The Newgate Calendar - THOMAS WILFORD

THOMAS WILFORD

A Cripple, who murdered his Wife in a Fit of Jealousy, and was executed at Tyburn on the 22nd of June, 1752

THE jealous subject of our narrative was born of very poor parents, at Fulham, in the county of Middlesex; and, coming into the world with only one arm, he was received into the workhouse, where he was employed in going errands for the paupers and occasionally for the inhabitants of the town, and he was distinguished by his inoffensive behaviour.

A girl of ill-fame, named Sarah Williams, being passed from the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields to the same workhouse, had art enough to persuade Wilford to marry her, though he was then only seventeen years of age; and their inclinations being made known to the churchwardens they gave the intended bride forty shillings to enable her to begin the world.

The young couple now went to the Fleet and were married, after which they took lodgings, in St Giles's; and it was only on the Sunday succeeding the marriage that the murder was perpetrated. On that day the wife, having been out with an old acquaintance, stayed till midnight, and on her return Wilford, who was jealous of her conduct, asked her where she had been. She said, "To the Park," and would give him no other answer; a circumstance that inflamed him to such a degree that a violent quarrel ensued, the consequence of which was fatal to the wife; for Wilford's passions were so irritated that he seized a knife and, she advancing towards him, he threw her down and, kneeling on her, cut her throat so that her head was almost severed from her body.

He had no sooner committed the horrid deed than he threw down the knife, opened the chamber door, and was going downstairs, when a woman, who lodged in an adjacent room, asked who was there; to which Wilford replied: "It is me. I have murdered my poor wife, whom I loved as dearly as my own life."

On this the woman went down to the landlord of the house, and was immediately followed by Wilford, who said he had killed the woman that he loved beyond all the world, and was willing to die for the crime he had committed; and he did not make the slightest effort to escape.

On this the landlord called the watch, who, taking Wilford into custody, confined him for that night, and on the following day he was committed to Newgate by Justice Fielding.

Being arraigned on the first day of the following sessions at the Old Bailey he pleaded guilty; but, the Court refusing to record his plea, he was put by till the last day, when he again pleaded guilty, but was prevailed on to put himself on his trial.

Accordingly the trial came on, and the prisoner was found guilty. He was the first to suffer death in consequence of an Act passed in the year 1751 for the more effectual prevention of murder, which decreed that the convict should be executed on the second day after conviction: for which reason it was customary to try persons charged with murder on a Friday, by which indulgence, in case of conviction, the execution of the sentence was, necessarily postponed till Monday; and by the same Act it was ordained that the convicted murderer should be either hanged in chains or anatomised.

The jury having found Wilford guilty, sentence against him was pronounced in the following terms:-- "Thomas Wilford, you stand convicted of the horrid and unnatural crime of murdering Sarah, your wife. This Court doth adjudge that you be taken back to the place from whence you came, and there to be fed on bread and water till Wednesday next, when you are to be taken to the common place of execution, and there hanged by the neck until you are dead; after which your body is to be publicly dissected and anatomised, agreeable to an Act of Parliament in that case made and provided; and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul!"

Both before and after conviction Wilford behaved as a real penitent, and at the place of execution he exhibited the most genuine signs of contrition for the crime of which he had been guilty.

 

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