Convict Histories

Isaac Clements, Fraudster (c1839 -?) (Reg. No. 8516)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

Isaac Clements was said to be a respectable-looking young man, but from an early age he demonstrated a reckless disregard for the consequences of his actions.

Convicted of larceny at the Dover General Court of Sessions in Kent on 12 October 1863, he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He arrived in WA onboard the Vimiera, on 22 December 1865, described as aged 26, single, with no children. He was 5’7” tall, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, dark complexion, middling stout, with a crucifix and an anchor on his right arm, and a crucifix on the left arm.[1]

When arrested at the age of 23 he already had several previous convictions, with one recorded under a false name –

1863 – A Determined Thief

Isaac Clements, 23, (railway porter), pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with stealing a great-coat, an under-coat and a pair of boots, the property of Henry Anderson, at Margate; and also to a further charge of having been before convicted at the Maidstone Sessions, in the name of George Goldfinch.

The Recorder inquired how it was that he was in the employ of the S.E.R. Company when he had but just returned from three years’ penal servitude. Mr. Poland replied that the prisoner’s character was not then known; he was taken on by the Margate Stationmaster just in the pressure of the season. Beside the former conviction mentioned in the indictment, there were several others against the prisoner. In December 1857 he was convicted summarily by the magistrates of Margate, for felony, and went to Sandwich Gaol for one month. In April 1858, at the Sandwich Quarter Sessions, there were three charges of larceny preferred against the prisoner, and he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In June 1859 he was taken before the magistrates of Dover, and committed for three months for felony. Then there was the charge, as mentioned in the indictment, of having been tried at the Maidstone Sessions, in July 1860 for burglary, and sentenced to three years’ penal servitude….

…The prisoner was then arraigned upon a further indictment for stealing a carpet bag, containing a pair of boots, a bottle of wine, a bottle of cod-liver oil, two pairs of boots, a cotton dress, two shirts, one gown, one petticoat and three night lights, the property of the S.E.R. Company at Margate, on the 14th of August, and he pleaded guilty…

…Under the circumstances the Court could have no doubt as to the passing on to the prisoner the sentence reserved for those who prove themselves to be determined thieves, penal servitude for seven years.[2]

After landing in WA in 1865 Clements’ career followed the same pattern, with a record of insubordination against authority and criminal behaviour, which resulted in him spending more time in prison than outside in the community.


3/6/1866 – Insolence – Dis-rated.

1/9/1866 – Illegally writing and receiving a letter – one month’s hard labor.

1/2/1867 – Fremantle – Sparring in the Hall of the Cellular Division – 3 days’ bread & water.

25/5/1867 – Fremantle – Having Govt property improperly in possession – cautioned.

14/6/1867 – Ditto – Dirty utensils – 3 days’ bread & water.

24/7/1867 – Ditto – Disobedience of orders, cautioned.

2/10/67 – Ticket of Leave to R.M. at Fremantle

3/10/1867 – Discharged to Ticket of Leave.

1/11/67 – R.M., Perth – Stealing a horse, saddle & bridle – 12 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison – to pay £2 for capture.

1/11/67 – Ditto – Stealing silver watch – 12 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

2/11/67 – R.M. Fremantle – Absconding from his district – 6 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

2/11/67 – Ditto – Breaking from Prisoners’ Room in Courthouse and attempting to escape – three months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

25/11/67 – Ditto – Absconding from Point Walter – six months in irons at Fremantle Prison.

25/11/67 – Ditto – Breaking into home of J Harwood, stealing money and other articles – 2 years’ H/L, to begin at expiration of other sentences.

25/11/67 – Ditto – Deficient one duck slop, one prison cap and one handkerchief and one pair

socks – to be paid for if not recovered.

18/12/67 – Ditto – Refusing to take medicine prescribed for him and malingering – one day B & W.

29/1/68 – Ditto – Leaving his work without permission – 2 days’ B & W.

3/6/70 – R.M.C. (Champion) Bay – Malingering – 7 days’ B & W. Same date – Playing cards – 3 days B & W.

1872 – Ticket of Leave revoked.[3]

18/5/72 – Ditto – Out after hours – 7 days’ H/L.

15/6/72 – Ditto – Forging and uttering – 5 years P.S. at Fremantle Prison.

15/8/72 – To serve the whole period of 5 years’ P.S. (from 15/6/72) in prison.

25/9/72 – Fremantle Prison – Concealing himself with a view to abscond – one month in irons at Fremantle Prison.

28/1/73 – Ditto – having a pair of trousers concealed in his cell – 2 days’ B & W.

21/7/75 – R.M.  Fremantle – Absconding from North Fremantle Depot – 6 months’ H/L in Irons. To serve six months in separate confinement – to serve three months of this sentence in 28lb. Irons.

12/1/75 – Fremantle Prison – Having a pipe in his possession – 2 days’ B & W.

1876 – I Clements, aged 36, was being treated by the prison surgeon for Rheumatism (venereal).[4]

29/6/76 to 4/1/77, various remissions (indecipherable).

9/2/77 – Ticket of Leave to R.M. at Fremantle

12/4/77 – R.M. Fremantle – Stealing a coat – 12 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

12/4/77 – Ditto – Illegally at large – 3 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

12/4/77 – Ditto – Pawning a saddle belonging to AD Letch, 12 months’ H/L at F.P.

12/5/77 – R.M. Toodyay – Obtaining a horse saddle and bridle under false pretences – 6 months’ H/L at Fremantle Prison.

12/5/77 – R.M. Toodyay – Obtaining rations under false pretences – 3 months H/L at Fremantle Prison.

3/11/77– Ticket of Leave to R.M. Fremantle.

22/11/77 – At Fremantle Prison – Speaking to the Governor – Reprimanded & cautioned.

Feb. ‘78 – Prison cleaner (indecipherable)

4/10/78 – Smoking in cell – warned and cautioned.

7/6/80 – Out after hours – 7 days’ H/L.

4/9/80 – To R.M. Fremantle.

3/3/81 – Absent from place of abode – three weeks’ H/L at Albany.

24/3/81 – GW Knight J.P. Albany – Obtaining money under false pretences – 3 years’ Penal Servitude at Fremantle Prison.

19/9/81 – Remission 6 weeks, vide 14496/6. (Work at Asylum) (indecipherable)

28/10/81 – Fremantle Prison – Having 8/- in possession – money forfeited.

16/7/83 – R.M. Perth – Being the bailee of an accordeon, feloniously did commit the same to his own use – 6 months (indecipherable).

24/11/83 – Remission 16 days, and then 4 days on 3/1/84.

28/1/84 – Absent from lodgings – 10/- fine paid.

22/4/84 – Champion Bay – stealing 2 bottles of brandy – 12 months’ hard labor. (He was charged while employed by Mr DA Gray, the contractor for the Geraldton Hospital, with the larceny of two bottles of brandy and a hand-saw his property.)[5]

31/7/84 – Sending letters clandestinely to his wife and another man – remanded for further inquiry.

22/10/ 84 – Remission fifteen days.

29/1/85 – Throwing water over 7470 Kelly – reprimanded (indecipherable).

19/3/85 – Stealing a suit of clothing (indecipherable).

April 1885 – Choir, then May, June, July, Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., (indecipherable).

2/7/85 – Disobedience of orders – cautioned.

10/8/86 – Granted remission 6 months.

31/8/86 – To have C/F on 21/9/88 if well-behaved – vide 14752/1

2/10/86 – Fremantle burglary – 3 years’ hard labor and 36 lashes. Lashes approved – vide 14752/2.[6]

3/12/89 – Discharged from prison to Ticket of Leave.[7]


3/10/67 – General servant, 40/- per week, Fremantle, F Von Bibra.

6/5/72 – Labourer, J Mills, ditto. Victoria District, John Mills, Geraldton.

24/5/72 – Builder, £1/10 per month, ditto, JB Jennings, ditto.

13/2/ 77 – … (?) Fremantle, Chas Allen.

3/11/79 – Labourer, 7/- per day, Fremantle, J Hossack.

16/1/80 – (Indecipherable) 8/- per day, Fremantle, G Forman (?)

26/1/80 – Plasterer, 7/- per day, Fremantle, T McLaughlan

16/2/80 – Labourer, 5/- per day, Fremantle, A Stewart.

21/5/80 – Mason, 7/- per day, Fremantle, JG Hossack.

4/9/80 – Ditto, J Hammond.

12/3/83 – General servant, Fremantle, H Cook.

March/83 – Labourer, 6/- per day, Jarrahdale Timber Company, Jarrahdale.

5/6/83 – Sawyer, ditto, Joseph Shaw, Canning.

12/6/83 – Painter, 7/- per day, Perth, Robert H Hester.

24/12/83 – Stonemason, 8/- per day, W Willis, Perth.

21/8/84 – Ditto, 9/- per day, DA Gray, Geraldton.

25/2/85 – Plasterer, 11/- per day, Swan District, Wright Brothers, Guildford, Perth.[8]

Soon after Isaac Clements was first released from Fremantle Prison in 1867, local newspapers began reporting on a series of crimes which differed from the usual run-of-the- mill offences reported in their columns. Reports of his exploits provided good copy for editors. In November 1867 a case which confirmed Isaac Clements’ reputation as a confidence trickster was reported as follows –

Isaac Clements, t.l., a respectable looking young man, was charged with stealing a silver watch, the property of C. Reichberg, jeweller, of Perth. The circumstances were curious. Reichberg proved that on the 24th October he returned home from Fremantle, and found the prisoner, a stranger, staying in his house. He had been there two days, waiting to see him on urgent business. The business was, that prisoner offered his services as assistant surgeon-dentist. After some debate, Reichberg engaged him at 50s. per month, and finding that his tools, or instruments, were at Fremantle, Reichberg lent him his mare to ride there, and return next morning by 8 o’clock. The new assistant mounted the bay mare, rode away, and was no more seen. Not returning the following day, Reichberg became anxious, and, looking over his goods, found a silver watch missing out of a glass case on the counter. He then went to the police-station.

Soon afterwards the police learnt from Mr. W. Foster, of the Narrogin Inn, on the Sound Road, that an interesting young man had arrived there on a bay mare, representing himself as being despatched on an important mission by Mr. Landor, the police magistrate, and requiring to be made comfortable in every way. He also stated that Mr. R. C. Loftie would arrive there the next day, and that dinner must be got ready for him, which was accordingly done by the confiding landlord. After a night’s lodging and as many meals as he could manage, the zealous traveller departed, leaving his bill to be paid either by Mr. Landor or Mr. Loftie; whichever should first arrive. He also left a note for the latter, which on being opened was found to contain only a blank sheet of paper. He was overtaken by police constable Haggerty, about 150 miles from Perth, resting a little off the road. He had borrowed another horse, from a warder on the road, leaving his mare to recover from her fatigue. Among other letters found upon him was one addressed to Sir A. T. C. Campbell, Bart., Albany, purporting to be written by Mr. Landor, and begging Sir Alexander to afford the bearer every assistance, as he was engaged upon a very important commission. Clements was first brought up on the charge of stealing the watch out of the dwelling-house of his employer, and was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour; he was then charged with stealing the bay mare, and received another 12 months’ cumulation; he was then ordered to be returned to his district, Fremantle, where he has been tried and convicted as an absconder.[9]

In 1872 it was reported that Isaac Clements had received a sentence of five years’ penal servitude for a forgery on Mr J Herbert (Jnr), of Rockingham.[10] On 21 January 1875 he absconded from the North Fremantle Depot and as a result had to serve six months in separate confinement with hard labour in irons, the first three months to be served with 28lb. irons.

In 1877 he was in court again, facing three charges –

AN ABSCONDER. — Isaac Clements who some time ago walked into Mr. Harwood’s bedroom and helped himself to some silver in a pair of trowsers, was charged at the Police Court, Fremantle, on the 12th inst., with being at large, and sentenced to three months imprisonment. He was further charged with unlawfully pawning a saddle belonging to Mr. A. D. Letch, and for this offence he received an additional sentence of twelve months’ imprisonment. Helping himself also to a coat and hat, the property of one Mr. Hughes, he received a further sentence of twelve months.[11]

The following court case gives us an approximate date for his marriage to Emily Dowling in Perth in 1883.[12] The consequent prison term soon after the ceremony was not a promising start to married life –

In 1883 Isaac Clements was charged with having, about a month ago, stolen an accordeon, the property of a Malay named Henry Webbing. It appeared that the prisoner had borrowed the instrument to play at his wedding, but that instead of returning it he had handed it over to another man to sell for him. This had been done, and he had received the money, less the commission for it. Afterwards, when he found that a noise was being made about the matter, he had tried to repurchase the instrument.

The prisoner said that Webbing had given him the accordeon as a wedding-present in the presence of another foreigner, but this was denied by the man who, after some delay, was produced as a witness. Finally, the prisoner, who is a ticket-of-leave man, was sentenced to six months’ hard labor.[13]

While in gaol for this offence he was charged on 31 July with sending letters clandestinely to his wife and another man and was remanded for further inquiry. A child Florence Clements was born to the couple at Fremantle in 1884.[14] [A Florence Eleanor Clements married Frederick James Fawcett in 1901, but died a year later at the age of 18.]

In 1884, while Clements was employed by contractor DA Gray on the Geraldton Hospital site, he stole two bottles of brandy and a hand-saw, while being left in charge of the workers. This resulted in another 12 months’ hard labour in prison.[15]

[In December 1884 the West Australian newspaper wrongly announced that Isaac Clements had died suddenly at the Horse and Groom Hotel. Following an inquest further details revealed that this man was actually William Clements, who at the time of his death was a former Gingin storekeeper, aged 60. He died from effusion of the brain.[16] Following his death, three men were put on trial for stealing goods from the dead man’s cart.[17]]

In 1886 Isaac Clements while still under sentence was back in court, this time charged burglariously entering the house of Dr Hope, who with the help of his wife, managed to restrain him until police arrived –


On Saturday morning week at the Fremantle Police Court, before Mr. Fairbairn, E.M., Isaac Clements, a t.l. was brought up on remand, charged with burglariously entering the house of Dr. Hope, and stealing therefrom.

Only a few spectators were present, it evidently not having been expected that the case would be called on so soon. The prisoner pleaded guilty. On the Magistrate desiring to hear the facts of the case, Dr. Hope stepped into the witness box and gave a narrative of the particulars similar to that which appeared in our Saturday’s issue. Before passing sentence, the Magistrate read out a long list of convictions which have been recorded against Clements, and which clearly prove that he is a thoroughly incorrigible criminal.

The sentence of the Court upon him was that he serve the remainder of his unexpired sentences, which will not be completed till 1890, and that he be imprisoned for three years with hard labour and receive three dozen strokes of the lash. The prisoner received his sentence with apparent composure, and was removed without making any remark.

In appearance Clements is a decidedly intelligent looking man, and no one who was unacquainted with his previous career, would guess that it had been one of almost uninterrupted crime. He arrived in this colony, in the year 1865, in the ship Vimiera, having been sentenced to five years transportation on a charge of larceny. He was released on a ticket of leave in 1867, and since then has been convicted no less than 37 times. The following are some of the offences of which, he has been found guilty: – Horse-stealing, breaking from a room at the Court House, and attempting to escape, housebreaking and stealing, forging and uttering. The remainder of the cases have either been stealing, obtaining goods under false pretences, or infringements of the ticket of leave regulations.

We regret to hear that Mrs. Hope has been suffering considerably from the shock and excitement of Friday morning. Mrs. Hope’s many friends will be pleased to learn, however, that she is rapidly recovering from the shock to her system, caused by the unpleasant experience she has undergone.[18]

In 1888 Clements was charged with being onboard the Otway, while still under Ticket of Leave, and received a sentence of one month.[19] Soon he was back in court, charged with being illegally at large, this time receiving a twelve-month sentence.[20]

In November 1889 Clements faced another charge in the Perth Court, of failing to report his place of lodgings. He was given another two months, with an observation that ‘the prisoner had a very bad record; there being no fewer than twenty convictions against him, of which one was for burglary and six for larceny’.[21]

A court case in Geraldton in 1891 demonstrated that despite his age, Clements had lost none of his ingenuity. It is surprising, though, that some of his acquaintances, despite his bad reputation as a con-man, were persuaded to accept his offer of a free trip to the race-track in Perth –

On Tuesday last a man well known in this district as Isaac Clements, and who, about a fortnight ago, arrived in town from the Murchison, was arrested by the police at Perth on charges of forgery and for obtaining goods and money under false pretences. It appears that a draft for £2,900, payable to the order of Wm. Clements, came into Mr. Isaac Clement’s possession, and was presented at the W. A. Bank, Geraldton, for payment. Mr. Clements somehow managed to satisfy the manager of the Bank that he was the party whose name appeared on the face of the bill of exchange, and for a day or two he played the part of a Lord Bountiful. A few of his cheques, amounting to something like £100, were duly honored, the proceeds of them going to fit out his friends with clothing, jewellery, etc.

The local police, however, hearing of Mr. Clement’s good fortune, and being acquainted with the gentleman’s antecedents, suspected that the draft had got into the wrong hands, and immediately set to work to find out the truth or otherwise of Clements’ story, and after a time succeeded in discovering a party believed to be the real “Simon Pure”, in the person of a Mr. William Clements, residing at Perth. On making this discovery, Mr. Isaac Clements who, we believe, claims the Christian name of Isaac Williams, was, as we have already stated, arrested. Suspicion once aroused as to the gentleman’s identity, his cheques in circulation in Geraldton were refused at the bank. These, amounting to about £100 in all, are now in the hands of the police.

We have omitted to mention that Mr. Clements provided the wherewithal to treat a number of his friends to a trip to Perth by the last Rob Roy to witness the races. As things have turned out, Mr. Clements, however, had not the pleasure of visiting the racecourse, as he was by that time in the custody of the police. He will be brought to Geraldton next week when a preliminary hearing will be given to him at the Geraldton Police Court.[22]

Surprisingly, the Eastern Districts Chronicle, dated 31 January 1891, reported that on this occasion, the case against Clements was dismissed, due to lack of evidence of his intention to defraud the bank.

In 1893 Clements was not so lucky. It appears that he sought to take advantage of a newcomer to the colony, said to have wealthy family connections in England. In the court Sydney Fryer (or Friar) Smith was discharged, but Clements was sentenced to five years in prison –



(Before M. Brown, Esq., G.R.)

The adjourned case against Isaac Clements and Sydney Friar Smith, conjointly charged

with obtaining, under false pretences, two horses, valued at £22 from W. H. Jeffries at

Geraldton on Oct. 13th last, was proceeded with.Bottom of Form

In November 1893, during the preliminary hearing of the charges against Isaac Clements and Sydney Friar Smith, yesterday, of obtaining goods at Minginew by issuing valueless cheques, it transpired that Smith is well-connected in England and has command of large sums of money. His last remittance cabled from England was for £250. The evidence showed Sir George Shenton is the agent for his family, and Sir George has wired offering to meet all cheques that may be drawn to pay for Smith’s defence, and stating that he is prepared to go bail for him to any amount.[23]

On 30 May 1899, Clements was received into prison from Northam.[24] He was re-convicted as an Imperial Convict (still with the same Reg. No.8516), in February 1900, then reconvicted for a month from 26 June 1900.[25] On 25 April 1901 Isaac Clements (new Reg. No. 4664) was released to the Invalid Department.[26] By this time he was aged over 60.

No further records of Isaac Clements have been found. Whether he left the colony is not known. No doubt he went on to trick others out of their hard-earned wealth.

Photograph of Isaac Clements (Convict No. 8516), said to have been taken as a Colonial Prisoner in WA and dating sometime after the 1880s. He is wearing his original convict number. (Source: Australia’s Last Convicts reprobates, rogues and recidivists, by Lorraine Clarke and Sherie Strickland, Swan Genealogy, iPrintPlus, Perth, Western Australia.)

[Note: See more details of Isaac Clements on the Midwest Convict Register.]


[1] Convict Department Estimates and Convict Lists (128/1-32)

[2] Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser, 17 October 1863.

[3] Government Gazette, 2 July 1872, p.146.

[4] Convict Establishment, Fremantle Casual Sick, Casual Sick Registers, 1876 – 1890 (CS18 – CS19).

[5] Victorian Express, 30 April 1884.

[6] Western Australia Convict Records, General Register for Various Numbers 1435 – 3784, 8476 – 8770 (R12-


[7] Convict Establishment, Receipts and Discharges (Fremantle), 1886 – 1892, 1896 – 1898 (RD10/A –


[8] Western Australia Convict Records, General Register (R12- R13).

[9]  Inquirer, 6 Nov 1867.

[10] Inquirer, 26 June 1872.

[11] Herald, Fremantle, WA, 21 April 1877.

[12] WA Marriage Register, Reg. No. 5591.

[13] Daily News, 17 July 1883.

[14] WA Birth Register, Reg. No. 25458.

[15] Victorian Express, 30 April 1884.

[16] WA Death Register, Reg. No. 12940.

[17] Daily News, 3 January 1885.

[18] Western Mail, 9 October 1886.

[19]  Inquirer, 28 Dec 1888.

[20] Daily News, 29 Jan 1889.

[21] Inquirer, 30 Nov 1889.

[22] Victorian Express, Geraldton, 3 January 1891.

[23] Daily News, 14 Nov 1893.

[24] Convict Establishment, Receipts and Discharges (Fremantle), 1897 – 1902 (RD13A – RD13B).

[25] Convict Establishment, Receipts and Discharges Nominal Returns, 1899 – 1901 (RD22).

[26] Ibid.