Biggadike, Priscilla, was hanged
at 9.00 a.m. on Monday, the 28th of December, 1868, at Lincoln by
Thomas Askern for poisoning her husband with arsenic. It was alleged
that she killed him because he discovered she was having an affair
with one of their lodgers. Thirty five year old Priscilla was the
first woman to be executed in private in Britain. She ascended the
steps to the platform where she said "Surely all my troubles are over"
and "Shame on you, you are not going to hang me." But Askern did, in
his usual clumsy way and she reportedly died hard.
Biggadike, Priscilla Mrs.
The death of Richard Biggadike was so sudden and
unexpected that an autopsy was immediately carried out. Once again
another murderer was detected. Richard was a Lincolnshire well -
sinker, and as such made a good living. Added to this they also took
in lodgers, so all in all they enjoyed a pretty good standard of
living. He would get up and go to work quite early in the mornings
and so he would leave his wife in bed. He began to suspect that after
he had left she was joined by John Proctor who was one of the lodgers.
On the 30 September Richard came home from work in
the evening as normal and after eating his tea he settled down in
front of the fire for a quiet evening. He was soon writhing in agony
and was dead by the following morning. Up until then he had been a
very healthy man and his death was so unexpected that the doctor
decided to have his stomach contents analysed. He was right to have
done so as it turned out to contain quantities of arsenic.
When challenged Mrs Biggadike said that she had
seen John Proctor put some powder in her husbands drink. It is hard
to imagine that if she had seen this happen she had not mentioned it
or questioned Proctor as to what he was doing. Anyway the police soon
released him due to lack of evidence and continued with their
enquiries. It was not long before the police had arrested and charged
Mrs Biggadyke with her husbands murder.
She was later convicted and sentenced to death. Her
execution was carried out by Yorkshire hangman Thomas Askern on
December 28th 1868. Mrs Biggadike, in a faint. had to be assisted to
the scaffold and when the drop fell she struggled violently for
several minutes before eventually succumbing.
To call the Biggadike home
overcrowded would be a massive understatement. In the two-room hovel
in the small Lincolnshire village of Stickney lived 35-year-old
labourer Richard Biggadyke, his 29-year-old wife, Priscilla, their
three children and two lodgers. The lodgers were 21-year-old fisherman
George Ironmonger and thirty-year-old rat-catcher Thomas Proctor.
Proctor was described as 'very
repugnant' but this did not prevent Priscilla having an affair with
him and he may even have been responsible for the youngest of the
Biggadike brood. Richard and Priscilla argued constantly, a situation
that had been ongoing for some time.
On the afternoon of Wednesday 30th
September 1868 Priscilla, Thomas and George sat down to a tea of tea
and cakes, which Priscilla had just baked. A cake was saved for
Richard and this he ate when he returned home around six o'clock.
Within minutes Richard was sick. The doctor could do nothing to
alleviate his symptoms and Richard died about twelve hours later. A
post-mortem established that an irritant poison was involved and, by
the end of October when the inquest could be held, it was determined
that death had been caused by arsenic.
Since the post-mortem, Priscilla
had been lodged in the Spilsby House of Correction and the governor,
John Phillips told the court that Priscilla had made a statement in
which she said that she had seen Thomas Proctor putting a white powder
into Richard's tea cup while he was washing. He had also, she said,
put more of the white powder into the medicine left for Richard by the
doctor. At the conclusion of the inquest Thomas and Priscilla were
remanded for trial on a charge of murder.
In December the pair appeared
before the Winter Assizes at Lincoln. The judge, Justice Byles, told
the jury they could discharge Proctor. This was done and Priscilla
faced trial alone. The jury took only a few minutes to return a guilty
verdict and Priscilla was sentenced to death. Priscilla, protesting
her innocence to the end, was hanged at the side of the Crown Court,
Lincoln Castle, on Monday 28th December by Thomas Askern.
Fourteen years later Thomas
Proctor confessed to the killing on his deathbed.
The Boston Guardian
10th October 1868
Suspected Poisoning at Stickney
On Saturday last an inquiry was opened before W.
Clegg Esq., Coroner on view of the body of Richard Biggadike aged 35
years. Deceased was a cottager and lived with his wife and three
children and two young men lodgers. For some time past the deceased
and his wife had not lived on good terms. On Wednesday afternoon
September 30th, Mrs Biggadike and the young men who lodged with her
(Thomas Proctor and George Ironmonger) had tea together at 5 O’Clock.
Mrs Biggadike had made three short cakes and the above parties ate
two. The third was reserved for Biggadike who came home to his tea at
6 O’Clock. A few minutes after he had taken his tea he was seized with
sickness and purging, and other symptoms of poisoning. Dr Maxwell was
sent for, but the man rapidly got worse and died in great agony at six
the next morning.
Dr Maxwell made a post mortem examination and found
extreme inflammation of the stomach. At the inquest he expressed an
opinion the death had been caused by an irritant poison. The coroner
ordered the contents of the stomach etc. to be sent to Doctor A. S.
Taylor and the inquest adjourned.
The Boston Guardian
24th October 1868
The Stickney Murder
On Monday last the two prisoners
Priscilla Biggadike and Thomas Proctor, who are charged with the
wilful murder (by poisoning) of Richard Biggadike, the husband of the
former, at Stickney, were brought up before a full bench of
magistrates at Spilsby. Mr J. F. Philips stated Professor Taylor had
not been able to complete his analysis and asked for further remand
until Friday 23rd Inst., when that Gentleman would be able to attend.
They were remanded accordingly. - The adjourned coroners inquest was
fixed for that day at 11 O’Clock at Stickney. The magistrates
examination to take place immediatly after Mr Philips. Mr Philips also
stated that the female prisoner had made a statement to him which he
read. It was to the effect that she had herself administered the
poison to her husband nd lso deeply implicated the male prisoner in
the dreadful crime. The latter it is reported, said that he should say
nothing until his examination, when he should tell all he knew.
The Boston Guardian –
Saturday 31st October 1868
The Stickney Murder
The horrible tragedy
which on Monday last was subject of investigation recalls to our
memory former terrible murders that occurred within a short distance
of this village a few years since, and exhibits a state of
demoralisation so disgusting as to almost surpass belief. In the
centre of this village, situated a few miles from Spilsby, resided
Richard Biggadike, a labourer in the prime of life, far more
attractive in appearance than most of his compeers, ? in his habits,
industrious in his pursuits, much respected by his neighbours, and
valued by his employers. He was a married man, his wife about
thirty-one years old, and they had five children. With them lodged
Thos. Proctor, labourer, aged thirty, and George Ironmonger,
fisherman, aged about twenty-one. The first mentioned lodger was
probably the most uncooth-looking (sic) individual in the whole
parish, his countenance is very repugnant. He has a high back and his
legs appear to have a serious malformation. Ironmonger on the other
hand, although by no means intellectual, has a rather smart
appearance. But one miserable hut, with only two rooms, formed a home
for the whole party! The deceased, his wife, family, and the two
lodgers slept in one wretched compartment, in two beds, nearly side by
side! Biggadike generally quitted his bed early in the morning; the
other two were not, as may be supposed, from this fearful state of
things, quite so regular.
quarrels between Biggadike and his wife increase with far more
virulence, and the husband, who has been in the enjoyment of excellent
health, is foully murdered. It is the Garner tragedy re-enacted, with
all its sickly, immoral and terrible details.
The inhuman outrage,
as might be imagined, causes great excitement to the district, and in
the village itself, every man, woman, and child are discoursing on the
indelicate particulars connected with the crime.
The adjourned inquest
was held on Friday last, at the Rose and Crown Inn, before Walter
Clegg, Esq., Coroner, who arrived about 11am., accompanied by
Professor Taylor, the eminent professor of Medical juris-prudence.
The Coroner re-opened
the inquiry without any comment, when the following evidence was
deposed: I am a fellow of the College of Pysicians and Professor of
Medical Juris-prudence at Guys Hospital. On Tuesday 6th October, I
received certain jars from Supt. Wright containing the contents of the
stomach of Richard Biggadike. I now put in my report. It is as
follows:- [the report was read, It was rather lengthy, full of the
usual scientific details, and terminated by stating there was not the
slightest doubt deceased had died through the administration of
Arsenic.] Those were the only conclusions (continued Dr Taylor) that I
could draw from the result of my analysis.
Dr Maxwells report
was then put in. It related to his being called in to see the patient,
his suspicion of foul play, the death of the deceased, and the
post-mortem examination which followed.
Dr Taylor: how long
did deceased live?
The Coroner: he was
taken ill about seven o’clock and died about six next morning.
Dr Taylor: I have
heard the depositions, and I have no doubt in my own mind that death
was caused by arsenic. Everything is in accordance with death by
arsenic, when approved remedies have failed. I infer that the deceased
had taken a large dose of arsenic, but some of this had been
discharged from the body by vomiting and purging. There was enough
left in the body to destroy the life of another person. Here (showing
a phial) we have vomited liquid and the coats of the stomach. I never
saw a clearer case of death from poison. Death took place rather
earlier than usual. The average time is from eleven to twelve hours.
The coats of the stomach showed great indammation. The case is so
perfectly clear that portions of the arsenic were found even in its
perfect state. It is impossible to state what the arsenic was taken
in, because it always mixes with whatever is in the stomach.
deposed:- I was accustomed to see Biggadike and his wife. I was there
three or four months ago, when I remarked the “mice had eaten a hole
in my dour bag”. Mrs Biggadike replied “if you like I will give you a
little white mercury to kill the mice”. My husband said that he would
not have any of the old stuff in the house. She got up and was going
towards the stairs, but my husbands remark stopped her. I once heard
Biggadike and his wife quarrelling. On Friday 2nd Oct., I went to see
Biggadike. Proctor, who was in the house as a lodger, said “Here I
want you”. He spoke to Mr Biggadike, who went out with him. He said to
her, “mind what yah say.” She replied “Do yah think I’m a fool and
knows note (sic)?: don’t tell me more than I know”.
labourer, confirmed the evidence of the wife.
Mary Ann Clark,
widow, deposed:- I reside about 50 yards off: on Wednesday night, 30th
Sept., about seven o’clock, I heard a noise in Biggadikes house as of
several people talking, and went to see what was the matter. Proctor
sat against the door. I said to him “what is the matter?” He said
“Dicks took very bad since he got his tea.” The doctor was coming
downstairs, and I went away. In the morning, at quarter-past six,
Proctor called me in saying, “will you come, Dicks dying.” I went,
picked up a tea cup and asked her what it was laid on the floor for?
She replied that Biggadike had thrown it at her. She also said that
while ill Biggadike had knocked her backwards. Proctor was not in the
room when Biggadike died.
widow, Stickney: I live under the same roof as Biggadike. On Monday,
the 28th Sept., Mrs Biggadike came into my house, said her husband was
very ill, and began to tell me one of their dogs was poisoned last
winter. She then asked me how those Garners got on about their
poisoning. I told her I did not know. She replied she thought they
were transported. She also said the police and doctors, she
understood, could not find poison in the meal or sago. Biggadike told
me he could not either read or write. I have heard Mrs Biggadike say
she wished her husband would be brought home dead and stiff.
John Yarr Phillips,
Governer of the House of Correction, Spilsby:- On the 15th October,
Priscilla Biggadike, who was in my custody, applied to see me: she
came into my office, and said she wished to make some statement, and
tell me all about her husbands death. I cautioned her in the usual
way, that whatever she said I should be obliged to take down in
writing and produce against her at the inquest and in her trial. She
spoke as follows:-
On the last day of
September, on a Wednesday, I was standing against the tea-table and
saw Thomas Proctor put a white powder of some sort into a tea-cup, and
then poured some milk, which stood on the table, into it. My husband
was at that time in the dairy washing himself. My husband came into
the room directly after and sat himself down to the table, and I then
poured his tea out and he drank it, and more besides that. And
half-an-hour afterwards he was taken ill. He went out of doors and
was sick, and came in and sat about a few minutes, and went out and
was sick again, and then went to bed, and he asked me to send for the
doctor, which I did. The doctor was an hour before he came. I went to
the doctor’s about a quarter of an hour after he left and he gave me
some medicine and ordered me how to give it to him - two tablespoons
every half hour – and I was to put a mustard plaster on the stomach,
and he came no more until eleven o’clock at night. I came downstairs
to go out of doors and asked Thomas Proctor to go upstairs and sit
with my husband. When I went upstairs into the room, as I was going
up, I saw Proctor putting some white powder into the medicine bottle
with a spoon, and he then went downstairs and left me in the room with
my husband. As soon as he had left the room I poured some medicine
into the cup and gave my husband, and I tasted it myself. In an hour
afterwards I was sick and so I was for two day’s after. What I have
just stated about the medicine took place about two o’clock in the
morning, and after the doctor had gone. I wish you to send a copy of
what I have said to the Coroner, and I wish to be present at the
inquest to state the case before them, as it is the truth.
- Priscilla Biggadike
X her mark.
Supt. Wright of
Spilsby , deposed: On the 2nd Oct., I received one jar and three
bottles, sealed and ? by Dr Maxwell. I took them home, locked them up
in my office, and no other person had access to them. On Tuesday the
6th, I delievered them to Dr Taylor at Guy’s Hospital. On the 3rd, I
apprehended the female prisoner, and charged her with wilfully
murdering her own husband. I cautioned her very strongly not to
incriminate herself. She replied “It’s hard work I should bear all the
blame, I am innocent.” On our way to Spilsby, when near the railway
station, I said “We have not been long ? from Spilsby, the last train
is not in yet.” She replied “I was not thinking about the trains, I
was thinking what I should say that I haven’t yet. I found a piece of
paper in his pocket wrote upon, saying that he had done it himself,
and the reason was stated, he was so much in debt.” I said “I
understand from someone your husband could neither read nor write.”
She replied “No, some one must have done it for him, he could not
write himself.” I said “What have you done with the paper?” She
replied “I have burn’t it, will you tell the gentlemen?” I said, “I
will.” I apprehended Proctor, and charged him with the murder. He
replied, “I am innocent. I know no more about it than I stated at the
The Coroner then
summed up. He said accidental or suicidal death was quite out of the
question. The jury had heard the statement of Mrs Biggadike that the
prisoner Proctor alone had administered the poison, but this had not
been corroborated. Therefore they must give it what credence they
thought it bore. The tea was provided by the wife, and it was
therefore important to know whether this woman was in possession of
poison. Now they had the evidence of these two witnesses distinctly
showing that three or four months since she had poison. It might
justly be inferred that she had. Then as to the motive. The jury had
in evidence that the female prisoner and her husband often quarrelled,
and that on one occasion she said she wished he might be brought home
dead and stiff. Mrs Biggadike admitted she saw Proctor put a white
powder in the tea. Now she knew the effect it had had, and yet she was
present in the morning when a second dose was administered. The jury
must also recollect the part Proctor took in the administration, and
the intimate connection which existed between him and her.
The jury, after a
brief consultation, returned a verdict of “wilful murder” against both
Directly after the
inquest had terminated, the prisoners Priscilla Biggadike and Thomas
Proctor, underwent an examination before the Revs. D Rawnsley and T.
Captain Bicknall was
present, and there was an immense crowd in the school-room. The
prisoners, although looking somewhat downcast, did not seem to be
severely affected, especially the female. The evidence was exceedingly
voluminous, but in substance it was the same as appears above.
Both prisoners were
then formally committed for trial at the next Lincoln Assizes on a
charge of wilfully murdering Richard Biggadike.
gentleman, I shall be innocent, take me where you like.”
The female prisoner,
without manifesting the least appearance of grief, applied to be
admitted to bail. But was told the application could not be
The Boston Guardian
– Saturday December 19th 1868
The Stickney Murder
SENTENCE OF DEATH.
Biggadike, widow, 29, was charged with the wilful murder of Richard
Biggadike, her husband, at Stickney, on the 1st October 1868.
Mr Bristowe and Mr
Horace Smith appeared on behalf of the prosecution; Mr Lawrence
defended the prisoner.
Mr Bristowe, at
considerable length, detailed to the jury all the principal facts of
the case, and the circumstances under which the murder was committed
revealed a depth of moral depravity and social degradation we could
fair hope has no parallel in the county of Lincoln.
It appeared that in
the entire of the village of Stickney, a wall-sinker named Richard
Biggadike, about 30 years of age, resided in a miserable hut, which
served as a home for himself, his wife, three children, and two
lodgers named George Ironmonger, fisherman, and Thomas Proctor, a
rat-catcher, the former about 21, and the latter about 30 years of
age. The cottage contained only one bedroom, and in it slept the whole
of the party just enumerated, the two beds which accomodated them
standing not more than 15 inches apart. It not infrequently happened
that Biggadike , who rose early, quitted this room, and went off to
his work before the lodgers left their bed. The result, as might
naturally be expected from such a state of things, was an improper
intimacy between Mrs Biggadike and one of the lodgers. This led to
the husband becoming first suspicious, next jealous, and finally
exasperated, when quarrels between him and his wife became fierce and
very frequent. At length, alienated in her affections, and apparently
as tired of her husbands presence as she was of his complaints, she
seems to have conceived the idea of resorting to murder to get rid of
both. How long she cherished the dark design before putting it into
execution it is impossible to say – probably some considerable time,
as evidence has arisen since the murder to prove that she had arsenic
in her possession fully three or four months ago. Be this, however, as
it may, Biggadike, who had returned from his daily toil in the perfect
enjoyment of health only a few minutes before, was suddenly taken ill
immediately after tea on Wednesday evening, the 30th of September, and
in spite of medical aid, which was called in as soon as possible, he
died, after enduring 11 hours’ pain of the most agonising description,
at six o’clock the following morning.
was then given, as before published in this journal.
reviewed the whole case in a calm and dispassionate manner, calling
the particular attention of the jury to those parts of the evidence
most damaging to the prisoner, and urging that the case for the
prosecution had been most clearly and satisfactorily laid out.
Mr Lawrence then in
a most eloquent address of nearly three quarters of an hours duration,
appealed to the jury on behalf of the unhappy woman, urging apon their
serious consideration every and the slightest point which could in any
way tell in her favour.
His Lordship then
summed up the whole case in a most careful and patient manner, which
occupied about an hour. He said there could not be the slightest
doubt in the minds of the jury, from the scientific and medical
testimony, which had been adduced before them, that the deceased man,
who was in the prime and vigour of manhood, had been suddenly cut off
by the hand of death, such death being caused, unmistakably by
arsenical poisoning. It was for the jury – to be satisfied by whom
that poison was administered – whether by the deceased himself or
whether by any other person; and that when they had satisfied
themselves on that point, it would be their duty to say, according to
the evidence laid before them, whether they were satisfied or not that
it was the prisoner who had administered it. If they had any
reasonable doubt of the prisoner’s guilt, he exhorted them to give her
the benefit of such doubt; but if, however painful it may be,
involving, as it did, a question of life or death to the unhappy
prisoner, it would be their bounden duty to find her guilty of the
awful offence with which she stood charged. After calling special
attention to the different statements which the prisoner had made to
the Governor of Spilsby House Of Correction, the Coroner, and Supt.
Wright, His Lordship left the case entirely in the hands of the Jury,
whom, he was pleased to observe, had paid the most earnest attention
to the case throughout the day.
The jury, after a
few minutes consultation, but without leaving the box, returned a
verdict of GUILTY, accompanied by a recommendation to mercy, but upon
the judge asking upon what grounds, the foreman of the jury seemed
perplexed, and again consulted with his fellows for a short time, and
then answered that the only grounds for such recommendation was that
the evidence was entirely circumstantial.
The Clerk of the
Assigns then asked the prisoner, who throughout the trial had
presented an appearance of the most stolid indifference, what she had
to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon her, but she
made no reply, and then it was for the first time, that she exhibited
the slightest emotion, and a few tears were observed to fall down her
His lordship then
put on the black cap, and amid the most solemn silence passed sentence
of death on the unhappy woman. In addressing her, his Lordship said:
Priscilla Biggadike, altho’ the evidence against you is only
circumstantial, yet more satisfactory, and conclusive evidence I never
heard in my life. You must now prepare for your impending fate, by
attending to the religious instruction you will receive, to which if
you had given heed before, you would never have stood in your present
unhappy position. The sentence of the court is that you will be taken
to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of
execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you be dead, and may
the Lord have mercy upon your soul! Your body to be buried within the
precincts of the prison.
The prisoner then
walked firmly away from the dock, the trial having lasted 7 hours.
The Boston Guardian
– Saturday January 9th, 1869.
Execution of Mrs
Biggadike, The Stickney Murderess.
The first execution
for some years took place within the precincts of the Castle on Monday
morning. The criminal was Priscilla Biggadike, aged thirty-nine,
convicted at the recent assizes of the wilful murder of her husband,
at Stickney, on the 1st of October last.
The particulars of
this shocking case will be fresh in the recollection of our readers.
The prisoner, her husband, three children and two lodgers (Thomas
Proctor and George Ironmonger), lived together in a small two roomed
cottage, all the parties sleeping in the same room.
During the last few
months of his life the deceased frequently quarrelled with his wife,
and openly accused her of conduct unbecoming a married woman. She was
frequently heard by her neighbours to express a wish that her husband
might be brought home dead. On the afternoon of 30th September
Biggadike returned home from his work in his usual health. The wife,
children, and lodgers had partaken of tea, and the husband sat down to
his meal alone, and ate heartily of short cake and mutton. Ten minutes
afterwards he was seized with violent vomiting and purging, and
appeared to be in dreadful agony. After a night of intense suffering
he died. A post mortem examination was made, which clearly showed that
Biggadike had died from the effects of a large dose of arsenic.
The prisoner, while
in Spilsby House Of Correction, made a statement to the Governor,
which was written down at the time, and to which she attached her
mark. It was to the effect that she saw Proctor, one of the lodgers,
pour some white powder into her husbands tea; that he afterwards when
upstairs placed some more white powder in the medicine bottle, and
that she then gave some of the medicine to her husband. Upon this
Proctor was also apprehended, and with the woman committed for trial.
Justice Byles, however, suggested to the grand jury that the bill
against Proctor should be thrown out, and this was done.
The jury found the
prisoner guilty, but by some extraordinary reasoning coupled with the
verdict a recommendation to mercy. The query of the Judge- “On what
grounds gentlemen?” staggered the foreman but he quickly recovered
himself, and answered “Simply because it is circumstantial evidence.”
After her conviction the wretched woman appeared to pay considerable
attentions to the ministrations of the chaplain, but she declined to
make any confession of her guilt.
Last week she
addressed a letter to the employer of George Ironmonger, one of her
lodgers, which the authorities, for certain reasons, do not think it
right to publish. In this letter, the prisoner, although utterly
callous and indifferent to her own position, implored Ironmonger to
seek forgiveness of his sins, and to mourn her sad end, and she also
expressed a hope that he would not despise those (alluding to her
children) who were left behind.
Ironmonger presented himself at the Castle, and begged for permission
to see the prisoner, which was, of course, refused. On the same day,
however, the unfortunate woman was visited by a brother and three
sisters, who stayed with her about two hours and a half. But all the
distress and agony of the interview appears to have been borne by
them. They exhorted her to confess her guilt, of which they obviously
had little doubt, but their earnest entreaties, instead of moving her
to a declaration of her crime, roused her only into passionate
excitement. None of her children have seen her since her conviction.
It is believed the miserable woman fully intended to commit suicide,
but the opportunity never presented itself. Once she had a garter, and
on another occasion, a handkerchief, with which it is feared she
purposed strangling herself, but they were taken away from her. On
Sunday evening she implored one of the female wardens to change
clothes with her, in order to give her an opportunity of escaping,
but, of course, her request could not be acceded to.
On Sunday she ate
heartily, and attended a divine service in the prison. She slept well
during the night, and was visited at seven o’clock in the morning by
the Rev. H. W. Richter, the chaplain, who again implored her, without
avail, to confess her guilt. At a quarter to nine she was pinioned by
Askerne, the executioner; and although she fainted under the
operation, she immediately recovered. Five minutes afterwards the sad
procession left the Castle, and proceeded to the drop, which was
erected on the east side of the Crown Court, a distance of 200 yards
from the prison door. The unhappy woman, who was supported on by two
of the warders, moaned piteously, and appeared to take little heed of
the chaplain while reading the service for the dying. While on her way
to the place of execution, she said to the warders, “I hope my
troubles are ended.” And then asked “shall we be much longer?” to
which a warder replied, “No, not much.” The service was brought to a
close at the foot of the drop, and the chaplain, turning to the
prisoner, asked her whether she still persisted in her declaration of
innocence-whether she had anything to do with the crime in thought,
word, or deed? In a firm voice she replied, “I had not, Sir.” She was
then accommodated with a chair, and the chaplain addressed her as
“I have spent half
an hour with you this morning in endeavouring to impress upon you a
proper sense of your condition, for you are about to pass from this
world into another, and to stand before God, to whom the secrets of
all hearts are known. I implore you not to pass away without
confessing all your sins, not only generally, but especially this
particular one for which you are about to suffer. I had hoped that you
would have made that confession, and thus have enabled me, as a
minister of Christ, to have pronounced the forgiveness of your sins,
under the promise that Christ came into this world to save sinners. It
has grieved me very much to find that you still persist in the
declaration that you are not accountable for you husbands death; that
you still say you did not administer the poison yourself, that you did
not see any other person administer it, and that you are entirely free
of the crime. Do you say so now?”
The prisoner, still
in a firm voice replied “Yes.”
is only one hope left- that you have endeavoured to confess your sins
to God, though you will not to your fellow-creatures. All I can now
say is that I leave you in the hands of God, and may He have mercy
upon your soul. What a satisfaction it would be to your children, to
your friends, and to your relatives it would be to know that you had
passed from death into life in the full persuasion that your sins were
forgiven you, and that you would be admitted into the blessed kingdom
of God. I fear I can hold out no further consolation to you. The
matter rests between yourself and the Almighty. Had you made a
declaration of your sins, I should have done what, as a minister of
Christ I am entitled to do. I should have told you that your sins,
though many, are forgiven. I am sorry that I cannot exercise that
authority at the present moment. I must leave you to God.”
The condemned woman
was then assisted up the steps of the platform, and placed on the trap
door. When the noose was being affixed she stood firmly, without
assistance. The cap was drawn over her face, and she then exclaimed
“All my troubles are over; shame, you’re not going to hang me. Surely
my troubles are over.” The bell of the Cathedral then tolled forth the
hour of nine, and at that instant the bolt was drawn, and the
struggles of the unhappy woman lasted at least three minutes.
A crowd of people
had assembled out of curiosity on the Castle Hill, and were informed
of the completion of the execution by the raising of a black flag on
the keep tower. A report was circulated in the city to the effect that
the poor creature struggled for at least twenty minutes, and that her
shrieks were heartrending in the extreme. This, as will be seen from
our report, was totally devoid of truth, and it is regretted that its
author should have endeavoured, by disseminating it, to create a
painful impression in the public mind.
The body, after
hanging an hour, was cut down.
The last execution
in this City took place in 1859, when Pickett and Carey suffered the
penalty of the law for the shocking murder they committed in Sibsey.
In accordance with
the new act of Private Execution, an inquest was held on the body, in
the afternoon, by Dr Mitchinson, in the Debtor’s Court.
The Jury then
proceeded to view the body, which was lying in a cell near the place
of execution. The face and hands were quite white, the features well
set, and there appeared to be no distortion whatever.
Mr Broadbent, surgeon
of the Castle, was then examined. The execution, in his opinion, was
carried out with decency, humanity, and the average amount of skill.
The rope was adjusted in a different manner to what he had hitherto
seen it. The rope was placed round the neck, with the knot under the
chin, so that deceased breathed for some minutes before death. The
executioner had told him that by the body hanging in that way the head
was thrown backwards on to the spine of the back, so that all
sensation was destroyed, but at all events it did not prevent the
deceased from breathing.She was about three and a half minutes in
dying, from the fall of the drop.From what the executioner had told
him, it might be that the moment she fell, her head being thrown back,
all sensation might be destroyed.
The jury returned a
verdict to the effect that they were satisfied as to identity, and
that the execution was carried out according to the sentence,
properly, and with humanity.