Executed at Tyburn, 22nd of November, 1780, for a Robbery under Singular Circumstances
IT was proved on their trial at the Old Bailey that these two men hired an empty house, No. 21 Water Lane, Fleet Street, and having a bill of exchange lying at the bank of Smith, Wright & Grey, they directed it for payment at this house. They made preparations for cleaning, in order, as they pretended, to furnish it with dispatch; but the landlord, not liking this extraordinary haste, or his new tenants, desired Mrs Boucher, the mistress of a public-house opposite, to keep an eye on their proceedings.
Accordingly, on the day this sham bill became due, being the 5th of August, 1780, she observed the new tenants, Durnford and Newton, enter the house and open the parlour windows. Soon after she saw a third man knock at the door, which was opened, and he entered. Watching events, she heard an uncommon noise, and, stepping over the way to listen, heard a cry of murder, as from a hoarse faint voice, succeeded by a kind of groaning, which very much alarmed her. Looking through the keyhole, she saw two men dragging a third down the cellar stairs, on which she cried out loudly: "They're murdering a man!" She knocked hard at the door, and begged the people in the street to break it open; but none would interfere. Being enraged at their not assisting her, she burst open the window, and was entering the house when Newton jumped out of the first pair-of- stairs window, and was running off, but on the cry of "Stop thief!" he was instantly taken, and the other she seized by the throat herself, and dragged him to her own house.
The house was then immediately searched, and in a back cellar was found a man, bound and nearly choked, to prevent his calling out. He proved to be a collecting clerk for Smith, Wright & Grey, named James Watts. They had robbed him of his pocket-book, and would have murdered him had not this woman saved his life.
Mr Watts was a young Quaker, aged eighteen, and would not, according to the doctrines of that sect, be sworn; which is required by the law in all cases of life and death; so that their conviction rested chiefly on the evidence of Mrs Boucher, though not a shadow of a doubt remained of their guilt.
Both prisoners were convicted, and executed at Tyburn, on the 22nd of November, 1780.