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True Crime

The Cook, The Actor, His Wife and the Stolen Shawl

Dateline 24 May 1890: Mary Ann Lilliott had been cook at the home of famed actors Ellen and Edward Terry for almost a year when she found herself appearing in court charged with theft of multiple items from the Terry home.

Five months prior to her court appearance Lilliott had been placed in charge of the household at Priory Road in Barnes, whilst the Terry’s undertook a tour of India. When the Terry’s returned home Ellen was less than impressed to discover that multiple items, including a lace shawl, yards of black silk and six dozen towels all missing.

The police were called in and were granted a warrant to search the rooms Lilliott rented in Leigham Road where most of the stolen property was found. Detective Sergeant Viney opened about 20 different bundles that Lilliott said she had from a former business that she had run. Viney then found the stolen goods (minus the towels) in a parcel that Lilliott was sitting on. “Oh my God, I feel so ill,” she said once the items were found. Sergeant Viney told the court that Mary Ann did not take the items through want as she had over 200 shillings in the bank and was owed eight shillings in wages from the Terry’s. Ellen Terry didn’t want to press charges and was willing to forgive Mary Ann once she had the items back. The police disagreed. Presiding magistrate Mr Denman sentenced Mary Ann Lilliott to four months prison with hard labour.

The towels were never recovered. Maybe the sale of them was why Lilliott had money in the bank?

Source: The Standard, Saturday 24 May 1890.

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