In the fate of this man we have another instance of the tormenting impulse that impels murderers, who have escaped the punishment which awaits such as shed innocent blood, to return, as it were involuntarily, to make atonement for the horrid crime.
This hoary sinner was, at the time of his committing the murder in question, a soldier in the second regiment of foot guards. On the evening of the fatal deed, he had been drinking Geneva with a comrade of the name of John Briggins, after which they went together to a gaming. house, called the Phoenix, in the Hay-market, where Irwin had some time held the office of door-keeper. [Note: Soldiers in the guards, for long and faithful services, are often indulged with leave of absence from duty, in order to allow them to earn a little addition to their pay, which, alone, but ill supplies the comforts to old age.] Ringing the bell, one Piercy, who had succeeded Irwin as door-keeper, opened a wicket; but seeing who it was, said, he had orders not to let him in, as he had already been turned out for breeding quarrels and disturbances. Enraged at this language from the man who had supplanted him, he drew his bayonet, pushed it through the wicket, into the very heart of Piercy, and then made his escape. Hearing the next morning that the door-keeper of the Phœnix had been murdered, he determined to desert his regiment, which he immediately put in practice, and fled to Ireland, where he remained long undiscovered among his relations, and might, for the remainder of his wretched life, have remained thus concealed, had his mind been undisturbed; but his situation grew irksome, and nobody could dissuade him from returning to London. As a reason for so doing, he pretended, that from his long services in the army, he would, on application be made an out-pensioner of Chelsea hospital, and fancied the murder would be forgotten. He had not, however, been many days in London, before he was met by one John Roberts, who caused him to be apprehended. He was tried at the Old Bailey, for the murder of Piercy, near five years after the commission of the crime, when his old comrade Briggins, appeared, and swore that he saw Irwin give the fatal blow. He was found guilty, and executed at Tyburn, where he confessed the fact.