This offender, who was a person of a most ferocious appearance, aged forty-two, was indicted at the Old Bailey, July 6, before Mr. Justice Lawrence, for assaulting Mary Hurst, widow, whose very appearance was enough to excite commiseration; and robbing her of a wicker basket, containing a set of knitting-needles, books, ballads, cotton laces, pin-cushions, &c. by the sale of which she gained her livelihood.
The object of this man's brutal behaviour, was a poor miserable woman, upwards of eighty years of age, palsied in every part of her frame, and unable to move a step without assistance. Her story, part of which delicacy obliges us to conceal, was as follows: "On the 27th of May, at eleven o'clock at night, I was going to Hertford. I came from Turnham-green, was short of money, and wanted to follow the waggon for company. There was a man up against the pales, by a bush, of a dark complexion, dressed in a jacket, who knocked me down with his fist, and beat me as long as he could"—(the prisoner now took great liberties.) "I cried murder! he threatened to pull my tongue out if I cried out any more. He struck me everywhere—My head was as big as a peck, and he stamped upon my stomach. He then ran away with my basket, and did not leave me a halfpenny worth to sell. No creature came near me. I crawled upon my hands and knees till I met a watchman, who guided me to an ale-house."
Richard Gibbs, the watchman, corroborated the poor old woman's story. He declared she was in a very piteous condition: the blood ran out of her mouth; her eyes very much swelled; her hands bloody all over: in short, she was quite frightful for anyone to see.
Matthew Wells, the ostler, at the Chaise and Horses, at Hammersmith, swore, that between twelve and one o'clock the prisoner was at the Chaise and Horses; no one was with him: he staid about half an hour, and he had the basket at that time, which stood upon the table before him. After he was gone, about an hour and a half, the watchman brought in the old woman; and in consequence of what they told him, the witness, about a quarter before three o'clock in the morning, rode with Mr. Rutter, a butcher, in Oxendon-street, in pursuit of the man.
The witness then went back into Piccadilly, and met the prisoner (with a basket) three doors on the other side of Air-street. It rained very hard, and the witness having accosted him, asked if he was not wet. He said only a little wet at his back. Witness then remarked, he had not come far; but the prisoner confessed he had come from Brentford. The witness then invited him to take some purl with him; and when they had got about one hundred and twenty yards, Wells seized him by the collar, and told him he was his prisoner. The watchman was in his box, and they took him to Wine-street watch-house, where the witness took the basket from him, and delivered it to the constable of the night.
Charles Luppino, constable, said, that he asked the prisoner when brought to the watch-house his name, and he told him it was John Kelly, but the next morning, at the office, he said his name was John Thompson, and that John Kelly was the man who had beat the woman. This witness produced the basket, which was sworn to by the prosecutrix. He also said, that the prisoner was dressed in a blue jacket when brought to the watch house; and that the next morning, when the old woman saw him, she exclaimed, "that is the villain."
The prisoner in his defence said, that a sailor in Piccadilly gave him the basket to hold, while he did a little job for himself. He denied ever being at the Chaise and Horses.
The prisoner's guilt, having been fully established, the jury, without any hesitation, returned a verdict of guilty. His condemnation appeared to give universal satisfaction. This hardened wretch was ordered for execution on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 1803; but, having been respited for fourteen days, he did not suffer till Thursday, October the 6th. He was brought out of Newgate on the platform in the Old Bailey, a few minutes after eight o'clock, and, after spending a short time in fervent prayer, he was then launched into eternity.