The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM FRANCIS ADAMS.

WILLIAM FRANCIS ADAMS.
Acquitted of Murdering, but Convicted of Robbing, his Father, and Transported.

            This wretched convict there is too much reason to believe was guilty of the horrible crime of parricide, as well as that of larceny, of which he was convicted, although the evidence to show his participation in the more serious offence was deemed too inconclusive by the jury to warrant his conviction upon that charge.

            At the time of his first trial, on the 16th of March, 1838, Adams had only recently reached his eighteenth year, and the charge which was then preferred against him was that of the wilful murder of his father. Upon this indictment he was acquitted; but within a few days of his liberation from custody he was again committed to gaol, upon a charge of threatening an old shepherd who had given evidence against him. Some new evidence of his guilt was obtained during this imprisonment of the unhappy youth, and on Thursday the 26th of July he was again indicted at the assizes held for the county of Buckingham, at Aylesbury. His acquittal upon the charge of murder rendered it impossible that he should be tried a second time for that offence; and the allegation in the indictment now preferred was, that he had stolen a pocket-book containing notes and cash, the property of his father.

            The circumstances which appeared in evidence were these:-- old Adams was a man of some property, both personal and real, and lived at Burcot, near Wing, in Buckinghamshire. On the 28th of December, 1837, both he and his son (the prisoner) were seen by the workmen employed about the farm to go by different directions towards a place called the Foxhill cowhouse, which they entered about the hour of half-past two. From that time the old man was never more seen alive; but his son was shown to have ridden home at four o'clock on a mare on which his father had been seen at the hour first mentioned. In consequence of his non-appearance at nightfall, a strict search was instituted, which eventually resulted in the discovery of the body, cold and extended under some hay in the cowhouse, with rifled pockets, and marks of injury produced by gunshot wounds in his head, which were quite sufficient to have caused instant death. At the time no suspicion was aroused against the prisoner, but on the following day he was taken up, and at the spring assizes tried for the murder of his father. Of this charge, however, after a trial of nearly fourteen hours' duration, he was acquitted, and, being set at large, returned to his home, but shortly after his liberation, in consequence of the further statements of a fellow-prisoner (who had given at the former trial the most material testimony of an ample confession by the prisoner, but who had been discredited, we presume, for want of corroboration by other witnesses), the young man was again arrested, and, after an examination before the magistrates, finally committed to take his trial at the present assizes for the offence of stealing the pocket-book and its contents as above stated. To support this charge, the former witness, James Fuel, was now again called, who deposed to the fact of "Young Adams" having asked him, during the time they were in prison together, before the first trial, if he could get anybody to get him some money if he told him where it was to be found? Upon which, his brother Richard being sent for, Adams wrote two notes, which were given to Richard with directions to "go by them." These notes Richard now stated that he showed to three persons who read their contents to him, and who all now deposed that to the best of their memory (the notes having been burned and destroyed) they were to the following tenor:-- "This is to inform you where to get the money. Go to Wing, at Burcot, and inquire for Adams's farm, and then look round and see where the privy is. On the right-hand side, over the door, in a hole betwixt the tilings and the loft, in the day-time, you will find a pocket-book; you will take the money out of the pocket-book, and let the papers remain in, and drop it down against the Cock Inn, Wing." The second note was as follows:-- "The man you have got in hold is innocent. Them as done the deed find it out." Having possessed himself of this information, Richard Fuel quitted his residence on Pinner-common, for the purpose of going to Burcot and taking the money, in conjunction with two others. They, however, got alarmed, as they said, when they heard that Mr. Adams had been murdered, and desisted from their intentions; but afterwards, some other men, with more nerve, to whom they had disclosed their secret, started on the same errand, and sleeping together at an inn at Tring, chanced to be overheard by the landlord while they discussed the whole affair. This person immediately set out himself, and, going to the house, asked for the prisoner's brother-in-law, to whom he revealed all he knew of the matter. He, from a very pardonable motive no doubt, and a wish to keep secret so important a fact, for the trial of his relative had not then taken place, invited the landlord to dine, and sending for his lawyer, went in the mean time alone to the privy, where he found, just as he had been told, the pocketbook of his father-in-law. This was now produced, and its contents identified, by a long chain of evidence which we need not particularize, further than by saying that it was most conclusive.-- Such is the outline of this extraordinary case, as detailed by the witnesses for the prosecution.

            On the other hand, Mr. Andrews addressed the jury, in a speech of great acuteness and power, stigmatising the whole as a base fraud and conspiracy between the Fuels and their friends, who had got up this evidence, improbable and absurd as it was, against the unfortunate youth at the bar, with a view to secure the pardon of James Fuel, who having been convicted of felony since the last assizes, could only become a witness by the pardon of her Majesty. To obtain this wicked end this plot had been concocted, and to show its falsity witnesses would be called who would prove from Fuel's own mouth, that he had over and over again said that he had got a convict, named Mead, to write the notes, in order that he might say Adams had given them to him, and to induce the magistrates to take up the affair again and clear him from the penalty of his own offence.

            To substantiate this defence two men were called, named Daly and Palmer, to the former of whom, when a prisoner, and to the latter also, who had seen him in the prison, he had repeatedly admitted that he had spoken falsely, and had got up the charge for the purposes above mentioned: while another man further swore that Fuel's character was such that he could not be believed upon his oath.

            Mr. Byles having replied upon the whole case, Mr. Justice Park elaborately, and with the utmost impartiality, summed up the lengthened chain of evidence in an address which lasted to a late hour. At the close of his lordship's address, which was delivered in a tone and with a manner which showed how deeply the mind of the learned judge had been affected by the painful nature of the inquiry, the jury, after a short time spent in deliberation, returned a verdict of "Guilty."

            The prisoner was then immediately sentenced to transportation for a term of seven years.

 

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