MRS MARY RIDDING
A Captain's Wife, who was sent to Prison for stealing a Child, 28th of August, 1819
MRS MARY RIDDING, the wife of Captain William Ridding, was tried at the Old Bailey, upon an indictment for stealing Benjamin, the infant child of John Schrier, fourteen months old.
The first witness was a little boy, seven years of age, named Samuel Schrier. He was sent out, with his three little brothers, before two o'clock, on Saturday, 28th of August, 1819; one of them was Benjamin. He took them to an adjoining field. A lady, who was the prisoner at the bar, came up to him and asked: " Is this Bancroft Place?" He replied: "Yes." She then asked him if there was a cakeshop near, and if the child (Benjamin) was his brother. He said: "Yes." She then gave him a shilling, and desired him to go and get threepennyworth of cakes, and took the child out of his arms to hold while he was away. He was gone about a quarter of an hour, and when he returned to the spot he found Benjamin missing, and searched all about the fields without being able to find him or the lady.
Sarah Holdgate said her husband kept a greengrocer's shop at Shadwell. On Saturday, 28th of August, the prisoner came to their shop, about four o'clock in the afternoon, to buy some fruit for a child she carried in her arms. The lady seemed very agitated, and trembled much. She said she had lost her way, was much fatigued, and wanted a coach to Old Street, and did not mind what she paid for it. Witness directed her to the nearest coach stand, and was, at the time while she stopped -- for about ten minutes -- struck with the difference in the condition of dress of the child and the lady.
Hester Hilder lived at the Cross Keys Inn, Gracechurch Street, and remembered the prisoner coming there on Saturday, the 28th of August. She had been there once before. This Saturday, when she came with the child, it was dark, and candles were lighted for her. She left the inn on the Monday following. The child, while at the inn, pined and fretted a good deal, as if it wanted its mother's nutrition.
John Schrier said, when he found that Benjamin was lost he immediately went to make diligent search, in the course of which he arrived at Birmingham, where he found Martin, the officer, who had arrived there before him. He was in an apartment with the child and the lady at the bar.
Martin held up the child to him, which he immediately owned to be his, and accordingly took it. Martin then pointed to the lady, and said it was she who stole it. Either the prisoner or her sister-in-law, who was present, asked witness how he knew it to be his child. And he pointed out marks on the child's arm and eye, when one of the ladies remarked that he might have seen these marks since he came into the room. He refuted this by producing one of his printed bills advertising the lost child, which contained an enumeration of the aforesaid marks.
Joseph Martin, an officer, said he pursued the prisoner to Birmingham. He found her there on the Wednesday, with the child in her arms, at the door of her house. It was dressed very smartly, and she was nursing it. He did not speak to her until the Thursday morning, when the father came. He told him he thought he had succeeded in finding his child. He then went to the house, which was a bookseller's, and asked for Captain Ridding, who was out. He then asked for Mrs Ridding, who, with her sister-in-law, came downstairs, and he was introduced to them in a back parlour. Witness then said to them: "I am an officer of the police from London, and have a serious charge against you; it is for stealing a child." She appeared dreadfully agitated at this intimation, and the sister-in-law equally so. The latter said: "What does all this mean, my dear? Speak the truth. What is there about this child?" "I will, then", said the prisoner. "The Captain has been long wishing for a child, and I went to London, determined to take some poor person's child, and adopt it as my own." The officer further said that when he first saw the child on the Wednesday it was elegantly attired in a lace dress; on the Thursday it had a new and different dress. The lady appeared to treat it tenderly, and offered to send a careful person up with it to London. She did not seem to wish to conceal the child at all, for he saw her dancing it in her arms at the bookseller's door.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty; but strongly recommended the prisoner to mercy. She was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment.