Friday 26 April 2024

A Bow Street Runner at Greenock 1796

Just as the Amsterdam Packet was about to set sail from Greenock bound for New York on 7 April 1796, John Rivett, a police officer from Bow Street (known as Bow Street Runners), London arrived and arrested a passenger as he was about to board.  


The man was John Miller, a linen draper wanted by the police in London.  Miller was suspected of having wilfully set fire to his house at 2 Great Newport Street on the morning of 26 February 1794, intending to defraud the Sun Fire Office.  He had insured the premises for £1200 shortly before the fire.  Fortunately the fire had been put out before too much damage had occurred.

Miller had appeared before the magistrate at the Public Office in London.  John Simmons of Goswell Street, a surveyor gave evidence that he had examined the house on the morning of the fire and “from every appearance of the papering in the parlour, he had no doubt of its having been set on fire wilfully, the paper being burnt in two separate places, as though lighted with a candle”.  Other witnesses also spoke to the fact that the fire looked deliberate.  John Miller did not help himself in any way.  He absconded and made his way to Greenock where he booked a passage using the name John Laing, on the Amsterdam to go to America.  Rivett managed to trace him from London and got to Greenock just in time to apprehend him before the ship sailed.  Miller was taken back to London for trial.

The arrest of Miller on the quayside must have given one of the other passengers on board, David Downie, quite a start as he was being transported from Scotland for the crime of high treason.

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