The universal horror which had been produced by the dreadful disclosures which were the result of the case of Burke and Hare, had not yet subsided when the atrocious crimes of these monsters were discovered and brought to light. Frequent mysterious disappearances of persons in a humble sphere of life are alleged to have taken place previously to this melancholy proof of the continuance of the system shown to have been carried on by Burke and his associates; and the police were on the watch, anxiously waiting for any clue which might lead to the discovery of the causes of these events, or which might tend to exhibit the existence of the practices in London which were so much apprehended. The opportunity which they sought was at length given to them in the case of these miscreants; which, while it afforded positive evidence of the horrible crimes which had been committed, delivered into their hands the men who had been their perpetrators.
We have already alluded to the evils of the absence of legislative provisions for the supply of subjects for dissection to the medical schools of the large cities through this empire, and it will not be necessary to enter now at large upon that question. It is, however, worthy of remark, that although the crimes committed in the Scottish metropolis were insufficient to awaken the attention of Parliament to the importance of some enactment in reference to this most distressing subject, the excitement produced throughout every grade of society by the discovery of this new blow to the general safety and welfare of mankind had that effect. A measure which had been before recommended to Parliament to render the anatomisation of dead bodies legal, and to regulate the supply of subjects to the medical schools, now received universal attention; and some objectionable provisions having been struck out, and replaced by others of a less questionable character, it received the assent of the legislature.
It was on Saturday, the 5th of November, 1831, that these persons were apprehended for the crime of which they were subsequently found guilty, and for which they were executed. They were immediately conveyed to the station-house of the F division of police, in Covent-garden, and on the same night were taken in custody before Mr. Minshull, the sitting magistrate at Bow-street Police-office. Bishop and Williams, however, were not the only persons then charged; but James May and James Shields were also in custody, an allegation of suspicion of murder being made against them all generally. At this period little more than a mere declaration that they were suspected to have been concerned in the murder of a boy about fourteen years of age whose body they had offered for sale at King's College was made, and the prisoners were remanded to await the result of the inquest which was directed to be held upon the body of the deceased.
On Tuesday the 8th of November, a coroner's jury sat upon the remains of the unfortunate boy; the prisoners being in attendance to hear the evidence adduced, and to give their account of the transaction.
The first witness called was William Hill, the porter at the dissecting-room of King's College. He stated that at about a quarter before twelve on the previous Saturday, the 5th of November, the bell of the dissecting-room having been rung, he went to the door, and found the prisoners Bishop and May there. He had known them both before, from their having supplied the college with subjects for dissection. May asked him whether "he wanted anything;" which, in the language of such persons, was intended to convey an inquiry as to whether he wanted to buy a subject. He answered that he did not want anything particularly, but inquired what he had got? The reply was, "A male subject." He asked of what size he was; and the prisoner said that he was a boy, about fourteen years old, and he wanted twelve guineas. He told them that he was sure that that price would not be given, for the school did not want a subject; but he added, that if they would wait, he would acquaint Mr. Partridge the anatomical demonstrator, with their business. He accordingly informed Mr. Partridge that the prisoners were there, and that gentleman said that he would see them; and he, in consequence, directed them to proceed to a particular part of the building, which was appropriated to the use of such persons. He met them there, and they were soon joined by Mr. Partridge, who refused to give them the price they had demanded. May then said that he should have the body for ten guineas; but this was still declared to be too much, and Mr. Partridge went away. The prisoners again pressed the witness to purchase the subject; and he, at their request, went after Mr. Partridge to ascertain the greatest amount he would pay. Nine guineas was the sum fixed, and he returned and acquainted the prisoners with the determination which had been expressed to give no more than that amount. May said that he would be d--d if it should come in at less than ten guineas; but on his going out at the door, Bishop took witness aside, and said, "Never mind May, he is drunk: it shall come in at nine guineas, in the course of half-an-hour." They then went away; but at about a quarter past two in the afternoon they returned with Williams and Shields, the latter carrying a hamper. May and Bishop carried the hamper into an inner room; and on opening it, a sack appeared inside, which contained the body. May, who was even more tipsy than he had been before, now took out the sack, and turning it up, threw the body carelessly on the ground. He remarked that it was "a good one;" to which witness assented: but he observed that the body was particularly fresh, and in consequence of some other appearances which presented themselves, he went to Mr. Partridge. Before he went, he asked the prisoners what the boy had died of; but May answered that that was no business of theirs, or his either. He directed them to wait in the adjoining room until his return. He acquainted Mr. Partridge with his suspicions, and that gentleman, in consequence, accompanied him to the room to look at the body. He thought that the body was more rigid than usual, and it appeared to him as if it had not been buried. The left hand was turned towards the head, and the fingers were firmly clenched; and there was besides a cut on the forehead, from which blood appeared to have issued upon the chest. Mr. Partridge concurred with him in thinking that there were some suspicious appearances about the body, and went away. Other gentlemen, students at the college, soon after came, and were of the same opinion. Witness inquired of the prisoners how the cut came in the forehead of the deceased; and Bishop answered that May had done it, in throwing the body on the ground. On Mr. Partridge's return, he showed the prisoners a 50l. note, which he said he must send to get changed before he could pay them. Bishop suggested that he should give them what money he had, and they would call again on the following Monday for the remainder of the price; but this was objected to, and Mr. Partridge again went away. In about a quarter of an hour, Mr. Mayo, the professor of anatomy at the college, came into the room, with Mr. Rogers, the inspector of police, and some constables, and the prisoners were immediately given into custody. The body was then delivered to the police, together with the hamper and sack; and they, with the prisoners, were taken to the station-house.
Mr. Richard Partridge was called, and he stated that he was demonstrator of anatomy at King's College. He was at the college on Saturday the 5th of November. A body was brought there that day, and a communication was made to him respecting it by the witness Hill, about two o'clock in the afternoon. He, in consequence, went and looked at it. None of the prisoners were present at the time. The body externally exhibited some suspicious appearances, and it was those appearances which induced him to go for the police. The suspicious appearances were, a swollen state of the face, bloodshot eyes, freshness of the body, and the rigidity of the limbs. There was likewise a cut over the left temple. The lips were swollen. On returning to the college after going for the police, he showed the 50l. note to May and Bishop, when he found them at the bottom of the stairs leading to the anatomical department. He proposed to them that change should be got for the 50l. note, with a view to detain them until the police had arrived. On the following day he made a more particular examination of the body at the police-station in Covent-garden, where it lay. There were several medical men present at the examination. Externally the body presented the following appearances:-- The muscles were still rigid, but not so much so as they had been on the preceding day. There was a superficial wound on the temple, which did not injure the bone. There was not any other appearance of external injury: beneath the scalp, on the top of the skull, there was some blood effused. On opening the body, the whole of the contents of the chest and of the abdomen were found to be in a perfectly healthy condition. The stomach was full; but he could not say what the contents of it were. The brain, and its continuation, the spinal cord or marrow, were likewise examined, and were found to be perfectly healthy. In cutting down through the skin and muscles at the back of the neck, in order to come at the bony canal in which the spinal cord is contained, a quantity of coagulated blood was found in the interstices of the muscles; and on removing the back part of the bony canal, some blood was found upon the membrane which envelops the spinal cord. There was coagulated blood opposite to the muscles, where a blow might have been struck on the back of the neck. There was uncoagulated blood found within the rest of the bony canal which contains the spinal cord. The spinal marrow itself appeared to be perfectly healthy, and there was no other remarkable appearance about it. It was his opinion that the marks of internal violence which he had stated were sufficient to produce death. He believed that the appearances of internal violence to the spinal marrow had been caused by a blow, or some other species of violence inflicted on the back of the neck. The blow of a stick on the back of the neck might have caused such appearances. He would not say positively that such an injury would produce an instantaneous death, but he believed it would cause a very speedy one. On the external examination of the body, he could not discover any appearance of injury which would have been sufficient to cause death.
Mr. George Beaman, the surgeon to the parish of St. Paul, Covent-garden, had also examined the body, and his opinion corresponded with that expressed by Mr. Partridge. His belief was that the deceased had died within thirty-six hours of the time when he first saw it on the Saturday; and he was also of opinion that the deceased had not died a natural death. The face and tongue were swollen, the latter protruding through the lips; the eyes were prominent and blood-shot. The teeth had been removed, apparently immediately after death. The witness added, that he was enabled to detect a slight smell of rum in the contents of the stomach, but could not distinguish the nature of the food last eaten. The process of digestion was going on at the time of death.
Mr. George Douchez gave similar evidence.
Mr. Joseph Sadler Thomas, superintendant of the F division of police, deposed, that in consequence of information conveyed to him by Mr. Partridge, he despatched Inspector Rogers and some other officers to the King's College, and in a short time the four prisoners were brought to the station-house in custody. Rogers also brought the body, sack, and hamper. The body was placed in the back room in the station-house, with the hamper. The prisoners were all together, in the outer room. He asked May what he had to say, for he was charged with having come into the possession of the subject in an improper manner. He replied, "I have nothing at all to do with it; the subject is that gentleman's" (pointing to Bishop). "I merely accompanied him to get the money for it." He then asked Bishop whose it was, and he said that it was his, and that he was merely removing it from Guy's Hospital to King's College. He asked Williams what he knew about it? He replied that he knew nothing about it, and that he had gone with them to the King's College to see the building. He asked Bishop in the first instance what he was; and his answer was, "I am a b--y body-snatcher." All the prisoners, Bishop and May especially, were labouring under the effects of liquor. May had resisted violently on his being apprehended, and he was carried into the station on all-fours, with his smock-frock turned over his head.
The only other witness examined was a person named Joseph Perrigalli, an Italian, who was called to speak to the identity of the body. He declared his firm belief that it was that of a boy named Carlo Ferrari, who had been brought from Italy, and who gained a living by exhibiting natural curiosities through the streets.
This concluded the proceedings of the first day's inquisition, which was then adjourned until Thursday, in order that the police might inspect the house stated by the prisoners Bishop and Williams to be occupied by them.
On that day, Higgins, a constable of the F division, was examined, and he deposed, that he had ascertained that the prisoners lived at the house No.3, Nova Scotia Gardens, Bethnal Green. On proceeding thither he had searched the house, and found all the tools usually employed by body-snatchers. He believed that Bishop, Williams, and May, were of that fraternity, and that Shields had been employed by them occasionally as a porter.
Upon this evidence the jury were unable to come to any conclusive decision upon the case, and they returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown;" but expressed their strong belief, that the prisoners. Bishop. Williams, and May, had been concerned in the transaction.
It was impossible that an inquiry which had hitherto terminated so unsatisfactorily should cease here, and Mr. Minshull, with that alacrity and determination by which his conduct as a magistrate was always characterised, immediately took upon himself the arduous and most important task of conducting the investigation to its close. In this duty he was most ably and, as it was on all hands admitted, most humanely assisted by Mr. Corder, the vestry-clerk of the parish of St. Paul, Covent-garden, whose exertions were most valuable and praiseworthy, and by Mr. Thomas, the superintendant of police; and through their agency a train of evidence was collected, which laid bare the dreadful transaction in all its hideousness of guilt.
The inquiry which had concluded before the coroner on Thursday was continued by Mr. Minshull on the ensuing day, when the same evidence which we have detailed was repeated by the witnesses. The prisoners were then remanded; but on Friday, the 18th of the month, they were again brought up.
Witnesses were then examined, whose testimony traced the prisoners Bishop, Williams, and May to a noted house-of-call for body-snatchers -- the Fortune of War public-house, in Smithfield -- on the 4th November, where they appeared to be in earnest conversation. They went in and out repeatedly during the day; and at night May was seen with a number of human teeth in a handkerchief, to which some portion of the flesh of the gum was still adhering, upon which he poured water, in order to clean them. On the next morning Shields joined them, and Bishop was heard endeavouring to induce him to go to St. Bartholomew's Hospital for a hamper, which he refused to do, in consequence of which Bishop went and fetched it himself. They then went away, and were not again seen.
Mr. Thomas, in addition to his former evidence, stated, that in consequence of information which he had obtained, he had discovered the teeth of the unfortunate boy at the house of Mr. Thomas Mills, a dentist in Newington Causeway, who had handed them over to him, and was now ready to state the circumstances under which they had come into his possession.
Mr. Mills, of No, 39, Bridge-house-place, Newington Causeway, then stated, that on Saturday, the 5th of November, May brought him a set of teeth, for which he asked a guinea. Witness observed that one of the front teeth was chipped, and said that it did not belong to the set; upon which May said, "Upon my soul to God, they all belonged to one head, and that not long since," and added, that the body never had been buried: he ultimately agreed to take 12s. for the teeth. Portions of the gum were adhering to them, and part of the jaw-bone; there could be no doubt that the teeth had been forcibly removed immediately after death. He remarked to May, that the teeth, from appearance, belonged to a female: his reply was, "The fact is, they belonged to a lad about fourteen or fifteen years of age."
While this witness was giving his evidence, the prisoner May appeared for the first time to change countenance, and to lose that hardness of nerve which had distinguished him throughout the whole previous proceedings. He stared at the witness at first rather wildly, and compressed his lips while listening attentively to the evidence; and as soon as it was concluded, he endeavoured to resume his composure, and forced a laugh; but, almost in a moment after, his countenance underwent another change, and he muttered to himself as he looked over to the witness, "The b--y rascal!" He then asked the witness if he was quite sure of the exact words he had used, when he brought him the teeth, with regard to the body not having been buried?
Witness.-- You said that the body had never been buried.
The only other new witness examined on this day was a girl, eleven years of age, named Martha King, who deposed to her having seen a boy corresponding in appearance with the deceased, exhibiting white mice near the prisoner Bishop's cottage, in Nova Scotia Gardens, about the time of the supposed murder; but Higgins and Kirkman, policemen, produced new evidence, tending to confirm the belief in the horrid guilt of the persons charged. Higgins, in a new search at Bishop's house, had found a pair of breeches stained with blood, and a brad-awl similarly marked, which had apparently been used to extract the teeth of the deceased; and Kirkman deposed to a conversation which he had heard pass between Bishop and Williams on the former examination. Posting-bills had been widely distributed through the metropolis, offering a reward for the production of certain evidence against the prisoners, one of which was fixed against the wall in the police-office. Bishop, intent upon reading the bill, a passage in which referred to the marks of blood on the body of the deceased, observed, "It was the blood that sold us," and then, continuing reading, in allusion to a reference to certain marks of violence observable on the person of the deceased, he said "The marks of violence were only the breakings-out on the skin."
Upon the delivery of this evidence the examination concluded, and the prisoners were again remanded.
Upon the following day, in obedience to a determination which had been arrived at, that a new and more searching investigation of the prisoners' house and premises should take place, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Corder, accompanied by Higgins and other constables, proceeded once more to Nova Scotia Gardens, and .there, after a minute investigation, they made discoveries which filled them with horror, and confirmed, by the most positive evidence, the suspicions which had been excited of the murderous traffic which had been carried on. The particulars of these discoveries were communicated to the magistrate on the same evening, but they were not allowed to transpire until the next examination of the prisoners, which, however, owing to the painful excitement which had been created, and the anxious desire universally exhibited to learn the nature of any new intelligence obtained, was ordered to take place on the following Monday instead of Friday, to which day the prisoners had been remanded.
On that day the new evidence was adduced. The first branch to which the inquiry was directed, was that which traced the poor Italian boy to the neighbourhood of Nova Scotia Gardens; and several witnesses were called, whose testimony distinctly proved that he was observed there on the evening of the Thursday before the 5th of November, wearing a brown hairy cap, and carrying white mice for exhibition.
Higgins was then re-examined, and his testimony excited universal horror, while it at once removed every doubt which might otherwise have existed as to the guilt of two at least of the prisoners -- Bishop and Williams. He said, "I was instructed by Mr. Thomas to go with Wadey to Bishop's house and have the garden carefully dug up; I tried the ground first with an iron rod on the west side of the garden close to the palings, and about five yards from Bishop's back door I found the rod struck against something soft, and on digging, we found a blue jacket, black trousers, and little shirt. I then tried the ground about a yard further, and there we found a blue short coat, a pair of grey trousers with braces on and a piece of a comb in the pocket, a striped waistcoat the back of the collar of which was bloody, and a shirt torn down the centre: the waistcoat must have been made for a larger person than the last who wore it, as it has been roughly taken in at the back."
In addition to this, Mr. Thomas deposed to the discovery of a brown hairy cap in Bishop's house; and witnesses were also called, who swore that the second suit of clothes discovered, and the hairy cap, were similar in every respect to the attire worn by the Italian boy when he was last seen. The prisoners were then again remanded.
It is impossible to describe the impression which these new proofs produced in the public mind, tending as they did to establish the fact, not only of the murder of the Italian boy, but that other persons had also fallen victims to the horrible machinations of the miscreants who occupied the house in Nova Scotia Gardens. On the day after its publication, mobs of persons assembled in the neighbourhood of the house, and threatened, by their violent demeanour, to wreak their vengeance by destroying the building. The police were compelled to interfere to quell the anticipated riot, and to prevent the entrance of the public to the building; but many thousands were permitted, upon paying a small fee, to pass through the premises.
At an early hour on Wednesday morning, Higgins and some other constables proceeded again to Nova Scotia Gardens, and commenced a new search. They had not long been engaged in their work before their object was discovered, and crowds of persons flocked to the spot. Their manner denoted the anxiety with which they viewed what was going on, and a strong body of police was necessary to prevent their interference with the proceedings of the officers. The garden attached to Bishop's house was again dug up to the depth of four feet, and every portion of the ground carefully sifted, but nothing worthy of notice was found; the cesspool and privy in the garden were next examined with equal care, and with the same result. But it was deemed prudent that an equally strict search should he made in the ground attached to the adjoining house. No.2, which had been formerly inhabited by Williams and his wife. For this work several nightmen were employed to assist the police; and not only was the garden dug up, but the cesspool and privy were thoroughly emptied and examined. In the inspection of the privy, the men had been but a short time at work when one of them brought up a thick roll of something, which at first was thought to contain the body of a child, but which, on inspection, proved to be an entire suit of female apparel. The bundle was cleansed; and upon its contents being exposed, they proved to consist of the following articles:-- a black stuff or camlet cloak; black worsted stockings, very coarse; a flannel petticoat, very old and ragged, upon the top of which, near the waistband, were to be seen two distinct marks of blood; a pair of stays very nearly worn out, and patched, which were still laced in the usual way behind; an old shift, and a dark plaid gown. The whole of these articles were cut or torn down the front; and the presumption raised was, that the wearer having been murdered, her clothes had been cut from her body.
New interest was produced by this discovery, and numerous were the persons who called at the station-house for the purpose of inspecting the clothes which had been found. It was not, however, until after the final examination of the prisoners that they were identified; and we shall abstain from giving the particulars of the occurrences which followed their recognition, until we have detailed the concluding evidence produced against the prisoners, and the final decision of the magistrate upon their cases.
The last inquiry at Bow-street took place on Friday, the 25th of November; and the attention of the magistrate was then principally occupied by the production of formal evidence with regard to the occupancy of the house. No.3, Nova Scotia-gardens, by the prisoners Bishop and Williams, and their families. Other testimony was also laid before the bench, however, with regard to the removal of the body of the deceased from Nova Scotia-gardens on Friday, the 4th of November, its subsequent conveyance to Guy's Hospital, where it was offered for sale, and its tender, also, to a Mr. Appleton, the curator of Mr. Grainger's medical school in the Borough.
James Seagrave, driver of a cabriolet, stated:-- "On the evening of Friday, the 4th of November, I was with my cabriolet on the stand in the Old Bailey. It was about six o'clock in the evening; and having put the nose-bag on my horse, I went into the watering-house to take my tea. I was called out, and saw May and Bishop. May asked me if I wanted a job, and said he had 'a long job.' He took me on one side, and said he wanted me to fetch 'a stiff 'un;' which I understood to mean a dead body. I told him I did not know, but asked what he would stand; he told me he. would stand a guinea. I said that I had not finished my tea, and that my horse had not done his corn. He said that we would take tea together. I went into the public-house, followed by May and Bishop. They took their seats, and called for tea for two. Some person in the room jogged me by the elbow, and hinted that the men were "snatchers;" and I determined not to go with them. I had previously made up my mind not to go with them. After tea I went out, and drove my cabriolet to the bottom of the rank. I afterwards saw May and Bishop going up the rank among the coaches, and I drove off, leaving them apparently making a bargain with the coachmen."
It appeared that their efforts to obtain a coach there were unsuccessful, and they had recourse to the stand in Bridge-street, Blackfriars, but with no better effect; but they eventually procured a yellow chariot from the rank in Farringdon-street.
George Gissing, a boy, was then examined. He said, "I am twelve years old. My father keeps the Bird-cage public-house, Crab-tree-road, near Nova Scotia-gardens. On the evening of the 4th of November, about half-past six o'clock, I saw a yellow hackney-chariot draw up opposite ray father's house. It is very near Nova Scotia-gardens. I know Bishop's cottage in Nova Scotia-gardens, It is but a short distance from my father's house. I did not see who got out of the chariot. I afterwards saw the prisoner, Williams, standing on the forewheel of the chariot, talking to the driver. The chariot waited ten or fifteen minutes. The door was open all the time. Williams went down to Nova Scotia-gardens; and, in ten or fifteen minutes, he returned and got into the chariot. Then I saw a strange man carrying a sack in his arms, and Bishop holding up one end of it. They put it in the chariot. Williams put out his hand to help it in. The sack appeared as if something heavy was in it. Bishop and the other man got into the chariot along with Williams, and they drove up Crab-tree-road and towards Shoreditch church, on the road to the city." The boy added, that Bishop was looked upon as the father-in-law of Williams; and the wedding supper of the last-named prisoner had been held at his (witness's) father's house, about two months before.
Thomas Davis, porter to the dissecting-room at Guy's Hospital, stated:-- On Friday evening, the 4th of November, about seven o'clock. May and Bishop came to the hospital. May carrying a sack; I knew them before; they asked me if I wanted to purchase a subject; I declined to purchase it, and they asked me if I would allow them to leave it in the hospital until the following morning; I acceded to their request, and locked the body up in a room during the night. Next morning, between the hours of eleven and twelve, I saw May and Bishop in the hospital. Having been out, I returned to the hospital, and ascertained that the body had been taken away. I had only seen a foot out of the sack, and I believed it was either that of a boy or a female; it was not large enough for that of a man.
Mr. Appleton then deposed, that May and Bishop had offered the body to him on the same evening, but he had declined purchasing it; and this closed the case.
The prisoners were called on to make any declarations they chose in reference to the case, before their final committal, and they addressed the bench in the following terms:--
Bishop.--"I dug the body out of the grave. The reason why I decline to say the grave I took it out of is, that there were two watchmen in the ground, and they entrusted me; and, being men of family, I don't wish to deceive them. I don't think I can say anything more. I took it for sale to Guy's Hospital, and, as they did not want it, I left it there all night and part of the next day, and then I removed it to the King's College. That is all I can say about it. I mean to say that this is the truth. I shall certainly keep it a secret where I got the body. I know nothing as to how it died.
May said, "he wished to say what he knew, and would speak the truth." He then said "his name was James May, and that he lived in Dorset-street, Newington. He went into the country on Sunday, the 29th of October, and returned on the evening of Wednesday, and went to Mr. Grainger's, in Webb-street, with a couple of subjects. On the following morning (Thursday), he removed them to Mr. Davis's, at Guy's; and, after receiving the money, he went away to the Fortune-of-War, in Smithfield, and stayed there about two or three hours. Between four and five o'clock, to the best of his recollection, he went to Nag's-head-court, Golden-lane, and there he stopped with a female until between eleven and twelve o'clock the next day (Friday). From Golden-lane he went to the Fortune-of-War again, and stopped drinking there until six o'clock or half-past. Williams and Bishop both came in there, and asked him if he would 'stand anything' to drink; which he did. Bishop then called him out, and asked him where he could get the best price for 'things.' He told him where he had sold two, meaning Guy's; and he (Bishop) then told him that he had got a good subject, and had been offered eight guineas for it. He (May) replied, that he could get more for it; and then Bishop said, that all he could get over nine guineas he might have for himself. He agreed to it; and they went from thence to the Old Bailey, and had some tea at the watering-house there, leaving Williams at the Fortune-of-War. After tea they called a chariot off the stand, and drove to Bishop's house. When there, Bishop showed him the lad in a box, or trunk. He (May) put it into a sack, and brought it to the chariot, and conveyed it to Mr. Davis's, at Guy's. Mr. Davis said, 'You know, John, I cannot take it; because I took two of you yesterday, and I have not got names enough down for one, or I would take it.' He (May) then asked him if he could leave the body there that night, and he said he might. Bishop then desired Mr. Davis not to let any person have it, as it was his subject, but to deliver it to his own self. He (May) also told Mr. Davis not to let the body go without him, or he should be money out of pocket. May then went on to say, that he went to his own house and slept there that night, and the next morning he went to Guy's, and Bishop and Shields came in with a hamper, which was taken to King's College, where he was taken into custody."
John Williams stated, "That in the first place he met Bishop on Saturday morning, the 5th of November, in Long-lane, Smithfield, and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to the King's College. They went into the Fortune-of-War public-house; and, after that, Bishop went to Guy's Hospital, and then to the King's College. May and the porter met them against the gate. Bishop went in, and he (Williams) asked him to let him go in with him. That was all he had got to say, except that a porter took a basket from the Fortune-of-War to Guy's Hospital, and he (Williams) helped him part of the way with it."
The case being thus concluded at the police-office, the prisoners Bishop, Williams, and May, were committed to Newgate to take their trial. Shields, however, who, it was admitted on all hands, was only the porter employed by the other prisoners to carry the body, and of whose knowledge of the murder there was not the smallest evidence, was discharged out of custody.
We shall now lay before our readers the statement of the circumstances attending the identification of the clothes found at the house which had been occupied by the prisoner Williams, at Nova Scotia Gardens, and which eventually proved to have belonged to a woman named Frances Pigburn, another victim to the designs of these atrocious conspirators. Three persons -- named Mrs. Lowe, wife of James Lowe, of Great Charles-street East, City-road; Mrs. Mayo, her daughter; and a Mrs. Hitchwell -- came forward at Bow-street on Saturday, the 26th of November, to speak as to their belief of the identity of the clothes, and to give an account of the disappearance of the unfortunate woman to whom they belonged.
Mrs. Lowe stated, that Mrs. Pigburn was her sister, and was forty years of age. On the night of the 15th of October, she left her house to go to a Mr. Campion's, in Church-street, about half-a-mile from Bishop's cottage, where she intended to sleep, and where witness promised to call upon her on the ensuing morning. On the following morning witness did call at Campion's, but, to her surprise, discovered that her sister was not there, as she had left on the preceding evening, at nine o'clock, to seek another lodging, from their inability to accommodate her. From that morning they had heard no tidings of her, till their suspicions were aroused by the perusal of a bill, put forth by Mr. Thomas, describing the female attire already alluded to. These she determined to examine, and for that purpose went to the station-house, where she at once recognised them to be those of her sister; she could speak positively to the camlet cloak, plaid gown, &c.; she could not speak to the petticoat and shift, the former of which had marks of blood upon it.
Mr. Thomas stated that a further search had been made at the house of Bishop, and in the garden a well had been discovered, from the bottom of which a shawl, which he produced, had been brought up. Mrs. Lowe was able to identify this also as having belonged to her sister; and he gave it as his opinion that in all probability the poor woman had been inveigled into the premises, and thrust head-foremost into the well, where her shawl had fallen in the struggle.
Mrs. Hitchwell, who knew the deceased intimately, also recognised the pocket, and produced the fellow to it; both pockets had been made by a Mrs. Bell, who gave Mrs. Pigburn one, and her the other; both pockets were made of blue cloth, and singularly formed; to the other articles she also spoke with confidence, having seen Mrs. Pigburn wear them on the 15th of October, which was also the last day she had seen her.
Mrs. Mayo, niece to Frances Pigburn, also identified the clothes, and spoke more particularly to the shawl, which she had seen Mrs. Pigburn wear.
Mr. Minshull said no doubt could exist that the clothes were the same which had been worn by Frances Pigburn, and he feared there was as little doubt that the poor woman had been murdered. It was inferred that the body had been sold for the purposes of dissection, and the clothes thrown down the privy to avoid detection. In all probability the poor creature was in search of lodgings, and being met by some of the infernal gang, was lured into their den and there destroyed. To what extent these horrors had been committed it was impossible to imagine.
A further warrant for the detention of Bishop, May, and Williams, upon this fresh charge, was then made out, and Mr. Thomas was requested to make every possible inquiry among the hospitals and dissecting-rooms in the metropolis, to ascertain, if possible, whether any body, answering the description of Mrs. Pigburn, had been offered for sale by any of the prisoners within the last six weeks. Mr. Thomas said he would not relax his efforts to throw every light on these horrible transactions, and thus the inquiry terminated.
On Friday, December the 2nd, 1831, the prisoners Bishop, May, and Williams, were placed at the bar of the Old Bailey to take their trial, upon the charge of murder preferred against them.
The court was crowded to excess at eight o'clock in the morning, the greatest anxiety being manifested to witness the proceedings.
The indictment charged the prisoners with the wilful murder of Carlo Ferrari, and the second count with the wilful murder of a male person, whose name was unknown. At ten o'clock Chief Justice Tindal, Mr. Justice Littledale, and Mr. Baron Vaughan took their seats upon the bench, the remaining portion of which was instantly occupied by members of the nobility and persons of distinction, amongst whom was observed His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.
The prisoners, on being placed at the bar, seemed but little moved by the awful situation in which they were at that moment placed; and they encountered the inquisitive glances of the assembled crowd with a careless air. Their appearance rather indicated low cunning than hardened ferocity.
Mr. Bodkin having opened the case,
Mr. Adolphus proceeded to state the leading facts of it to the jury. In doing so, he said that he did not feel it necessary to solicit their most serious attention to it, for he knew that it would receive such attention from them, being a case in which the three prisoners at the bar stood charged with the foul crime of murder; and one of which, as persons living in society, they must have heard a great deal for many days past. Aware as he was that they knew this to be a case of great and important interest, he felt certain that they required no suggestions from him to induce them to pay the strictest attention to all its details; and having alluded to the interest which it excited out of doors, he was sure that he need scarcely remind them, that they should not allow themselves to be at all swayed by any thing that they might have heard with regard to this case previous to their entering that box, but that their duty there was merely to judge the case by the evidence which should be laid before them. When he spoke of their deciding on this case according to the evidence which should be laid before them, he begged to say that there was one point to which he was anxious to call their particular attention. In cases of murder, it often happened that the direct evidence of eyewitnesses could not be produced as to the blow which had been struck, or the injury which had been inflicted, and the infliction of which constituted the crime; but it was settled by the constitution of this country, that in all cases of the kind a jury might select, from the circumstances of the evidence laid before them, such facts as might produce a conviction in their minds as to the guilt of the prisoners charged with the offence. The application of the facts and circumstances of a case for such a purpose was, by the law of the land, vested in a jury constituted as they now were;-- and it was for them to decide according to the evidence which should be laid before them, as it appeared to their minds; it was for them, after they had heard the great body of evidence which would be submitted to them in this case, to say whether the prisoners were or were not guilty of the heinous crime laid to their charge. If the facts which would be laid before them should produce on their minds a conviction of the guilt of the prisoners, he was sure that they would without hesitation pronounce a verdict which would consign some, if not all of them, to a certain, speedy, and ignominious death; and he was equally sure that if an opposite conviction was the result of the evidence, the jury would at once acquit the prisoners at the bar. Without further introduction, he would proceed to state to them the facts which had given rise to this painful and extraordinary inquiry, as he felt justified in calling it; for the murder to which it had reference did not appear to have been committed through any of those motives that had ordinarily occasioned the commission of such a crime in this country. It was not to gratify revenge for wrong done, that the unfortunate victim, in this instance, had been deprived of existence. The minds of his murderers were stimulated by no passion of that description to the commission of the dreadful deed. Neither wealth, nor the other common allurements which influenced the actions of wicked men under such circumstances, had impelled them to perpetrate this crime. Nothing but the sordid and base desire to possess themselves of a dead body, in order to sell it for dissection, had induced the prisoners at the bar to commit the crime for which they were now about to answer before a jury of their countrymen.
The learned gentleman then proceeded to detail the facts of the case, as they were afterwards stated in the evidence subsequently produced. He dwelt in terms of well-deserved eulogy on the meritorious exertions of Mr. Thomas, the superintendant of police, and of Mr. Corder, the vestry-clerk of St, Paul's, Covent-garden, in prosecuting the inquiry which had led to the trial. He acknowledged that the case depended on circumstantial evidence; but he contended that a large and well-connected body of such testimony was, in many cases, superior to the positive declarations of eyewitnesses. The judgment of an eye-witness might be deceived; but it was impossible that the jury, after putting all the circumstances of the case together, and weighing them seriously and deliberately, could be mistaken in their decision; it was for them to say, after doing so, whether the prisoners at the bar were, or were not guilty of the crime with which they stood charged. He was convinced that they would give this important case the deep and serious attention which it deserved; and he relied confidently on the integrity and good sense of a British jury, which a long life of practice had left him no room to doubt.
The evidence, the particulars of which we have recited, was then adduced, Mr. Curwood and Mr. Barry, on behalf of the prisoners, cross-examining the witnesses examined, with little effect in impugning their evidence.
The prisoners being called on for their defence, they put in written statements. Bishop's was first read to the Court. He said that he was thirty-three years of age, and had followed the occupation of a carrier till the last five years, during which he had occasionally obtained a livelihood by supplying surgeons with subjects. He most solemnly declared that he had never disposed of any body that had not died a natural death. He had been in the habit of obtaining bodies from workhouses, with their clothes on, so that he could have no difficulty in procuring them after a natural death. The statement then went on to describe the localities of the prisoner's residence, in order to show that they admitted of great facilities of ingress and egress to all persons in the neighbourhood. His garden and premises were open to them, and theirs to him. With respect to the clothes found in his garden, he knew nothing. As to the cap, he should be able to prove that it was bought by his wife from a woman named Dodswell, who resided in Hoxton Old Town. The prisoner called upon the jury to divest their minds of all undue prejudices, and judge his case by the evidence alone. By so doing, they would be discharging their duty, and would acquit him of the crime then alleged against him. In conclusion, the prisoner declared that neither Williams nor May knew how he had procured the body.
Williams' defence briefly stated that he had never been engaged in the business of a resurrectionist; and that he had only, by accident, accompanied Bishop on the sale of this body.
May admitted his employment, for the last six years, in the disgusting trade of selling dead bodies, but he denied that he had ever had anything to do with the sale of subjects which had not died a natural death. He then repeated the explanation of his conduct on this occasion, which he had before given; and stated that, on the night of the supposed murder, he was sleeping with a girl named Carpenter.
Rosina Carpenter was then examined, and deposed that the prisoner May came to her on the afternoon of Thursday, the 3rd of November, at her lodgings in Macbeth-court, Golden-lane, and that he stayed with her until twelve o'clock the next day. She had known him for fourteen or fifteen months, and had been frequently in his company.
Mrs, Mary Dodswell, of 26, Hoxton Old Town, was called to prove the sale of the brown cap to Bishop's wife; but her evidence totally failed in this particular.
The Chief Justice then proceeded to recapitulate the evidence to the jury, first warning them of the necessity of founding their decision on the evidence then adduced, without being at all influenced by statements made elsewhere. The indictment contained two counts -- one charging the prisoners at the bar with the murder of Carlo Ferrari, an Italian boy; the other with the murder of a boy, name unknown. The jury would learn from this circumstance, that it was by no means necessary that the name of the murdered party should be known, and that all that they had to decide was, the fact itself. They accordingly would first direct their attention to the determining the fact whether the body which the prisoners had proffered for sale had come by a natural death or not; and next, whether, if they were of opinion that it had not, the prisoners were the murderers, and to what degree they were implicated. With respect to the first point, he thought they would experience but little trouble after the explicit evidence of the medical gentleman who had been that day examined, and whose conduct, it was but justice to say, was an honourable rebuke to any calumnious imputation on the medical profession to which the present case might have given birth. The learned judge then went through the evidence with the most painstaking minuteness, commenting on those points which, in his mind, would enable the jury to determine the guilt of the prisoners, and their share in the crime. The evidence, to show that May was present, or participated in the actual offence, he remarked, was by no means decisive; so that the jury would have to determine how far he was, or was not, a principal or accessory. It might be that they would arrive at the conclusion that Bishop alone, or Bishop and Williams, were the criminals,-- and in such case they would find a verdict of acquittal for May; or it might be, that they would find that all three were equally guilty; or that they were guilty, but not in an equal degree. Their verdict would be according to their decision on this point, rendering it incumbent on .them cautiously to weigh those parts of the evidence which bore particularly on Bishop and "Williams, and on the other prisoner. He left it to their unbiassed judgment, to find according to the evidence which had been submitted to them.
At eight o'clock the jury retired to consider their verdict, and the prisoners were removed from the bar, and taken out of court. The interval between that and the return of the jury, was a period of intense anxiety to every one in court; and, as is usual on such occasions, there were various conjectures hazarded as to what would be the verdict. That a verdict of "Guilty" would be returned against two of the prisoners, namely Bishop and Williams, none who had heard the evidence, and the summing up of the learned judge, could doubt; but the same confident opinion by no means existed with respect to the fate of the prisoner May.
These conjectures and speculations were put an end to by the return of the jury at half-past eight o'clock.
The most death-like silence now prevailed throughout the court, interrupted only by a slight buzz on the re-introduction of the prisoners.
Every eye was fixed upon them; but though their appearance and manner had undergone a considerable change since their being first placed at the bar, they did not seem conscious of the additional interest which their presence at this moment excited.
Bishop advanced to the bar with a heavy step, and with a slight bend of the body; his arms hung closely down, and it seemed a kind of relief to him, when he took his place, to rest his hand on the board before him. His appearance, when he got in front, was that of a man who had been for some time labouring under the most intense mental agony, which had brought on a kind of lethargic stupor. His eye was sunk and glassy; his nose drawn and pinched; the jaw fallen, and the mouth open; but occasionally the mouth closed, the lips became compressed, and the shoulders and chest raised, as if he were struggling to repress some violent emotion. After a few efforts of this kind, he became apparently calm, and frequently glanced his eyes towards the bench and the jury-box; but this was done without once raising his head. His face had that pallid appearance which so often accompanies and betokens great mental suffering.
Williams came forward with a short quick step; and his whole manner was the reverse of that of his companion in guilt. His face had undergone very little change; but in his eye and in his manner there was a feverish anxiety, which was not to be observed during the trial. When he came in front, and, laid his hand on the bar, the rapid movement of his fingers on the board -- the frequent shifting of the hand, sometimes letting it hang down for an instant by his side, then replacing it on the board, and then resting his side against the front of the dock, showed the perturbed state of his feelings. Once or twice he gave a glance round the bench and the bar, but after that he seldom took his eye from the jury-box.
May came forward with a more firm gait than either of his fellow-prisoners; but his look was that of a man who thought that all chance of life was lost. He seemed desponding; but there appeared that in his despondency which gave an air of -- we could not call it daring, or even confidence -- we should rather say, a physical power of endurance, which imparted to his whole manner a more firm bearing than that of the other prisoners. He was very pale, but his eye had not relaxed from that firmness which was observable in his glance throughout the whole of the trial.
Ordinary physiognomists, who (without having seen the prisoners) had read the accounts of their examinations at the police-office -- of their habits and mode of living, and the horrible atrocities with which there is now no doubt they were familiar -- would have been greatly disappointed in the appearance of all of them as they stood at the bar. There was nothing in the aspect or manner of any of them which betokened a predisposition to anything like the outrage on humanity of which they stood convicted. There was something of heaviness in the aspect of Bishop, but altogether his countenance was mild. "Williams had that kind of expression with which men associate the idea of sharpness and cunning, and something of mischief, but nothing of the villain. May, who was the best-looking of the three, had a countenance which most persons would consider open and manly. There was an air of firmness and determination about him; but neither in him nor his companions was there the slightest physiognomical trait of a murderer, according to the common notions on the subject.
When the three prisoners were placed at the bar, the names of the jury were called over, and on being asked whether they had agreed to their verdict, they answered that they had.
The question was then put to them as to each of the prisoners, and they returned as their verdict, that John Bishop, Thomas Williams, and James May were severally "Guilty of murder."
The verdict was received in court with becoming silence; but in a moment it was conveyed to the immense multitude assembled outside, who evinced their satisfaction at the result, by loud and long-continued cheering and clapping of hands. To such an extent was this expression of the popular feeling carried, that the windows of the court were obliged to be closed, in order that the voice of the Recorder might be heard in passing sentence.
The prisoners were severally called upon to say why sentence of death and execution should not be pronounced upon them; but none of them availed themselves of this opportunity of addressing the Court.
The Recorder then proceeded to pass the awful sentence of death upon them, but was for some moments again interrupted by the renewed shouts of the populace from without. Silence having been restored, the learned judge proceeded: --
"Prisoners at the bar, you have been tried by a most attentive and extremely humane jury; and I may say of them, as I have been frequently called upon to say before of juries in that box, that nothing but the most painful feelings of duty, imposed on them under a solemn obligation to their Maker and .the public, could have induced them to pronounce a verdict against fellow-creatures, which sentenced them to die. That they have formed a just conclusion --[Here Williams exclaimed, "It is false evidence!"]-- every man of common understanding must allow. I shall not detain you long by the few observations which I have to make, considering that your hours are numbered, and that there will be but a very short time between the present moment and that when you will have to appear in the presence of your Creator, to answer for the crime which has this day been proved against you. You have each of you been committed to jail for nearly a month; and I hope that you have employed that time in looking back upon the course of your guilty lives -- for most guilty they have been -- violating the laws of your country, and harrowing up the feelings of every relation that may have lost one that was dear to him. I hope from the time you have been in the jail, conscience-stricken as you must have been, you have turned your thoughts to the only source that remained for you -- that of diligently seeking that mercy which you may even yet hope for by sincere repentance, and ardent and constant prayers to the Almighty. But if you have lost those precious moments, let me at all events exhort you not to lose another instant of that short period which the laws of society still leave you. The inhumanity and cruelty with which you have committed this crime, have spread a degree of horror through the metropolis, and indeed, I may say, through the whole country. But deeply as you have injured society, and perilously violated the laws, those laws, which are always administered with charity, have provided that in your awful situation you shall have the most zealous assistance of a pious and excellent clergyman of the Church of England, or of any other church to which you may belong; and I hope you will not neglect the solemn warnings and kind admonitions which you will receive from that quarter. I will not trespass on you by making any further observations, but now confine myself to the last painful duty which the law requires of the Court, viz., to pass the awful and dreadful sentence of the law; and that is, that you, John Bishop, you Thomas Williams, and you James May, be taken from this bar to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Monday morning next, you be taken to the place of execution, and there each of you be hanged by the neck till each of you be dead, after which your bodies are to be given to the surgeons for dissection; and may the Lord God Almighty, the father of all mercies, have mercy on your miserable souls."
The prisoners scarcely gave any intimation, by their outward appearance, of the awful situation in which they were placed. They were immediately removed from the bar; but before they quitted the court, May exclaimed, "I am a murdered man" and Williams leaned over the front of the bar, and muttering and pointing at some of the witnesses, declared that they were all murdered men, and that the witnesses would suffer for the false evidence they had given.
During the period which intervened between the conviction of the prisoners and the execution of Bishop and Williams (who only underwent the extreme penalty of the law), the most earnest exhortations were employed to induce a full confession of their guilt. The Rev. Mr. Cotton, the ordinary, remained in constant attendance on the prisoners, and by his exertions evidently produced considerable impression on their minds. On the nights of Friday and Saturday, two men sat up with each of the convicts, and the little sleep which they were able to procure was frequently disturbed.
On Sunday the usual sermon was preached in the jail chapel, and after that the prisoners Bishop and Williams, being placed in the same cell, were visited by the ordinary and under sheriff's, to whom they made the following confessions.
We give these statements as they were delivered by the prisoners, but serious doubts, even amounting to positive belief, are entertained that they were not full declarations of the crimes of which the wretched malefactors had been guilty.
"Newgate, December 4, 1831. "I, John Bishop, do hereby declare and confess that the boy supposed to be the Italian boy was a Lincolnshire boy. I and Williams took him to my house about half-past ten o'clock on Thursday night, the 3rd of November, from the Bell, in Smithfield. He walked home with us. Williams promised to give him some work. Williams went with him from the Bell to the Old Bailey watering-house, whilst I went to the Fortune-of-War. Williams came from the Old Bailey watering house to the Fortune-of-War for me, leaving the boy standing at the corner of the court by the watering-house in the Old Bailey. I went directly with Williams to the boy, and we then walked all three to the Nova Scotia-gardens, taking a pint of stout at a public-house near Holywell-lane, Shoreditch, on our way, of which we gave the boy a part; we only staid just to drink it, and walked on to my house, where we arrived at about eleven o'clock. My wife and children and Mrs. Williams were not gone to bed, so we put him in the privy, and told him to wait there for us. Williams went in and told them to go to bed, and I remained in the garden. Williams came out directly, and we both walked out of the garden a little way to give time for the family getting to bed; we returned in about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and listened outside the window to ascertain whether the family were gone to bed. All was quiet; and we then went to the boy in the privy, and took him into the house; we lighted a candle, and gave the boy some bread-and-cheese; and after he had eaten, we gave him a cup full of rum, with about half a small phial of laudanum in it. I had bought the rum the same evening in Smithfield, and the laudanum also in small quantities at different shops. There was no water or other liquid put into the cup with the rum and laudanum. The boy drank the contents of the cup directly in two draughts, and afterwards a little beer. In about ten minutes he fell asleep in the chair on which he sat, and I removed him from the chair to the floor and laid him on his side. We then went out and left him there. We had a quartern of gin and a pint of beer at the Feathers, near Shoreditch Church, and then went home again, having been away from the boy about twenty minutes. We found him asleep as we had left him. We took him directly, asleep and insensible, into the garden, and tied a cord to his feet, to enable us to pull him up by; and I then took him in my arms, and let him slide from them headlong into the well in the garden; whilst Williams held the cord to prevent the body going altogether too low in the well. He was nearly wholly in the water, his feet being just above the surface. Williams fastened the other end of the cord round the paling, to prevent the body getting beyond our reach. The boy struggled a little with his arms and legs in the water, and the water bubbled a minute. We waited till these symptoms were passed, and then went indoors, and afterwards I think we went out and walked down Shoreditch to occupy the time; and in three quarters of an hour we returned, and took him out of the well, by pulling him by the cord attached to his feet. We undressed him in the paved yard, rolled his clothes up, and buried them where they were found by the witness who produced them. We carried the boy into the wash-house, laid him on the floor, and covered him over with a bag. We left him there, and went and had some coffee in Oldstreet-road, and then (a little before two in the morning of Friday) went back to my house. We immediately doubled the body up, and put it into a box, which we corded so that nobody might open it to see what it was, and then went again and had some more coffee at the same place in the Old Street-road, where we staid a little while, and then went home to bed -- both in the same house, and to our own beds, as usual. We slept till about ten o'clock on Friday morning, when we got up, took breakfast together with the family, and went both of us to the Fortune-of-War in Smithfield. We had something to eat and drink there; and after we had been there about half-an-hour. May came in. I knew May, but had not seen him for a fortnight before. He had some rum with me at the bar, Williams remaining in the tap -room May and I went to the door. I had a smock frock on, and May asked where I had bought it? I told him, in Field-lane. He said he wanted to buy one, and asked me to go with him; I went with him to Field-lane, where he bought a frock at the corner shop. We then went into a clothes' shop in West-street to buy a pair of breeches, but May could not agree about the price; he was rather in liquor, and sent out for some rum, which we and the woman in the shop drank together. May said he would treat her, because he had given her a good deal of trouble for nothing. We then returned to the Fortune-of-War, and joined Williams, and had something more to drink; we waited there a short time, and then Williams and I went to the West-end of the town, leaving May at the Fortune-of-War. Williams and I went to Mr. Tuson's, in Windmill-street, where I saw Mr. Tuson, and offered to sell him a subject, meaning the boy we had left at home. He said he had waited so long for a subject which I had before undertaken to procure him, that he had been obliged to buy one the day before. We went from thence to Mr. Carpue's in Dean-street, and offered it to him in the lecture-room with other gentlemen. They asked me if it was fresh; I told them, 'Yes,' and they told me to wait. I asked them ten guineas; and after waiting a little, a gentleman there said they would give eight guineas, which I agreed to take, and engaged to carry it there the next morning at ten o'clock. I and Williams then returned to the Fortune-of-War; we found May in the tap-room; this was about a quarter before four o'clock in the afternoon; we had something to drink again, and I called May out to the outside of the house, and asked what was the best price given for 'things?' He said he had sold two the day before for ten guineas each, I think. I told him I had a subject; he asked what sort of one; I said, a boy about fourteen years old, and that I had been offered eight guineas for it. He said, if it was his, he would not take it; he could take it where he sold his for more. I told him all he could get above nine guineas he might have for himself, and we agreed to go presently and get a coach. I and May then went to the bar and had something more to drink, and then, leaving Williams at the Fortune-of-War, we went and tried to hire a cab in the Old Bailey. The cabman was at tea at the watering-house, and we went in and spoke to him about a fare, and had tea also there ourselves. Whilst we were at tea, the cabman went away, and we found him gone from the stand when we came out. We then went to Bridge-street, Blackfriars, and asked a coachman whether he would take such a fare as we wanted; he refused, and we then went to Farringdon-street, where we engaged a yellow chariot. I and May got in, drove to the Fortune-of-War, and (Williams having joined us at the George, in the Old Bailey) we then drank something again; and then, at about six o'clock, we all three went in the chariot to Nova Scotia-gardens. We went into the wash-house, where I uncorded the box and showed the body to May. He asked, 'How are the teeth?' I said I had not looked at them. Williams went and fetched a brad-awl from the house, and May took it and forced the teeth out. It is a constant practice to take the teeth out first; because, if the body be lost, the teeth are saved. After the teeth were taken out, we put the body in a bag and took it to the chariot. May and I carried the body, and Williams got first into the coach, and then assisted in pulling the body in. We all then drove off to Guy's Hospital, where we saw Mr. Davis, and offered to sell the body to him. He refused, saying that he bought two the day before of May. I asked him to let us leave it there until the next morning; he consented, and we put it into a little room, the door of which Mr. Davis locked. Williams was during this left in the chariot. I told Mr. Davis not to let the subject go to anybody unless I was there, for it belonged to me; and May also told him not to let it go unless he was present, or else he should be money out of pocket. I understood this to mean the money paid by May for our tea at the Old Bailey (about 4s.), and the coach-fare, which we had agreed with the coachman should be 10s. May had no other interest in, or right to the money to be obtained for the body, except for such payments, and for what he could get above nine guineas, as I had promised him. May paid the coachman 10s. on our leaving the hospital; but, before we discharged the coach, May and I ran to Mr. Appleton, at Mr. Grainger's school, leaving Williams with the coach. We offered the subject to Mr. Appleton, but he declined to buy it; and then May and I joined Williams, discharged the coach, and went to a public-house close by to have something to drink. After this we got into a coach in the Borough, and drove again to the Fortune-of-War, where we had something more to drink: this was about eight o'clock in the evening. We all three staid there about an hour, and then went out, got a coach in Smithfield, and went towards Oldstreet-road -- stopped in Golden-lane with the coach, and drank something, and then on to Old-street. At the corner of Union-street -- the Star corner -- May got out of the coach and said he was going home, and I and Williams drove to the corner of Old-street and Kingsland-road, where we got out and paid the coach-fare out of the money lent us by May, he having advanced each of us 3. We then walked home, and went to bed that night as usual . We had agreed with May, on his leaving us, to meet him at Guy's Hospital at nine o'clock the next morning (Saturday). I and Williams went at eight o'clock on Saturday morning to the Fortune-of-War, where we met Shields, the porter, and engaged with him to go with us over the water to carry a subject. I wished him to go to Bartholomew's Hospital for a hamper I had seen there; but he refused, and I fetched it myself. We had a pint of beer, and I, and Williams, and Shields, went to Guy's Hospital, Shields carrying the hamper. We met May there. Williams and Shields went to a public-house, whilst I and May went to Mr. Appleton and offered him the subject again. He again refused to buy it, saying he did not want it. May and I then joined Shields and Williams, and had some drink, and then left them again; crossed the water in a boat to the King's College, where we inquired of Mr. Hill, the porter, whether he wanted a subject? He said he was not particularly in want, but would speak to Mr. Partridge, the demonstrator. Mr. Partridge came, and asked what the subject was? May said, 'A male subject.' Mr. Partridge asked the price. May said twelve guineas. Mr. Partridge said he could not give so much, and went away. Mr. Hill asked us to stay a few minutes while he went after Mr. Partridge, to speak to him again. Hill returned, and said Mr. Partridge would give nine guineas. May said, 'he would be d--d if it should go in under ten guineas.' He was in liquor, and, on his moving a little way off, I took the opportunity of saying to Hill that it should come in at nine guineas. I told May directly after, that I had sold it for nine guineas, and that I would out of it pay him what I had of him, and give him something besides. We then got into a cabriolet, and went back to Williams and Shields at the public-house, where all four of us had some beefsteaks and beer; and afterwards we went to Guy's Hospital, packed the body in the hamper, and put it on Shields' head, telling him to take it to the King's College, where we went, Williams and Shields walking, and I and May riding part of the way in a cab. On reaching the King's College, we carried the body into the theatre, and then into a little room, where we took the body out. Mr. Hill looked at it, and asked what it died of? May answered he did not know, and it did not concern him. Mr, Hill asked us how a cut which was on the forehead came? I answered, that it was done by May throwing the body out of the sack on the stones, which was the truth. Hill told us to remain in the other room, and he would bring us the money. We went into the other room, and waited for some time, when Mr. Partridge came to us and showed me a 50l. note, and said he must go and get it changed, as he had not sufficient money without, and he pulled out his purse and counted three or four sovereigns. I said he might let us have that, and give us the remainder on Monday; but he said, 'No -- he would rather pay it altogether;' and went away. We waited some time, when the police-officers came and took us into custody.
(Signed) "John Bishop.
"Witness, Robert Ellis, Under-Sheriff."
"I declare that this statement is all true, and contains all the facts as far as I can recollect. May knew nothing of the murder; and I do not believe that he suspected I had got the body, except in the usual way, and after the death of it. I always told him that I got it from the ground, and he never knew the contrary until I confessed to Mr. Williams since the trial. I have known May as a body-snatcher four or five years, but I do not believe he ever obtained a body except in the common course of men in that calling -- by stealing from the graves. I also confess that I and Williams were concerned in the murder of a female, whom I believe to have been since discovered to be Frances Pigburn, on or about the 9th of October last. I and Williams saw her sitting about eleven or twelve o'clock at night on the step of a door in Shoreditch, near the church. She had a child, four or five years old, with her on her lap. I asked why she was sitting there? She said she had no home to go to, for her landlord had turned her out into the street. I told her she might go home with us, and sit by the fire all night; she said she would go with us, and walked with us to my house, in Nova Scotia-gardens, carrying her child with her. When we got there, we found the family in bed, and we took the woman in, and lighted a fire, by which we all sat down together. I went out for beer, and we all partook of beer and rum -- (I had brought the rum from Smithfield in my pocket). The woman and her child lay down on some dirty linen on the floor, and I and Williams went to bed; about six o'clock next morning I and Williams told her to go away, and to meet us at the London Apprentice, in Old-street-road, at one o'clock: this was before our families were up. She met us again at one o'clock at the London Apprentice, without her child; we gave her some halfpence and beer, and desired her to meet us again at ten o'clock at night at the same place. After this we bought rum and laudanum at different places, and at ten o'clock we met the woman again at the London Apprentice: she had no child with her; we drank three pints of beer between us, and staid there about an hour. We should have staid there longer, but an old man came in, whom the woman said she knew, and she said she did not like him to see her there with anybody; we therefore all went out; it rained hard, and we took shelter under a doorway in the Hackney-road for about half-an-hour. We then walked to Nova Scotia-gardens, and Williams and I led her into No.2, an empty house, adjoining my house. We had no light. Williams stepped out into the garden with the rum and laudanum, which I had handed to him; he there mixed them together in a half-pint bottle, and came into the house to me and the woman, and we gave her the bottle to drink; she drank the whole in two or three draughts; there was a quartern of rum and about half-a-phial of laudanum; she sat down on the step between the two rooms in the house, and went off to sleep in about ten minutes; she was falling back; I caught her to save her fall, and laid her back on the floor. Then Williams and I went to a public-house, got something to drink, and in about half-an-hour came back to the woman; we took her cloak off, tied a cord to her feet, carried her to the well in the garden, and thrust her into it headlong; she struggled very little afterwards, and the water bubbled a little at the top; we fastened the cord to the palings to prevent her going down beyond our reach, and left her, and took a walk to Shoreditch and back in about half-an hour; we left the woman in the well this length of time, that the rum and laudanum might run out of the body at the mouth. On our return we took her out of the well, cut her clothes off, put them down the privy of the empty house, carried the body into the wash-house of my own house, where we doubled it up, and put it into a hair-box, which we corded, and left it there. We did not go to bed, but went to Shields' house in Eagle street, Red Lion-square, and called him up; this was between four and five o'clock in the morning. We then went with Shields to a public-house near the Sessions House, Clerkenwell, and had some gin, and from thence to my house, where we went in and staid a little while to wait the change of the police. I told Shields he was to carry the trunk to the London Hospital. He asked if there was a woman in the house who could walk alongside of him, so that people might not take any notice. Williams called his wife up, and asked her to walk with Shields, and to carry a hat-box, which he gave her. There was nothing in it, but it was tied up as if there were. We then put the box with the body on Shields' head, and went to the hospital. Shields and Mrs. Williams walking on one side of the street, and I and Williams on the other. At St. Thomas's Hospital I saw Mr. South's footman, and sent him up stairs to Mr. South to ask if he wanted a subject. The servant brought me word that his master wanted one, but could not give an answer until the next day, as he had not time to look at it. During this interview. Shields, Williams, and his wife were waiting at a public-house. I then went to Mr. Appleton, at Mr. Grainger's, and agreed to sell it to him for eight guineas; and afterwards I fetched it from St. Thomas's Hospital and took it to Mr. Appleton, who paid me 5l, then, and the rest on the following Monday. After receiving the 5l. I went to Shields and Williams and his wife at the public -house, when I paid Shields 10s. for his trouble, and we all went to the Flower-pot in Bishopsgate, where we had something to drink, and then went home. I never saw the woman's child after the first time before-mentioned. She said she had left the child with the person she had taken some of her things to, before her landlord took her goods. The woman murdered did not tell us her name; she said her age was thirty-five, I think, and that her husband, before he died, was a cabinetmaker. She was thin, rather tall, and very much marked with the small-pox.-- I also confess the murder of a boy, who told us his name was Cunningham. It was a fortnight after the murder of the woman. I and Williams found him sleeping, about eleven or twelve o'clock at night, on Friday, the 21st of October, as I think, under the pig-hoards in the pig market at Smithfield. Williams woke him, and asked him to come along with him (Williams), and the boy walked with Williams and me to my house in Nova Scotia-gardens. We took him into my house and gave him some warm beer, sweetened with sugar, with rum and laudanum in it. He drank two or three cups full, and then fell asleep in a little chair belonging to one of my children. We laid him on the floor and then went out for a little while and got something to drink, and then returned, carried the boy to the well, and threw him into it in the same way as we served the other boy and the woman. He died instantly in the well, and we left him there a little while to give time for the mixture we had given him to run out of his body. We then took the body from the well, tore off the clothes in the garden, and buried them there. The body we carried into the wash-house, and put it into the same box, and left it there till the next evening, when we got a porter to carry it with us to St. Bartholomew's Hospital; where I sold it to Mr. Smith for eight guineas. This boy was about ten or eleven years old; said his mother lived in Kent-street, and that he had not been home for a twelvemonth and better. I solemnly declare that these are all the murders in which I have been engaged, or that I know anything of; that I and Williams were alone concerned in these, and that no other person whatever knew anything about either of them; and that I do not know whether there are others who practise the same mode of getting bodies for sale. I know nothing of any Italian boy, and was never concerned in, or knew of the murder of such a boy. There have been no white mice about my house for the last six months. My son, about eight months ago, bought two mice, and I made him a cage for them. It was flat, with wires at the top. They lived two months, and were killed, I think, by a cat in the garden, when they got out of the cage. They were frequently seen running in the garden, and used to hide in a hole under the privy. I and my wife and children saw one of them killed by a cat whilst we were at tea. Until the transactions before set forth, I never was concerned in obtaining a subject by the destruction of the living. I have followed the course of obtaining a livelihood as a body-snatcher for twelve years, and have obtained and sold, I think, from five hundred to a thousand bodies; but I declare, before God, that they were all obtained after death, and that, with the above exceptions, I am ignorant of any murder for that or any other purpose.
"Witness, Robert Ellis. U. S."
"I, Thomas Head, alias Williams, now under sentence of death in Newgate, do solemnly confess and declare the foregoing statement and confession of John Bishop, which has been made in my presence, and since read over to me distinctly, is altogether true, so far as the same relates to me. I declare that I was never concerned in, nor privy to, any other transaction of the like nature; that I never knew anything of the murder of any other person whatever; that I was never a body-snatcher, nor concerned in the sale of any other body than the three murdered by Bishop and myself; that May is a stranger to me; and that I had never seen him more than once or twice before Friday, the 4th of November last; and that May is wholly innocent, and ignorant of any of those murders in which I was concerned, and for one of which I am about to suffer death.
"Witness, R. Ellis."
"Newgate, 4th December, 1831.
"The above confessions, taken literally, from the prisoners, in our presence.
"T. Wood. R. Ellis. Under-Sheriffs."
It was not until subsequently to the delivery of these statements, that May was acquainted with the merciful consideration which his case had received.
Shortly after the arrival of the respite at Newgate, Dr. Cotton and Mr. Wontner went to the room in which the three prisoners were confined The reverend gentleman opened the paper, and began to read it aloud: the most anxious attention was paid to its contents by all the prisoners; but the interest manifested by May, who must have known that the fate of his miserable companions was sealed, but had felt that there was still hope for him, was quite painful to witness -- his agitation was dreadful; but no sooner had Dr. Cotton repeated the words, "that the execution of the sentence upon John May shall be respited during his Majesty's most gracious pleasure," than the poor wretch fell to the earth as if struck by lightning. His arms worked with the most frightful contortions, and four of the officers of the prison could with difficulty hold him; his countenance assumed a livid paleness, the blood forsook his lips, his eyes appeared set, and pulsation at the heart could not be distinguished. All persons present thought he could not possibly survive -- it was believed, indeed, that the warrant of mercy had proved his death-blow. It was nearly a quarter of an hour before he was restored to the use of his faculties. At last, when recollection returned, he attempted to clasp his hands in the attitude of thanksgiving, but his limbs shook so violently that he found even that was impossible. His lips moved, but nothing but inarticulate sounds came from his tongue. The parties present soothed him with assurances that they knew what he meant to say, and with earnest entreaties that he would calm himself, and not attempt to speak. When restored to something like composure. May poured forth his gratitude to God, and his thanks to the humane gentlemen who had interested themselves in his behalf. He then explained, that when the reverend ordinary commenced reading the warrant, he thought that all hope was at an end -- that the ceremony was to signify to him that he must die -- the sudden revulsion of feeling when he heard the words we have quoted, caused him to swoon. He added, that on learning he was to be spared, he felt as if his heart had burst in his bosom. He declared most solemnly, now that he was out of jeopardy, as he had done before, that he had nothing to do with the murder for which he had been condemned to die. He had never been concerned -- either directly or indirectly -- in any murder; but he acknowledged he had committed many sins for which the Almighty might have justly left him to suffer on this occasion. He hoped now to lead a better life, and to evince his gratitude to God by sincere repentance.
It will hardly be credited that Bishop and Williams beheld this awful scene with an indifference approaching to apathy. The dreadful agitation of their less guilty associate seemed to have no effect upon them.
On Sunday night the criminals retired to rest at an early hour, but their efforts to obtain sleep appeared to be vain. They frequently awoke, and entered into conversation with the persons appointed to watch them. Occasionally they entered into religious observances, but generally were averse to them. Once, when the person who sat up with Williams proposed to read to him some extracts out of religious books left him by the ordinary, he roughly declined the proposal, saying, "I had religious talk enough during the day; I will have none of it to-night." He then entered into conversation with the officer upon the subject of the offence for which he was going to suffer. He solemnly assured him, that up to the time of his marriage, he had never had any connexion with resurrection-men; and even added, that it was not until his wedding-night that he had any idea that Bishop got his livelihood by that horrible trade. He told the officer, that on that night, shortly after he had got to bed, his wife conjured him not to have anything to do with the snatchers. This led to inquiries on his part, which terminated in a full disclosure by his wife of the practices by which his father-in-law (Bishop) supported his family. No communication took place between him and Bishop on the subject till some time afterwards, when he was suddenly thrown out of work. Bishop then gradually disclosed to him his mode of life, and asked him to become a partner in the trade. Williams assented. He then became a regular resurrection-man; but, being tired with the difficulties and dangers of the trade, he proposed to Bishop that, instead of disinterring, they should murder subjects. He was then asked what led him to make such a proposal, and his reply was, "the recollection of what Burke had done at Edinburgh." After some other facts, tallying with those in Bishop's account, he stated, that on the Sunday after the murder of the woman Pigburn, they attempted to "Burke" a man whom they accidentally lured into their power. The laudanum, however, which they had mixed with his liquor was not strong enough, as Bishop said, to stupefy him beyond resistance, and he was, therefore, allowed to escape, partly from a fear of his struggles, and partly from Bishop's arm being palsied by a similar feeling to that which palsied Lady Macbeth's arm in a similar situation -- namely, the feeling that the man whom he was about to dispatch, "resembled his father as he slept." Still bent on their murderous trade, they endeavoured, on the following Tuesday, to get another subject by the same means. Again was the laudanum inefficient; and in this case, as in the former, the intended victim left the house in which he met these ruffians without any idea of his having been exposed to such great and imminent danger.
During a subsequent intermission of sleep, he wrote the following letter, addressed to Mr. Russell, the chaplain of the Penitentiary, in which prison he had once been confined for three years: --
"Newgate, 4th December, 1831.
"Mr. Russell -- If you will be kind enough to let my brother prisoners know the awful death which I shall have suffered when you receive this, it will, through your expostulations, prevent them from increasing their crimes when they may be liberated; and tell them, bad company, and drinking, and blasphemy, is the foundation of all evil. Give my brotherly love to them, and tell them never to deviate from the paths of religion, and have a firm belief in their blessed Saviour. Give my love to John Edwards, John Justin, and John Dingle, and receive the prayers of the unfortunate and guilty --
"Thomas Head." (His real name.)
Both prisoners rose at six o'clock in the morning, and were soon after visited by the reverend gentleman who had before attended them. Williams, at times, appeared fervent in his devotions, and prayed earnestly; but at intervals he would pause, and seem as if his prayer was hopeless; again he would resume his prayer, and clasp his hands in great agony. Bishop also prayed, but he by no means showed the same fervour as his companion. There was a listlessness in his manner approaching to indifference, not merely to religion, but to everything passing around him. At one time, when urged on the subject of his hope of forgiveness, he said he did hope and trust for mercy through Jesus Christ. He added, that he fully deserved what he was about to suffer, but that his case would be desperate if some greater mercy were not extended to him in the world which he was about to enter.
At half-past seven o'clock, the sheriffs, accompanied by the undersheriffs, and several gentlemen to whom they had given permission to be present, entered the prison. The sheriffs immediately proceeded to the condemned cells, where Mr. Wontner, the governor, delivered the prisoners up to them for execution. The sheriffs then proceeded to the press-room, to which the strangers who had obtained admission to the prison were also admitted. The prisoners were soon after introduced by the sheriffs' officers. Bishop entered first. That kind of stupor which had been noticed when the verdict of the jury was pronounced, was still more strongly upon him. He advanced in rather a drooping manner, his eye fixed on the ground. His step was slow, without being firm, and his whole bearing was rather that of a man unconscious of, than indifferent to, the dreadful scene through which he was about to pass. He had got more than half-way to the upper end of the room before he looked around; when he did, a kind of half-suppressed groan escaped him, as from one who was, for a moment, roused to a quick sense of an approaching violent death.
But it was only for a moment; for at once he seemed to relapse into his former stupor: his eye was again bent on the ground, and he moved mechanically up to the officer, who stood ready to tie his hands, and stretched forth his arms, the wrists being closely pressed together. When that part of the preparation was concluded, he turned round, and allowed his arms to be pinioned. This done, he took his seat at a side bench without uttering a word. One of the under-sheriffs took a seat by his side, and, in a low tone, asked him whether he had anything more to confess. His answer was, "No, sir, I have told all." The under-sheriff remained with him for a few moments, but the only answers which could be obtained from him were to the effect that he had nothing more to tell.
Williams was next introduced, and came up the room with the same short hasty step which was noticed at the time of his sentence. Since then, however, his whole appearance had undergone the most terrible alteration. That cunning and flippant air which was noticed in him on his trial had left him. His look, as he entered the press-room on Monday, was one of downright horror -- every limb trembled as he approached the officer by whom he was to be pinioned, and his hands shook to that degree, that one person was obliged to hold them up while another bound them together. While submitting to this operation, he frequently ejaculated, "Oh, I have deserved all this and more!-- oh, I have deserved all I am about to suffer!" One of the under-sheriffs now asked him whether he had anything more on his mind, or wished to make any further disclosure. He replied, "Oh no, sir, I have told all -- I hope I am now at peace with God. What I have told is the truth."
After the operation of pinioning had been gone through, at a few minutes before eight, the sheriffs, accompanied by their officers and the prisoners, proceeded towards the scaffold, the ordinary reciting part of the funeral service. Bishop moved on in the same gloomy and desponding manner which we have noticed. His appearance underwent no change as he approached the foot of the scaffold. Williams became more and more agitated as he advanced. Just as he came to the room which led out to the drop, he expressed a wish to see the Rev. Mr. Russell once more. That gentleman came forward, and while Bishop was being led out, seated himself near him. Mr. Russell said to him, "Now, Williams, you have another moment intervening between this and death; and, as a dying man, I implore you, in God's name, to tell the truth; have you told me the whole truth? "Williams: "All I have told you, is true." Mr. Russell: "But, Williams, have you told me all? Williams, (still evasive): "All I have told you is quite true." This was the last remark he made, and in a few moments he ascended the scaffold.
The scene without the prison was no less exciting than that which was passing within the jail.
The execution of these wretched and atrocious criminals attracted, as might have been expected, an immense assemblage to the spot, and every possible preparation had been made by the civil authorities for the purpose of mitigating the pressure of the anticipated crowd. The crowd, as early as one o'clock in the morning, had amounted to several thousand persons, and continued rapidly increasing. By five o'clock nearly two-thirds of the Old Bailey were filled with a dense mass of people. The continued buzz among the multitude at this time, the glare of light from the torches that were used for the purpose of enabling the workmen to proceed with their labours, and the terrific struggles among the crowd, altogether presented a scene which those who witnessed it will not soon forget. When the fatal drop was stationed in its usual place, it was observed that three chains were suspended from it. As soon as Mr. Wontner, the governor of Newgate, heard of it, he ordered an officer to remove one of them, in consequence of May having been respited. This was done; and, although it was then dark, it was instantly communicated throughout the vast assemblage, and a general cry of "May is respited!" was uttered.
At daybreak there were not less than from thirty thousand to forty thousand persons assembled. The tops of the houses, lamp-posts, and every station from which the most distant view of the execution could be obtained was occupied. In fact, from one end of the Old Bailey to the other was one dense mass; and the streets in the neighbourhood, although not a glance could be had of the platform or the proceedings, were, from an early hour, rendered impassable by the throng of persons hurrying towards the scene of execution. The assemblage was the largest that had ever been witnessed on an occasion of the kind since the execution of Holloway and Haggerty, upwards of twenty years before. Notwithstanding the precautions taken by the city authorities to prevent accidents, several occurred. At the end of Giltspur-street, immediately opposite the Compter, a very heavy barrier was erected across the road, for the purpose of counteracting the immense pressure of the mob, which in that direction extended to Smithfield. This barrier was fastened to two uprights, that were placed two feet in the ground, by iron hooping, which was by no means of sufficient strength for the immense weight of the timber to which it was attached. The consequence was, that at the moment the culprits were visible on the gallows, the barrier was forced down, and a number of persons of both sexes fell with it. The screams of the females, and the confusion that ensued, was truly alarming. Several persons were carried to the hospital, but no life was lost.
As the hour of eight approached, the anxiety of the multitude became most intense; and every eye appeared directed towards the door through which the wretched criminals were to be led to the scaffold.
At eight o'clock the procession began to move from the Press-room, and the appearance of the executioner and his assistant on the scaffold indicated that the last awful ceremony was just at hand. A general cry of "Hats off!" took place, and in an instant the immense multitude were all uncovered. Bishop was first conducted on the scaffold, and his appearance was the signal for the most tremendous groans, yells, and hootings from all parts of the crowd. The wretched man came forward apparently unmoved by the dreadful reception he experienced. The executioner proceeded at once to the performance of his duty; and having put the rope round his neck, and fixed it to the chain, placed him under the fatal beam. A terrific cheer from the crowd proclaimed their satisfaction at the completion of the preparation for his exit to the other world; but still, though placed on the brink of eternity, and about to be launched into it amidst the execrations of his fellow-creatures, the miserable criminal betrayed scarce a symptom of fear. The same listless and sullen manner that had marked his conduct throughout appeared to be preserved by him to the last moment. Not a muscle seemed to be moved, not a limb to shake, though he remained, during the awful interval of two minutes that elapsed before Williams was brought forward, exposed to the indignant hootings of the multitude.
Williams next ascended the scaffold, on reaching which he bowed to the crowd, who returned his salutation with the most dreadful yells and. groans. He appeared to labour under extreme anguish, and his demeanour altogether formed a complete contrast to that of his guilty associate. While the cap was being put over his eyes, and the rope adjusted by the executioner, his whole frame seemed convulsed by a universal tremor. The Rev, Mr. Cotton, having engaged the wretched men in prayer -- in which Williams appeared to join fervently, wringing his hands and ejaculating aloud -- gave the signal for the falling of the drop, when they were launched into eternity. Bishop appeared to die almost instantaneously, but Williams struggled for several minutes. The moment the drop fell, the crowd, which had been yelling all the time, set up a shout of exultation that was prolonged for several minutes.
The bodies having been suspended for the usual time, were cut down at nine o'clock. That operation was performed by the executioner amidst the shouts and cheers of the crowd, which still continued very great.
Immediately after a small cart drove up to the platform, and the bodies of the culprits were placed in it, covered with two sacks. The cart then moved on at a slow pace, followed by the sheriffs and city-marshal, and a large body of constables, along Giltspur-street, to the house of Mr. Stone, No.33, Hosier-lane -- the vast crowd yelling and making other discordant sounds as they proceeded. On reaching Mr. Stone's house, it was with great difficulty the bodies could be removed from the cart, the crowd appearing anxious to get possession of them. The bodies were placed on a table, and in the presence of the sheriffs (in conformity with their duty), an incision was made in their chests, after which they withdrew. The bodies were removed the same night -- Bishop to the King's College, and Williams to the Theatre of Anatomy, in Windmill-street, Haymarket -- to be dissected. They were publicly exhibited on Tuesday and Wednesday, at both places, when immense crowds of persons were admitted to see their remains.
The skeletons of the two criminals still adorn the museums of the schools, in which their bodies were dissected.
The case of the murder of a Mrs. Pigburn has already been alluded to in the course of this article, and it will be seen that, in the confession made by the two convicts, they admitted their participation in that crime. The statement made by them appears to be strictly correct, as it was fully borne out by Shields, the porter, in a statement which he made before the magistrates at Bow-street.
In consequence of this declaration Mrs. Williams, the wife of the prisoner, was taken into custody on suspicion of her having been concerned in the murder. From her statement, some curious circumstances were elicited as to the prisoners, and her own and her mother's relationship to them. She said that Bishop was the son of a carrier, who lived at Highgate, and who, in the course of a long life, succeeded in amassing a considerable sum of money. Mrs. Bishop, who was at the time of the inquiry about forty years of age, was married to the old man as his third wife, and at this time there were several children living, amongst whom were John Bishop, the convict, and herself, who were half-brother and sister, being both the children of the old man, but by different mothers. At the death of old Bishop, it was found that, by his will, he had divided his property between his last wife, his children, and some other relatives: and the payment of 15s. per week was secured to his widow out of a portion of the estate, in which some of the relations had a reversionary interest. In less than six months after the old man's death, his widow and his son married, and they had lived together ever since. She (then Rhoda Bishop), subsequently became acquainted with Williams, whose real name was Head; he had been bred a carpenter, but at this time followed the occupation of a glass-blower, and after a short courtship they were married (about two months before her husband's apprehension on the charge of murder), she being then seventeen years of age. She denied that she was at all aware of the diabolical crimes which had been resorted to by her husband and her half-brother; and although she admitted that she had accompanied Shields on the occasion pointed out, she declared that she was not informed of the nature of the load which he carried.
Mrs. Williams was remanded for a week, but at the expiration of that time, there being no evidence to implicate her in the horrid affair, she was discharged.
We have only a few words to add, in reference to May, to close our notice of these most detestable criminals.
May (who was a tall, light-haired, and rather good-looking man, about thirty years of age) was the natural son of a barrister, who formerly had chambers in the New Inn. His mother was a laundress in the chambers; she was particularly fond of her son, and when he was about twelve years of age she used to lead him about, fearful that any harm should come to him. He was brought up at a boarding-school, and received a tolerable education: he wrote an excellent hand, and at the age of fourteen he was employed in a professional gentleman's office, at No.10, in the New Inn; but he was always of a wild, roving disposition, and whenever he could get away from his duties he was associating with the worst characters about Clare-market. This appeared to be his sole delight, until he neglected the office altogether, and was, consequently, discharged. He had at the same time some good friends, who felt an interest in his welfare, but nothing could induce him to break-off with his associates; and, instead of remaining a clerk, which he was well adapted for, betook a liking to be a butcher. The first place he got was at Mr. Roberts's, in Clare-market, with whom he lived some time: he afterwards lived with Mr. Price, in the same market; but he never remained long in one place. At last he took up the trade of a "body-snatcher;" and, in order to carry on the business with the greater facility, took a lodging in one of the houses in Clement's-lane, Strand, the back of which looks into the burying-ground, situated in Portugal-street, at the rear of St. Clement Danes' workhouse. Here he commenced business, and was very successful; but, like many others, flushed by success, he could not keep his own secret, and would brag of the number of bodies he had got out of the burying-ground at the back of his lodgings of a night, and what sums he had sold them for. He at first made no secret of his profession, and considered it meritorious, till, at last, he found that he was detested and despised by every person. He then left that part of the town, and got acquainted with Bishop and his associates.
We believe that there is no reason to doubt the truth of his assertions, that he had never been implicated in murder. He made a full confession of the habits and practices of persons engaged in his horrid trade, and his punishment was eventually commuted to transportation for life.
We have already alluded to the doubts which existed as to the ingenuousness of the confessions of the prisoners Bishop and Williams. The general suspicions which were entertained upon this subject, were still further excited by the publication of a report, that another confession had been made, in which the convicts had admitted their participation in upwards of sixty murders. We are inclined to believe that no such confession was actually made, although there is good reason to believe that the wretched malefactors concealed much of their guilt, while they admitted so much only as they knew must eventually be discovered. The idea that their confessions did not contain the whole truth, received confirmation from the circumstance of their denying that the remains found were those of the Italian boy. The evidence of the identity of the body was too clear to leave any room for doubt, and it is a remarkable fact that no information of the loss of such a boy (as they described) from Lincolnshire, ever reached the metropolis. Subsequently to the coroner's inquest and before the trial, two poor people did arrive in London from Lincolnshire, who had lost a boy, and to whom the body of the Italian boy was shown; but, so far from recognizing it as their child, they said, that not only the hair, but the eyes were of a different colour. The whole object of the prisoners seems to have been to mystify the case so as to give them a chance of escape, and having set out with falsehood, they adhered to that course throughout. We have heard that some jealousy was entertained by certain individuals towards Mr. Corder, who conducted the prosecution, and who refused to avail himself of the professional assistance tendered him, and that some of these persons did not disguise their prophecies that the case would "break down," and the prisoners escape for the want of proper evidence of identity. Even Bishop himself offered a bet, before the trial, that he would be safe, as it could not be proved that it was the Italian boy who had been found in his possession. It was not then known that, to meet this difficulty, the count for the murder of "a boy unknown" had been introduced; and when this fact was disclosed, all hope on the part of the prisoners and their jealous friends was abandoned. Mr. Corder received a deserved compliment from the judges for the admirable manner in which he had collected and arranged his evidence, notwithstanding, as he admitted to their lordships, he was "not indebted to any professional man in the progress of his labours." This gentleman subsequently published a letter, urging conclusive reasons for the belief that it was the body of the Italian boy which was found; and, from the testimony of the surgeons who made the post mortem examination of the body, showing the utter falsehood of the statement of Bishop, "that he had been killed by suffocation in the well," instead of by positive violence. The extravasated blood on the brain, and the effusion of blood in the spinal canal, obviously produced by external violence, were the best proofs that, in this respect, Bishop was deceiving his auditors: and, detected in one lie, little reliance could be placed on what followed. It appears, too, that Williams was present while Bishop was telling his story, and simply confirmed him in his narrative. Had they been called upon to make separate confessions, neither knowing what the other had said, some estimate might have been formed of the degree of confidence to be placed in their confession. But, as it was, we think the public are far from having got at the truth; and from the blunders and jealousies of the "officials," we suspect much useful information upon this most dreadful subject was lost.