The name of this hardened offender has been already before our readers, and his case will show how unavailing are the most solemn warnings to the mind naturally addicted to crime.
The first offence alleged against Sams was that of the robbery and murder of an old pensioner named Bennett, at Tewen, near Hertford. For that crime he was tried with two other young men named Roach and Fletcher at the Herts Assizes, when, although there appeared to be very little moral doubt that he had been the original concoctor of the scheme, and had actively assisted in the perpetration of the horrible crime imputed to him, owing to a failure of the necessary legal evidence as to his identity, he was acquitted, but his two unhappy companions were convicted and subsequently executed. Almost immediately after this, Sams committed another robbery, and was tried and convicted, and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Shortly after this period of imprisonment had expired, a young man named Thomas Taylor, who had also been charged with being concerned in the robbery and murder of the old man, was taken into custody, and upon his trial Sams was admitted as witness for the Crown, and he then detailed all the circumstances of the murder, and stated that it was committed by the two men who were executed, Taylor, and himself, and that they divided the money between them. Upon this evidence, and other corroborating testimony, Taylor was convicted and executed.
It might have been thought that such circumstances as these would have induced Sams to change his wicked courses, the more especially as some of the gentry in the neighbourhood of Hertford interested themselves in his behalf, and obtained him employment, whereby he might have earned a reputable subsistence, but he speedily resumed his old habits, and his employers could keep him no longer.
He now quitted the vicinity of the scene of his crimes and his disgrace, but, led on either by want or some worse inducement, he was again guilty on two separate occasions of acts of felony, for which he was apprehended and imprisoned.
On his discharge he was again thrown upon the world, and he once more ventured to the scene of his early life. Old recollections seem but to have reproduced new acts of crime, and at length he was secured while in the very act of breaking into a farmhouse at Ware. For this offence he was tried at the Spring Quarter Sessions for the county of Hertford, held in March 1841, the Marquis of Salisbury sitting as Chairman. The evidence was too clear to admit of a doubt being entertained, and a verdict of Guilty was returned.
The Marquis of Salisbury, in passing sentence, observed that he never knew an instance of so hardened a criminal as he appeared to be. He thought he should be neglecting his duty to the public if he did not pass upon him the severest sentence of the law; which was, that he be transported for the term of his natural life. The convict heard the sentence with the greatest coolness, and at its conclusion nodded to one or two of his old companions in the body of the court, and walked away laughing from the bar.