[Editor: An extract from the news section of The Age, 26 April 1887.]
[An amusing incident]
An amusing incident which happened at the King-street police station last week is the subject of conversation amongst the city force, and is to be enquired into at headquarters.
A man named Webb who was locked up as drunk and disorderly by Constable Jefferys, was, when he became sober, employed to clean the floor of the cell he had slept in, and was allowed to go outside the gate to obtain a bucket of water. The prisoner seized the favourable opportunity, and made his escape.
The arresting constable after vainly searching for the absconder, and realising the unpleasant responsibility he had incurred, resolved to satisfy justice by a ruse which he cleverly carried out. At the Model Lodging House close by he sought and actually secured the services of a substitute who for a small consideration was willing to personate the absent inebriate, and who consented to be locked up, and in due course appear before their worships on the bench.
The substitute who agreed to be called Webb for an hour was duly incarcerated, and by the lockup keeper Constable Dempster, he was in due course presented as one of a batch of “drunks” at the City Court. The scheme would have certainly succeeded admirably had it not been ruined at the last moment by the unlooked for appearance at the watchhouse, in a semi-drunken state, of the real offender, who returned an hour too soon to demand the restitution of a favourite pipe and one or too other articles taken from him when he was locked up.
Another watchhouse keeper had in the meanwhile taken charge of the place, Sergeant Brennan, to whom the appearance at King-street of the prisoner at 10 o’clock was mysterious as well as suspicious, when he should have been in custody at Swanston-street half a mile away. After closely questioning Webb, Sergeant Brennan was convinced that he had in some unaccountable way escaped, re-arrested him, and sent him to the City Court where the innocent substitute stood ready to undertake his responsibility. Then the artful dodge was discovered. The sham Webb was turned out of the lockup, and the real culprit was presented to the bench and fined.
At headquarters this police joke is not appreciated, but being viewed in a serious light is likely to bring the ingenious officer who concocted it into serious trouble.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), Tuesday 26 April 1887, page 5 (3rd column)
Also published in:
The Burra Record (Kooringa [Burra], SA), Friday 29 April 1887, pages 2-3
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]