Saturday, 20 February 2016

Charles Docking

A respected county-court bailiff and sexton appears to be the mastermind behind a robbery of money and jewellery from a tomb in Mildenhall, Suffolk.

Charles and wife Mary and their five children are recorded in the 1861 census in Mildenhall; he is a bailiff for the county council and a sexton of the local church.

In January 1863, a local resident, Mr. Childerstone was buried with property belonging to his son who had died in 1859. This included  £40 in gold, some watches, chains, rings and other jewellery as well as a corkscrew, comb and tin shaving box. The parents resolved that no one else in the world should possess their son’s items and agreed that they would be buried with whichever parent died first.

In July that year stories started to circulate around Mildenhall that the vault had been broken into and the police investigated.

They discovered that this was indeed the case and arrested local man Charles Bird. He soon told them the whole story and pointed the finger at the County Court Bailiff, Charles Docking.

It transpired that Charles Docking had recruited others to do the actual “dirty work” for him, and then took all the spoils to sell in London.

When the facts became known Charles Docking and the other main accomplice William Grayham immediately absconded and though warrants were issued for their apprehension the police had no idea where to find them.

There is a wonderful description of Charles in the Police Gazette 12 August 1863:

“- A native of Mildenhall, about 40 years of age, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches high, very stout, large fat face, very large reddish-brown whiskers meeting under the chin, a wart or wen about the size of a horse bean (and which is always very red), on the cheek, supposed to be the right, very bushy dark brown hair, and hazel eyes; generally wears a high-crowned black hat, loose alpaca coat, and dark waistcoat and trousers.”

Charles Docking and his family had moved to Islington, London where he lived out his days and was never brought to trial for the offence. Islington is about 62 miles as the crow flies from Mildenhall.  Charles and family are detailed in the 1871 and 1881 census.

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