smith’s Journal, Merchantman (Voyage 2).

[11] Convict Department Registers, Distribution Book for Nos. 7608 – 8107.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Perth Gazette, 3 March 1871.

[14] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R28)

[15] Convict Department, Receipts & Discharges (RD5-RD7)

[16] WA Justice Department, Reg. No. 19427,

[17] WA Police Gazette, 29 January 1879, p.21.

[18] WA Justice Department, Reg. No. 4690,

[19] Herald, 8 Nov 1879.

[20] Convict Department, Estimates & Convict Lists, (128/1-32)

[21] WA Justice Department, Reg. No. 20827,

[22] WA Police Gazette, 4 October 1882.

[23] Daily News, 23 October 1882.

[24] See ‘The Great Manchester Robbery’ story on this website.

[25] Daily News, Perth, 16 July 1883.

[26] Australasian (Melbourne,) 30 June 1883.

[27] Weekly Times, 8 September 1883.

[28] Argus, 17 July 1883.

[29] London Daily News, 8 November 1862.

[30] Dundee Advertiser, 13 April 1863.

[31] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 5 January 1863, trial of John Yates & George Clements, Reference No. t18630105-220.)

[32] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 6 April 1863, trial of JOHN ODIN SIMPSON (30) (t18630406-622).

[33] Ibid.

[34] Dundee Advertiser, 13 April 1863.

[35] Convict Department Registers, (129/40-43)

[36] Convict Establishment, Miscellaneous, Prisoners’ Property Book (V14)

[37] Inquirer, 26 July 1871.

[38] Herald, 4 September 1875.

[39] Convict Department, General Register (R31)

[40] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 8.0, June 1863, trial of JAMES JOHNSON (22) HENRY GRIMSHAW (22) BENJAMIN EVERETT (t18630608-815).

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Convict Department Registers, (128/40-43)

[44] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD5-RD7)

[45] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R30).

[46] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD5-RD7)

[47] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R30).

[48] Ibid.

[49] Fremantle Prison Database,

[50] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, January 1863, trial of JOHN YATES (37) GEORGE CLEMENTS (30) (t18630105-220).

[51] Old Bailey Proceedings,

[52] Fremantle Prison Convict Register,

[53] Express, 16 February 1870.

[54] Convict Department, Estimates & Convict Lists, (128/1-32)

[55] Convict Establishment Medical, Daily Medical Journals (M19A- M21)

[56] Convict Establishment Medical, Register of Admissions and Discharges From Hospital (M32)

[57] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD9 – RD9A)

[58] Convict Establishment Medical, Daily Medical Journals, (M21A-M22)

[59] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD9 – RD9A)

[60] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD10A – RD13)