Hanged for Petit-Treason, in the Murder of his Master.
THIS malefactor, according to the account given by himself, was descended of honest parents, of Wells in Hampshire, who gave him such an education as might qualify him for any ordinary rank of life.
Being unwilling to remain in the country, be came to London, and lived some time with a corn-chandler; and after a continuation in this service, he married, and had several children; but not living happily with his wife, articles of separation were executed between them. After this he married another woman, by whom he had one child, and who visited him after his being in custody for the murder.
At the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in August, 1741, he was indicted for the murder of John Penny, gentleman, and pleading guilty, received sentence of death.
Mr Penny had chambers in Clement's Inn; and Hall had lived with him seven years before he committed the murder: nor had he formed any design of being guilty of the horrid deed till within about a month of its perpetration: but having kept more company than his circumstances could afford, he had involved himself in difficulties, which made him resolve to murder and rob his master.
On the 7th of June, he intoxicated himself with liquor, and then determined to carry his design into execution. Mr Penny coming home between eleven and twelve at night, Hall assisted in undressing him in the dining-room; and while he was walking towards the bed, the villain followed him with a stick which he had concealed for the purpose, and struck him one blow with such force that he never spoke afterwards; and continued his blows on the head till he was apparently dead.
Willing, however, to be certain of completing the horrid tragedy, and to avoid detection, he went into the dining room, and stripping himself naked, he took a small fruit knife belonging to his master, and returning to the chamber, cut his throat with it, holding his neck over the chamber-pot. Mr Penny bled very freely; for when the blood was mixed with a small quantity of water, it almost filled the pot five times; and three of the pots thus mixed the murderer threw into the sink, and two in the coal-hole. He then took his master's waistcoat, which was lined with duffel, and bound it round his neck, to suck up the remainder of the blood.
This being done, he took the body on his shoulders, carried it to the necessary, and threw it in head foremost; and flying back immediately to the chambers, under the most dreadful apprehensions of mind, he took his master's coat, bloody shirt, the stick that he had knocked him down with, and some rags that he had used in wiping up the blood, and running a second time naked to the necessary-house, threw them in at a hole on the opposite side of it.
The body being thus disposed of, he stole about thirty-six guineas from his master's pocket, and writing-desk; and such was the confusion of his mind, that he likewise took some franks, sealing-wax, and other articles for which he had no use: and then he employed the remainder of the night in washing and rubbing the rooms with cloths; but finding it no easy matter to get out the blood, he sent for the laundress in the morning to wash them again, telling her that his master's nose had bled over night.
On the following day the guilty wretch strolled from place to place, unable to find rest for a moment any where; and all his thoughts being engaged in concealing the murder, which he hoped was effectually done, from the place in which he had secreted the body.
On the Friday following he went to Mr Wooton, his master's nephew, on a pretence of enquiring for Mr Penny, who he said had quitted the chambers two days before, and gone somewhere by water; so that he was afraid some accident had happened to him.
Mr Wooton was so particular in his enquiries after his uncle, that Hall was exceedingly terrified at his questions, and knew not what answer to make to them. After this the criminal went twice every day to Mr Wooton, to enquire after his master, for ten days; but lived all the while in a torment of mind that is not to be described.
So wretched was he, that finding it impossible to sleep in the chambers, he got his wife to come and be with him: and they lay in Mr Penny's bed: but still sleep was a stranger to him.
At length Mr Wooton had Hall taken into custody, on a violent suspicion that he had murdered his uncle. On his first examination before a magistrate, he steadily avowed his innocence: but being committed to Newgate he attempted an escape: this, however, was prevented; and a few days afterwards he confessed his guilt before some relations of the deceased.
We have already mentioned that he pleaded guilty on his trial; and have now to add that, after sentence was passed on him, he was exceedingly contrite and penitent, and confessed his guilt in letters to his friends.
On the day before his death he received the sacrament, with all apparent signs of that penitence which was necessary to prepare him for the dreadful scene that lay before him.
He was hanged at the end of Catherine Street in the Strand, on the 15th of September, 1741, and his body afterwards hung in chains at Shepherd's Bush, three miles beyond Tyburn Turnpike, on the road to Acton.
The following is a letter which this malefactor wrote to his wife, the night preceding his execution.
Twelve o'clock Sunday night
I am very sorry we could not have the liberty of a little time by ourselves, when you came to take your leave of me; if we had, I should have thought of many more things to have said to you than I did; but then I fear it would have caused more grief at our parting. I am greatly concerned that I am obliged to leave you and my child, and much more in such a manner, as to give the world room to reflect upon you on my account; though none but the ignorant will, but rather pity your misfortunes, as being fully satisfied of your innocency in all respects relating to the crime for which I am in a few hours to suffer.
I now heartily wish, not only for my own sake, but the injured persons, yours, and my child's, that I was as innocent as you are, but freely own I am not, nor possibly can be in this world; yet I humbly hope, and fully trust, through God's great mercy, and the merits of my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, to be happy in the next.
After I parted with you, I received the holy sacrament comfortably, which Mr Broughton was so good as to administer to me, who has also several times before taken a great deal of pains to instruct me, and so has some others of his acquaintance, by whose assistance, and my own endeavours, I hope God will pardon all my sins for Christ's sake, and admit me into his heavenly kingdom.
My dear, some of my latest prayers will be to God to direct and prosper you and my child in all good ways, so long as he pleases to let you live here on earth; that afterwards he may receive you both to his mercies to all eternity. I hope I shall willingly submit to my fate, and die in peace with all men. This is now all the comfort I can give you in this world, who living was, and dying hope to remain,
Your loving and most affectionate husband,
To all we have said on the subject of murder, little need be added on this occasion. Those who fail to be struck by a recital of this horrid tale, must have less humanity than we hope falls to the share of any of our readers.
Instead, therefore, of making any remarks on this particular case, we will suppose it to be a sufficient comment on itself; and conclude with a prayer that we may all be delivered even from the temptation of spilling innocent blood!