WILLIAM BROWN was a private in the royal artillery, and lived as servant with Lieutenant Webber. He bore a most exemplary character in the regiment; though, a short time before the commission of the crime for which he suffered, some articles were missing from his master's lodgings, which it was suspected he had stolen; and, as he got some intimation of the charge against him, he absented himself on the night of the 4th of April, 1812, from the barrack, and this circumstance seems to have led to the fatal deed.
The circumstances of the case were of an extraordinary nature. On the morning of the 5th, he returned to the barrack as early as between five and six, and called up a person of the name of Jeffecot, with whom he had lived. After some preliminary conversation, he told him he had committed a crime for which he must be hanged, and desired that he might be taken to the guard-house, where he was received by the sergeant-major. When in custody, he requested to speak with the sergeant in private. This being granted, he told him that, being walking in the country the preceding evening, he was going over a stile, which led into a lane, where a little girl was at play. The child, alarmed at his sudden appearance, cried, when he seized her in his arms, and with his finger and thumb strangled her. As soon as she was dead, he carried her under his arm to some distance, and then laid her on some stone steps which he described, and where the body was subsequently found, and, from the marks on its little throat, it was evidently killed as the monster described. The name of the child was Isabella M'Guire, aged seven years. Brown could ascribe no motive for the perpetration of the dreadful act, and, as he had no malice against the child, he could not tell how he came to do it. We are, therefore, either to suspect that he had a disposition habituated to cruelty, or was stimulated to the deed by temporary insanity; for human nature, thank God, is not altogether so sanguinary, as deliberately to shed innocent blood, without any provocation whatever.
For this offence he was indicted at Maidstone on the 7th of August, 1812, when he was found Guilty, and underwent, according to his sentence, the dreadful fiat of the law on the following Monday.