THOMAS PACKER was a native of London, his father being a shoemaker in Butcher-hall-lane, Newgate-street. He was bound apprentice to the master of the Ship Tavern at Greenwich; But not being content in his situation, he was turned over to a vinter, who kept the Rummer Tavern, near Red-lion-square; and having served the rest of his time, he lived as a waiter in different places.
He had not been long out of his time before he married; but the expenses of his new connection, added to those arising from the extravagance of his disposition, soon reduced him to circumstances of distress.
Joseph Picken was likewise a native of London, being the son of a tailor in Clerkenwell; but his father dying while he was an infant, be was educated by his mother, who placed him with a vinter near Billingsgate, with whom he served an apprenticeship, after which he married, and kept the tap of the Mermaid Inn at Windsor: but his wife being a bad manager, and his business much neglected, he was soon reduced to the utmost extremity of poverty.
Being obliged even to sell his bed, and sleep on the floor, his wife advised him to go on the highway, to supply their necessities. Fatally for him, he listened to her advice, and repaired to London, where, on the following day, he fell into company with Packer, who had been an old acquaintance:
The poverty of these unhappy men tempted them to make a speedy resolution of committing depredations on the public; in consequence of which they hired horses, as to go to Windsor; but instead thereof they rode towards Finchley; and in a road between Highgate and Hornsey, they robbed two farmers, whom they compelled to dismount, and turned their horses loose.
Hastening to London with their ill-gotten booty, they went to a public house in Monmouth-street, where one of them taking his handkerchief out of his pocket, accidentally drew out his pistol with it, which being remarked by a person in company, he procured a peace officer, who took them into custody on suspicion.
Having been lodged in the Round House for that night, they were taken before a magistrate on the following day; and being separately examined, disagreed much in their tale; and the parties who had been robbed attending, and swearing to their persons, they were committed for trial.
When they were brought to the bar, they endeavoured to prove that they were absent from the spot at the time the robbery was committed: but failing in this, a verdict of guilty was given against them; and they received sentence of death.
After conviction they behaved with every sign of contrition. Picken was in a very bad state of health almost the whole time he lay under sentence of death; and complained much of the ingratitude of his wife, who first advised him to the commission of the crime, yet never visited him during his miserable confinement in Newgate. These unhappy men prepared to meet their fate with decent resignation, and received the sacrament with every sign of genuine devotion.
They were so shocked at the idea of their approaching dissolution, that they trembled with the dreadful apprehension, and were unable to give that advice to the surrounding multitude, which, however, might be easily implied from their. pitiable condition.
This robbery, for any thing that appeared to the contrary, being their first offence against the law, these unfortunate men were, surely, objects of royal clemency. In more merciful times, like the present, we are of opinion that our king would at least have remitted their punishment; but most likely have granted them a pardon.