"DEAR sir," the promotion began.

"I have discovered a secret from twelve years farming in America and Canada. I have a farm in England like no other. My hens can produce more eggs and of the best quality. Doctors agree. So why don't you put your trust in me.

"But it must remain a secret between you and me. No one in the outside world must know."

So Fred Russle wrote off to a series of would-be investors and hundreds of pounds rolled in.


But it was a cruel scam and John Musson was one victim.

"He told me he had a feeding process which would make hens lay an egg a day, and each hen would produce 365 eggs per annum for five years without moulting."

Mr Justice Charles could scarcely keep a straight face.

"He is an optimist," he quipped, setting off a roar of laughter from a jury.

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Musson was giving evidence against Russle, 71, who farmed at Farlington, Portsmouth and to whom he had entrusted £500, his life savings.

Another witness Bill Budger, who admitted he had parted with £250, said he had been swayed by Russle who told him he had a scientific breeding programme by which hens would lay more eggs during the winter than the summer.

On note paper, Russle claimed to have 'the only poultry of its kind in England.'

The judge commented: "I should think it was," a remark that also amused the jury.

"I see the note paper also says 'all eggs are guaranteed pure because the birds are not allowed to run wild and pick up offal.' It further says, recommended by doctors."

Following a series of complaints, police brought in a fellow poultry farmer who carried on business on Hayling Island, and found Russle's breeding programme consisted of nothing more than an ordinary backyard plant at the rear of his house that housed only 120 birds.

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"And poor ones at that," he derided.

"I cannot expect the birds there to average more than 120 eggs a year. It is impossible to get 365 eggs from a bird in a year. I would like to ask him his secret."

The judge jested. "Why don't you ask him? He's in the dock."

Russle, who denied obtaining money by false pretences and fraudulent conversion, told Hampshire Assizes at his trial in 1929 that from his experience as a farmer in America and Canada, he learnt secrets about poultry and knew farms which had hens laying six eggs a week all year round.

"Will you give me the address of one farm in America," the judge asked, adopting a stern mood.

"California," Russle succinctly replied.

Judge - "What is the farm in England?"

Russle: "There are none in England at the present time. You must not let a hen know the difference between summer and winter and you can get an egg a day. I know hens which lay two eggs a day."

Russle denied having told investors he had served in the navy and was in receipt of a pension but he did admit that a statement in an agreement to the effect his property which he offered as security was untrue. He also accepted he had put the deposits into his bank account.

Not surprisingly it took jurors just seconds to convict Russle on all charges and his true character then came out.

As early as 1892 he had been jailed for six months for false pretences and his time in Canada had been generally confined to a prison in Vancouver where he had served three years for fraud before being deported.

Since his return, he had lived in Southampton and Guildford before moving to Farlington where his furniture was on instalment plan and had since been reclaimed.

The judge showed no sympathy.

"Your offences are bad, you have robbed these men of all they had."

He then jailed him three years.

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