Executed for the Murder of Elizabeth Pitcher
The Superstitious Application of the Dead Hand of Hollings
THIS man's conduct was at once infamous and extravagant. He had been in the excise, where he became acquainted with one Pitcher, also an excise officer, who on his death bed recommended his wife and daughter, Elizabeth, to the care and protection of his friend Hollings.
The friend of the father was caressed by the mother and daughter. The latter lived servant with Mr Cartwright, in Lower Grosvenor Street, where Hollings had been in the habit of calling on her. Notwithstanding that he had a wife of his own, who did not live with him, and was fifty years of age, without any personal recommendation whatever, he had the infamous audacity to annoy this poor girl with his fulsome addresses, which she appears to have rejected altogether, as an honest and virtuous young woman should do.
For refusing to entertain his abominable passion, Hollings meditated the ruin of this unfortunate girl, who was only in her twentieth year. On July 4th he went in the evening to the house of her master, and asked for Betsy; she came out to him, and closed the door after her; they had continued together for a few minutes when the report of a pistol was heard, and the butler, running out, saw Hollings supporting the poor girl, who had been shot through the heart, a wound of immense size being made in her side, from which flowed a copious discharge of blood.
Hollings did not attempt to escape. He held another pistol in his hand, which was found loaded to the muzzle, and the other had burst into a thousand pieces, having been similarly charged. On the steps lay a broken phial, containing arsenic and water, which Hollings thought to have taken, but the explosion of the pistol had scattered it out of his hands. When the patrol came up, he said, "Don't seize me; I shall not attempt to go away." He also asked "if Elizabeth was dead, and if he might be permitted to kiss her cold lips."
When taken to the watch-house, he said he was in love with the deceased; and that he had sacrificed her for refusing to comply with his wishes. Being asked what those were, he refused to give any explanation. During the night he drank four or five quarts of water, and vomited very much, occasioned by the poison he had taken, which, not being sufficient to cause death, only made him sick. His intention was, having shot the unfortunate girl, to poison himself; but the explosion of the pistol defeated his intentions.
On Friday, September the 6th, he was indicted at the Old Bailey, and tried, after the diabolical murderer Mitchell. The facts of the murder having been proved, several witnesses deposed to various acts of insanity committed by the prisoner, during the last twelve months. He had been discharged from the excise in consequence of his strange conduct; and certainly there appeared sufficient evidence to lead to an opinion that he was under the dominion of occasional insanity. But his whole conduct, with regard to murder, was atrociously consistent. He had loaded the pistols on purpose, provided the poison, and procured the presence of his victim, by pretending that he had a message for her. All these, taken into account, left no room to doubt but at the time of the horrid deed he was perfectly sane. He was accordingly found Guilty; after which Hollings addressed the court. He acknowledged that he had been fairly tried, and justly convicted. He hoped his fate would be a warning to all who heard his case against the indulgence of violent passions: he had loved -- fervently loved -- the unhappy girl whose life he had taken away. His offence was great; but he hoped for mercy, through the Saviour of mankind.
On Monday morning, September 19th, 1814, Mitchell and Hollings were executed in front of Newgate. So great was the public curiosity to see the unfortunate malefactors, that at seven o'clock on Monday morning the Old Bailey and Giltspur Street were crowded to a degree almost unprecedented. Much money was given for indifferent seats at the top of the houses opposite the debtors' door; and carts, waggons, and other vehicles, were in requisition. It appears that Mitchell entertained some hopes of acquittal, as he was often heard to say, "There was no corroborating proof of his having fired the pistol." At a quarter before eight the prisoners were introduced to the Press Yard, for the purpose of having their irons knocked off, accompanied by the Reverend Mr Cotton and the Reverend Mr Frere, the latter of whom sat up in constant prayer all night with Hollings, who joined most fervently in the devotion. Mitchell, who was dressed in black, was first brought out from the cell; he looked pale, and maintained a deportment of sullen resignation; he did not say a word, nor did he betray the slightest symptoms of feeling at his awful situation. He appeared regardless of any earthly transaction. The irons being knocked off, and the usual awful ceremony of tying the hands being executed, he lifted his hands as far as he was permitted, and, looking up, bowed, and appeared to be in prayer. Hollings stepped forward to the block with an activity which at first reminded us of the unhappy man. He was, however, very tranquil; and, upon being disencumbered of his irons, addressed the persons around him in nearly the following words: "Here, you see, I stand, a victim to passion and barbarity: my crime is great; and I acknowledge the justice of my sentence. But oh! the unfortunate girl I loved, I adored, as one of my own. I have made contrition, and prayed for forgiveness; I resign myself, under an impression that Almighty God has heard my prayers, and will forgive me: may you and the world take warning by my example; and here I confess the justice of my fate -- receive my soul, O God!" At the last expression his feelings overcame him, and he wept.
The whole of the awful arrangements being complete, they were ushered to the fatal scaffold. Mitchell was until this time firm and unconcerned: he was prayed to by Mr Cotton. He became much agitated, and the horrors of death were strongly portrayed in his countenance. Hollings shook hands with the officers of justice, declared to Mr Frere that he was quite happy, and mounted the scaffold with great firmness and resignation. The clergyman continued to pray to them until the fatal signal was given, when the drop fell. Mitchell continued in the strongest convulsions for several minutes, and appeared to die very hard.
After they had hung some time, three females were introduced, for the application of "the dead man's hand," supposed to remove marks, wens, etc. The first was a young woman of interesting appearance, who was so much affected by the ceremony that she was obliged to be supported.
At nine the bodies were cut down, and sent to St. Bartholomew's Hospital for dissection.