Posts filed under 'Women'

1533: The witch of Schiltach

Add comment April 21st, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1533, a German woman, nameless to posterity, was burnt as a witch in the town of Schiltach.


Engraving of Schiltach from 1643, a century after the events in this post. (From Wikimedia Commons)

Top: Der Teufel von Schiltach (1930), by Eduard Trautwein. Bottom: Der Teufel von schiltach (1926), by Karl Eyth

This Black Forest idyll had been ravaged by fire on Maundy Thursday, the 10th of April.

We have seen many times in these pages how frightful was the scourge of fire for early modern cities, and the haste by which it was liable to be attributed to a malevolent plot.

In this case, common superstition soon acclaimed the fire an arson by the hand of an unpopular former maid of Schiltach’s mayor, who had recently been dismissed under a cloud of suspected diabolism. (This summary in German of the German book Der Teufel von Schiltach delves into the particulars.)

One problem: upon her dismissal, she had returned to her native Oberndorf. Not being in Schiltach at all during the events in question seemed like a pretty good alibi.

But since witchery was contributing means and motive, why not opportunity as well? Everyone knew that witches could fly. She was proximate, if not spatially then conceptually, to a disaster, and this was reason enough.

The luckless woman was retrieved from Oberndorf to answer the tortures of her disgruntled ex-boss, and consigned to the stake … and, as the images accompanying this post will attest, to local legend.


1533 woodcut illustration (click for larger version with German narrative text) about the Schiltach witch. (From Wikimedia Commons)

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Arson,Arts and Literature,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,History,Known But To God,Public Executions,Torture,Witchcraft,Women

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1818: Five from the Lancaster Assizes, “most dangerous to society”

Add comment April 18th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1818, four hanged at Lancaster Castle for uttering forged notes, along with a fifth hanged for burglary and horse theft — all casualties of the latest Lancaster Assizes. For the account, we excerpt Jackson’s Oxford Journal of May 9, 1818; the footnotes are from that source as well.

LANCASTER ASSIZES, April 13.

Address of Chief Baron Richards, on passing sentence of Death upon the prisoners capitally convicted of forgery, and of uttering forged Bank of England notes.

Wm. Oxenham*, convicted of uttering a forged Bill of Exchange, was first placed at the bar.

Chief Baron — “William Oxenham, you have been convicted of uttering a forged Bill of Exchange, well knowing at the time you uttered it that it was forged. The crime of which you have been convicted, on the most satisfactory evidence, by a most intelligent Jury, is a crime the most dangerous to society, and which loudly calls for the highest punishment the law can inflict; for no man, in a commercial country like this, can, by any care, effectually protect himself from such attempts. If there should be any disposition at the foot of the Throne to extend its mercy towards you, I shall rejoice: but of this I can offer no assurance; and if there should be any mitigation of your sentence, it will only be on condition of your being forever removed from this country.” — His Lordship then passed upon him the last sentence of the law in the usual terms.

The following prisoners were then placed at the bar: — Wm. Steward†, Thomas Curry†, Margaret M’Dowd†, R. Wardlaw†, R. Moss, Hannah Mayor, and J. Vaughan, convicted of uttering forged Bank of England notes; and G. Heskett†, convicted of burglary and horse-stealing.

The Chief Baron, addressing by name the first seven prisoners, thus proceeded, —

You have been severally convicted of uttering forged Bank of England notes, knowing them to be forged: the law has affixed to this crime the punishment of death, and it is an offence which, on account of its injurious consequences to society at large, requires the infliction of the highest punishment.

It is a practice which must be repressed; and if this cannot be effected by other means, it must be done by visiting it with the utmost severity of the law; for the negotiation of forged notes is the strongest and most extensive mode of plundering the public which can be resorted to, and it is one against which no care or prudence can be an effectual protection. I had, the last Assizes, the very melancholy duty, in this place, of passing the sentence I am now about to pass upon you, upon a number of persons convicted of this offence, and which sentence was carried into effect with respect to most of them: but I do not perceive that this sad example has been attended with any advantage, or that it has produced any diminution in the number of offenders of this description; you have not taken warning from it; for I observe that your offences are all subsequent to the last Assizes. It is, therefore, necessary that examples should still continue to be made; and it is my duty to tell you that some of you, nay, that most of you, beyond all question, must suffer the full sentence of the law.


* This prisoner was so unwell, that he was obliged to be supported into Court, and placed in a chair, until sentence was passed upon him.

† The prisoners thus marked were left for execution, and suffered the sentence of the law on Saturday se’nnight [i.e., Saturday, 18 April 1818], at Lancaster.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1836: Two English poisoners

Add comment April 9th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1836, two different Englishwomen hanged in Gloucester and Liverpool for seeing off their respective husbands with arsenic.

They’re the subjects of an excellent pair of posts by Naomi Clifford, author of such topical-to-Executed Today fare as Women and the Gallows, 1797-1837 and The Murder of Mary Ashford: The Crime that Changed English Legal History, which concerns the long overdue abolition of juridical trial by combat in Great Britain … after an accused murderer used this artifact to escape prosecution in 1817.

Here’s Clifford on our poisoners, bound for separate gallows on April 9, 1836:

Clifford makes a triptych here with a third post about yet another poisoner who shared the same fate five days later.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Women

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1794: Madame Lavergne and Monsieur Lavergne, united in love

Add comment March 31st, 2018 Headsman

The below will be found in Elizabet Starling’s Noble Deeds of Woman, Or, Examples of Female Courage and Virtue; similar glosses on the same narrative are afoot in several other public domain volumes.

As will be affirmed by a glance at a converter for France’s revolutionary calendar, this text badly botches its translation of the date of “11 Germinal” — another reminder that nobody cares about the dates. “Germinal” means “seed” and so is of course a spring month; there are rosters of the Paris Terror victims available which confirm that March 31 is the correct execution date for both Monsieur and Madame Lavergne.

CONSTANCY OF MADAME LAVERGNE.

Mightier far
Than strength of nerve or sinew, or the sway
Of magic potent over sun and star,
Is love, though oft to agony distrest,
And though his favorite seat be feeble woman’s breast.

-WORDSWORTH.

Madame Lavergne had not long been married when her husband, who was governor of Longwy, was obliged to surrender that fort to the Prussians. The French however, succeeded in regaining possession of the place, when M. Lavergne was arrested and conducted to one of the prisons in Paris. His wife followed him to the capital: she was then scarcely twenty years of age, and one of the loveliest women of France. Her husband was more than sixty, yet his amiable qualities first won her esteem, and his tenderness succeeded to inspire her with an affection as sincere and fervent as that which he possessed for her. While the unfortunate Lavergne expected every hour to be summoned before the dreaded tribunal, he was attacked with illness in his dungeon. At any other moment this affliction would have been a subject of grief and inquietude to Madame Lavergne; under her present circumstances, it was a source of hope and consolation. She could not believe there existed a tribunal so barbarous as to bring a man before the judgment-seat who was suffering under a burning fever. A perilous disease, she imagined, was the present safeguard of her husband’s life; and she flattered herself that the fluctuation of events would change his destiny, and finish in his favor that which nature had so opportunely begun. Vain expectation! The name of Lavergne had been irrevocably inscribed on the fatal list of the 11th Germinal, of the second year of the republic, (June 25th, 1794,) [sic; see above -ed.] and he must on that day submit to his fate.

Madame Lavergne, informed of this decision, had recourse to tears and supplications. Persuaded that she could soften the hearts of the representatives of the people by a faithful picture of Lavergne’s situation, she presented herself before the Committee of General Safety: she demanded that her husband’s trial should be delayed, whom she represented as a prey to a dangerous and afflicting disease, deprived of the strength of his faculties, and of all those powers, either of body or mind, which could enable him to confront his intrepid and arbitrary accusers. ‘Imagine, oh citizens!’ said the agonized wife of Lavergne, ‘such an unfortunate being as I have described dragged before a tribunal about to decide upon his life, while reason abandons him, while he cannot understand the charges brought against him, nor has sufficient power of utterance to declare his innocence. His accusers, in full possession of their moral and physical strength, and already inflamed with hatred against him, are instigated even by his helplessness to more than ordinary exertions of malice: while the accused, subdued by bodily suffering and mental infirmity, is appalled or stupefied, and barely sustains the dregs of his miserable existence. Will you, oh citizens of France! call a man to trial while in the phrensy of delirium? Will you summon him, who perhaps at this moment expires upon the bed of pain, to hear that irrevocable sentence, which admits of no medium between liberty or the scaffold? and, if you unite humanity with justice, can you suffer in old man — ?’ At these words, every eye was turned on Madame Lavergne, whose youth and beauty, contrasted with the idea of an aged and infirm husband, gave rise to very different emotions in the breasts of the members of the committee from those with which she had so eloquently sought to inspire them. They interrupted her with coarse jests and indecent raillery. One of the members assured her, with a scornful smile, that, young and handsome as she was, it would not be so difficult as she appeared to imagine to find means of consolation for the loss of a husband, who, in the common course of nature, had lived already long enough. Another of them, equally brutal and still more ferocious, added, that the fervor with which she had pleaded the cause of such a husband was an unnatural excess, and therefore the committee could not attend to her petition.

Horror, indignation, and despair, took possession of the soul of Madame Lavergne; she had heard the purest and most exalted affection for one of the worthiest of men condemned as a degraded passion; she had been wantonly insulted, while demanding justice, by the administrators of the laws of a nation; and she rushed in silence from the presence of these inhuman men, to hide the bursting agony of her sorrows.

One faint ray of hope yet arose to cheer the gloom of Madame Lavergne’s despondency. Dumas was one of the judges of the tribunal, and him she had known previous to the Revolution. Her repugnance to seek this man, in his new career, was subdued by a knowledge of his power and her hopes of his influence. She threw heiself at his feet, bathed them with her tears, and conjured him, by all the claims of mercy and humanity, to prevail on the tribunal to delay the trial of her husband till the our of his recovery. Dumas replied, coldly, that it did not belong to him to grant the favor she solicited, nor should he choose to make such a request of the tribunal; then, in a tone somewhat animated by insolence and sarcasm, he added, ‘And is it, then, so great a misfortune, madame, to be delivered from a troublesome husband of sixty, whose death will leave you at liberty to employ your youth and charms more usefully?’

Such a reiteration of insult roused the unfortunate wife of Lavergne to desperation; she shrieked with insupportable anguish, and, rising from her humble posture, she extended her arms towards Heaven, and exclaimed, ‘Just God! will not the crimes of these atrocious men awaken Thy vengeance? Go, monster!’ she cried to Dumas; ‘I no longer want thy aid, — I no longer need to supplicate thy pity; away to the tribunal! — there will I also appear; then shall it be known whether I deserve the outrages which thou and thy base associates have heaped upon me.’ From the presence of Dumas, Madame Lavergne repaired to the hall of the tribunal, and mixing with the crowd, waited in silence for the hour of trial. The barbarous proceedings of the day commenced, and on M. Lavergne being called for, the unfortunate man was carried into the hall by the gaolers, supported on a mattress. To the few questions which were proposed to him, he replied in a feeble and dying voice, and the fatal sentence of death was pronounced upon him.

“Scarcely had the sentence passed the lips of the judge, when Madame Lavergne cried, with a loud voice, ‘Vive le roi!’ The persons nearest the place whereon she stood eagerly surrounded, and endeavored to silence her; but the more the astonishment and alarm of the multitude augmented, the more loud and vehement became her cries of ‘Vive le roi!’ The guard was called, and directed to lead her away. She was followed by a numerous crowd, mute with consternation and pity; but the passages and staircases still resounded every instant with ‘Vive le roi!’ till she was conducted into one of the rooms belonging to the court of justice, into which the public accuser came to interrogate her on the motives of her extraordinary conduct.

‘I am not actuated,’ she answered, ‘by any sudden impulse of despair or revenge for the condemnation of M. Lavergne, but from the love of royalty, which is rooted in my heart. I adore the system that you have destroyed. I do not expect any mercy from you, for I am your enemy; I abhor your republic, and will persist in the confession I have publicly made, as long as I live.’

Such a declaration was without reply, and the name of Madame Lavergne was instantly added to the list of suspected persons: a few minutes afterwards, she was brought before the tribunal, where she again uttered her own accusation, and was condemned to die. From that instant, the agitation of her spirits subsided, serenity took possession of her mind, and her beautiful countenance announced only the peace and satisfaction of her soul.

On the day of execution, Madame Lavergne first ascended the cart, and desired to be so placed that she might behold her husband. The unfortunate Lavergne had fallen into a swoon, and was in that condition extended upon straw in the cart, at the feet of his wife, without any signs of life. On the way to the place of execution, the motion of the cart had loosened the bosom of Lavergne’s shirt, and exposed his breast to the scorching rays of the sun, till his wife entreated the executioner to take a pin from her handkerchief and fasten his shirt. Shortly afterwards, Madame Lavergne, whose attention never wandered from her husband for a single instant, perceived that his senses returned, and called him by his name; at the sound of that voice, whose melody had been so long withheld from him, Lavergne raised his eyes, and fixed them on her with a look at once expressive of terror and affection. ‘Do not be alarmed,’ she said; ‘it is your faithful wife who called you; you know I could not live without you, and we are going to die together.’ Lavergne burst into tears of gratitude, which relieved the oppression of his heart, and he became once more able to express his love and admiration of his virtuous wife. The scaffold, which was intended to separate, united them forever.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Guillotine,History,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Soldiers,Women

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1728: Five at Tyburn

Add comment March 27th, 2018 Headsman

The Ordinary of Newgate (in this case, James Guthrie) furnishes us the following “ACCOUNT, Of the Behaviour, Confession, and dying Words of the Malefactors who were Executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday the 27th of this Instant March, 1728.”:


***N. B. Whereas in the last Dying Speech of the Malefactors, who were executed on Monday the 12th of February last, several literal Mistakes and other gross Errors, which perverted the Sense, escap’d Correction, through the Hast of the Press: The Readers are hereby desir’d to excuse the same, and may be assur’d that effectual Care shall be taken to prevent the like for the future, by printing the Dying Speeches correctly.

AT the King’s Commission of Oyer and Terminer, and Jail Delivery of Newgate, held (before the Right Honourable Sir EDWARD BECHER, Lord Mayor of the City of London; the Honourable Mr. Baron Comyns; the Hon. Mr. Justice Probyn; the Hon. Mr. Baron Thompson, Recorder of the City of London; and John Raby, Esq, Serjeant at Law; and others his Majesty’s Justices of Jail Delivery, and Oyer and Terminer aforesaid: Together with several of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said City of London and County of Middlesex) at Justice-Hall, in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, being the 28th and 29th of February, and the 1st, 2d, 4th, and 5th of March, 1728. in the first Year of his Majesty’s Reign.

Six Men, viz Benjamin Branch, Martin Bellamy, William Shann, John Potter, James Stagles, alias Howard, and Richard Kelme; and two Women, viz. Margaret Wallis, alias Staineus, and Margaret Murphy, were found guilty of capital Offences by the Jury, and received Sentence of Death.

While under Sentence, they having been for the most part young People of lewd and dissolute Lives, and consequently ignorant of Religion, both in Speculation and Practice, were instructed in those Principles, which are necessary to be known by us, both as Men and Christians. I shew’d them, that Nature itself teacheth us, that unto God the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, Worship, Reverence, and Homage is due from all his Creatures, and that Man who (as the Heathens, who were only led by the light of Nature, acknowledged) was form’d after the divine Image, and substituted Lord of this inferior Orb, was in a more especial Manner bound, in Token of his dependance, to give all due Obedience, by dedicating himself to the Service of God, his Creator and special Benefactor. But if they fell short in complying with the first Principles of natural Religion, which is insufficient for Salvation; how much greater must their Guilt be, who being descended of Christian Parents, and living in the midst of so great Light, had despised those glorious Revelations, which were intended to elevate and perfect our depraved Nature? That Theft and Robbery were destructive of all human Society, and reduc’d Man, who is made after the Image of God, who is the God of Order, into the State of savage Animals and Birds of Prey. Besides, that the Commission of the Sin of Theft and Robbery was attended with innumerable other, the worst of Sins; such as a tendency to Murder, and commonly a continued Practice of Lying, Drinking, Whoring, and many such like Vices; and it is evident, that those who give themselves up to this wicked Course of Life, are the vilest Wretches, and abandon’d to every thing which is good. I instructed them in the Nature of the Christian Sacraments, both of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, how they are Seals of the Gospel-Covenant, and Pledges of all those Blessings procur’d to us by the Sufferings and Death of our Lord Jesus; and that the Lord’s Supper was a proper Provision to strengthen our Faith, in order to prepare us for a new State of Life, and that never-ending Eternity, upon which they were to enter.

While these and the like Exhortations were us’d, John Potter, James Stagles, Richard Kelme, Margaret Murphy, and Margaret Wallis, alias Staineus, were apparently devout and serious; Benjamin Branch, and Martin Bellamy comply’d with the Worship, by making regular Responses, but were seldom attentive to the Exhortations, and were otherways guilty of carrying themselves most undecently at Prayers and other Times, especially for Men in their miserable and dangerous Circumstances; for which I reprov’d them sharply and frequently; but they were the most obstinate and obdurate Criminals I ever saw. William Shann never came to Chapel but once, having been afflicted with sickness, and afterwards with swelling in his Legs and Feet, so that he could not walk; but as I frequently visited him in the Cell, he still declar’d himself very Penitent, and readily comply’d with Prayers and Exhortations.

Upon Thursday, the 21st, of March, the Report of these eight Malefactors under Sentence of Death, was made to His Majesty in Council. When William Shan, for Felony and Burglary, in breaking the House of Richard Wright of Coleman-street, and taking thence 30 Guineas, 10 l. in Silver, 8 Moiders, 2 broad Pieces, and one half broad Piece, on the 8th of December last, the Property of Richard Wright aforesaid. And Richard Kelme of St. John Hackney, for stealing a Brown Gelding, value 7 l. the Property of Mr. Yellowly; a Mare, val, 7 l. the Goods of Mr. Sanders; a Bridle, Saddle, and Saddle-cloth, the Property of John Laurence, out of the Stable of the said John Laurence, receiv’d His Majesty’s most Gracious Reprieve. The remaining Six, viz. Benjamin Branch, Martin Bellamy, John Potter, James Stagles, alias Howard, Margaret Murphew, and Margaret Wallis, alias Stainens, were ordered for Execution.

Benjamin Branch, of St. Andrew’s Holbourn, was Indicted for Assaulting Jane Marshal on the Highway, putting her in Fear, and taking from her two Guineas, two half Guineas, and 3 s. and 6 d, in Silver, 2 Pocket-pieces, value 5 s. a bunch of Keys, and 2 silk Handkerchiefs, on the 27th of Jan. last.

Benjamin Branch, 27 years of Age, descended of honest Parents, who gave him good Education at School, in Reading and Writing, and instructed him in the Christian Religion: When of Age, they put him to an Employment, at which he might have liv’d well; but being of a loose Temper, and not willing to confine himself to constant Business, he Associated himself with the worst of Company, and commenc’d Thief and Street-Robber in an extraordinary Manner, surpassing most of his Accomplices in those unlawful and wicked Practices. He confess’d, that he had committed many Street-Robberies, and particularly that for which he was Convicted, that he met with a deserved Punishment, having Sin’d against much Light and Knowledge, and the Convictions of his own Conscience: For his Father (as he said) bred him to his own Business of a Goldsmith and a Lapidary , and put him in a way of living Creditably in the World, but shaking off all fear of God and Regard to Man, and joining himself to a Band of Thieves and Robbers, he became one of the most Noted about Town in that way. He always attended publick Prayers in Chapel, and made Responses regularly, but with too much Indifferency, and for the most part was attentive to the Exortations, only sometimes he spoke to his Friends, and some who were next him. And upon the second Sunday before his Death, he and Bellamy, as I began to speak upon Death, which I judg’d a proper Subject and Discourse for their Case; went out of their Place to talk with Strangers; this giving offence to the Auditory, I desir’d them to return and compose themselves, and hear the Word of the Lord with Reverence and Attention; they were so rude as to cry out, expressing themselves in a very undiscreet Manner, before a good number of People, a Behaviour unbecoming any Person, but especially Men in their deplorable Circumstances. I reproved them sharply, and told ‘em, that however they might slight the Ordinances dispens’d by Man, yet that God the righteous Judge, who was ready to take Vengeance upon his Adversaries, would shortly bring them to a terrible Account for so notorious Contempt of his Word, if they did not repent. I have not observ’d two so very audacious Sinners, when so near their latter End. When the Report was made, Branch became more serious and civil, acknowledging himself to have been one of the greatest of Sinners, most unthankful to God and Man, for the great Blessings he had receiv’d, and for misimproving the Talents where with God had endow’d him; adding, that his sometimes laughing and speaking proceeded not from any Contempt of God’s Word and Ordinances, but from his Youth and want of Consideration. He declar’d himself penitent for all his Sins, particularly, his great Vices of Covetousness, Robbery, Whoredom, and their Attendants, which had brought him to a shameful and untimely Death; that he died in Peace with all the World, and in the Faith of being sav’d only through the Merits of Jesus Christ.

Martin Bellamy, of St. Katherine Cree Church, was indicted for Felony and Burglary, in breaking the House of Giles Holliday, on the 5th of February last in the Night time, and taking thence 12 Pounds of sewing silk, Value 10 l. and 20 pair of worsted stockings, Value 5 l. the Property of Giles Holloday aforesaid.

Martin Bellamy, born of honest Parents, who gave him good Education, instructing him in Christian Principles, and the Knowledge of other things proper to fit him for Business in the World. He was about 28 Years of Age, by Trade a Taylor, in which Art he was very skillful, and might have liv’d in Credit and an honest manner, but giving loose Reins to his irregular Passions, he addicted himself to all manner of Wickedness. About 4 Years ago, he married and liv’d only 5 Weeks with his Wife, for being taken up for some Fraud or Theft, he was put into Clerkenwell Bridewell, whether (as he said) his Wife’s Brother-in-Law coming to him, desir’d to know, where his Prosecutor liv’d, upon Pretence of making Matters easie, but the said Brother went to the Gentleman and advis’d him to prosecute Bellamy; upon which he resenting this suppos’d Injury, took up an irreconcileable Prejudice against his Wife and all her Relations, never cohabiting with her any more. About this time, he betook himself to his old Companion a young Woman, whom he call’d Amey Fowler, who pass’d for his Wife above the space of six Years, bare him several Children and liv’d in good Friendship with him. Her he commended, though (it seems) he could by no means agree with his true Wife, because she disapprov’d of his naughty Courses. He said also, that Amey Fowler was altogether ignorant of and had no Concern in his Robberies, he having deserted her Company also, when he follow’d that extravagant manner of Life. This he desir’d to be publish’d, because the World blam’d her for his Misfortunes, as advising him to undertake his villainous Attempts. He gave Account of a great many Robberies and Burglaries he had committed; such as, his obliging the Watchman in Thames-street to throw his Lanthorn and Staff into the River, and holding a Pistol to his Breast, till three other Thieves robb’d a Tea-shop to the Value of 20 l. in Goods. In East-Cheap he robb’d a Shoemaker’s Shop, and knock’d the Watchman down with a bag of Shoes, which he was forc’d to leave out of hast to make his Escape. In Coleman-street he robb’d a Stocking Shop of Goods to the Value of 70 l. He robb’d a Gentleman near St. Botolph’s Aldersgate of a silver Watch with a Case, but left him 6 s. in Money, and cut the Band of his Breeches, to prevent his pursuing him. For a little Premium to support himself in Prison, he put some upon a way of recovering part of their Goods. Some Years ago, upon a false Pretence, he got 10 Guineas from one in Smithfield, in the Name of the late Jonathan Wild, but made his Peace with Jonathan, by giving him 5 l. and gave his Bond for Payment of the Money at the Baptist-head Tavern, but this is still unpaid. Many such Accounts he told of himself, but with such an air of Indifference and Boldness, as shew’d him to be no way penitent for his Crimes, but to take Delight in recounting his Villainies, and thus glorying in his Shame. Altho’ he outwardly comply’d with Prayers, yet at other Times he behav’d himself with such Audacity, sometimes falling out into violent fits of Passion and Swearing; so that he seem’d to have been Craz’d and out of his Senses, not allowing himself time seriously to think upon his latter End, and improving his few remaining Moments, in working out his Souls Salvation with Fear and Trembling: Till some time after the Dead-Warrant came out, he began to Cry and Lament his unhappy Fate; his Conscience then beginning to Awake, because of the most irregular Life he had Led, and the terrible Account he had to make. I frequently and sharply Reprov’d him for his Miscarriages, and for his former vicious Life, having giving himself wholly up to work Wickedness. I represented to him the dangerous Condition he was in, what a terrible Thing it was to fall into the Hands of the living God, of a Just and Sin-revenging God; For who can abide with ever lasting Burnings? And that without holiness no Man can see the Lord. He acknowledg’d himself one of the greatest of Sinners; beg’d God and Man Pardon for the many Offences of his Life, declar’d himself Penitent for all his Sins; that he believ’d in Christ, through whose Merits he hop’d to be Saved; and that he Died in Peace with all the World. Branch and Bellamy own’d themselves much oblig’d to two worthy Divines, who visited them three or four Days before they Died.

James Stagles, alias Howard, of St. Dunstan’s Stepney, was Indicted for Assaulting John House on the Highway, putting him in Fear, and taking from him two Pocket Pieces, val. 6 d. 6 s. in Silver, and some Half-pence, on the 6th, of February last.

James Stagles alias Howard, 43 years of Age, (as he said) descended of honest Parents, who gave him good Education, and instructed him in Principles of Christianity. When of Age, he was not put out to any Employment, but served Gentlemen, and married a Woman in Yarmouth, with whom he got a good Portion, which he prodigally squander’d and lavish’d away. He Travel’d over great part of the World, Italy, France, the Holy-land, and several other Countries, attending his Masters, and could speak some Foreign Languages; and when he came home (as he said) he was worth some thousand of Pounds, which he spent in his foolish Rambles; he purchas’d a Place for himself, which he lost because of his Miscarriages. Being out of Business, and not knowing what to do, and wanting Grace and good Manners, he took himself to the Highway, for two or three Years past; during which time, he was not Inferior to any of his Profession in doing Mischief. He had formerly made himself an Evidence against one George Noble, who was Executed at St. Edmund’s-Bury, who deny’d the Fact of which he was Convicted, at his last Hour.

Upon a Letter from an unknown Hand at the desire of Noble’s Widow, I ask’d, if Noble was guilty according to his Evidence? He answer’d, that it was known he was Guilty, and that his Wife need not enquire into that Affair, knowing the Truth thereof. As to the Robbery of which he was convicted, he denied that he took the Money from the Gentleman, but that it was handed to him by another Person, who is a creditable Man, but whom he did not incline to discover, thinking he should not have been Convicted, and after Conviction it being to no Purpose, he did not judge it proper to ruin a poor Family. He confess’d himself to have been a most wicked and profligate Fellow, and that he had met with a deserved Punishment for his Crimes. Although (as he said) when he was abroad, he was sollicited to alter his Profession, as to Religion, which indeed I believe was, what he least minded, yet he was still of the Communion of this Church, in which he was Baptized. He declar’d himself sincerely penitent, having always behav’d himself very devoutly at Prayers, but that sometimes he spoke to Branch, that he believ’d in Jesus Christ his only Saviour, and died in Peace with all the World.

Margaret Murphey, of St. Martins in the Fields, was indicted for privately and feloniously stealing out of the House of John Cordes, a Silver Salver, val. 5 l. a Silver Tea-pot, val. 5 l. on the 15th of January last, the Property of Peter Casteels.

Margaret Murphey, 30 Years of Age, born in Ireland, of honest Parents. Her Father dying when she was very young, she got little Education, and if she was put to School, what Instructions were given her were quite obliterated, by Reason of her perverse and wicked Nature. She married a Husband in her own Country, and came over to London 9 Years ago, where she kept House for some time, and as one who liv’d near her, told me, maintaining a good Character among the Neighbours. But (as she told me) her Husband was a very naughty Fellow, and made all away in a most profuse and extravagant Manner, which made her rack her Wit what Course to take, and falling in with ill-dispos’d People, they brought her into Acquaintance of some of Jonathan Wild’s Gangs, which prov’d her Ruin. She voluntarily appear’d as Evidence against Jonathan Wild, who was convicted upon her Evidence chiefly; and upon the desire of one, being ask’d, if the Evidence she gave against Jonathan was True as she deliver’d it? She answer’d, that it was, and several Persons knew it to be so, and that there was no Force put upon her in that Affair, she appearing of her own accord. She own’d herself to have been a very great Sinner, to have liv’d a most irregular and debauch’d Life, to have been concern’d in a great Number of Robberies and Felonies, having for some Years past liv’d upon what unlawful Purchase she could make that way, and to have met with a most deserved Punishment for the Villainies she had committed. As to the Crime of which she was convicted, she said, that she never saw the Silver Tea pot which was sworn against her, and she only got the Salver from another Woman to sell, who never told her what way she came by it; to make this appear probable, she said, that she did not know Mr. Casteels in Long-Acre, having never heard of him, nor his House. But that it was her great Misfortune to be under so bad a Character, because of her Acquaintance with the late Jonathan Wild, and her appearing as Evidence against him, which made her Name still more infamously Famous. I desir’d her to submit to the Will of God, since Providence had justly brought her under severe Afflictions, and the Lash of an ignominious Death for her reprobate and unaccountable Life. She acknowledg’d the Justice of her Sentence according to the Laws of the Land, declaring that she believ’d in Jesus Christ her only Saviour; that she repented of all her Sins; dying in the Romish Communion, and in Peace with all Mankind.

Margaret Wallis, alias Staining, was Indicted for breaking the House of Henry Clark of Islington, on the 3d, of February last, in the Night-time, and taken thence 12 Pewter-plates, a Napkin, 5 Handkerchiefs, 4 Aprons, a black and white Silk-hood, a Mob, 3 holland Shirts, 2 pair of Stockings, a Top-knot, a Wrapper, 2 Gowns, six holland Shifts, a Petticoat, a Fann, a pair of Lace-Ruffles, and a Remnant of brocaded Silk.

Margaret Wallis, alias Staining, 21 years of Age, of mean Parents in the Country, who gave her no Education. She always serv’d Honestly (as she said) except in the particular instance of this Robery for which she died. She was a very ignorant Creature. I instructed her in the first Principles of Christianity, and with difficulty brought her to a little Knowledge. Altho’ she was Sick most of the time she was under Sentence, excepting two or three times, she always attended in Chapel, and to appearance, with abundance of Devotion and Seriousness. She own’d herself guilty of the Robbery of which she was Convicted, and that her Sentence was just according to Law. She declar’d, that she was truly Penitent for her many Sirs, that she believ’d to be Saved thro’ the Merits of Jesus Christ, and Died in Peace with all Mankind.

At the Place of Execution.

THEY all behav’d with very great Seriousness and Devotion, to appearance. James Stagles, alias Howard, desir’d me to write down to the Country, and give a near Relation of his an Account of his deplorable Fate, to communicate the same to the rest of his Friends. Mrs. Murphey declar’d, that she knew nothing of Mr. Casteels nor his House, who swore himself Proprietor of the stollen Plate for which she died; that she knew of no more then a Salver, which was given her by another Woman to dispose off, and this she knew to be stollen, but from whence she could not tell. As for the Tea-pot, she never heard of it. She said also, that she knew nothing of his Grace the Duke of Montague’s rich Hangings, and that the Woman, nam’d Sullivane, swore falsely against her, for which she freely forgave her, and prayed God to forgive her. They all adher’d to their former Confessions, and went of the Stage, crying out, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.

Just as the Prisoners were bringing out of Newgate, to go to the Place of Execution, a Reprieve came for John Potter, before-mention’d.

At the Place of Execution, Martin Bellamy read a Paper to the Auditors, wherein he lamented the Follies of a mispent Life, &c. the Copy whereof is as follows,

Gentlemen,

I Am brought here to suffer an ignominious Death, for my having willfully transgressed against the known Laws of God and my Country. I fear there are too many here present, who come to be Witnesses of my untimely End, rather out of Curiosity than from a sincere Intention to take Warning by my unhappy Fate. You see me here in the very Prime of my Youth, cut off like an untimely Flower in a rigorous Season, thro’ my having been too much addicted to a voluptious and irregular Course of Life, which has been the Occasion of my committing those Crimes for which I am now to suffer. As the Laws of God, as well as Men, call upon me to lay down my Life as justly forfeited, by my manifold Transgressions. I acknowledge the Justice of my Sentence, and I patiently submit to the same, without any Rancour, Ill will, or Malice, against any Person what soever, hoping, thro’ the Merits of Christ Jesus (who laid down his Life for Sinners, and who on the Cross pronounc’d a Pardon for the repenting Thief under the Agonies of Death) to be with him admitted to partake of that Glorious Resurrection and Immortality, he has been so graciously pleased to promise to the sincere Penitent. I earnestly exhort and beg of all here present, to think seriously of Eternity, a long and endless Eternity, in which we are to be rewarded, or punish’d, according to our good or evil Actions in this World, that you will all take Warning by me, and refrain from all wilfull Transgressions and Offences; let a religious Disposition prevail upon you, and use your utmost Endeavours to forsake and flee from Sin, the Mercies of God are great, and he can save, even at the last Moment of Life; yet do not therefore presume to much, least you provoke him to cast you off in his Anger, and become fearfull Examples of his Wrath and Indignation. Let me prevail upon you to forget and forgive me all the Offences and Injuries I have either committed, or promoted, in Action, Advice, or Example, and intreat your Prayers for me, that the Lord would in Mercy look down upon me in the last Moments of my Life.

“Look down in Mercy, O God I beseech thee, upon me a miserable, lost, and undone Sinner; number not my Transgressions nor let my Iniquities rise up in Judgment against me; wash me and I shall be clean, purge me and shall be free from Offence. Tho’ my Sins be as Scarlet they shall be whiter than Snow, if thou pleasest but to receive me amongst those who are Redeem’d by the Merits of thy dear Son Christ Jesus And Oh! Blessed Jesus disown me not in my last Extremity, but number me amongst those whom thou hast redeem’d, that I may sing Praises to the most High, and extol thy Holy Name in the Courts of Heaven, for ever and ever more. Amen.”

This is all the Account given by me,

JAMES GUTHRIE, Minister at Newgate.

ADVERTISEMENT.

This Day is Publish’d,

The LIFE of Martin Bellamy, with an Account of all the several Robberies, Burglaries, Forgeries, and other Crimes by him Committed. Also the Method practised by Himself, and his Companion, in the Perpetration thereof. Necessary to be Perus’d by all Persons, in order to prevent their being Robb’d for the future. Dictated by himself in NEWGATE, and Publish’d at his Request, for the Benefit of the Publick. And his Speech to the Spectators at the Place of Execution. Printed and Sold by J. Applebee, in Black-Fryers, A. Dodd, at the Peacock without Temple-Bat, and E. utt, at the Royal Exchange. Price Six-Pence.

London: Printed by JOHN APPLEBEE, in Black-Fryers.

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1943: Leen Kullman, Soviet hero

Add comment March 6th, 2018 Headsman

Soviet spy Helene (“Leen”) Kullman was shot by the Germans on this date in 1943 … or was she?

Kullman (English Wikipedia entry | the much more detailed Estonian) was just out of teaching school when the Germans occupied Estonia. She joined the Red Army and was eventually trained as an intelligence agent, infiltrated by parachute behind German lines in September 1942, and arrested by the Gestapo in January 1943.

This is where things get interesting.

According to the Soviet hagiography that resulted in her decoration as a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1965, Kullman defied her torturers and was shot by them on March 6, 1943: a standard Great Patriotic War martyr.

However, stories in post-Soviet, and heavily anti-Soviet, Estonia have circulated to the effect that Leen Kullman wasn’t killed in 1943 at all — that she cooperated with her captors and ended up dying peacefully in West Germany in 1978. One family member allegedly received a cryptic message in the 1960s, “Leen lives with the man who saved her life, and has two children. I’m not allowed to say more.”

Almost everything about her available online is in Estonian; readers with that particular proficiency might also enjoy this 1965 radio interview with her sister.

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Feast Day of Saint Honorina

1 comment February 27th, 2018 Headsman

February 27 is honored to be the feast date of Saint Honorina, patron of boatmen (a field of metaphorical import to this site) as well as liberated prisoners (which is more literal import).

She’s a standard issue we-don’t-know-much-about-her Diocletian martyr, locally revered in Normandy where she was executed by the pagans and pitched into the Seine. Her significance in this area led her devotee monks to carry her relics further inland in 876 to protect them from Viking raiders; this established them at a town at the confluence of the Seine and Oise rivers, aptly named Conflans. There the valuable remains remain even though the piratical Norsemen do not; it’s now Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a Paris suburb. (And only one of several French communes named for her.)

However, her spiritual import also remained in her original Norman haunts, even if her physical presence did not — as we discover in Architectural Antiquities of Normandy.

The church of Grâville [Graville-Sainte-Honrine, now a quarter of Le Havre -ed] was dedicated to St. Honorina, a virgin martyr, whose relics were preserved there in the times anterior to the Norman invasion; but were then transported to Conflans upon the Marne. Peter de Natalibus, copious as he is in his Hagiology, has no notice of Honorina, whose influence was nevertheless most extraordinary in releasing prisoners from fetters; and whose altars were accordingly hung round with an abundance of chains and instruments of torture. The author of the Neustria Pia, who attests many of her miracles of this description, relates, that her sanctity extended even to the horse which she rode, insomuch, that, when the body of the beast was thrown, after its death, as carrion to the dogs, they all refused to touch it; and the monks, in commemoration of the miracle, employed the skin for a covering to the church door, where it remained till the middle of the seventeenth century.

Although it was the Normans that cost this place its native holy bones, they made their amends to Graville and Honorina alike through doughty William the Conqueror crony William Malet de Graville, whose family’s largesse greatly aggrandized the still-extant abbey.

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1951: Jean Lee, the last woman to hang in Australia

Add comment February 19th, 2018 Richard Clark

(Thanks to Richard Clark of Capital Punishment U.K. for the guest post, a reprint of an article originally published on that site with some explanatory links added by Executed Today. CapitalPunishmentUK.org features a trove of research and feature articles on the death penalty in England and elsewhere. -ed.)

Jean Lee, an attractive 31-year-old redhead, made history as the last woman to hang in Australia when she went to the gallows in Pentridge prison in the Coburg suburb of Melbourne in Victoria state on the morning of Monday, February 19th, 1951. She and her two male companions were hanged for the murder of 73-year-old dwelling house landlord and bookmaker, William “Pop” Kent.

Jean Lee was apparently quite intelligent and a bit rebellious at school and had a succession of dead end jobs from which she soon left or was fired.

She married at 18 and lived with her husband for about nine years before leaving him and entrusting her daughter to her mother. She had a relationship with a petty criminal who got her into prostitution with American servicemen. He acted as her pimp whilst she worked to support them both.

She left him for another professional criminal, Robert David Clayton, with whom she fell deeply in love. As is so often the case, she became caught in a downward spiral. She was in love with a criminal who abused her and used her in his criminal activities.

These centered principally on what was known as the “badger game.” Lee, at the time, a voluptuous and attractive woman would pick up men and get them to a hotel room, their own home, or a car where she would appear to be about to have sex with them. Once they were semi-naked and vulnerable, Clayton would appear in the role of outraged husband and demand money from them. Usually the victims handed over their ready cash but kept quiet for fear of their wives finding out or of being ridiculed — so it was a fairly safe bet. If they were not forthcoming Clayton would beat them up. It was a scheme that had worked well, although at least two previous cases had been reported to the police.
On the evening of November 7th, 1949, Lee, Clayton and a third accomplice, Norman Andrews, whom Clayton had met in prison, saw William Kent in a Melbourne hotel lounge. Jean Lee had several drinks with Kent and soon succeeded in persuading the old man to take her back to his apartment where she tried to pick his pockets.

However, Mr. Kent, although inebriated and quite elderly, was of sterner stuff. He put up a fight with Lee which was ended when Clayton and Andrews entered his room. Mr. Kent was systematically kicked, beaten and tortured over the next hour in an attempt to get him to reveal where he kept his money. His hands had been tied behind his back and his thumbs tied together with bootlaces. He had been repeatedly stabbed with a small knife and was finally manually strangled.

The trio were soon arrested at their hotel and bloodstained clothing was found in Lee’s and Andrew’s rooms. At police headquarters, they were questioned in separate rooms where each initially denied their involvement and then started to blame the others.

They came to trial on March 20th, 1950 at Melbourne’s Criminal Court and the proceedings lasted six days. As each had tried to shift the blame on to the others in their statements to the police, the trial judge Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy explained the law of “common purpose” to the jury, i.e. that when three people take part in a violent robbery and murder they are all equally guilty, irrespective of which one had actually strangled Mr. Kent. The jury took less than three hours to find them all guilty and they were sentenced to death. Lee became hysterical whilst Clayton shouted abuse at the jury.

Their appeal was heard by the Court of Criminal Appeal and was upheld by a two to one majority decision on the 23rd of June 1950. The Appeal Court ruled that their statements to the police had been obtained improperly as the statement of one was used to extract confessions from the other two. They were thus granted a retrial. However, this was not to be as the High Court overturned the Appeal Court and reinstated the convictions and sentences.

There was considerable protest, led by left-wing and feminist groups, when Lee was sentenced to death. However, it seemed to primarily be against the execution of a woman by hanging, rather than the execution of women per se.

Lee would became the first woman to be hanged in Victoria since Emma Williams in November 1895. She had aged noticeably during her time in prison and suffered violent mood swings — now abusing her wardresses, next begging them for an alcoholic drink. She told one of her wardresses: “I just didn’t do it. I haven’t enough strength in my hands to choke anyone. Bobby was stupid but the old man was trying to yell for help. None of us meant to kill him.”

It was decided that Lee should be the first to hang at 8 am, the two men being executed two hours later.

She was heavily sedated as she shuffled under escort to a double cell near the gallows. Her weight was recorded as 7 stone 6 lbs, her height as 5′ 7″ and the drop was set at 8 feet exactly.

Sheriff William Daly was required to read the death warrant to her. She collapsed on seeing the hangman and his assistant — both wearing “massive steel rimmed goggles [with a] soft felt hat … to ensure that they were not recognised in the future”. A doctor examined her and found she was unconscious. However, the execution had to proceed so Daly continued to read out the details of her conviction and sentence although she would not have heard a word of it — if she had, she would have spotted a mistake (the date on which she had been sentenced).

Because of her state of collapse, the executioner pinioned her arms in front of rather than behind her back as was normal. His assistant then pinioned her legs with a strap whilst he put the white hood on her head, and they carried her from the cell the few yards to the gallows where she had to be placed on a chair on the trap. Her head drooped to her chest and the executioner had to pull it back in order to adjust the noose correctly.

The flap of the hood, which was to cover her face, had been left open. At a signal from the sheriff, the executioner dropped the flap to obscure her face, stood back from the trap and pulled the lever. The trap fell and both she and the chair plummeted through. The chair had been secured to the gallows by a cord and although it fell with her, the two parted company at the end of the drop leaving her suspended normally. Her weight was recorded as 7 stone 6 lbs, her height as 5’ 7” and the drop was set at 8 feet exactly. The knot was positioned under her left ear and death was said to be “instantaneous”. At 8.05 am the prison doctor found no heartbeat. The death certificate was signed at 8.20.

Two hours later Clayton and Andrews, both mildly sedated, shared her fate.

Capital punishment ended in Australia with Victoria’s next execution, that of Ronald Ryan on the same gallows at Pentridge prison on the 3rd of February 1967.

A recent book, Jean Lee: The last woman hanged in Australia by Paul Wilson, Don Trebl and Robyn Lincoln casts doubt on the justice of her conviction and execution based upon the police interrogation methods and her part in the murders.

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1804: Ann Hurle, forger

Add comment February 8th, 2018 Richard Clark

(Thanks to Richard Clark of Capital Punishment U.K. for the guest post, a reprint of an article originally published on that site with some explanatory links added by Executed Today. CapitalPunishmentUK.org features a trove of research and feature articles on the death penalty in England and elsewhere. -ed.)

Ann Hurle was one of twelve people to be hanged for forgery in 1804. The law took a very severe view of this offence at the time and few forgers were reprieved.

Ann was an educated young woman of twenty-two, living in London, who had devised quite an elaborate plan to defraud the Bank of England of £500, which was a very large sum in those days and would now be the equivalent of over a quarter of a million pounds. The crime was perpetrated on Saturday the 10th of December 1803 when she met Stock Broker, George Francillon, at the Bank Coffee House and persuaded him to obtain a power of attorney for her to enable her to sell some Bank of England 3% stock belonging to one Benjamin Allin, an elderly gentleman from Greenwich. Mr. Francillon had known Ann for some six months and therefore was not overly suspicious. She told him that she had lived in Mr. Allin’s house as a child, where her aunt was the housekeeper, and that he had given her this stock in return for the aunt’s service to the household and the kindnesses she had shown him. Mr. Francillon obtained the power of attorney for Ann on the Saturday, and she told him that she was then going to take it Greenwich to get it signed by Mr. Allin.

Ann returned on Monday morning with the document purportedly signed and witnessed by Thomas Noulden and Peter Verney, who both ran small businesses in Greenwich. Ann met Mr. Francillon at the Bank of England where he took the document to the Reduced Office for verification. Ann meanwhile went off to sell the stocks. Mr. Thomas Bateman, the Clerk in charge of powers of attorney, asked to see George Francillon with Ann and informed them that Benjamin Allin’s signature on the power differed from that on the specimen held by the bank. Ann told Mr. Bateman that she knew Mr. Allin and that as he was nearly ninety years old, in poor health and nowadays wrote very little, it was not surprising that his signature differed. She also offered to take out another power of attorney and obtain a new signature on it. Mr. Bateman did not feel that this was necessary but wrote a letter to one of the witnesses to the document.

During the conversation in Mr. Bateman’s office, Ann mentioned that she had recently married and asked by Mr. Bateman why she had not taken out the power in her married name, she told him that she feared her marriage to one James Innes was not a good one. She suggested that he had stolen her money and then boarded a ship at Bristol and that he was already married to another.

Ann left the bank and returned on the following Tuesday. In the meantime, Mr. Francillon had become suspicious when he checked the document. He put their main meeting off to the following day while he did some further research, including going to see Benjamin Allin. As arranged, Mr. Francillon met Ann on the Wednesday morning at the Bank of England. He had previously had a meeting with Mr. Newcomb the principal clerk in the Reduced Office and explained his suspicions. He and Mr. Newcomb had a meeting with the Governors. Ann came to the Bank with a young man and must have realised from the delays in seeing her that all was not well and left. She was arrested the following day in Bermondsey and taken to the Mansion House for questioning. The young man turned out to be James Innes, who was also questioned. She was charged with the forgery and he with being an accessory to the crime, although it seems that his case was dropped as there is no record of a trial for him. The case was obviously unusual and of some public interest as it was reported in The Times of Wednesday, the 21st of December 1803. Ann was committed for trial at the next Sessions of the Old Bailey in London.

These Sessions opened on the 11th of January 1804, before the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Sir Archibald Knight. Ann was charged with four offences. The first was “feloniously, falsely, making, forging, and counterfeiting, on the 12th of December, a certain instrument, or letter of attorney, with the name Benjamin Allin thereunto subscribed, purporting to have been signed, sealed, and delivered, by one Benjamin Allin, of Greenwich, in the county of Kent, gentleman, a proprietor of certain annuities and stock transferable at the Bank of England, called Three per Cent. Reduced Annuities, to sell, assign, transfer, and convey, the sum of five hundred pounds of the said transferable annuities, the property of the said Benjamin Allin, to her, the said Ann Hurle , with intent to defraud the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.” The second count was, “For uttering and publishing as true a like forged deed, knowing it to be forged, with the like intention.” There were two further counts on the indictment against her, being the same offences against Benjamin Allin. Mr. Garrow led for the prosecution and Mr. Knapp for the defence.

George Francillon and Benjamin Allin were the principal prosecution witnesses. Mr. Francillon related the above story to the court and Mr. Allin examined the power of attorney document and declared that the signature was not his and that he had never signed such a document. Thomas Bateman, Peter Verney and Thomas Noulden also testified against her. Ann’s aunt, Jane, told the court that Ann had not visited Mr. Allin’s house recently and neither had Messrs. Verney and Noulden, the two purported witnesses to his signature on the document.

The witnesses’ testimonies were cross examined at this time but Ann offered no actual defence, leaving this to her counsel. She was thus convicted and remanded to Tuesday, the 17th of January 1804 for sentence. Four men and three women were bought before the court to received their death sentences that Tuesday, with the Recorder of London making particular reference to the gravity of Ann’s crime and the fact that she preyed upon “an infirm and imbecile old man”. He opined that only death was sufficient punishment for such a crime. He then proceeded to pass sentence on each prisoner. When Ann’s turn came, she was asked in the normal way if their was any reason why sentence of death should not be pronounced against her and replied that she thought she was “with child” (pregnant). She did not make this claim with any apparent confidence so no further enquiry into its validity was made. Sarah Fisher, another of the condemned women, also claimed to be pregnant but did so much more forcibly, thus requiring the court to empanel a Jury of Matrons, who examined her and declared that she wasn’t. It is feasible that both women could have been in the early stages of pregnancy, although neither was “quick with child”. Only if the prisoner was obviously pregnant was her execution respited until after she had given birth. In most cases she was reprieved altogether and her punishment commuted to transportation. “Pleading the belly” as it was called was a frequently used tactic at this time by women desperate to avoid the noose.

The Recorder of London reviewed the cases of those condemned to death and made a recommendation in each one. He then presented his recommendations in person to the Privy Council, which was chaired by King George III. In Ann’s case, there could be no recommendation for a reprieve. She was therefore scheduled for execution, along with Methuselah Spalding who had been convicted of sodomy at the previous Sessions held on the 30th of November 1803. It is interesting to note that Spalding was the only one of five condemned men at that Sessions not to be reprieved and that Ann was the only one out of the six men and three women at the January 1804 Sessions not to get a reprieve. Non-murderers normally had a period of two to three weeks before execution at this time and Ann’s execution was set for Wednesday, the 8th of February.

For reasons that are unclear, the normal “New Drop” style gallows at Newgate was not to be used for these two hangings. A simple gallows was erected at the top of the Old Bailey, near to St. Sepulchre’s Church.

On the morning of execution, Ann and Spalding were brought from their cells and pinioned in the Press Room. They were then taken out into the yard and loaded into a horse drawn cart covered in a black cloth which emerged from the prison at about 8.10 a.m. for the short ride to the gallows. The cart was backed under the beam and the two prisoners were allowed to pray with Ordinary and make their last statements. Ann was dressed in a mourning gown and wore a white cap. She made no address to the multitude who had come to see her die but prayed fervently with the Ordinary for five minutes or so. William Brunskill, the hangman for London & Middlesex, placed the rope around her neck and when she had finished praying, pulled the white cap down over her face. The cart was now drawn away leaving them both suspended. It was recorded that Ann let out a scream as the cart moved and that she struggled hard for two to three minutes before becoming still, her hands were observed to move repeatedly towards her throat and her un-pinioned legs kicked and padded the air. No doubt the eyes of the crowd were riveted on her poor writhing form. After hanging for the customary hour, they were taken down and returned inside Newgate from where they could be claimed by relatives for burial.

An angry letter appeared in The Times newspaper the following week castigating the authorities for the execution on the grounds of cruelty compared with the New Drop and the difficulty in seeing the prisoners and thus taking a moral lesson from their demise. It was alleged in the letter that the reason for the change of gallows was that the Newgate staff were too lazy to assemble the New Drop gallows. Whether this was true or whether the drop mechanism had become defective we will never know, but it was returned to service for the next execution, that of Providence Hansard for the same crime on the 5th of July 1805.

It seems surprising looking back two centuries that Ann, acting alone, would have devised such an ambitious plan to obtain this large sum of money. However, no evidence was offered at her trial to show that anyone else was involved, other than perhaps James Innes on the periphery of the crime. It must have taken quite some time to think through and make the necessary contacts, such as George Francillon, who would be able to obtain the power of attorney for her. It is hard to believe she was not aware of the risk of failure and the deadly consequences that would follow it. In the period 1800 – 1829, an amazing 218 people were to die for forgery in England and Wales. Another two women were to follow Ann to the gallows outside Newgate over the next two years, Providence Hansard mentioned earlier and Mary Parnell on the 13th of November 1805. Forgery ceased to be a capital crime in 1832 and the last execution for it took place on the 31st of December 1829, when Thomas Maynard was hanged at Newgate. Over two centuries attitudes have altered; had a modern day Ann committed the crime in the 21st century, she would have got somewhere between four and five years in prison and have been released on licence half way through this sentence.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,History,Other Voices,Pelf,Public Executions,Women

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2013: Kepari Leniata burned as a witch

1 comment February 6th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 2013, villagers at the Papua New Guinea village of Paiala tortured their neighbor Kepari Leniata into confessing the witchcraft murder of a local child, then burnt her alive in a trash dump. Sorcery is widely feared and practiced in PNG.

Kepari Leniata, 20, ‘confessed’ after she was dragged from her hut, stripped naked and tortured with white-hot iron rods.

She was then dragged to a local rubbish dump, doused in petrol and, with hands and feet bound, thrown on a fire of burning tyres. As the mother-of-two screamed in agony, more petrol-soaked tyres were thrown on top of her.

The tragedy unfolded after Miss Leniata’s young neighbour fell sick on Tuesday morning. He complained of pains in the stomach and chest and was taken to Mt Hagen hospital where he died a few hours later.

Relatives of the boy were suspicious that witchcraft was involved in the death and learned that two women had gone into hiding in the jungle.

After they were tracked down, the pair admitted they practised sorcery but had nothing to do with the boy’s death. Miss Leniata, they said, was the person responsible.

The boy’s family went to her hut at 7am on Wednesday, stripped her and dragged her away to torture and death. (Source)

Horrific pictures circulated in the international media.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Borderline "Executions",Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Innocent Bystanders,Lynching,Murder,Papua New Guinea,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Summary Executions,Torture,Witchcraft,Women

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