On 1 August 1826, Customs House, London offered a reward of £500 to any one who discovered or caused to be discovered the smugglers involved in the death of Richard Morgan and the wounding of Richard Pickett.
It took some time before the offer brought any results – presumably the local inhabitants were too involved, otherwise sympathetic or perhaps too frightened to reveal what they knew. Eventually though, a member of the gang, Edward Horne, was captured and induced to inform on his colleagues.
Acting on his information, two Bow Street Runners were dispatched from London to Hythe to set up headquarters. They interviewed customs officers and naval officers from HMS Ramilles, and they paid undercover visits to the Walnut Inn.
Their investigations were lead to a major operation in the early morning of Tuesday 17 October 1826 which resulted in the first arrests in the case. A force of around 120 armed Preventive Service officers marched towards Aldington from the coast. They killed a number of dogs with their cutlasses to prevent them raising the alarm, but they were spotted by a woman looking from an upstairs window who called a warning ‘Warhawk’ to those inside.
Seeing the strength of the opposition, George Ransley surrendered without resistance and he and seven others – Thomas Gilham, Charles Giles, Robert and Samuel Bailey, Thomas Dennard and Richard and William Wire – were arrested and marched in handcuffs to Fort Moncrieff where they were embarked on a naval vessel which took them to Deptford via the coast to forestall rescue attempts.
On arrival in London they were questioned individually before being sent on remand to the House of Correction. All, except Giles, had been incriminated on Horne’s evidence.
About a fortnight later, Richard Higgins, Paul Pierce, John Bailey and Edward Pantry were arrested. Before the case was opened, Pantry asked and was allowed to turn King’s Evidence. The other four were committed to go to trial with the gang members arrested earlier. Also arrested were James Hogben, James Smeed, Thomas Wheeler and William Wire.
Kentish Chronicle articles
The following articles appeared in The Kentish Chronicle:
The Kentish Chronicle – 10 October 1826
Dover, October 18th: – Murder of Morgan
This morning intelligence was brought to Town that one of the party concerned in the murder of Morgan, of the Coast Blockade, who, a short time ago, was shot by a band of smugglers, in front of The Marine Parade, had made disclosures implicating, some reports say twenty, others thirty, in the barbarous action; but it is certain that eight persons are now in custody on his information. A reward of £1000 was offered for their apprehension at the time and a reward is said to have prompted the informer, an inhabitant of Deal, to come forward voluntarily and give information, as, up to this time, the slightest clue to discover the perpetrators could never be obtained.
The Kentish Chronicle – 20 October 1826
Canterbury, October 20th
A considerable party of armed seamen was landed from two vessels in Dymchurch Bay, in the night of Monday last, accompanied by their officers and (we are informed) a smuggler who been previously taken by the Coastal Blockade, and who has given important information relative in the “Fighting Party” who have on several occasions protected the running of contraband goods, on different parts of the coast of this County and Sussex.
On proceeding to Aldington, Bilsington and Ruckinge, they captured in his bed, the “Captain Bats” and several others, whose residences and persons were pointed out by the informer, and immediately conveyed the prisoners on board the vessels, and proceeded to the Downs.
The whole business was managed under the direction of Lieutenant S. Hellard RN and it is hoped may have a good effect in preventing the outrages and defiance of the law, which the approach of winter caused the respectable part of the community to apprehend.”