Sentenced to Death for murdering his Wife, but died of Jail Fever, 22nd of October, 1738
Price murdering his wife on Hounslow Heath
THIS malefactor was a native of Hay, in Brecknockshire, where he lived as a servant to a widow lady. Having lived in this station seven years, he repaired to London, and became acquainted with Mary Chambers, servant at a public-house at Hampstead, whom he married at the expiration of a fortnight from his first paying his addresses to her; but Mr Brown, his master, disapproving of the match, dismissed Price from his service. Soon after this he took his wife into Brecknockshire, and imposed her on his relations as the daughter of a military officer, who would become entitled to a large fortune. He was treated in the most friendly manner by his relations; and the young couple returning to London, the wife went to lodge at Hampstead, while Price engaged in the service of a gentleman in New Broad Street.
Mrs Price, being delivered of twins, desired her husband to buy some medicine to make the children sleep, which he procured; and on the children dying soon afterwards a report was circulated that he had poisoned them; but this circumstance he denied to the last moment of his life. Price now paid his addresses to other women, and conceiving his wife as an obstacle between him and his wishes he formed the infernal resolution of murdering her. He told her that he had procured the place of a nursery-maid for her in the neighbourhood of Putney, and that he would attend her thither that very day. He then directed her to meet him at the Woolpack, in Monkwell Street. Accordingly she went home and dressed herself (having borrowed some clothes of her landlady) and met her husband, who put her in a chaise, and drove her out of town towards Hounslow. When he came on Hounslow Heath it was nearly ten o'clock at night; when he suddenly stopped the chaise and threw the lash of the whip round his wife's neck; but drawing it too hastily he made a violent mark on her chin; immediately finding his mistake, he placed it lower, on which she exclaimed: "My dear! my dear! For God's sake —- if this is your love, I will never trust you more." Immediately on her pronouncing these words, which were her last, he pulled the ends of the whip with great force; but, the violence of his passion abating, he let go before she was quite dead; yet, resolving to accomplish the horrid deed, he once more put the thong of the whip about her neck, and pulled it with such violence that it broke; but not till the poor woman was dead.
Having stripped the body, he left it almost under a gibbet where some malefactors hung in chains, having first disfigured it to such a degree that he presumed it could not be known. He brought the clothes to London, some of which he cut in pieces, and dropped in different streets; but knowing that the others were borrowed of the landlady he sent them to her, a circumstance that materially conduced to his conviction.
He reached London about one o'clock in the morning, and being interrogated why he came at such an unseasonable hour, he said that the Margate hoy had been detained in the river by contrary winds.
On the following day the servants and other people made so many inquiries respecting his wife that, terrified at the idea of being taken into custody, he immediately fled to Portsmouth, with a view to entering on board a ship; but no vessel was then ready to sail.
While he was drinking at an ale-house in Portsmouth he heard the bellman crying him as a murderer, with such an exact description of him that he was apprehensive of being seized, and observing a window which opened to the water he jumped out, and swam for his life. Having gained the shore, he travelled all night, till he reached a farmhouse, where he slept on some straw in the barn.
On the following day he crossed the country towards Oxford, where he endeavoured to get into service, and would have been engaged by a physician, but happening to read a newspaper in which he was advertised he immediately decamped from Oxford, and travelled into Wales. Having stopped at a village a few miles from Hay, at the house of a shoemaker, to whom his brother was apprenticed, the latter obtained his master's permission to accompany his brother home; and while they were on their walk the malefactor recounted the particulars of the murder which had obliged him to seek his safety in flight. The brother commiserated his condition; and, leaving him at a small distance from their father's house, went in and found the old gentleman reading an advertisement describing the murderer. The younger son bursting into tears, the father said he hoped his brother was not come; to which the youth replied: "Yes, he is at the door; but being afraid that some of the neighbours were in the house he would not come in till he had your permission." The offender on being introduced fell on his knees, and earnestly besought his father's blessing; to which the aged parent said: "Ah! George, I wish God may bless you, and what I have heard concerning you may be false." The son said: "It is false; but let me have a private room; make no words; I have done no harm; let me have a room to myself."
Being accommodated agreeable to his request, he produced half-a-crown, begging that his brother would buy a lancet, as he was resolved to put a period to his miserable existence; but the brother declined to in any way aid in the commission of the crime of suicide; and the father, after exerting every argument to prevent his thinking of such a violation of the laws of God, concealed him for two days.
It happened that the neighbours observed a fire in a room where none had been for a considerable time before, and a report was propagated that Price was secreted in the house of his father; whereupon he thought it prudent to abscond in the night; and having reached Gloucester he went to an inn and procured the place of an ostler. During his residence at Gloucester two of the sons of the lady with whom he had first lived as a servant happened to be at a school in that city, and Price behaved to them with so much civility that they wrote to their mother describing his conduct; in reply to which she informed them that he had killed his wife, and desired them not to hold any correspondence with him.
The young gentlemen mentioning this circumstance, one of Price's fellow-servants said to him: "You are the man that murdered your wife on Hounslow Heath. I will not betray you, but if you stay longer you will certainly be taken into custody."
Stung by the reflections of his own conscience, and agitated by the fear of momentary detection, Price knew not how to act; but at length he resolved to come to London and surrender to justice; and calling on his former master, and being apprehended, he was committed to Newgate. At the following sessions at the Old Bailey he was brought to his trial, and convicted. He was sentenced to death, but died of the jail fever in Newgate, before the law could be executed on him, on the 22nd of October, 1738.