Acentury ago Thomas Percy Timmins stood before a Hamilton court and pleaded not guilty. Described as ‘‘young man’’ by the Waikato Times, Timmins perhaps looked younger than his 30 years.
It was alleged that he had gone on two ‘‘joy rides’’. Taxi driver William Percival testified that he had picked up Timmins and taken him to the Hamilton railway station.
When told that he had missed the train to Te Aroha, Timmins had no hesitation in engaging Percival for the full journey, explaining that he needed to get home for his mother’s birthday.
He went on to claim that he was a champion lightweight prize fighter and owned ‘‘several farms’’.
There were leisurely stops in Morrinsville and Matamata en route. Timmins paid with a 10 pound cheque, suggesting that Percival give the change to a Hamilton friend.
The second incident saw Timmins give his name as Johnson. Taxi driver Albert Smith was asked to chaffeur him to Waihou, then Walton.
At the latter, Smith overheard Timmins use his actual moniker when writing a cheque in a book shop.
In a letter to William Percival, Timmins described himself as a young married man with an aged mother, a World War I veteran who ‘‘had been shot in the head in the war and did not know what he was doing when he took spirits’’.
Though unmarried, the balance of the claims were true. Timmins hailed from a respectable Auckland family which had shifted to Te Aroha. He had enlisted in 1915, serving in the New Zealand Army until 1919 and had indeed been wounded.
To what extent Timmins criminality could be attributed to military service is unknown. It became a regular excuse.
Acquitted on a technicality in the rubber cheque trial, he was convicted later in 1923 on similar charges.
In 1926 he stole a horse. In 1927 he robbed a pensioner.
Further fraud followed in 1932. The following year Timmins pulled off his most unusual scam, marrying a woman whilst out on bail, in the process becoming a step-father to her six children.
Unfortunately, it garnered no sympathy from the court.
To what extent Timmins criminality could be attributed to military service is unknown. It became a regular excuse. In 1926 he stole a horse. In 1927 he robbed a pensioner. Further fraud followed in 1932.