Paul Rabey and the False Imprisonment: They Died With Their Shoes On, Part Two

Reading time: ten minutes

Punishment cell, Newgate. By Thomas Miller, 18521

Promising to stay poor

South Wheal Leisure Mine, of which Paul Rabey the Younger was purser, was struggling throughout 1864. As one former worker stated, “It was very poor, and promising to stay poor”2. No ore had been raised at all for a year, the mine was in debt, and all the miners were either laid off, or had simply quit because they hadn’t been paid. The tinners, for their part, appear to have just quietly accepted their lot and gone in search of more promising setts, but the mine’s agent, William Harvey, from Cardrew Downs, was owed money. A lot of money – £36. That’s around £4,800 today.

Chapel Hill, Bolingey, looking towards Wheal Leisure and Perranporth

Blood from a stone

Determined to get his money, in early 1864 Harvey sued an adventurer in the mine, one Teague – but this went against Rabey’s advice. Why would a purser not want his agent to be paid? When that purser is Paul Rabey, there were several reasons. Firstly, Rabey hated to be parted from money, even money that wasn’t his. Secondly, he seems to have had a morbid fear of appearing in court: he didn’t want to appear as a witness against Teague, as there was a real danger of his South Wheal Leisure account books coming under legal scrutiny. (Indeed, Rabey claimed to be too ill to appear in court three times throughout 1864-5.) In the event, Teague quietly paid Harvey off out of court; Harvey also successfully sued another adventurer for £18 in April 1864.

However, when Harvey met Rabey in his carriage on Blackwater Hill on April 16, 1864, he asked him for the remaining £6 (£800 today) that he was owed. Rabey refused point blank, and rode off3 .

Blackwater Hill today4

Rabey would have viewed Harvey as a threat, rather than a needy colleague. Firstly, he was legitimately in debt to Harvey, and for all his displays of wealth Rabey resented opening his wallet unless he could gain advantage from it. Secondly, it would have been obvious to Rabey that Harvey was litigiously-minded and determined enough to sue people for what they owed him. After all, Rabey would have doubtless done the same had the tables been turned. Who knew what dirty linen of Rabey’s might be washed in court? Rabey preferred to appear in the public eye on his own terms, if at all.

What happened next is what we may consider to be a classic Rabey manoeuvre, the move of a “clever and unscrupulous” man5: to strike first, and hard.


That same evening, April 16, Rabey paid Harvey a visit, with a local policeman. The officer of the law, at Rabey’s instigation, searched Harvey’s premises, and found (as Rabey told him he was sure to find), a box of scales and weights for Wheal Leisure, which in fact Harvey had bought and paid for with his own money two years previously. For convenience, he kept them at his home, as Rabey well knew. Rabey claimed to the policeman they were his, and the bemused Harvey, after some ineffectual protests, was arrested and led from his home to the (now long vanished) lockup at Scorrier.

Harvey’s wife, we can imagine, was understandably distraught; his children, upset. Perhaps curious neighbours peered through windows or stood by, adding to Harvey’s shame. His mood would not have been improved by Rabey maliciously adding the following commentary from the comfort of his carriage:

…bring out the black guard rogue…

Royal Cornwall Gazette, August 26, 1864, p7

Harvey was conveyed from Scorrier to Truro, and led handcuffed through the streets (on a busy Saturday evening) to the lockup there on Pydar Street6.

He was held in prison until Monday morning, when he faced the magistrate to hear the charges brought against him7.

Without any probable cause…8

Hall for Cornwall, Boscawen Street, Truro. In the 1800s the magistrates’ courts were housed here9

That Monday, Harvey stood in the dock to discover that Rabey had further twisted the knife. Harvey was now not only accused of theft, but also fraudulent book-keeping: a charge of £2 19s had allegedly been entered into the accounts by Harvey for a non-existent employee of South Wheal Leisure. Harvey stated that, yes, he had indeed made this entry; it was in fact for his son, who had done some work for Rabey, but Rabey had convinced Harvey to enter the payment under a false name because

…it would not look well in his account…[that amount] for a boy of his age…

Royal Cornwall Gazette, August 26, 1864, p7

Rabey was now using his own sleight-of-hand to ensnare Harvey, as Harvey now claimed. The £2 19s had in fact gone to Rabey, as was later proven in court, and Harvey also soundly demonstrated that the scales were not Rabey’s.

Understandably, the case was thrown out.

Harvey was free to lick his wounds, but he was still owed £6 from Rabey, and would no doubt be fostering a great deal of personal resentment. On May 6, 1864, he charged Rabey with false imprisonment, and sued for damages10.

Three months later…

I note the date that Harvey filed his charges against Rabey, for it was over three months before the case was finally heard, at the Stannary Court in Truro, on August 19. Rabey had already achieved one postponement by claiming illness; he tried the same trick in August, yet the hearing went ahead, in his absence. Such was Rabey’s contempt for the actions against him, no solicitor represented his interests in court either.

Harvey won the case, and Rabey was ordered, in absentia, to pay £100 in damages which, with costs, came to £125. The jury were of the opinion that Harvey was

…an honest man, and has been badly used.

Royal Cornwall Gazette, August 26, 1864, p7

Rabey was shown to have plotted the accusations against Harvey, and Harvey’s subsequent incarceration, with malice aforethought. Witnesses testified to overhearing Rabey say that Harvey

…is a d____d rogue, and I will have him up again, if I rot in hell for it…It is better for anyone to begin with the devil, than to meddle with me.

Royal Cornwall Gazette, August 26, 1864, p7

If Rabey had sought to blacken Harvey’s name, then his own reputation fared little better during proceedings. His conduct, it was noted, should

…not be tolerated in this kingdom.

Royal Cornwall Gazette, August 26, 1864, p7

He was motivated purely by “the most malignant feelings”, the charges against Harvey were “trumped up”, and the whole affair was succinctly summarised as a “gross outrage”11.

Whither Paul Rabey?

A gentleman swindler, 186812

As noted earlier, Rabey wasn’t even present at his own trial, allegedly being ill in London. Presumably, he couldn’t have cared less about the outcome. The important thing was, his account books, over which there was much “suspicion” (Rabey had apparently told Harvey they’d both be in gaol if the ledgers were ever openly scrutinised), were safely out of the public eye13.

He also had no intention of paying William Harvey.

If nothing else, Rabey’s actions against Harvey, and his subsequent repeated ducking of his own trial, brought him time to plot his next schemes. He also may have hoped that Harvey had been warned off any thoughts of crossing him in future, but here he was mistaken, as we shall see. This unsavoury tale also demonstrates that Paul Rabey was a genuinely unpleasant individual, who sought to destroy anybody who opposed, or tried to uncover, him. It’s a characteristic that reappears in our story.

Early commentators on white-collar crime believed it was undertaken without animosity on the part of the offender, or of physical injury and/or alarm to the party being defrauded14.

Paul Rabey the Younger did not fit this common perception…

Click below for part three of They Died With Their Shoes On:

The Two Paul Rabeys

Many thanks for reading!


  1. See:
  2. Western Daily Press, April 6, 1866, p3.
  3. Royal Cornwall Gazette (hereafter RCG), August 26, 1864, p7.
  4. See:
  5. RCG, February 3, 1865, p7.
  6. Like the Scorrier lockup, this has long gone. See:
  7. From RCG, August 26, 1864, p7.
  8. From RCG, August 26, 1864, p7.
  9. See:
  10. From RCG, August 26, 1864, p7.
  11. RCG, August 26, 1864, p7.
  12. See:
  13. RCG, August 26, 1864, p7.
  14. See Sarah Wilson, “Fraud and White-collar Crime: 1850 to the Present”, in Histories of Crime: Britain 1600-2000, ed. Anne-Marie Kilday and David Nash, Macmillan, 2010, p147.

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