Of all murders, the shedding the blood of a parent—stopping the very fountain from whence flowed our life—is the most shocking. It is a matter of horror to reflect how dreadfully human nature can be debased; yet already, far too often, has duty tortured our feelings in recording such abominable cases. To endeavour to amend the heart, and to deter others from crime, is the intent of this Calendar—the very end of punishments.
This parricidal monster was a labourer, brought up to his father's employ, and had, during life, toiled by his side. They were at work together in a wood near Stone, in Staffordshire, and, some hasty words having passed between them, the ingrate seized an iron pot, in which he had just cooked their dinner, and threw it with such vengeance at his devoted sire, that one of its feet entered the old man's skull; and of the wound he languished, in extreme agony, three days, and then expired. The murderer was immediately committed to gaol, where he showed little remorse at his fell deed; and seemed alone anxious for his father's recovery, from the dread of being hanged for the murder.
This John Challenor was of a ferocious revengeful disposition: he treated his wife and children with great cruelty. Once, upon a trifling occasion, he aimed a blow at his wife, which killed his child, an infant in her arms; but, the brutal deed being attributed to accident, he, for a while, escaped his deserved punishment. Being now brought to trial at Stafford assizes, the deposition of his deceased parent, with other corroborating circumstances of his guilt, being adduced, the jury found no hesitation in pronouncing him guilty; on which he was executed, August the 23d, 1773, amid the execrations of an incensed multitude, and his body was ordered to be hung in chains near the spot where he committed this most foul deed, which was accordingly done.
On the same day on which he suffered, another murderer, of the name of Ambrose Cannon, was executed at Horsham, in Sussex, for a murder in which he had joined one Thomas Green, to whom he had been apprentice above sixteen years before. These two villains barbarously killed one Thomas Cole, and they both immediately fled from justice, and escaped to parts beyond the sea. During thirteen years had Cannon struggled with his conscience; which at length (as sooner or later it ever will) became so tortured with remorse, that he could no longer remain in satisfaction out of his own country: in short, his mind could afford him no rest, and he yearned to throw himself upon his fate. He returned even into the same county where he had joined in the murder, and settled at Hastings, under a feigned name, married, and had three children. At length he betrayed himself, was seized, and, sufficient proof being adduced, though more than sixteen years had intervened, found guilty, and hanged.
Another most detested parricide, of the name of Thomas Hitchcock, was tried, convicted, and executed at Oxford, on the 2nd of March, 1778, for the cruel murder of his venerable father. It is a melancholy reflection that such unnatural and horrid ideas should enter the mind of man.