IN the account given of the case of this man, which has not been republished, or commented upon, since the time of his conviction, we find no interested cause for perpetrating the horrid crime.
Ely Hatton was indicted at the assizes held at Gloucester, in August, 1732,for the wilful murder of Thomas Turberville, a carpenter. It was given in evidence, that on the 29th of April preceding, the deceased was found in his work-shop, with his brains dashed out, and his scull chopped in pieces with a broad axe, which lay near his body, covered with blood. Suspicion falling upon Hatton, he was apprehended, having made no effort to evade justice. The proof against him was little more than circumstantial. It appeared, in., evidence, that when the prisoner, was apprehended, he wore a shirt and pair of stockings, the property of the deceased; his coat was stained with blood, and many other circumstances were adduced, which left no doubts in the minds of the jury. The accused acknowledged that he had been in company with the deceased, on the evening of his death, that he went with him to a certain eminence near the town, to view some deer, and there they parted, that the shirt he had on, when apprehended, was his brother's; but this was a falsehood, and alone sufficient to fix guilt upon him. He called one witness in his behalf, who served only to tend to his conviction; for this witness declared, that he verily believed him guilty of the murder, The prisoner's defence also varied from account on his examination before a justice of peace, when he declared that the shirt in question belonged to his father.
As no farther light was thrown upon the circumstances attending the murder of Turberville, it may be fairly presumed, notwithstanding the proof was not positive, that Hatton justly underwent the sentence of the law.
The editor, however, recollects a story, but he cannot state the names of the parties, where an innocent man suffered in France, on a charge of murder, and which will, at all events, caution jurymen, when sitting on the life or death of a fellow-creature, to be extremely guarded in giving their verdict of guilty upon circumstantial evidence alone. A gentleman was found murdered in his own house, and by his own sword. Some persons, coming to the house just after the barbarous deed had been committed, were shocked at seeing his servant man, in great consternation running out, with a bloody sword in his hand. So great was his agitation, that he gave an incoherent account of the transaction, and was secured. A surgeon was sent for, who found the master dead, and comparing the wound with the sword, declared that the weapon, or one exactly similar, caused his death. This, with the proof that there had been quarrels between the deceased and the prisoner, was the evidence given on the trial; and he was found guilty, and executed. Some years afterwards, a late neighbour of the murdered man lay on his death-bed, and when his confessor came to administer, what Catholics calls, the extreme unction,* he confessed that having had a dispute with him, he entered his house privately, and in revenge, killed him, as already has been described.
[*Note: This ceremony of the Catholic faith is thus performed. A priest, when summoned for that purpose, forms a procession, consisting of an oblong canopy of cloth, borne by four of the inferior clergy, under which he walks preceded by a boy bare-headed, tinkling a little bell; at the sound of which passengers prepare to pay it due respect. They kneel down as it passes them, cross their foreheads, and touch their breasts, repeating a prayer, Arrived at the dying person's abode, the priest receives their confessions, and then, for a small gratuity, absolves them of their sins, and declares, that their souls will be received in heaven. A happy religion, for those who can have faith in such superstition!!]