A Notorious Swindler, sentenced to Death in 1793, but who hanged himself Three Days before the Date of his Execution
LAURENCE JONES was born in London, and early in life became a swindler. Having a considerable sum of money left him by a relation, he took a very handsome house in St James's, which he elegantly furnished, and kept his carriage and servants, who, by the by, were accomplices to carry on the deception, which he did with great success for some months.
During his abode in this place he defrauded Mr Hudson, a silversmith, of plate to the value of nearly three thousand pounds; Mr Kempton, a mercer, of silks and other goods to a large amount; and Mr Bailey, a watchmaker and jeweller, of a gold repeater, etc., etc., to the value of three hundred pounds. The time for payment being almost up, and suspicion being entertained of his pretensions to property, he thought it time to decamp, and he managed just in time to escape a warrant out against him.
After this he lived privately for some time, that suspicion might die away before he again began his fraudulent practices, which he carried on with his usual success, till he failed in an affair in Hatton Garden, for which he was condemned.
Mr Campbell was the collecting clerk to Vere, Lucadou & Co., bankers, in Lombard Street, and in the course of his business he called at a house (which was hired for the express purpose of preying upon the unwary) for the payment of a bill -- a scheme concerted before by the villains. No sooner had he knocked at the door than it was opened by a person, in appearance a gentleman, who desired him to walk into the counting-house; when he did so, a man came behind him and covered his head and face over with a thick cap, so that he could see nothing. They then threw him on the floor and wrapped him up in green baize, in which condition they bound him hand and foot and carried him downstairs, when they proceeded to rob him. They took from him his pocket-book, with bank-notes and bills to the amount of nine hundred pounds. They then took measures to prevent a discovery before they should receive the money for the bills, etc., with which one of the gang immediately went out to turn them into cash, while the rest, in the meantime, handled the unfortunate young man in the following manner.
They first laid him flat on his back on a board and chained him hand and foot, and then carried him downstairs into a back kitchen, where they chained him to the bars of a copper grate, threatening that if he made a noise they would blow his brains out. They then left him, after placing before him some bread, some ham and some water. In this condition he remained for about eight hours, when his cries were heard by a man who was at work in a house behind that in which Mr Campbell was confined. It was not long before he was set at liberty and restored to his friends, to their great joy, and the infinite satisfaction of his employers.
Jones was apprehended by Jealous and Kennedy, officers of Bow Street, at the King's Arms, in Bridge Street, Westminster.
Being committed to Newgate, he was afterwards tried, and found guilty, when he received sentence, and was ordered for execution on Wednesday, the 8th of December, 1793, in Hatton Garden, near the house where he committed the robbery; but on the Saturday previous thereto, about six o'clock in the morning, when the turnkey entered the cell to prepare him to hear the condemned sermon and receive the Sacrament, he found him dead. It appears that he had made several attempts on his life before, but was prevented, and the manner in which he at last accomplished this worst of all crimes was very extraordinary. He had taken the knee-strings with which his fetters were supported and tied them round his neck, then, tying the other end to the ring which his chain was fastened to, he placed his feet against the wall and strangled himself. The coroner's jury pronounced a verdict of felo-de-se.
In consequence of the above verdict the body was carried out of Newgate extended upon a plank, on the top of an open cart, in his clothes, and fettered, and his face covered with a white cloth, to the brow of Holborn Hill, directly opposite to the end of Hatton Garden. The procession was attended by the sheriffs, city marshals and nearly five hundred constables.