THE proceedings had only just begun when the chairman intervened in a last minute bid to prevent a family rift.

"I suppose there is no possibility of this case being settled as we do not like brother set against brother," Alderman J L Feuvre urged.

Turning to the theft victim, he asked: "Do you wish to continue with the case?"

It was put in vain.

"Yes" Charles Clarke demanded.

The regrettable scene was played out before Southampton magistrates on February 15, 1904, when Ernest Clarke was charged with stealing £17.17s, partly in gold, partly in silver, from a cash box left on a bed.

His brother found it missing when he returned home at 4pm. Though a chisel lay adjacent, the box had been opened with a key.

As the evidence unfolded, it was quickly apparent they were not close.

"He visited me occasionally but he has not done so for a year," Charles Clarke said of their relationship.

But on the day of the theft, Ernest Clarke had certainly been there. Two neighbours testified to that.

Beatrice Alloway said he had called at her back door in Empress Road as she was about to go out.

"It was about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. He asked for my permission to go over my garden wall into his brother's garden as he was afraid of the dog. He got over the fence and later I heard some money had been stolen."

Le Feuvre was anxious she was sure.

"Are you certain it was the same man?" he inquired, indicating the defendant.

"Yes," she firmly replied.

Minnie Bundy also recognised him as he called at Mrs Alloway's house the same afternoon at about a quarter to three.

"I heard him ask for for permission to go over her fence. I saw him get over the fence. At twenty minutes to four, I saw him get over the fence again and he came out of the back door at ten minutes to four."

The police however never came caught up with Clarke for about five months when Pc Victor saw him Prospect place and told him a warrant had been issued for his arrest for theft.

"Why, that's all over long ago," Clarke cajoled him. "I have done time for that in Winchester."

Victor however arrested him but as they neared the police station, Clarke suddenly bolted, leading to a frantic chase which only ended in the town centre when he ran out of breath and surrendered.

In interview, he claimed there had been a misunderstanding.

"I did not know that was what you wanted me for. I thought it was for something else or I should not have run away."

Clarke was searched and from a pocket the officer retrieved a bunch of keys, one of which could unlock the cash box padlock, as well as a series of pawn tickets.

On being formally charged, Clarke, who described himself as a painter, though a plumber by trade, finally confessed.

Magistrates then learnt he had three previous convictions for larceny and had once been accused of breaking into his mother's house.

Detective Maryon said Clarke had been discharged from the army and was a deserter from the Derbyshire regiment.

He was jailed for four months with hard labour.