Illustration: Howard Murdering Mullay
The case of this prisoner exhibits a degree of profligacy and bloodthirsty hardihood, scarcely excelled in any instance in the whole course of the annals of crime. The culprit was a man whose appearance and conduct showed him to have received a good education, and to have been in the habit of moving in a respectable sphere of life. Of his history, however, we are unable to give any distinct account; and there is great probability that the name under which he was tried, was assumed for the purpose of concealing his real character.
The prosecutor on the indictment preferred against the prisoner, was a Mr. Mullay, an Irishman, and it appears that, being desirous to obtain some mercantile employment, he advertised in the newspapers, offering a loan of 800l. or 1000l. to any person who should be able to introduce him to such a situation as he desired. On the 6th of February 1828, he received an answer in the following terms:--"If J. L. will have the goodness to call upon Mr. Howard, No.36, Red Lion-square, Holborn, to-morrow or the next day, between the hours of twelve and four o'clock, he will no doubt hear of something that will suit him." For some time Mr, Mullay paid no attention to this note, but at length on Friday the 15th of February, he called at the house to which he was directed. It was a house in which a society, called the "London Co-operative Society," held their meetings; and upon his making known his errand, he was introduced to Howard. Having mentioned the object of his call, the latter immediately became very communicative upon the subject of the advertisement. After a short conversation, in which he stated that he was a relative of a gentleman who had great interest in procuring lucrative situations, Mr. Mullay explained that his object was not to purchase a place, but only to advance money, in consideration of his receiving an appointment, upon proper security, but without interest. "Step up stairs then," said Mr. Howard, and they immediately proceeded to an attic at the back of the house, peculiarly adapted for the commission and concealment of the sanguinary attack, which was eventually made. The conversation on the subject of the required loan was here renewed; and it was at length agreed that Mr. Mullay should be at the same place at one o'clock on the next day, prepared to produce the cash, and that Mr. Owen, who was represented as the party whose interest was to be employed, should then also be in attendance. On the following day, Mr. Mullay and Mr. Howard were punctual to their appointment, and again proceeded to the room which we have already described, but Mr. Owen did not make his appearance, and two hours were spent in awaiting his arrival. In the course of this time some conversation took place between Howard and his intended victim, in which the former managed to discover that Mr. Mullay had provided himself with 500l. to meet the anticipated demand. The manner of Howard during the whole of this conference was such as to excite some degree of suspicion on the part of Mr. Mullay. He observed that he frequently eyed him, as if to ascertain their comparative strength, and the presence of a large clasp knife, and of a heavy trap-ball bat in the room, for which their owner gave no very satisfactory reason, did not serve to alleviate the apprehension which he entertained. Although he was considerably alarmed at these circumstances, he felt indisposed to give credit to the suspicions which flashed across his mind; and at length he quitted the house, promising to call again on the following Monday, in the anticipation of then seeing Mr. Owen. On that day that gentlemen was still not forthcoming, and another appointment for Tuesday at twelve o'clock was made, Howard cautioning him "to be sure not to forget the money." At twelve o'clock on Tuesday Mr. Mullay called, and he was immediately introduced to the same little room at the back of the house. Howard was there, and appeared to be labouring under an extraordinary degree of excitement and agitation. A conversation was commenced, but was sustained with great inequality; and at length Howard directed Mr. Mullay to write Mr. Owen a note from a copy which he handed to him. Mr. Mullay acquiesced, and taking off his great-coat, hung it up in the room; but he had scarcely commenced writing, when he observed his companion thrust the poker violently into the fire. Mr. Mullay did not relish this extraordinary proceeding, and removed the poker; but he had scarcely resumed his seat, when Howard, as if driven on by some feeling which he could not control, suddenly locked the door, and seizing the bat and knife, already referred to, commenced a violent attack upon him. Mr. Mullay at once perceived that robbery and murder were intended, and rushing at his antagonist, he determined to make a desperate resistance. Blow followed blow from the bat upon his head; and he would, doubtless, have been severely injured with the knife, which his assailant retained in his left hand, had he not by a violent wrench succeeded in breaking it in two -- an effort, however, which he did not make without receiving some severe cuts upon his hands. The struggle meanwhile continued for life or death, the blood flowing copiously from the wounds which Mr. Mullay had received from the bat, by which his vision was almost obscured. Cries of "Murder" were repeated by the unfortunate gentleman, but his assailant, who seemed determined upon finishing him, declared that it was of no use, for that he had assistants at hand, who would aid him in "doing for him," Desperate with the idea that his life would be violently taken from him, Mr. Mullay redoubled his cries, and rushing from his assailant, he thrust his hands through the windows to render his voice audible to the neighbourhood. Seizing the poker, he resolved to make one final effort, and dashing his assassin antagonist to the ground, he fell upon him, and a frightful struggle ensued. Mr. Mullay being the stronger man, however, he got his knee upon the other's chest, when the approach of footsteps outside the door was heard. He now gave himself up for lost, supposing that new enemies were come to attack him, but he had resolved to sell his life as dearly as he could, when, to his surprise, Howard begged for quarter. Imagining that this might be only a subterfuge, he determined not to give up the advantage which he had obtained; but Howard, repeating his anxiety to be allowed to rise, and declaring that he had no intention of doing him any harm, he at length permitted him to get up from the floor. The door being then immediately opened, the people of the house entered the room, and the street keeper of Red Lion-square being called in, the culprit was secured. The room, as well as the persons of the prisoner and Mr. Mullay, were found to be deluged with blood; and the latter gentleman having been attended by a surgeon, was discovered to have received wounds of a dangerous character.
The prisoner was immediately conveyed to Hatton Garden police-office, where he made a vehement appeal to the magistrates, and positively denied any intention to assassinate the prosecutor. He declared that he was labouring under extreme ill-health; and that unless he was immediately supplied with an ounce of opium, his death would be the consequence. He was committed to Newgate to take his trial, and upon inquiry being made, it was learned that he was in a state of extreme want.
On Tuesday the 26th of February, the prisoner took his trial at the Old Bailey. Mr. Mullay having been examined as to the circumstances already detailed, the prisoner read the following account of the transaction. He said that he had resided in Red Lion-square for about three weeks, at the time of his being taken into custody. His circumstances during that time were certainly bad; and having consulted with an acquaintance, who passed by the name of Owen, and who was equally badly off, as to the best mode of relieving their pecuniary wants, they adopted the following plan. Perceiving the prosecutor's advertisement, they determined, if possible, to induce the advertiser to lodge his money in some banking-house in the joint names of himself and Owen. They imagined that this deposit would enable them to refer to the banking-house, as to their respectability, and by that means obtain credit to a considerable amount. Having answered the advertisement, Mr. Mullay called upon him, and he intimated to him, that there was a situation under Government, which was vacant, the value of which was about 350l. per annum; and that Mr. Owen would be able to procure it for him, provided he consented to pass as his relative; and that the return which they expected was the deposit of three years' salary in the hands of a banker, to be paid over at the end of three months as a premium. Mr. Mullay appeared to consent to this proposition, and several appointments were made to carry out the agreement, at which Owen, it was expected, would attend. On the Tuesday, Mr. Mullay waited for a considerable time, and having already experienced great disappointment in not seeing Mr. Owen, in order that the affair might be finally settled, he expressed himself in no measured terms of the neglect which had been exhibited towards him. Being in bad health and of an irritable disposition, he (the prisoner) became enraged at an offensive epithet which was applied to him, and struck the prosecutor a blow in the face. A violent scuffle took place, in the course of which, finding that the prosecutor was superior to him in size and strength, he admitted having exerted himself to the utmost in his own defence.
The jury, however, notwithstanding this ingenious version of the case, found the prisoner guilty of an assault with intent to rob, and he was sentenced to be transported for life.