Convicted for the Murder of his Master, William Chivers, Esq., and transported for Life, March, 1807
WILLIAM DUNCAN was employed in the service of William Chivers, Esq., as gardener, at Clapham Common. On the morning of the day of the murder, after breakfast, the niece of Mr Chivers, who resided with him, went in his carriage to take an airing. Mr Chivers, who was between seventy and eighty years of age, went into his garden to take a walk, as was his daily custom, inspecting the gardener at his work, and conversing with him. About half-past eleven o'clock the gardener ran into the house from the garden, in great agitation and terror, exclaiming to the servants: "Lord, what have I done! I have struck my master, and he has fallen"; and immediately left the house, without giving any explanation, and made for the town of Clapham. The footman went into the garden to discover what had happened, when he found his master on the ground, apparently lifeless, and his face a most shocking spectacle. It appeared that the gardener had struck his master with a spade that he was working with, the end of which entered the lower part of his nose, broke both his jawbones, and penetrated nearly to a line with his ears, so that his head was almost separated. The gardener had inflicted two deep wounds, one being about eight inches in length and three inches and a half in breadth. Duncan was soon after apprehended, and the magistrates committed him to Horsemonger Lane Prison. The cause of the shocking act was a dispute between him and his master respecting the pruning of a vine.
The jury, after having conferred for a considerable time, found the prisoner guilty of murder; and he was accordingly sentenced to be executed on the Monday following, and to be anatomised.
The prisoner, during the whole of the time, conducted himself with great composure. He was a man of respectable appearance.
The Privy Council, however, did not, it appears, conceive that he was guilty of wilful and premeditated murder, but, on the contrary, admitted an immediate provocation on the part of the unfortunate old gentleman. They therefore represented him as a subject for Royal clemency, in consequence whereof he was twice respited, and then ordered to be transported for the term of his natural life.