Executed at Tyburn, 20th of January, 1773, for a Highway Robbery
THE person robbed in this case was the celebrated and unfortunate Dr Dodd, whom, a few years afterwards, Fate decreed to be hanged at the very spot where Griffiths suffered.
William Griffiths was a native of Shropshire, and followed the business of husbandry till he had attained his eighteenth year, when he engaged in a naval life, and remained nearly three years in the East Indies. The ship was paid off on his return to England, and Griffiths, receiving a considerable sum for wages, spent his money, as sailors too generally do, in no very reputable company, at public-houses in Wapping and adjacent parts.
By his connection with men and women of abandoned character his money was soon spent, and he began to think of going to sea for a supply -- and happy might it have been for him if he had done so -- but David Evans and Timothy Johnson, two of his newly acquired associates, and men of very abandoned character, advised him to be concerned with them in committing robberies on the highway; and this triple association of thieves did actually commit a variety of depredations on the public, treating those they attacked with great inhumanity, but never obtaining anything considerable by their lawless pursuits.
The Rev. Dr Dodd and his lady were returning from a visit they had been making to a gentleman at St Albans, but were detained on the way at Barnet, because a post-chaise could not be immediately procured. Night was hastily approaching when they left Barnet, but they proceeded unmolested till they came near the turnpike at the extremity of Tottenham Court Road, when three men called to the driver of the carriage, and threatened his instant destruction if he did not stop. The post-boy did not hesitate to obey such summons; but no sooner was the carriage stopped than a pistol was fired, the ball from which went through the front glass of the chaise, but did not take any effect to the injury of the parties in it, though it terrified them in a very high degree, as they apprehended that the most fatal consequences might ensue. While the Doctor was waiting at Barnet for the chaise it occurred to him that there might be danger on the road, whereupon he concealed all his money except two guineas, which he put in his purse, with a bill of exchange.
Soon after the pistol was fired, Griffiths opened the door of the chaise; on which the Doctor begged him to behave with civility, on account of the presence of the lady. He then delivered the purse, with its contents, and likewise gave the robber some loose silver. Griffiths, having received the booty, decamped with the utmost precipitation.
Dr Dodd lost no time in repairing to Sir John Fielding's office, where he and his lad gave so full a description of the person of the principal robber that it was easily conjectured Griffiths must have been the party; but who had been his associates in the business never yet transpired.
In consequence of this information, Griffiths was soon taken into custody. On his examination before Sir John Fielding, Dr Dodd hesitated to swear positively to his person; but Mrs Dodd, who had regarded him with more attention, positively declared on oath that he was the person who had committed the robbery.
Thereupon the magistrate committed Griffiths to Newgate. A bill of indictment was found against him by the grand jury, and he was called down to trial at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, when the jury did not hesitate to find him guilty; in consequence of which he received sentence of death.