This person was convicted of an offence of a most mischievous description.
He was indicted at the Old Bailey sessions, on Saturday the 11th of April, 1840, for feloniously uttering and putting off a forged order for the payment of money, and a forged certificate, knowing the same to be forged, with intent to defraud the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital.
The evidence which was adduced in the progress of the case, showed that the prisoner was a person of extremely respectable connexions, and was at the time of his trial in the fiftieth year of his age. At an early period of his life he entered the navy, and in the course of a long service was present at many actions, in which he is reported to have behaved with much gallantry. Having obtained the rank of lieutenant, he was engaged by her late majesty, Queen Caroline, the unfortunate consort of George the Fourth, as commander of a yacht, in which her majesty took frequent excursions, during her residence on the Continent. In this capacity he gained the confidence of his royal mistress, and she was known to place much reliance on his ability and zeal in her service. On her majesty's return to England, Lieutenant Flynn accompanied her, and he was subsequently examined as a witness before the House of Lords, in the course of the inquiry, which took place into the conduct of her majesty. Subsequently to this period, Lieutenant Flynn was supposed by many of his friends to have had the honour of knighthood conferred upon for his exertions in favour of the government, and he was generally known as Sir John Flynn. He was shortly afterwards married to a person of respectable connexions, by whom he had several children. In the year 1831, Lieutenant Flynn, with a view to increasing the means which he possessed of supporting his family, at that time resident at St. Malo, procured for himself a licence to act as a prize agent, an occupation frequently followed by persons in his situation, and considered by them as in no degree derogatory to their rank. In the course of his professional engagements he was compelled to make frequent trips from France to England, and he became acquainted with Mr. Beresford Ayton, a Navy-agent, who proposed to put him in the way of increasing his business. With this view he introduced him to Mr. Holgate, a clerk in the Prize Office at Chelsea Hospital, and an agreement was entered into, that the latter should furnish the names of soldiers who were entitled to prize money, together with the amount standing opposite to their names, and the transactions in which they had been engaged, and by which their claims were authorised, (although such a course was opposed to the duties of his office,) while Lieutenant Flynn should allow him two and a half per cent, upon all sums recovered from the prize commissioners, by reason of such information,-- the presumed object being, that Flynn should find out the soldiers, and by informing them of the fact of their being entitled to put forward their claims, procure them to make application for such sums as properly fell to their share.
Flynn, however, determined to apply this information to a purpose the same in effect as that which Holgate supposed him to possess, although his object was to apply to his own use all the money which he obtained. With this view he applied, in 1835, to Mr. E. A. Théleur, a friend, residing in Great Marlborough-street, to receive any letters which might arrive at his house, addressed for him, and to receive such moneys as should become payable to him, and retain them for his use. Mr. Théleur at once consented to this course, and on the 20th of August (in that year) he received a letter from Nantes.
Among the names handed to Flynn by Holgate, was that of George Langley; who had been a Serjeant of the St. Helena regiment of artillery at the time of the capture of Buenos Ayres, in 1806, and who was entitled to a sum of 177l. for prize money. In the course of 1835 an application was received at the Prize Money Office, at Chelsea Hospital, purporting to be that of Langley, and dated from Nantes, in which the applicant requested that an order might be sent to him, for the amount standing against his name. An answer was returned, acquainting Langley, that by lapse of time his claim had fallen to the ground, for that no such applications were listened to, if not made within six years of the time of the money becoming due, but informing him that if he gave a satisfactory excuse for his neglect, the prize-money commissioners might grant the prayer of his petition. In reply to this communication, another letter from Langley was received, and upon the statement contained in it, an order was transmitted to him, with directions that it should be filled up in a certain manner, and that a certificate, signed by certain persons as to his identity, should be sent back, upon the return of which the money would be paid.
The order and certificate required were received by Mr. Théleur, in the letter which reached him, which purported to be signed by George Langley, and which, besides, requested that he would procure money for the order enclosed. While Mr. Théleur was reading the letter Lieutenant Flynn called upon him, and when the letter and its contents were shown to him, he declared that it was quite correct, and expressed a wish that that gentleman would procure payment to be made to him, as the order was drawn up in his name. Mr. Théleur, in consequence, proceeded to Chelsea Hospital, and on the 24th of the same month, a check for the amount was handed to him, for which he gave a receipt. On the following day he obtained cash for the check, in obedience to the expressed wish of Flynn, and he then paid over the amount to him, on his giving him an acknowledgment for it.
Subsequently some suspicion arose, and Holgate being questioned, he disclosed what he had done to Mr. Bicknell, the solicitor to the commissioners of Chelsea Hospital. Inquiries were in consequence instituted, and it eventually proved that Serjeant Langley had died within six months of the taking of Buenos Ayres, on board the Woolwich man-of-war, on his way back to St. Helena; and that, therefore, the application made in his name must have been fictitious, and that the certificate as to his identity, which purported to be signed by certain individuals resident at Nantes, was false, inasmuch as that no such persons were in existence.
Mr. Théleur, who had now removed to St. Germain, in France, was in consequence written to, and the explanation which he gave of his participation in the affair at once cast suspicion on Flynn, who was eventually apprehended and brought to trial. On the night before the investigation, which took place before the jury at the Old Bailey, it was ascertained that the order and certificate, as well as the letters of application to the prize-money commissioners, were written by a young woman who had been a member of Flynn's family, but who had been since married; but in consequence of her absence from London, it was impossible to obtain her testimony to account for the circumstances under which she had been induced to draw out those documents.
These circumstances constituted the evidence laid before the jury upon the indictment preferred against the prisoner. For the defence, it was suggested, that some person more designing than the prisoner had imposed upon him; but the jury returned a verdict of Guilty, accompanied by a recommendation to mercy.
It was stated, that there were other prosecutions against the prisoner of a similar character, and that frauds to a very great extent had been committed upon Chelsea Hospital.
Mr, Baron Alderson in passing sentence upon the prisoner declared, that he felt the deepest regret at finding a person of his rank in life placed in such a situation. He had hitherto borne a good reputation, but the crime of which he had been found guilty was of a most aggravated character:-- it was one which might have robbed the soldier of the hard-earned fruits of his valour, of his meritorious sacrifices for the safety and honour of his country. A short time before, for such an offence he would undoubtedly have been consigned to an ignominious death, and he feared that the laxity with which the existing law was carried out, would compel the legislature to re-enact that dreadful punishment for such crimes as his. He would take care that the blood of no man should rest upon his head; and although it was his intention, as it was his duty, to present the recommendation of the jury in the proper quarter, and he should not stand in the way of the mercy of the Crown, he considered it to be his imperative duty to pass a sentence of transportation for life.