The cruelty and depravity of this villain alone deserve notice in our Criminal Catalogue. He first broke his oath to God, that he would faithfully serve his king, as a good soldier; then deserted the service of his country; and, thus let loose upon the public, he fell to plundering and murdering the innocent traveller. How many were his victims, or to what amount he had plundered, does not appear; for he was a hardened villain, denying at the very gallows the murder which we shall now proceed to relate. On the 10th of September, preceding his execution, the body of a man was found near the public house called the Hampshire Hog, on the Hammersmith road, near London. The skull was fractured in a shocking manner, and the pockets of the deceased were found rifled of all their contents. Suspicion soon fell upon the soldier who had been, seen lurking about the neighbourhood, and White was therefore apprehended, and committed to Newgate.
On Friday, the 20th of October, 1773, he was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey; and, without a doubt remaining in the mind of the jury, they found him guilty. Being convicted of murder, execution must follow within forty-eight hours; and, in order to give the unhappy culprits as much time as possible to make their peace with the Almighty, they are generally tried on a Friday, and, Sunday being by the law deemed dies non, execution cannot take place until the day after; and the Monday subsequent to the conviction of White was the anniversary of the accession to the throne of King George III. A writer of the time says, 'It is remarkable, that, since the 25th of October, 1760 (the accession), no man had been hanged on that day, in London, except a murderer, who then suffered death at the end of Bow Street, Covent Garden.
White was executed at Tyburn, October the 25th, 1773, and died an obdurate and unrepenting sinner, acknowledging the robbery, but denying the murder.
Two days after his execution the same gallows suspended five well-looking and penitent men, whose fate caused very different sensations in the breasts of the spectators. These men were
Thomas Ashby and Edward Lundy M'Donald, for a burglary in the house of Mr. Edmund Bailey, in Oxford Street, and stealing therefrom a quantity of plate and other effects.
William Cox, for stealing bank notes and cash to the amount of four hundred and forty pounds, the property of Mr. Kendrick, in Oxford Street.
Emanuel Peel, for breaking into the house of William Bakewell, Esq. in Jermyn Street, and stealing thereout a quantity of plate, and other valuable articles;
and John Sterling, for forging a will, purporting to be the last testament of Elizabeth Shooter, with an intent to defraud the South Sea Company of three hundred and fifty pounds.
Their behaviour was very devout, and Sterling was remarkably penitent. Just before Cox was turned off he whispered something to Mr. Toll, who acted as Ordinary, and who, with a loud and distinct voice, acquainted the spectators 'that William Cox begged their prayers; that he acknowledged he committed the crime for which he was about to suffer, and hoped that God would receive his soul.' On this the dying man expressed much consolation, and the people cried 'Amen.' A proof that these unfortunate men were respected and pitied on their journey to eternity appears from a circumstance somewhat unusual, of both the sheriffs, with their under-sheriffs, attending on horseback, and two men in black scarfs and hatbands, and with black staves in their hands, walking before the carts which conveyed the prisoners to the place of execution, where they were allowed an hour and a half in their devotions—a circumstance not then remembered. Mourning-hearses attended, to take away the bodies of Cox and Sterling; and the others were delivered to their friends. The concourse of people on this occasion, and the awfulness of the scene, were unparalleled.