WHAT an extra-ordinary co-incidence. Wherever William Rood worked, a spate of thieving occurred.

At the railway company, stolen cigars were found on him and at a firm of fruit importers two robberies were committed. Then there was the small matter of discrepancy in the accounts of a Sunday school while he acted as secretary. From other interim jobs, he had also been discharged.

And its effect?

“It turned me to drink, I was once teetotal,” he lamented at Hampshire Assizes in 1907 when charged with burgling a neighbouring post office in Portswood Road, Southampton.

Its layout was unusual. It had two entrances, a conventional one at the front but another at the rear through the garden gate.

Rood chose the former route when he purchased three stamps at about 8am, but later the post mistress Ursula Corry heard a strange noise coming from upstairs and summoned the police.

Pc Gibbs was on the scene within minutes and discovered Rood lying under her bed.

A davenport had been forced open and from it a chamoise leather bag, keys and about 5s in cash had been taken. All were recovered when he was taken to the police station.

The officer then returned to the post office and discovered a hole in a window about five feet off the ground, large enough for a man to stretch his arm through and release the catch.

When questioned, Rood, 31, could only comment: “I don’t know I’m sure what made me do it.”

Pc Gibbs sitting opposite had shrewd reason to know why – he could smell drink.

The defence represented by Mr Charles blamed the evil of alcohol for the housebreaking but that the judge, Commissioner Harrison, stressed was no excuse. Directing the jury as to the law, he asked the the jury to consider what inference could be drawn from the fact Rood had decided not to give evidence.

“He has not gone into the witness box and the fact he had hidden himself suggests guilt.”

Jurors, who swiftly returned the inevitable conviction, then heard from Southampton’s acting chief constable Boggelin who had known him for 12 years.

Though he conceded Rood had never been charged with any offence, he revealed the catalogue of missing property wherever he worked.

“Owing to drink he had to resign as secretary to the Eastleigh Sunday School Union Afterwards the auditors found this deficiency in the accounts which he promised to make up but has failed to do so.”

Rood, now working as a coal merchant, was furious.

“Nothing has ever been proved against me,” he protested. “This is the first time I have heard there was a deficiency. I only resigned from my position with the Union because I was going to live in Portswood and since I have moved there, I have been honest.

“I admit I have taken to drink and had several pints of the date of this alleged offence. Since then, my horse and trolley have been sold and my wife is in delicate health. I have been offered employment if I am released.”

The judge evidently believed there was no smoke without fire.

“I cannot take into consideration those previous matters but the method with which this offence was committed points to the fact you are not quite a novice,” he remarked, jailing him for nine months.