Committal proceedings

The Kentish Chronicle of 31 October 1826 reported on the committal trial of Aldington Gang members brought before Sir R Birnie and Mr Hall on the previous Friday, 27 October 1826.

The prosecution began its case by calling Michael Pickett, a seaman from Ramillies, who was employed in the preventive service on the Kent coast, and who had been present during the operation which resulted in quartermaster Morgan’s death on 30 July. His evidence provides the basis for much of the account of the events of that night. Pickett’s evidence, supported by quartermaster Peter Prendergast, was offered ‘in proof of the murder having been committed on the night in question, by a gang of smugglers’.

It was one of their own, an accomplice, who would provide the evidence that ‘some of the prisoners at the bar were present when that murder took place.’ Edward Horne, a labourer from Ruckinge, swore that he knew all the prisoners and that all but Giles had been with him on the night of the murder. He revealed that the party assembled at the Palm Trees at Wigmore and that the party managed to make off with seventy tubs of uncustomed spirits, and would have landed more had they not been interrupted by the blockade men.

Mr Platt, acting on behalf of the gang members, rose to cross-examine Horne, pointing out that at the very least his evidence failed to make any case at all against Charles Giles, as Horne admitted that he had not been with him that evening.

The prosecution then proposed to bring evidence against Giles for ‘being armed and near Dymchurch, on the coast of Kent, on the 11th of May last, when William Wynn was shot’.

William Wynn was then brought from the Tower to give evidence. Like Pickett, Wynn was a seaman aboard the Ramillies, employed to prevent smuggling. He provided an account of the events of 11th of May 1826, during which he was shot. Edward Horne was recalled to the stand to give his account of that evening. He revealed that Giles had been shot on that occasion and that he had lost his firearm (implying that it was the fowling piece recovered by Wynn). Officer Smith, who had arrested Giles on 17 October, stated that Giles had accounted for a wound on his neck by describing it as the effect of a blister.

Another Ramillies officer, William Spillane, was then called to prove a third case against the prisoners, relating the events of the evening of 6 August 1826. Giving his evidence with some difficulty, it was apparent that Spillane still suffered from the wounds allegedly inflicted by the smugglers on that August night. Lieutentant Johnson gave further evidence on the events of that evening, as did the informant, Horne.

Once the evidence had been given, the prisoners were committed to Newgate to take their trial for the murder of Morgan and on the separate charges of carrying arms on the Kent coast with a view to running smuggled goods.

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