THIS young man belonged to a highly respectable family, and for some years carried on an extensive trade, as a carpet-dealer, in Skinner Street, Snow Hill. Being young, thoughtless, and extravagant, he soon dissipated property to same amount, and in the beginning of 1823 his name appeared in the Gazette. At the same time it was discovered that he had endeavoured to sustain his sinking credit by fictitious bills, and apprehending a prosecution for forgery, he sought concealment. Not having surrendered as a bankrupt, before the commissioners, he was outlawed, and one hundred pounds offered as a reward for his apprehension.
For eighteen months he remained undetected; but, such was his desperation and folly, that he again repeated his first offence, and deliberately forged a draft for two hundred and fifty pounds. On Friday night, March the 19th, 1824, Wagstaff slept at the Old Hummums, in Covent Garden, and on Saturday morning sent for a ticket porter, who was accordingly brought him. He first sent the porter for a two-shilling stamp to a shop in Long Acre, and on his return gave him a check for two hundred and fifty pounds, purporting to be drawn by William Ridley upon John Bond, Sons, and Pattisall, bankers, in 'Change Alley, Cornhill, together with a piece of paper, on which were written directions for the porter to go to the Bull Inn, in Aldgate, and secure an inside place for him, in the two o'clock coach, for Brighton.
Mr. Ridley, the supposed drawer of the check, was the head of the firm of Ridley and Co. carpet manufacturers, in Castle Street, Holborn; and these gentlemen had a private mark on their checks, known only to themselves and their bankers; consequently, when the porter presented the check received from Wagstaff, the forgery was discovered, though the signature was an extremely close imitation.
Mr. Pattisall, one of the partners in the bank, now proceeded to the Old Hummums, but found Wagstaff had gone out. An explanation took place with the proprietor, and proper directions were given throughout the house, respecting Wagstaff, if he should return.
In the evening a hackney coachman called at the hotel, and inquired if the porter had brought back any message. He was answered in the affirmative, and that the parcel was in the possession of the proprietor until the gentleman should call for it. In about half an hour afterwards Wagstaff drove up in a coach to the door, and, as had been previously arranged. was shown into a room where Bishop, the officer, was waiting for him. The latter asked him his name as soon as he entered, and the other replied, Samuel Tomkins, and said he lived next door to the White Hart, at Reigate. Bishop then informed him of his situation, and took him into custody. When secured, the officer saw him endeavouring to put something into his glove, which, upon examination, proved to be a parcel of oxalic acid., A phial filled with a solution of the same destructive poison was taken out of his pocket, from which it would appear that the wretched man had meditated suicide in case of detection. To guard against such an event proper precaution was taken.
Although several other charges of forgery were made against him, he was indicted only for this one, it being deemed sufficient for the ends of justice. On the 12th of the following April he was arraigned at the Old Bailey, and the fact of the forgery being proved, he was found Guilty -- Death.
On Tuesday morning, June the 1st, 1824, this unfortunate man underwent the awful sentence of the law in the Old Bailey, in the presence of an unusual concourse of spectators, by whom his fate appeared to be universally commiserated.