The Radlett murder, also known
as the Elstree murder
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder:
Date of birth:
Victim profile: William Weare (a solicitor and
Method of murder: Driving the
pistol into his head with such force that his brains
were literally dashed out over the ground
Location: Radlett, Hertfordshire, England,
Status: Executed by hanging at Hertford on January 9, 1824
John Thurtell's case was considered sensational at
the time. It also made history in two significant ways and therefore
forms a valuable part of the chronology of capital punishment in Britain.
Thurtell was born on December 21st 1794, son of the
then Mayor of Norwich. He seems to have been a fairly wealthy young man
and was a gambler. He had a grudge against a fellow gambler, solicitor
William Weare, whom he accused of having cheated him of £300 in a game
of cards and to whom he now owed, by the standards of the day, this vast
sum. A waxwork was made of Thurtell after execution and is shown here.
Thurtell invited Weare to spend a weekend
gambling with him and some friends at a cottage owned by fellow gambler
William Probert at Radlett in Hertfordshire and they travelled up from
London together in Thurtell's gig on October 24th 1823.
As they neared
the cottage Thurtell confronted Weare over his behaviour, outside the
Wagon and Horses Inn, in Watling Street, Radlett. He drew a pistol and
fired its single shot at Weare's face, the bullet glancing off his
cheekbone as the gun had misfired. As shooting had not worked Thurtell
set about the now dazed Weare with a penknife and cut his throat. He
also rammed the muzzle of the gun into Weare's scull with maximum force,
leaving blood, hair and tissue in the barrel.
William Probert and
another friend, Joseph Hunt, an actor, helped Thurtell dispose of
Weare's body. Initially they put it into a pond in the garden of
Probert's cottage but later, under cover of darkness moved it to and
threw it into another pond in Elstree, hence why the newspapers dubbed
this the "The Elstree Murder".
A labourer found the bloody knife and pistol by the
cottage and took them to the authorities and a murder investigation
began. As the owner of the cottage, Probert was the first to be
questioned and realising his predicament turned King's Evidence against
Weare. He also implicated Hunt who was soon arrested and led the police
to the body.
Thurtell and Hunt were taken into custody and
came up for trial at the January sitting of the Hertford Assizes before
Mr. Justice Park. Thurtell was charged with the murder of Weare and Hunt
with being an accessory to it. It was virtually impossible for them to
get a fair trial for two reasons. Firstly their guilt was seen as self
evident by both the press and the public, to the extent that the judge
remarked that if "these statements of evidence before trial which
corrupt the purity of the administration of justice in its source are
not checked, I tremble for the fate of our country."
The newspapers had shown great interest in Thurtell's
case and every detail was lapped up by an eager public. Secondly this
was to be the last trial in England conducted under the old 16th century
principals in which the accused has to defend himself against the
prosecution, being allowed only to make a speech after the evidence
against them had been heard and not being allowed to cross examine the
prosecution witnesses. This was hardly conducive to a fair trial and
neither man was represented by counsel.
Thurtell made a lengthy and somewhat rambling address
to the court in which he tried to shift the blame for the killing to
Probert. He referred to his Christian upbringing and also made
references, apparently, to Voltaire and Saint Paul, all of which failed
to impress either the judge or the jury. A witness for Thurtell said, "I
always thought him (Thurtell) a respectable man." Being asked by the
judge what he meant by this he replied, "He kept a gig." Not
surprisingly this was not in itself enough to save him and it took the
jury just twenty minutes to find both accused guilty.
Mr. Justice Park then sentenced them to death and
ordered that Thurtell's body be anatomised after execution, as was the
norm at that time for murderers. Hunt's sentence was commuted to
transportation for life and he was duly shipped to Australia's Botany
Bay where he was to live on for very many years. Thurtell was returned
to Hertford prison to await execution. It is noteworthy that even being
an accessory to murder carried the death penalty in the 1820's.
The new gallows
Hangings at Hertford were not a frequent event
even then. The previous one having occurred in August 1822 when Charles
Lee was executed there for burglary. It was thus decided that a new
gallows incorporating a proper drop should be built for Thurtell. This
design did away with the need for ladders and carts to get the prisoner
suspended and was copied for several other prisons round the country,
becoming effectively the standard pattern of its day.
A very similar one was used at York Castle from the
mid 1820's. Construction began before the trial, so certain was
everybody of the outcome! Mr. Nicholson, the Under Sheriff of
Hertfordshire supervised the work and the gallows consisted of a "temporary
platform with a falling leaf (single trap door) supported by bolts which
could be withdrawn in an instant" so launching the criminal into
eternity, as was the contemporary expression.
The substantial cross beam was supported by two
equally substantial uprights, about 8 feet high. The enclosure beneath
the beam consisted of boards 7 feet high and dovetailed into each other
so that there were no gaps (through which the body could be viewed). It
was 30 feet long and 15 feet deep with a short flight of steps up to the
platform at the back leading directly from the prison door.
The whole gallows was painted black and presented "a
very gloomy appearance". The walls of the platform rose approximately 2
feet above the platform so the bulk of the prisoner's body was hidden
from view after the drop. The outer enclosure was for the javelin men
who stood guard at hangings to prevent escape or rescue attempts.
James Foxen, the hangman, arrived from London on
the Thursday and made the usual preparations.
Thurtell dressed for the occasion and was described
as being "elegantly attired in a brown great coat with a black velvet
collar, light breeches and gaiters, and a fashionable waistcoat with
A little before 12 noon on Friday the 9th of January
1824 Foxen pinioned Thurtell's hands in front of him with handcuffs (unusual)
and he was then led from his cell to the accompaniment of the tolling
prison bell and the prison chaplain reading the burial service.
A few moments earlier he had confessed his guilt to
the chaplain. He mounted the five steps slowly but steadily and
positioned himself on the trap. Here Foxen removed his cravat and
loosened his collar.
When Thurtell had finished praying Foxen drew the
white cotton cap over his head and placed the noose around his neck. the
Governor of Hertford Gaol and the Chief Warder both shook hands with him,
before Foxen adjusted the noose. Wilson said "Good bye Mr. Thurtell, may
God Almighty bless you" to which Thurtell replied "God bless you, Mr.
Wilson, God bless you." At two minutes past midday, on the signal from
Mr. Nicholson, the Under Sheriff, Foxen drew the bolts and Thurtell
dropped into box like the trap with a crash.
It was reported that his neck broke "with a sound
like a pistol shot" but this is most unlikely as he would certainly not
have been given sufficient length of drop for this to occur. It is
probable that the reporter who made the statement got confused by the
sound of the falling trap doors. However by the standards of the day
Thurtell died easily and was not seen to struggle.
After hanging the customary hour his body was taken
down and sent to London for dissection in Surgeon's Hall in accordance
with his sentence. A wax work of him was made and exhibited in Madame
The new gallows had been designed to be quickly
dismantled and was taken back into the prison after the execution. It
was judged to be a success and considerably speeded up the process. It
was to be used for a further 14 hangings up to 1838, including two
double executions for burglary later in 1824 and a treble hanging in
1838, when three men were executed for murder. After that there were no
more public hangings in Hertfordshire and it was to be 1876 before the
next execution occurred - out of the public gaze and utilising Marwood's
"long drop" method. The concept of carrying out hangings at midday was
quite common at this time as it allowed more time for the public to
assemble to watch the proceedings.
William Probert, although escaping prosecution
over Weare's murder, was to be convicted horse stealing the following
year and he was hanged by Foxen on the 20th of June 1825 outside Newgate
with three other men.
The Radlett murder, also known
as the Elstree murder, was a notorious murder
committed in Radlett, Hertfordshire, England, in 1823.
The victim was killed in Radlett and the body eventually
disposed of in a pond in Elstree.
It gained a great deal of attention
from the press and public at the time, and seventeen
books were written about it in the following year, as
well as other books since, and several stage plays. It
is commemorated by the following rhyme:
They cut his throat from ear
His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare,
He lived in Lyons Inn.
William Weare was a solicitor and
gambler. His killer was John Thurtell (1794-1824), a
sports promoter, amateur boxer, a former Royal Marine
officer and the son of the mayor of Norwich. Thurtell
owed Weare a gambling debt of £300, an immense sum of
money at the time. Thurtell believed that Weare had
cheated him of the money.
Whatever the truth of this
supposition, when Weare demanded payment Thurtell chose
to murder him rather than pay up. He invited Weare to
join him and his friends - Joseph Hunt, a tavern
landlord, and William Probert, a former convict and
alcohol merchant - for a weekend of gambling at
Probert's cottage in Gill's Hill Lane, Radlett. On
October 24, 1823 they journeyed from London in
Thurtell's horse-drawn gig, but Weare was killed in a
dark lane just short of their destination.
Thurtell shot Weare in the face with
a pistol, but this failed to kill him. Weare escaped
from the carriage but did not get far before Thurtell
caught up with him. As Weare lay injured on the ground,
Thurtell slit his throat with a knife before driving the
pistol into his head with such force that his brains
were literally dashed out over the ground.
Assisted by Hunt and Probert he hid
the corpse in a pond near to the cottage. This hiding
place was judged to be too unsafe for Probert, however,
and the body was later moved to another pond in Elstree.
By this time both murder weapons had already been found,
as Thurtell had left them behind on the road. The pistol
was one of a pair, the other one still being in
Thurtell's possession. The three culprits were quickly
identified and caught. Hunt himself led the authorities
to the body.
Thurtell, Hunt and Probert were
indicted for murder. The foreman of the grand jury which
indicted them was William Lamb, who as Lord Melbourne
would later become the prime minister. They were tried
at Hertford Assize Court. Even though Hunt had provided
the greatest cooperation to the authorities,
nevertheless it was Probert who was offered the chance
to save himself by turning King's evidence: giving
evidence against the other two in exchange for his
freedom. Hunt was tried as an accessory to murder; his
defence counsel was Frederic Thesiger, a future lord
chancellor (head of the English judiciary).
The murder and the ensuing trial
attracted unprecedented publicity, to the point where
questions were raised as to whether the defendants could
possibly have a fair trial. Construction of the gallows
was begun even before the trial started. The trial judge,
Mr Justice Park, lamented: "if these statements of
evidence before trial which corrupt the purity of the
administration of justice in its source are not checked,
I tremble for the fate of our country." Nevertheless he
allowed both Thurtell and Hunt to be convicted.
Thurtell and his associates’ actions
pursuant to the murder were as widely reported and
commented upon as the crime itself. Having temporarily
disposed of Weare’s corpse, "the trio entered the house,
Hunt was introduced to Mrs. Probert, directions were
given to cook some pork chops for supper, and then
Thurtell took the two men to the field, where they
rifled the body, and left it lying enveloped in the sack.
After supper a jovial evening was spent, Hunt sang
several songs over the grog, and Thurtell gallantly
presented Mrs. Probert with the gold chain he had taken
from the body." A contemporary street ballad, The
Hertfordshire Tragedy, did not fail to emphasize the
Although his hands were warm
He down to supper sat,
And passed the time in merry mood,
With drink and songs and chat.
The singing in particular commanded
attention. In discussing post-homicide cold-blooded
tranquility, H.B. Irving (a Victorian barrister), author
of the Book of Remarkable Criminals remarks,
“Such callousness is almost unsurpassed in the annals of
criminal insensibility. Nero fiddling over burning Rome,
Thurtell fresh from the murder of Weare, inviting Hunt,
the singer and his accomplice, to ‘tip them a stave’
after supper . . .” Nor were the proceedings of the
trial lacking in amusement, supplied generously by
Hunt’s testimony in court. Hunt was questioned about the
supper indulged in immediately after the murder took
place: “Was the supper postponed?”—“No, it was pork.”
John Thurtell was sentenced to death,
and was hanged on January 9, 1824, aged 33. Having
always denied his crime, he finally admitted it on the
On the day after his death,
Thurtell's body was dissected (this was a standard part
of the sentence for murderers at the time). A waxwork
model of his body was displayed in Madame Tussauds for
around 150 years. Although Thurtell had been
surprisingly popular and had received some public
sympathy, some of his relatives still chose to change
their names to avoid the disgrace of being associated
Joseph Hunt was also sentenced to
death, but in belated recognition of his cooperation
with the authorities his sentence was commuted to
transportation to an Australian penal colony for life.
He was taken to Botany Bay, where he completely
rehabilitated. After serving his time as a prisoner, he
gained his freedom and started a new life in Australia,
marrying and raising two daughters. He eventually became
such a respected man in his community that he actually
became a police constable. He died in 1861.
William Probert was never punished
for his role in Weare's death. However the reports of
his involvement in the newspapers meant that he was
reviled by everybody and he became a social outcast.
Unable to find work, he resorted to crime to support
himself and his wife, and in 1825, at the age of 33, he
was hanged at Newgate Prison for stealing a horse worth
£25 from one of his relatives.
Besides the gruesome details of the
killing, the murder was also sensational at the time
because it exposed the seedy London underworld of
gambling and amateur boxing to a public which had
previously been rather ignorant of it. As more and more
details were published of the underworld which the likes
of Thurtell and Weare had inhabited, there were
increasing calls for something to be done about it.
The case retained notoriety
throughout the century. Like many others, Sir Walter
Scott visited the spot of the murder a few years after
it took place. In his diary he wrote of the "labyrinth
of intricate lanes, which seemed made on purpose to
afford strangers the full benefit of a dark night and a
drunk driver, in order to visit Gill’s Hill, famous for
the murder of Mr. Weare . . . The principal part of the
house is destroyed, and only the kitchen remains
standing. The garden has been dismantled, though a few
laurels and flowering shrubs, run wild, continue to mark
the spot. The fatal pond is now only a green swamp, but
so near the house, that one cannot conceive how it was
ever chosen as a place of temporary concealment for the
murdered body. The dirt of the present habitation equals
its desolation . . . [t]he landlord had dismantled the
place because no respectable person would live there."
Another distinguished essayist,
Thomas Babington Macaulay, acidly remarked: "There is a
possibility that Thurtell may have killed Weare only in
order to give the youth of England an impressive warning
against gaming and bad company. There is a possibility
that Fauntleroy may have forged powers of attorney, only
in order that his fate might turn the attention of the
public to the defects of the penal law. These things, we
say, are possible. But they are so extravagantly
improbable that a man who should act on such
suppositions would be fit only for Saint Luke’s [a
John (alias "Jack") Thurtell, born 21 December
1794, in England, and hanged January 9, 1824, at Hertford, was the "black
sheep" of the Thurtell family. He was the second surviving son of Thomas
Thurtell, a prominent member of Norwich City Council, Norfolk, and (from
1828) Mayor of Norwich, and Susanna Browne.
The notorious Jack Thurtell became the subject of
numerous books, articles, and plays. Much of what follows is taken from
the 1987 book by Albert Borowitz, The Thurtell-Hunt Murder Case, Dark
Mirror to Regency England.
On 8 May 1809, at the age of 15, John Thurtell
received a commission in Company 99 of the Royal Marines, based at
Chatham, and was transferred a month later to HMS Adamant, the flagship
of Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Nagle. After a few cruises in the eastern
approaches to the Channel, Adamant was ordered to the Forth and lay
moored in Leith Roads for several years, doing nothing.
In July 1810 Lieutenant Thurtell was peremptorally
discharged 'at the personal order of Nagle's successor, Rear Admiral
William Otway, for some misconduct the nature of which is unknown'.
However, he can't have been discharged absolutely from the service, as
on 7 November 1811, he joined the 74-gun HMS Bellona (presumably still
as a Marine). 'Despite its warlike name, the Bellona saw little more
action than the Adamant. In early 1813 the ship proceeded to St Helena
to pick up a convoy of East Indiamen returning from the Orient.'
When Thurtell's name became notorious a decade later,
it was often asserted that he and his shipmates of the Bellona
participated in the storming of the port of San Sebastián [on the north
coast of Spain]. Eric Watson, however, found that on August 1, 1813,
when San Sebastián fell, a muster of the ship was called at St Helen's
on the Isle of Wight and that it cruised near San Sebastián a few days
after hostilities had ended.
In early September the Bellona chased a brig of war
and a schooner; the brig escaped, but the unarmed schooner was captured
as a prize of war. These bloodless encounters with the enemy were
apparently the only basis for Thurtell's later claims of gallantry under
The Young Businessman
Jack resigned his commission as second lieutenant in
June 1814 (when peace was signed) and in the following year, when he
reached the age of 21, his father set him up in business as a
manufacturer of bombazine, a twilled silk dress fabric, in partnership
with one John Giddings (or Giddens). At this point he became interested
in prize-fighting and formed a friendship with a prize-fighter who had
moved to Norwich from London. When Jack himself went to London he hung
out 'amongst other sporting characters' (according to Pierce Egan) 'at
the various houses in London, kept by persons attached to the sports of
the field, horse-racing, and the old English practice of boxing. He was
well known to be the son of Alderman Thurtell, of Norwich, a man of
great respectability, of considerable property, and likewise possessing
superior talents. John Thurtell was ... viewed as a young man of
Unfortunately, Jack then blotted his copybook by
going into London to collect several thousand pounds for goods sold to a
firm there, which he owed to creditors of the partnership in Norwich,
and claiming on his return that he had been robbed of the money by
footpads. The creditors didn't believe him, despite his displaying
bruises, a black eye and a cut on the head, and the Thurtell-Giddings
partnership went bankrupt in February 1821, being unable to obtain any
That same year, his brother Tom Thurtell, who had
started out as a farmer, also went bankrupt. He owed 4000, but half of
it was to his father. He attributed his bankruptcy to the poor state of
the land he took on, bad crops and excessive taxation.
The "Swell Yokel"
Around this time, the brothers, both undischarged
bankrupts, moved to London, though much of what they "did" seems to have
been done by Jack alone, often using Tom's name, so, apart from his
stint in prison, Tom may never actually have lived in London. He went
back to Lakenham as soon as he could.
In March 1822, Jack arranged for Tom to be thrown
into the King's Bench prison for a debt of 17. This appears to have
been an attempt to get Tom's bankruptcy discharged by taking advantage
of 'the act for the relief of insolvent debtors'; it was an unsuccessful
move, so Jack withdrew the complaint and Tom was released in April 1823
after 14 months in jail.
In the meantime, Jack had taken the lease of the Cock
tavern in the Haymarket in Tom's name, but seems to have run it himself.
Tom's credit may have been better than Jack's because he only really
owed money to his father. In fact, Tom seems to have been pretty much a
pawn in Jack's plans.
Jack Thurtell had an interest in several gambling
houses and a tavern called "The Black Boy". Being himself an excellent
amateur boxer, he trained and managed prizefighters.
As a sideline the Thurtells decided to embark on a
method of fraud, the "long firm" scheme, in which goods are bought for
credit and sold for cash and then the promissory notes given to the
suppliers are dishonoured at maturity. It looks as if the whole point of
leasing the Cock Tavern was to raise about 450 for the original
investment in bombazine for the warehouse by selling off the contents of
At the end of 1822 they insured a warehouse full of
their bombazine goods with the County Fire Office for 1900, swiftly
transferred the stock elsewhere and sold it at a discount. The warehouse
was then completely destroyed by fire on 26 January 1823, Jack Thurtell
having arranged for alterations to be made to it beforehand so that no-one
could see the fire inside until it was too late. Various people noticed
that the remains of the warehouse seemed to contain no burned bales of
silk and the joinery work he had commissioned shortly before, which
seemed to have no purpose other than to prevent the fire from being seen
by the nightwatchman, struck people as very suspicious. The County Fire
Office refused to pay the claim, and Tom Thurtell sued them. He won his
case in June 1823, but Barber Beaumont, managing director of the County
Fire Office, refused to pay out and procured an indictment against the
Thurtells for conspiracy to defraud the insurance company. [Tom Thurtell
apparently went to prison for fraud in 1824, after Jack was hanged, and
served 3 years.]
A number of reports as to the fraud case appeared in
On the Run
At this point (for lack of the expected 1900) the
finances of the Thurtell brothers collapsed yet again and they had to
abscond from the Cock Tavern 'not only to excape its final collapse
under a mountain of unpaid bills but to avoid arrest on the conspiracy
charge, which appeared imminent because of their inability to raise bail'.
They went into hiding at the Coach and Horses in Conduit Street.
By this time, Jack Thurtell appeared to be suffering
from 'an observable disintegration of his personality' (although he had
always had a spectacularly explosive temper) and spent most of his time
brooding on his wrongs and his grievances against all the people he felt
had done him an injury, most particularly (according to Joseph Hunt) the
ex-waiter and cardsharp William Weare, 'who in cheating him at cards had
not only stolen his money  but had made him the laughingstock of
Jack decided to exact revenge. On 24 October 1823 he
lured Weare out of London to spend a shooting weekend at the house of a
friend, Bill Probert, at Radlett in Hertfordshire. Another friend, Joe
Hunt, had agreed to help to murder Weare, and he and Probert were
supposed to be following close behind Jack and his victim. In the event,
however, they got cold feet and delayed so long on the road from London
that, by the time they finally arrived in Radlett late in the evening,
Jack had already committed the murder. At the bottom of Gills Hill Lane,
after firing a shot that apparently missed, he had killed Weare by
smashing in his skull with the muzzle of his pistol. Probert and Hunt
merely had to help him to get rid of the body. Having dumped it
overnight in a pond in the grounds of Probert's house, Gills Hill
Cottage, they finally disposed of it in another pond beside the road to
Unfortunately for the success of his project, Jack
had not covered his tracks very well. Firstly, Weare's associates in
London knew that he had intended to spend the weekend in the company of
Jack Thurtell and raised the alarm when he failed to reappear. Secondly,
on the night of the murder Jack had stashed the murder weapon in a hedge
and was not able to find it the next morning before it was discovered by
some roadmenders and handed to the authorities. When enquiries were made
about the disappearance of Weare, the matching pistol of the pair (which
he had recently bought) was found in Jack's lodgings. Thirdly, for his
trip to Radlett, Jack had made the mistake of hiring a gig drawn by a
very distinctive iron-grey horse with a white face, which meant that
several people remembered seeing it and it was possible to establish who
the occupants had been. Finally, the fact that Probert and Hunt had not
actually been involved in the murder itself meant that as soon as they
realised that they were coming under suspicion they both turned King's
Evidence and told the authorities everything they knew.
Probert was granted a pardon but Hunt, who had told
lies in an attempt to conceal the fact that he had originally agreed to
help in the murder, was refused a pardon, found guilty of being an
accessory after the fact and transported to Australia. In fact, until
the last moment, he was convinced he was going to share Thurtell's fate
and wrote a farewell letter to his mother, as reported in The Times,
13 Jan 1824. In the event, he survived until 1861 in Bathurst, NSW,
where he married a doctor's widow, had two children and became a pillar
of the local community. His descendants in Australia are now numerous.
Trial and Dispatch
Jack Thurtell, as described in the Borowitz book, was
intelligent and very well spoken and always described his mother as very
loving. At the time of the trial , he swore that he was innocent, but he
later stated, "I am quite satisfied, I forgive the world; I die in peace
and charity with all mankind. . . I admit that justice has been done
me." (This is from the 1824 book by Pierce Egan Account of the Trial
of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt and Recollections of John Thurtell
quoted in the Borowitz book). The Egan piece elicited an irate response,
published 12 January 1823, from John Barber Beaumont, the managing
director of the County Fire Office who was pursuing the fraud allegation
regarding the Thurtell brothers' warehouse fire.
Thurtell seems to have expected his trial to be
delayed so that he could call three more witnesses who had been
intimidated, he claimed, by prejudicial press reports. In the end, his
side of the story was never fully told and has largely to be
reconstructed from the evidence of Probert and Hunt. In the Albert
Borowitz book, there is a pencil sketch of Thurtell's profile made
during the trial by W. A. Mulready; it is reproduced here.
Jack Thurtell was hanged at Hertford jail on 9
January 1824. His partner in crime, Joe Hunt, also gave his own account
of Thurtell's last days, which was published in The Times.
There is a great deal of information on John Thurtell,
including various books. There were also Broadside Ballads written about
him as a "Caution to the Youth of Great Britain". William Makepeace
Thackeray, was quoted as referring to the case as a "godsend" to
journalists. Murder was rare in Regency England, and this was an
extremely brutal murder committed by the son of a prominent merchant and
Mayor of Norwich. The crime was also used as a cautionary tale of the
story of a respectable young man who had gone to London and become
involved with boxing and gambling, which were two of the unlawful
pleasures of England at that time. The case has been called England's "most
literary murder", with wide coverage in the press, poetry, plays,
stories, books, and even the internet from 1823 to the present. Lurid
scenes such as "the use of a ghost-faced horse to drive the gig on the
night of the murder, a double water burial, an uncanny nocturnal
disinterment, and a suspicious wife spying on the division of the
criminals' spoils" (quotation from the Borowitz book) gave the murder
"concrete visual images".
Some details of Jack Thurtell's life are given in the
Dictionary of National Biography. A wax figure of him was displayed in
Madame Tussaud's for about 150 years (see image above). It is said that
Thurtell's features were modelled by Madame Tussaud herself, so the
figure has not been melted down but put into storage.
According to the above-mentioned interview in The
Times, Jack was fully expecting that the "process of dissection"
would be carried out after his death - indeed the law required it - and
hoped that what was left of him would be interred in a tomb over which
his mother could shed a tear. The Times of 13 Jan 1824 carried a
report of the public viewing of his corpse. His skeleton, so far as we
know, is still at the Royal College of Surgeons, London.
In the old days in England, it was customary after
some of the more spectacular executions for the criminals not only to be
publicly dissected but for their skins to be flayed from their corpses
and tanned like cowhide. Two famous murderers who received this
treatment were William Burke, the body snatcher, and Corder of the "Red
Barn". Corder's skin, or part of it at least, was used to bind a two-volume
account of his trial. His skin was sold at private auction, and someone
bought a big enough piece to have a tobacco pouch made. (Crimes And
Punishment: The Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 17).
Burke's skeleton is still standing in the Anatomical
Museum of Edinburgh University, while those of Corder, Jonathan Wild,
and Eugene Aram are kept along with that of John Thurtell at the Royal
College of Surgeons in London.