A Soldier in the Middlesex Militia. Sentenced to Death for a Highway Robbery of Sixpence and a Penny-Piece, but reprieved at the Request of his Victim, February, 1808
IN the February sessions of 1808 this disgraceful soldier was capitally indicted for assaulting Thomas Oldfield on the highway, putting him in fear, and forcibly taking from his person a sixpence and a penny-piece, his property.
It appeared from the evidence of the prosecutor, who was an athletic old man, that on the 10th of October, 1807, between nine and ten o'clock at night, he was passing over the fields from Pentonville towards town, when a man came up to him and asked him, with great apparent good nature, whether he had any money in his pocket. The prosecutor demanded why he asked the question; upon which the prisoner immediately changed his voice, and, with an oath, demanded his money. The prosecutor pulled from his pocket a sixpence and a penny and gave it to the assailant. As he took it he looked downwards, and asked how much there was. At that instant the prosecutor struck him a blow on his side, and he reeled from him. The prosecutor at the same moment perceived the prisoner clap his hand to his side, as if he were going to draw his side-arms; and, springing forward, he struck him another blow in his face, which brought him to the ground. He then jumped upon him, and kept struggling with him on the ground for nearly five minutes. The soldier then entreated he might be permitted to get up. The prosecutor replied he should get up, provided he delivered up his bayonet. This was assented to, and he gave up his side-arms; whereupon the prosecutor permitted him to get upon his legs. The prosecutor observed, at the same time, that if he attempted to come near him he was a dead man, as he was determined to run him through.
Just as the individual was making off, the prosecutor heard someone come up, and it was rather a curious coincidence that the person who came to his assistance should be his own son. The prosecutor, by this time exhausted by his exertions and his fears, had just strength enough left to exclaim: "That scoundrel has robbed me, and probably would have done me some mischief had I not overpowered him!"
The thief then made off, but the son followed him; he failed in the pursuit, and the thief effected his escape. The prosecutor, however, had retained the bayonet, and went the next day to the headquarters of the regiment. Having told his story, it was recollected that the prisoner had that morning appeared on parade with his face very much bruised and swelled. The bayonet, too, was proved to be the prisoner's, marked "31," and was more strongly corroborated by his being without one. The prisoner was accordingly apprehended, and, having no defence to set up against the case made out on the part of the prosecution, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
The prosecutor, with equal eccentricity and humanity, told the judge that he hoped he would not hang the prisoner, and that if he was sent out of the country he should be satisfied -- which the Court assented to.