Among the Aldington Gang members that remained in Kent in 1826 (at least for a while) were some who escaped detection, some who were acquitted of the charges brought against them, and others who turned King’s Evidence.
Acquitted: Robert Bailey and Thomas Wheeler
Robert Bailey, brother of Samuel, Elizabeth and Rhoda, was 30 years old when he was arrested. He lived at Mersham with his wife Jane (nee Paine). Having only been charged with the murder of Morgan, and not with offences against the Revenue laws, Robert, together with Thomas Wheeler, was wholly acquitted.
Thomas Wheeler was a blacksmith at Folkestone. Like Robert Bailey, he had only been charged with the murder of Morgan, and not with offences against the Revenue laws, and so was wholly acquitted.
King’s Evidence: John Bushell, Edward Horne, Edward Pantry
John Bushell was the first of the Aldington Gang members to be captured after the death of Quartermaster Morgan. He was captured at Fort Moncrief on 6 August 1826, after being shot in the knee. Records of the Admiralty Law Agent state that ‘Bushell, having then undergone an amputation of the thigh, near the hip, he was reduced to such a state of danger as to be incapable of examination, and not having shown the least inclination to make any disclosure nothing could at the time be effected.’ However, Bushell ultimately proved a valuable witness for the prosecution, and received £100 reward for his evidence.
Edward Horne, known as Harry, and also known as Spratford, lived at Ruckinge. He was described as ‘a good looking young man’ and a labourer. Captured on 2 September 1826, near Walmer, he at first feigned imbecility but later escaped conviction and transportation by turning King’s Evidence. At the trial, he revealed he had known Ransley for nearly ten years and had met him, by appointment, at a public house at Lydden on the night Quartermaster Morgan was shot. Between fifty and sixty people had assembled, of whom somewhere between a dozen and sixteen had fire-arms. Horne carried a fowling-piece which belonged to Samuel Bailey.
Horne received £100 for the information he provided which led to warrants for the apprehension of many of the offenders and support for the charges brought against them. You can read Horne’ evidence relating to the events of 11 March 1826,16 March 1826,11 May 1826, 10 Jun 1826, 9 July 1826 and 6 August 1826.
Apparently Horne was convicted of horse theft before his former smuggling companions embarked for Van Diemen’s Land.
Edward Pantry lived at Aldington. He was described as ‘a nice, steady, hard-working man, who always did a thing well, if he minded to do it, till he got in along with those smugglers’. Like Horne, Pantry turned King’s Evidence.
Also like Horne, he was arrested for theft, this time of sheep, within a year of the trial. Apparently he stole two sheep from a farm at Bonnington but was caught in the act by a smuggler who reported the theft to the farmer the following day. Arrested by Constable Stokes from ‘the Marsh’, Pantry was tried at Dymchurch and sentenced to transportation.
Edward’s mother, Catherine, was a Higgins, possibly related to Richard. His aunt, Sarah, is thought to have been the wife of Aldington Gang member, Samuel Bailey.