Posts filed under 'Theft'

1896: Patrick Coughlin, shot in the mountains

Add comment December 15th, 2018 Headsman

From the San Francisco (Calif.) Call, Dec. 16, 1896.

UTAH MURDERER EXECUTED

Patrick Coughlin, the Slayer of Two Officers, Shot to Death in Rich County.

SALT LAKE, Utah, Dec. 15. — Patrick Coughlin was executed in Rich County, this State, this morning, for the murder of Deputy Sheriff Dawes and Constable Stagg, in July, 1895. Coughlin chose shooting as the method of his taking off. [He could have opted for hanging -ed.] He was pinioned, blindfolded and seated on a stationary chair, and six deputy sheriffs fired simultaneously, aiming at the heart, over which a piece of white paper was fastened. Every shot pierced the mark and death was instantaneous.


Photo of the arrangement of Coughlin’s execution. Via the University of Utah, whose watermark appears in the center.

Coughlin was about 23 years of age, a native of Pennsylvania, and came to this State when quite young. For some years he was considered a hard character. In July, 1895, he and another young man, Fred George, stole a band of horses and were pursued by officers. For over a week they eluded capture, and several times when brought to bay fired upon their pursuers, escaping further into the mountains. They were surrounded in a little cabin, and when called upon to surrender fired repeatedly, killing the two officers named and wounding others before the posse retired.

Several days later they were captured, 150 miles from the scene of the killing. Both were tried on the capital charge and Coughlin was sentenced to be shot and George to a life term in the penitentiary.

Coughlin’s execution took place near the spot where the murders were committed, up in the mountains.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Murder,Shot,Theft,USA,Utah

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1988: Sek Kim Wah, thriller

Add comment December 9th, 2018 Headsman

Thirty years ago today, Singapore hanged Sek Kim Wah for his “thrilling” home invasion murders.

A sociopathic 19-year-old army conscript, Sek had got a taste for blood in June 1983 by strangling a bookie and his mistress to prevent them identifying him after a robbery. It was only days after his unrequited crush had given him the cold shoulder; he’d seized the rejection as license to give rein to his darkest desires. “I was frustrated. I like someone to exercise control over me, to care and look after me. But all they are interested in is money. Since everybody is busy about money, I would get it by hook or by crook and the more the merrier.”

Those robbery-murders he got away with in the moment.

On July 23, he bid for an encore performance by forcing his way into a split-level bungalow armed with an M16 pinched from the Nee Soon Camp armory. With him was another 19-year-old, Nyu Kok Meng. It was Nyu’s first crime, and events would prove that he and Sek had made some unwarranted assumptions about one another.

After forcing businessman Robert Tay Bak Hong and his wife Annie Tay to withdraw bank funds for them, Sek set about replaying his previous crime script by eliminating the witnesses, strangling and bludgeoning the couple as well as their 27-year-old Filipina maid Jovita Virador.

Nyu heard the bashing sounds from another room, where he held the M16 on the couple’s 10-year-old daughter Dawn, and Dawn’s tutor Madam Tang So Ha — and he was aghast when he investigated the commotion. Nyu had intended only to steal money, not to hurt anyone. He took his two charges under his impromptu protection, and because of it they both survived to give evidence against him.

“Suddenly, the male Chinese who was holding the long gun rushed into our room and locked the door behind him,” said Dawn.

Nyu refused to let Sek into the room. Sek then decided to leave the house in Mr Tay’s Mercedes car. Nyu handed over his identity card to Madam Tang, and asked her to convey a message to his parents to buy a coffin for him, as he planned to commit suicide after releasing her and Dawn. (Singapore Straits Times, excerpting Guilty as Charged: 25 Crimes that have shaken Singapore since 1965)

Nyu pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger … “but nothing happened,” he said. “Frustrated, I put the rifle down.” He fled on Sek’s motorbike as the two souls he saved ran to a neighbor’s house for help. That night, he escaped, temporarily, to Malaysia.

Nevertheless, his clemency — or his stupidity, as Sek called it — saved his neck; he caught a life sentence plus caning.

Sek would not be so lucky and he seemed to know and revel in it from the moment of his capture, mugging obnoxiously for the papers. “I’ve always wanted to die on the gallows,” he exulted at his sentencing. “It must be thrilling to be hanged.” He’d used that same word — “thrilling” — to describe the experience of committing murder.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Pelf,Singapore,Soldiers,Theft

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1982: Charles Brooks, Jr., the first by lethal injection

Add comment December 7th, 2018 Headsman

Besides being Pearl Harbor Day and Noam Chomsky Day, December 7 is a black-letter anniversary for capital punishment as the date in 1982 when the United States first executed a prisoner by means of lethal injection.

Charles Brooks, Jr. — who had by the time of his death converted to Islam and started going by Shareef Ahmad Abdul-Rahim — suffered the punishment in Texas for abducting and murdering a car lot mechanic. With an accomplice,* he had feigned interest in a test drive in order to steal the car, stuffing the mechanic in the trunk and then shooting him dead in a hotel room.

The “modern” U.S. death penalty era had just dawned with 1976’s Gregg v. Georgia decision affirming new procedures meant to reduce systemic arbitrariness — and the machinery was reawakening after a decade’s abeyance.

In the wake of the circus atmosphere surrounding the January 1977 firing squad execution of Gary Gilmore, the laboratories of democracy started casting about for killing technologies that were a little bit less … appalling.

“We had discussed what happened to Gary Gilmore,” former Oklahoma chief medical examiner Jay Chapman later recalled. “At that time we put animals to death more humanely than we did human beings — so the idea of using medical drugs seemed a much better alternative.”

This was not actually a new idea: proposals for a medicalized execution process had been floated as far back as the 1880s, when New York instead opted for a more Frankenstein vibe by inventing the electric chair. And the Third Reich ran a wholesale euthanasia program based on lethal injections.

But 1977 was the year that lethal injection was officially adopted as the lynchpin method for regular judicial executions. It happened in Oklahoma, and Chapman’s three-drug protocol — sodium thiopental (an anaesthetic), followed by pancuronium bromide (to stop breathing) and potassium chloride (to stop the heart) — became the standard execution procedure swiftly taken up by numerous other U.S. states in the ensuing years. As years have gone by, Chapman’s procedure has come under fire and supply bottlenecks have led various states to experiment with different drug cocktails; all the same, nearly 90% of modern U.S. executions have run through the needle.*

Texas was one early adopter, rolling in the gurney to displace its half-century-old electric chair. Its debut with Charlie Brooks was also Texas’s debut on the modern execution scene, and both novelties have had a lot of staying power since: every one of Texas’s many executions in the years since — 557 executions over 36 years as of this writing — has employed lethal injection.

* For up-to-date figures, check the Death Penalty Information Center’s executions database.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Texas,Theft,USA

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1787: John Bly and Charles Rose, Shaysites

Add comment December 6th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1787, the only two men to hang for the infant American republic’s seminal post-independence rebellion went to the gallows at Lenox, Massachusetts.

The newborn United States emerged from the American Revolution (1776-1783) in a parlous financial condition. Forever short of gold and credit, it had paid George Washington’s Continental Army in worthless scrip* and promises of goodwill. Instead, many a Cincinnatus returned from Yorktown to discover his debtor farm dunned by creditors and taxmen, as desperate as he for hard currency.

Come 1786, protests against unpayable taxes verged into an outright rural insurrection in western Massachusetts. Known for one of its principals, Daniel Shays — who like so many of his fellows was a Continental Army veteran turned penniless farmer — this rebellion continued for several months and took earnest aim at the hated Massachusetts merchant elites. Some 4,000 “Shaysites” would eventually admit to** taking the field as rebel guerrillas. They mounted an attack on a federal armory, and seized weapons where they could for their own use.

A few books about Shays’s Rebellion

It was this last act which occasions our men’s hangings.

The new American authorities, who had not so many years ago been beckoning this same populace to take up their muskets in revolution, exercised in this moment a brittle authority and they would calculate that the proper balance of due regard for their power without unnecessary resentment entailed only a circumscribed approach.

Instead of charging Shaysites wholesale, most were waved away with a free pardon. And instead of charging treason, the Bay State made its demonstration cases with regular criminal offenses — for burglary when our men John Bly and Charles Rose followed some Shaysite militiaman’s order to confiscate guns and powder from nearby houses. In 1787, that was still a potential hanging offense.

Of course, everyone understood well enough the real offense. On the eve of their executions, someone got the condemned men to sign onto a “Last Words & Dying Speeches” broadsheet with a lesson addressed “To the good People of Massachusetts, more especially to Daniel Shays, and other Officers of the Militia, and the Select men of Towns who have been instrumental in raising the Opposition to the Government of this Commonwealth:”

Our fate is a loud and solemn lesson to you who have excited the people to rise against the Government … Advert to those things — live peaceably with all men — be not too jealous of your Rulers — remember that Government is absolutely necessary to restrain the corrupt passions of men — obey your Honest Governors — be not allured by designing men — pay your honest debts and your reasonable taxes — use your utmost endeavours to give peace to your divided, distracted country …

There was another legacy: the outbreak of Shays’s Rebellion — and the federal government’s impotence to respond to it (it was haltingly suppressed by state militia, with the insurgents at points escaping into New York for breathing room) — helped catalyze the Constitutional Convention from May to September of 1787, and informed its creation of a stronger federal state and of the system of checks upon democratic action that a rebellious populace might wish to undertake.

There’s a podcast episode about Shays’s Rebellion here.

* So widely shunned was the depreciated paper Continental currency issued during the Revolution that the phrase “not worth a Continental” entered the parlance of the times; it was these notes that had been given to revolutionary soldiers by way of aspirational salary like so many stock options from a foundering Silicon Valley startup. In 1791, these Continentals were bought out by the new federal government at one cent on the dollar.

** This census arrives via applications for the free amnesty eventually offered to the Shaysite rank and file.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Milestones,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Soldiers,Theft,Treason,USA

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1705: Edward Flood and Hugh Caffery

1 comment December 5th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1705, Edward Flood and Hugh Caffery hanged at Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green for robbing one “Mr. Casey.”

Both men were impugned by a witness who subsequently recanted — at which point the victim’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Price, stepped in to denounce them instead. In their dying statements (republished in James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches: From Eighteenth-Century Ireland) both men insist upon their innocence of the robbery.

It’s unclear to this reader all these centuries later whether we are meant by these doomed “robbers” to understand something unstated between the lines about Elizabeth Price’s animosity towards them, or whether we simply have a case of unreliable witness testimony and tunnel vision. (Obviously we also can’t know whether Flood’s and Caffery’s protestations are reliable.) Judge for yourself, gentle reader:


THE LAST SPEECHES AND DYING WORDS OF

EDWARD FLOOD AND HUGH CAFFERY

Who was Executed at St. Stephen’s-Green, On Friday the 5th of December, 1707 for Robbing of Mr. Casey, at Cabbra?

Good Christians,

Now that I am brought to so scandalous an End, and within a few Minuts of my last Breathing; I here declare before God and the World, that I was not Guilty of this Fact for which I am now to Dye for; neither was I privy thereto, nor to any other Robbery all my Life-time.

One of the same Company that I belong’d to being Confined in the Castle Guard, and transmitted to New-Gate for stealing Cloaths, was in a starving Condition; and that Mr. Casey, who was Robbed, hearing there was some of the Regiment in New Gate, and being Robb’d by some of the same Regiment, as they suppos’d, came to New Gate, to see if he cou’d hear any thing of this Robbery among them.

Then this Man who belong’d to the same Company that I was in, by name Bryan Mac Couly, being in a starving Condition, and Casey making him Drink, and Bribed him, Swore against Four of the same Company; for which we were Apprehended.

In a considerable time after, his Conscience prick’d him; and sent for the Reverend Mr. Jones, who examin’d Mac Couley, who Declared he Wrong’d us Four … That Elizabeth Price, Mother-in-law to the said Casey, hearing that Bryan Mac Couly had made the second Examination, came to him, and said; If he would not Swear against us, she would swear against Caffery and I; so she desired him to Swear, and that he shou’d have for his Reward two Guineas, but he wou’d not.

Then Mrs. Price Swore against Caffery and I, and said she knew us Both well enough … [and] Mrs. Price pitch’d upon one of Man of the Battallion, and said, that was one of the Men, and would have had him confined only he had good proof to the contrary; and made out where he was that Night.

Likewise I declare once more before God and the World, I know nothing of this Robbery that I am to Die for; altho’ I deserved Death before now, but I thank my God not for Robbing or Stealing, but for keeping Company with Women, and I was much given to that Crime, and do trust that God of his great Mercy will forgive me …

Edward Flood

Christians,

Since it has pleased Almight God, that I should Dye this most unfortunate Death; these few minutes that I have to live, shall be to satisfy the World of what was laid to my Charge. And now that I am to dye, I hope all Good Christians do believe that I have a tender regard for my poor soul, (which I hope God will be Merciful to,) and not think that I will dissemble with the World so as to deprive my self of Eternal happiness.

Dear Christians, these being my last Words, I do declare I never was Guilty of this Crime that I now suffer for, nor was I ever Guilty of so hainous a Crime as Stealing or Robbing; but all other small Vices I have been Guilty of, (and hope my Heavenly Father will pardon the same) Cursing, Swearing, and Women was the only Vice I was Guilty of; And that I do heartily forgive the Persons that hath occasion’d this my untimely End. And do further declare, that I never before knew any that was privy to the fact I suffer for; not did I see Mrs Price for 3 Years to my knowledge, ’till she came to New Gate.

I lived with one Ignatius Taffe, at the sign of the Black Swan in Smite-Field; during which service, I have been often in her House, yet never did her any wrong. I Confess I deserv’d Death long ago for the matter of keeping Company with Lewd Women, and I was as much given to that, which is all that troubles my Conscience.

I never wrong’d any living Soul, except I did my Master when I was sent to Buy small Conveniences for the House, then some small thing or other I often kept for my own use: Which is all I shall answer at the Tribunal. And pray God that all Christians may eschew those Vices of Lewd Women, Cursing and Swearing; God will one time or other revenged on ’em that Practice ’em. I desire the prayers of all that sees my untimely End. So fare well.

Hugh Caffery

These are the true Copies of the Dying Persons as delivered by ’em.
Printed by E. Waters in School-House Lane.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Ireland,Public Executions,Soldiers,Theft

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1766: John Clark and James Felton

Add comment November 26th, 2018 Headsman

We resort to a footnote in a Newgate Calendar edition for today’s interesting anecdote:

John Clarke was a watch-case maker, of good repute, in London. He had long been in the habit of occasionally working by himself in a closet; and his apprentice, jealous of the master’s being there employed on some work in which he would not instruct him, secretly bored a hole in the wainscot, through which he saw him filling guineas. He gave information, convicted, and brought his master to the gallows.

Clarke, for this offence, suffered at Tyburn, along with James Felton, an apprentice, on the 26th of November, 1766, who was the first offender convicted on the act which makes stealing bank-notes, &c. out of letters, a felony. It was proved that he stole a bank post-bill out of a letter at Mr. Eaton’s receiving-house, in Chancery Lane.

(There is no Ordinary’s Account for this date: installments of this venerable series were very sparse during the term of Joseph Moore, in the late 1760s. -ed.)

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1763: Charles Brown, security consultant

Add comment November 23rd, 2018 Headsman

This primer appeared in Lloyd’s Evening Post (Dec. 21, 1763) and is also to be found in a 1764 compendium called The polite miscellany: containing variety of food for the mind ; being an elegant collection of moral, humourous, and improving essays, &c. both in prose and verse:

Some Hints, by way of Caution to the Public, to prevent or detect the designs of Thieves and Sharpers.

Left in a manuscript, by Charles Speckman, alias Brown, executed at Tyburn the 23rd of November, for robbing Mrs. Dixon, in Broad-street, Carnaby-market, in September last, of some lace.

  1. Never place many different articles on the counter at one time; nor turn your back on the customers, but let some other person put the different articles up, whilst you are intent upon the business before you.
  2. It is in general to be suspected if a person pulls out a handkerchief, lays it down, and takes it up often, that some ill is intended. This was my constant practice with Milliners and others, with regard to what lay in a small compass. It never failed of success. The following is one instance of my manner of using it: At Reading, in Berkshire, I went to a Milliner’s shop, under pretence of buying some lace, to go round a cap and handkerchief, for my sister. The Milliner asked if I was not too young a man to be a judge of lace? I replied, being young, I should hope for better usage, and left it entirely to her generosity to serve me of that which was best of the kind. At this moment I fixed my eye on a particular piece. Pretending to have a bad cold, I took my handkerchief out to wipe my nose, laid it down on this piece of lace, which repeating again, I took the lace up with my handkerchief, and put it in my pocket, and then told the Milliner I would stay till I was grown older; though it is clear I was too old for her now. I took my leave, and marched gravely off, without the least suspicion; and went directly to the Crown Inn, hired a horse for Maidenhead, but pushed on for London.
  3. The shopkeeper, on seeing such methods as this made use of, should remove the handkerchief from off the goods; which will make the Sharper suspect his design is seen through.
  4. It is common at Haberdashers and other shops, which deal in small articles, that for every article which is wanted to be paid for, the Tradesman applies to his till for change; his eyes being fixed thereon, then is the time something the nearest at hand on the counter is moved off.
  5. Watchmakers and Silversmiths are imposed on principally thus: In a morning or evening the Sharper, well dressed, as a Sea-officer, will go to their shops, look at watches, buckles, rings, &c. when a variety of these are laid on the counter, if opportunity offers, the handkerchief is made use of; should this fail, then the goods are ordered to a tavern, coffee-house, or private house, as best suits for elegance or honesty; then the person is instantly sent back for something omitted, whilst the prize is secured, and the Sharper moved off another way. Though this is an old and stale trick, it is amazing how successful the Practitioners in it still are.

The following is part of the affecting account which this unhappy young man gives of himself:

“During my long course in wickendess, I never was addicted to common or profane swearing, to excess in eating, or to drunkenness, and but little to women. I never was fond of even conversing with thieves and robbers, tho’ at accidental meetings I have met with several, who, guessing I was of their profession, would set forth the advantages of associates, or appearing in company to rob and plunder the honest and unwary. Pallister and Duplex, lately executed at Coventry, who called themselves the heads of a great gang, pressed me to go on the highway with them and their companions, but all they could say was in vain. I never would make use of, or indeed knew, the flash or cant language, in which these two men were very expert. My father, who lived in good reputation in London, where I was born, put me to a boarding-school, and bestowed more money on my education than on all the rest of my brothers and sisters (I was the eldest of 18) for all which I never made any grateful return, which gives me now great affliction, and the most pungent remorse. The misfortunes I have undergone have been, I am certain, entirely owing to the continual state of rebellion that I lived in with my parents; and God, for such unnatural practices, has been pleased to bring me to the most just and deserved punishment I am now shortly to suffer. If children did but properly consider, the very fear of bringing their innocent parents to disgrace and shame, would prevent them from pursuing those wicked practices which end in being publickly exposed to a censorious world, and suffering an ignominious death.”

This youth finished his career at the age of 29: he was about five feet nine inches high, thin and genteel in his person, and affable in his behaviour, with much seeming innocence in his countenance.

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1734: John Ormesby and Matthew Cushing

Add comment October 17th, 2018 Headsman

If the attached A Few Lines upon the Awful Execution of John Ormesby & Matthew Cushing intrigues, get to know America’s “first celebrity burglar” via a profile from friend of the site Anthony Vaver (author of Bound with an Iron Chain and Early American Criminals).

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Massachusetts,Murder,Public Executions,Theft,USA

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1752: William Jillet, Daniel Johnson, and David Smith

Add comment October 16th, 2018 Headsman

From the New-York Mercury, Nov. 27, 1752:

Newbern, in North-Carolina, August 28.

About a Fortnight ago, was committed to Goal in this Town, four Men, viz. Patrick Moore, a Taylor by Trade, Daniel Johnson, alias Dixon, a Chymist or Doctor, William Jillet, a Blacksmith, and Peter Matthews, for making bad Money: They were taken by the Sheriff of this County at Peter Matthews’s House, about 30 Miles from this Town, near to which, in a great Swamp, they had erected a Forge, and prepared Moulds and other Materials for making Doubloons, Pistoles, Pieces of Eight and half Pistereens: There were some of the Doubloons a Pistole, Pieces of Eight, and half Pistereens found upon them, but so badly done as not to be easily imposed upon any Body; which may be owing to the timely Discovery of the Plot, which prevented their finishing them in the Manner they intended; for the Similitude as to Size, is very exact, only they are much wanting in Colour, which perhaps was to have been the finishing Stroke.

Patrick Moore, who upon his Examination, seems to give the clearest Evidence, says, That he lived in Virginia, and work’d at this Trade, at the House of one Richard Booker, in Glocester [sic] County, where the said Daniel Johnson, alias Dillon, and William Jillet, resorted; that the said Booker gave him the said Moore, a small Boat, with Provisions sufficient, to bring the said Johnson, alias Dixon, and William Jillet, with their Bellows, Hammer, Moulds, and other Materials for making Money, into this Province; which he accordingly did about two Months since, and landed them up Neuse River, from whence they travelled to the House of the said Peter Matthews, as above, set up their Forge, and were proceeding to the good Work; and would, in all Probability, have plyed us plentifully with Doubloons, Pistoles, and Pieces of Eight, had not the Plot been timely discovered.

From the Pennsylvania Gazette, Nov. 23, 1752:

Newbern, in North-Carolina, October 6.

On Tuesday last ended the General Court here, when three Persons were capitally convicted, and received Sentence of Death, viz. William Jillet, and Daniel Johnston, alias Dixon, for Coining; and David Smith, alias Griffith, for Felony, in Robbing a Store in Johnson County, about four Years ago.

Patrick Moore, who was concerned with the Coiners, turn’d Evidence against them; and Peter Matthews, at whose House they were taken, and who was thought to have been concern’d with them, was acquitted.

October 20. On Monday last was executed at the Gallows near this Town, pursuant to their Sentence, Daniel Johnston, alias Dixon, William Jillet, and David Smith, alias Griffith. They were attended to the Gallows by the Rev. Mr. Lopierre, who also attended them while in Goal. They all appeared very penitent, and expressed much Sorrow and Contrition for their Crimes, which they confessed; and Jillet and Johnston declared Patrick Moore to have been the sole Contriver and Promoter of the wretched Scheme, for which they suffered, and which would have been so destructive to the Community had it succeeded. Johnston died a stanch Roman Catholick, and was very earnest and pathetick in his Prayers for the Friends and Followers of Lord Lovat, Kilmarnock, Balmerino, and all the Rebels that suffer’d in the late Rebellion, and heartily pray’d for a Continuance of that noble Spirit which he hop’d was yet alive in Scotland among the Well-wishers of the Pretender.

They made several Attempts, while in Goal, to escape, but were prevented by the Sheriff, who kept a Watch round the Prison every Night; and indeed it has been intirely owing to his great Vigilance and Industry, that these Pests of Society were first apprehended, and preserv’d safe in a Goal (which has hitherto been remarkable for letting Prisoners escape) till they received the Reward due to their Crimes.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Doctors,England,Execution,Hanged,History,North Carolina,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft,USA

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1762: James Collins, James Whem, and John Kello

Add comment October 13th, 2018 Headsman

Three men hanged at Tyburn on this date in 1762.

Although in these pages we most typically notice the details of the crime, our surviving account from Newgate Prison’s Ordinary draws our attention instead to the spiritual struggle of the condemned … or perhaps better to say, of the condemned’s minister.

James Collins and James Whem were two of the hanged men: they were off-duty soldiers caught red-handed after committing a violent mugging in a field near King’s Road.

Sarah West was knocked down by COLLINS with his fist while he held a drawn sword in the other hand, with which he threatened her life if she made a noise; mean time another of them robbed Mr Sykes, and a third [Collins and Whem had a third accomplice who was not captured -ed.] robbed Mr. Halm, of their money and watches; the former being knocked down, was dangerously wounded with a sword, in the forehead, and the latter was also knocked down.

When the Ordinary went to minister to them he found them amenable to his approaches: “Collins lamented that he could not read; Whem said he was a presbyterian; we had some conversation on the principles common to christians, to which he agreed; after which he never refused to join with us, but came constantly to chapel, which was made ready in some sort by next day, where by the help of some directions and daily instructions, each of them behaved tollerably well.”

John Kello,* by contrast, was condemned for forging a thousand-quid note. He scrupulously fought the charge, to no avail; in his turn, he would also fight the Ordinary’s scruples.

Unlike his ruffian brethren in the condemned hold, the mannered and educated Kello felt himself too good for the Ordinary’s devices.

After conviction, when he was applied to, as he lay in bed in his cell, with some words of condolence and exhortation, he answered coldly: “Your advice is very good, and becoming your office to give, but I have some particular opinions of my own” to which it was replied, you will I hope attend the chapel, and give me an opportunity of conferring with you on those opinions, perhaps we may be able to remove and change them for the better: he answered, with an air of superior knowledge and resolution, that “his opinions were not to be changed.” But if they have misled you into your present sad situation, is not this a proof of the unsoundness of them; and that it is high time to quit and renounce them, and take up such as may relieve and support you in this hour of distress and anguish?

he answered, “he never should quit his present sentiments either in this life or after it.” But how if they prove contrary to the received and well-tried opinions of wise and good men? This he denied they were. Being asked if he would permit me to pray with him and the other convicts in his cell, he desired to be excused. He was again asked whether he would come to chapel when called upon at any time hereafter? this he also refused and kept to his resolution next morning and so forward, till a message from Mr. A—n (without any application of mine) by some of the runners made him think proper to attend. Before this visit ended, it was added, I came to offer you the best assistance in my power, if you refuse it, the blame and consequence will fall on your own head. He answered in some slighting manner, as if he set light by this and all such threats, as a mere bugbear, and engine of my office.

The Ordinary found this attitude in a 26-year-old condemned felon quite unsuitable and did not shy from complaining about the haughty youth to his audience.

his behaviour and language was that of a stranger to the oracles of God, and a despiser of them — of a diligent dabler in those dear-bought books which scatter the seeds of scepticism and immorality, of doubt and misbelief, in those weed-bearing soils that are prepared for, and most susceptible of them; which God in his anger suffers to take root and grow in the soul of the sluggard, who is indisposed either to seek, to find, or to follow the ways of found wisdom and instruction. This reminded me of an observation and precept of a celebrated poet.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the pierian spring.
For shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
But drinking deeply sobers us again.

Take that, you brat.

The Headsman is not clergy but might have conceived from the pews that as the reverend was the character proffering wisdom, experience, and perspective, and moreover was the one who was not slated for hanging, it did not well become him to confide to typeface every distinct shade of his scorn for the other man’s resistance.

John Kello consented to come up to chapel, and by way of apology for his past behaviour, said he was bred a dissenter. A Dissenter in deed! But don’t you believe the Bible to be of divine authority? to this he would give no answer, but pretended to be acquainted with all Religions, as well if he had studied the dictionary on that subject; and yet when asked a few questions, seemed quite ignorant of the first principles both of natural and revealed religion. His notions of the obligations to truth and justice, were so imperfect and loose, that he still boldly declared himself innocent of the crime he stood convicted of, and that if he were to die this day he was prepared to answer before his great judge, to whom he referred himself for the truth of his plea.

AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE THIS, GENTLE READER?

For the present, concerning the duty of confession of sins; to whom? and in what cases to be made, the introductory sentences of holy writ prefixed to the daily service of the church, with the confession and absolution founded thereon, were explained to him; together with a general scheme of the tenour, meaning and rationality of the other parts of the service of the church England. These he was warned not to come to hear, as a spy or a scoffer, but rather, as best befitted his circumstances, as an humble penitent. Notwithstanding this, he rather heard the service, than joined in it, for he refused to make responses, or kneel, being in his opinion a matter of indifference, and no reason or authority could convince him to the contrary. This was the less excuseable in him, as he boasted himself free from the errors of education. When after prayers I offered him the use of some good tracts, among which was that excellent, clear and rational view of the sum and substance of Christian faith and practice, the late Bishop of Sodor and Man’s Instruction for the Indians, he first objected to it, as being merely practical; he then said he had met with it abroad in Virginia, and had seen that subject treated in a more masterly manner. He was answered, that the clearness, ease, and condescension of the stile to every capacity, as well as the practical manner in which it is handled, are proofs of the masterly performance. He then said he was a sufficient guide to himself, from what he had within him, and would accept of none of my books.

And on top of everything, he continued to insist upon his innocence, to the fury (and verbose rebuttal) of the tilted vicar.

Our man kept at it, picking out choice Biblical passages for obstinacy, and diligently logging for posterity their (usually ineffectual) impressions. Kello even blew off the help of an outside minister who hewed more to his “dissenting” milieu.

Kello never did submit so far as to favor the Ordinary with a confession, nor did he ever fully participate in a Church of England service. But on the fatal morning, they came to some sort of accord, or at least a sense of mutual exhaustion. Having got Kello to affirm that he was indeed a Christian, and not one of those horrid deists, the Ordinary “contented myself with advising him at least to join in the Litany and other prayers, and to be present at the administration; to this he complied, and behaved himself with attention (and perhaps mental devotion also) while the other prisoners prayed and communicated with some other serious persons who joined with us.” And they found a way to comport themselves to each other’s satisfaction at the gallows.

They were all three carried out in one cart about nine, and brought to the place of execution about ten; where a numerous mixt multitude were met to see them suffer. Being tied up they were again applied to, to declare if they had any thing to confess. Mr. Kello now at last declared his sorrow for all his offences against God: he was reminded to add, for every injury done to his neighbour, which he assented to. The two others continued to say they had nothing more to confess; nor did any of them think proper to speak a word of warning to others, against the fatal steps which brought them to this sad lot; but they desired the people to join in prayers for them, which they did. At a proper pause, Kello was asked whether he would join in confessing and repeating the creed? to this he agreed; but as he did not speak out, either in this or in the prayers, his joining could only be internal. He was further asked whether he was not grieved for not being admitted to the holy communion? he answered, that he had joined with us in his heart, and spirit, as far as he could. This gave me good hope of some better dispositions within him, now at last, than we could hitherto discover by his outward behaviour. He was again desired to declare he forgave his brother; he answered, that his brother knew his sentiments in that respect, by his behaviour and conduct towards him, refering to some secrets between themselves. He added, “As far as humanity can, I forgive him;” to which I subjoined, “may the grace of God help all your human infirmities;” he thanked me for this, and other offices of the like kind. About this time, finding his hands loose, he called to the executioner to tie them; but first he took out of his pocket four small letters folded but not sealed, which he humbly desired I would forward, giving me a direction to one gentleman to whom three of them were to be inclosed and sent by the pennypost. As these letters were a deposit, and have no connection with the crime for which he suffered, nor can give any satisfaction as to his guilt or repentance, the publick, it is hoped, will not desire nor expect to see them.

But in deference to the publick, this much may be said, That they speak the language and thoughts of a man anxious in his last hours to do particular acts of justice and good offices, where due, to the utmost of his power; and that expressed in a stile and turn of sentiments, such as would make one heartily wish the writer had deserved a better fate.

The two soldiers, we hope, enjoyed a compensation in the hereafter for their pious submission that they did not receive in the form of column-inches. Nevertheless, the Ordinary leaves the last word to their case, a noble principle that in truth is but rarely observed in the breach.

Collins having a small book of devotions in his hand desired it to be given to one of his brother Soldiers, whom he call’d by name out of the croud, and who came and received it: a considerable number of the foot-guards being present, behaved decently, were much affected, and some wept. May these examples of justice be a warning to them all to avoid every act and degree of violence to his Majesty’s subjects, whom it is their duty to protect and defend against injuries of every kind. May they ever remember that they are paid and maintained for that purpose; and therefore, that injuries offer’d by their hands are highly aggravated, and can rarely, if ever, hope for, or admit of mercy from the sovereign protector of his people.

* Our white collar whippersnapper is not to be confused with a more renowned denizen of the executioners annals, John Kello, the Parson of Spott

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Public Executions,Theft

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