The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM BEAVAN


A Burglar, who was identified by his Deformed Hand, and was executed before Newgate, 19th of September, 1811

   AT the sessions at the Old Bailey, September, 1811, William Beavan was put to the bar, being indicted for breaking into and entering the dwelling-house of Mrs Mary Stratford, in Kensington, on the morning of Saturday, the 24th of August, 1811, and stealing thereout a considerable quantity of plate and other articles.

   John Stratford deposed that he saw Mrs Stratford fasten all her doors and her windows the evening before the robbery was committed. Mrs Stratford was a market-gardener, and being in the habit of attending Covent Garden Market at a very early hour each market-day, she went out about half-past twelve o'clock on the night mentioned in the indictment, about her business to Covent Garden Market, and secured her doors as she was accustomed to do. In the morning, about five o'clock, when witness came to Mrs Stratford's house, he found the window had been broken and forced open, and that robbers had plundered the house.

   Charles Stratford, a boy about fourteen years old, nephew to the above-mentioned witness, stated that he was awake about one o'clock (for he heard the clock strike that hour); and, listening, also heard a noise in the front room; that he called out, but receiving no answer he concluded that his grandmother (Mrs Stratford) was in the front room, and fell asleep again; but in a quarter of an hour he was roused by a noise resembling the breaking open of drawers, upon which he got out of bed and went into the front room, where he saw two men, one with a mask over his face, a pistol in one hand, and a lighted candle and an iron crow in the other. The other man had a black ribbon tied across his mouth. When he went into the room the man who had the mask on his face struck the witness twice on the side of his head, and in a coarse voice desired him to go back again into his bed, which witness immediately did, followed by the man who had struck him. He went into bed, and then the man who followed him into the room took a sheet of paper and covered the witness's face with it, and at last made him lie entirely under the clothes. Whilst he was in this situation the other man came into the room and threatened him that he would shoot him if he did not tell where his grandmother kept her money; but he could not. The two men then left him, and sat down in the adjoining room, where they stayed upwards of one hour and three quarters, amusing themselves with beer and greengage plums, all the time, and at last departed by the same window through which they had forced their way into the house. When they went off, and the witness could safely do it, he gave the alarm, but the thieves had escaped with their booty, having carried off plate, watches, money and other property to a considerable amount.

   On his cross-examination he said that the reason why he knew the prisoner at the bar to have been one of the men who broke into his grandmother's house was because the man who struck him had no fingers on the hand that gave him the blow, and that he struck him with his right hand. He was positive of that; the more so as, when he was holding the paper on his face, and removing it again to make him lie under the bedclothes, he had a full opportunity of observing the deformed hand with much more distinctness. He further identified him from the coarseness of his voice.

   The prisoner was here directed to hold up his hands, and the right was just in the state described by the boy, for it appears he was born deformed, the fingers all adhering, and not above an inch long, but with the nails on.

   The jury, after remaining shut up a very considerable time, at last came into court, and returned a verdict of guilty, and the prisoner was sentenced to death. He was executed before Newgate, on the 19th of September, 1811.

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