THE local press denounced William Bartlett as a" hardened young villain" and a judge knew where his surly attitude had been fashioned by the way he had conducted himself when on trial for theft. "You have a distressing impudence and I have no doubt you have received education in one of the jails of London," remarked Peregrine Bingham, banishing him to Botany Bay for seven years.

The condemnation from the Recorder of Southampton brought a scowl from the rebellious teenager who sneered: "Thank ye, sir. I hope you're stuck there when I get back again," before he was forcibly removed to the cells beneath the Bargate court.

Bartlett, 18, had been identified as the burglar who had hacked through the front window bars of a prominent East Street shop to steal two gold watches displayed on hooks. The owner, Stephen Emanuel, was sitting in his parlour when he heard a noise coming from his adjacent business and saw a figure running away in a "stooping position." Moments later came the cry of "stop thief" from his assistant, Bernard Simmons.

Emanuel smartly gave chase and caught Bartlett who had fled down the Back of the Walls where a police sergeant helped detain him. They were soon joined by Simmons with a retrieved gold repeater a passer-by had spotted glinting in the fading light.

But where was the other? In the enveloping darkness, finding it was impossible, so shortly after dawn the following morning, Simmons retraced the route Bartlett had been running. His painstaking search was eventually rewarded. The teenager had hurled it between two graves in the small cemetery that adjoined the Back of the Walls.

Daily Echo: East Street in the early 20th century.East Street in the early 20th century. (Image: Old postcard)

Meanwhile, Bartlett had been charged.

Sgt Clift told jurors at the town's Midsummer Quarter Sessions in 1920 how he had taken him into custody where a search yielded a file which corresponded with marks left by such an implement on the shop window. Though the prosecution's evidence looked overwhelming, Bartlett challenged Emanuel about identification: "How can you swear that I am the boy? Another might have entered your shop? "

Emanuel gave it short shrift: "Because I never lost sight of you, and there was no other boy near at the time."

Bartlett realised the inevitable and when offered the opportunity to cross-examine other witnesses, he grunted: "No, it's no use for me to ask any."

He declined to give evidence, and jurors without leaving their seats convicted him.