A habitual thief who travelled across Europe masquerading as different people almost came to a sticky end when he stole a fishing boat in Jersey and had to be rescued by fishermen.
George Francis Levée (25), whose list of previous offences included fraud and theft, was in Jersey in 1921 when he and his accomplice, Charles Henry Miller, stole a boat called Dainty from Bouley Bay Harbour on Thursday, 8 September.
The pair cut the boat from its moorings and arrived at the Ecréhous between 12-18 hours later.
Records show that they broke into the Customs hut on the Ecrehous and stole a number of provisions and consumable stores, telling two fishermen that they had hired the boat and had permission from the Chief Agent of the Impôts to occupy the Customs hut.
Pictured: A record of the Baptism of George Francis Levée. (Jersey Heritage)
The two fishermen left the Ecrehous, leaving Levée, Miller, the stolen boat and a punt of their own. When they arrived back in Jersey they learnt what had really happened and immediately returned to the Ecrehous to find the stolen boat cut adrift and the two men using the fishermen’s punt to pull towards the French coast.
Levée and Miller had got into considerable difficulties and were eventually rescued by the fishermen and returned to Jersey to pay for their crimes. On investigating the case further, the Police found that Miller was absent without leave from the Royal Navy, which is ironic given the problems that the pair had found themselves in when trying to row to the French coast.
The Jersey Police felt that Miller had been led astray by Levée and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment before being returned to the Navy.
Meanwhile, Levée pleaded guilty to the theft and was also charged with obtaining food and lodgings at the Mont Orgueil Tea Rooms under false pretences. He was sentenced to nine months in prison.
Pictured: Acting Attorney General C E Malet de Carteret. (Société Jersiaise - SJPA000460)
In April 1922, the Secretary of the Prison Board sent a petition to the Lieutenant Governor for the partial remission of Levée’s sentence. It was forwarded to the Secretary of State for consideration along with a report from the Acting Attorney General C E Malet de Carteret to give some background.
In this report, Levée is described as having a ‘very poor character’ and it was revealed that Scotland Yard had informed Jersey that he had been convicted four times by civil authorities for fraud, theft and false pretences, and that he had twice been imprisoned under Army Law, once for masquerading as an RAF Officer.
When he appeared in Court for these charges, he was described as ‘handsome, debonair, of fine physique and obviously cultured.’ The Court also noted that he had been ‘chased all over the Continent by the French and Italian police. He stayed in the finest hotels and lived on the proceeds of various worthless cheques’.
In Levée’s petition for early release, he points out that the stolen boat and fishing gear had not been damaged and that the two men had only broken into the Customs hut because they were hungry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the petition was refused and Levée served his full prison sentence.
Although Levée was born in St Peter, he left the Island shortly after he was released from prison. The UK Calendar of Prisoners gives us information on his later life, which included more court appearances and convictions.
Pictured: Report from the Attorney General's Office about George Francis Levée. (Jersey Heritage)
In 1924, Levée was convicted of false pretences in Brandon, Manitoba and a year later, he was convicted of fraud, also whilst in Manitoba. Two more six-month sentences followed and Levée was deported from Canada in December 1927.
He seems to have then moved to Bermuda, where he was convicted by the Supreme Court in 1928 for the crime of false pretences. Levée moved back to England and it wasn’t long before he was in trouble again, appearing in Court for crimes committed in Windsor and Berwick-upon-Tweed. The judge considered his previous convictions and sentenced him to three years in prison.
In 1932, Levée was in Court yet again, pleading that he didn’t ‘want to be a crook’ but that he ‘had to be one to exist’.The following year, he was arrested again after he acted as the Honorary Secretary of Bermondsey Unemployed Club and kept £40 of the club’s money for himself.
Levée died in 1950 in a train accident that occurred when a railway engine crashed into the ice cream van that he was working from as a casual labourer.
This piece, put together by the Jersey Archive team, tells just one of the many stories hidden in its collection.
To uncover more like this, visit Jersey Archive in Clarence Road or search the online catalogue on its website HERE.
Pictured top: Mamoutier Island, Ecréhous. (Jersey Heritage)
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