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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

A Thief to Catch a Thief

A Thief to Catch a Thief.

If the Commissioners had discharged their duty the bulk their report would naturally have been devoted to narrative and analysis, in which the admitted facts, the facts in dispute, the evidence for and against every doubtful point of importance, and the inferences to be drawn in each case would have been duly marshalled and clearly elucidated. As, however, they have not even said enough to convey the faintest impression of the nature of the case, it will be necessary for us to take nothing for granted, and to incorporate in our review of the case a narrative of the proceedings from the very start, was, then, in the year 1887 that the New Zealand Mortgage and Investment Association Limited, the owners of Islay Station, which adjoined Mr. Meikle's farm at Tuturau, near on the north and east, had reason to believe that their sheep were being stolen. Suspicion fell upon Mr. Meikle, who had for years been at loggerheads with them over most the subjects about which neighbours can quarrel, and had himself to be a determined and, as they believed, an unscrupulous antagonist. William Lambert was accordingly employed, on the recommendation of the police, to detect the thief and stationed in a hut near Meikle s boundary. This man had previously done odd jobs for the Company on another run; he had had occasional employment from the police in the capacity of bailiff; and he had had one previous experience in the role of private detective. His more intimate relations with crime testified by two convictions for drunkenness and one for petty larceny—the theft of a bottle of whisky—were proved page 12 before the Commission, but were presumably not known to the Company or to the local police at the time of his appointment. The terms of Lambert's employment were that he was to "£1 a week and found," and £50 down if he detected thief and procured a conviction. His modus operandi was to work himself into the confidence of the Meikle family, to whom, as to the whole neighbourhood, the nature of his mission was well known; and by this means he claimed to have secured necessary evidence within a few weeks after his appointment. Meikle and his son were accordingly arrested early in November on a charge of stealing fifty-four of the Company's sheep.