The Newgate Calendar - JOHN THOMPSON AND JOHN BARNICOAT

JOHN THOMPSON AND JOHN BARNICOAT
Executed for the Murder of William Hancock.

            THERE is every reason to believe that the latter of these unfortunate men died innocent of the crime for which he suffered. In proof of this opinion we have, in addition to his own dying declaration, the testimony of his guilty companion on the fatal gallows. Jurymen should always bear in mind that the accused is entitled to the benefit of every possible doubt which the case admits of, and we do not know why the witnesses for this unhappy man, who proved a complete alibi, were considered unworthy of credit. They differed certainly from each other in immaterial facts; but when have two men, without previous communication, given precisely the same account of a trivial occurrence?

            On the night of the 12th of August, 1820, several robberies, and one murder took place, on the highway, near Helston, in Cornwall. A man named Jose, and his wife, were robbed and wounded, and another man, named William Hancock, was shot, and treated so unmercifully that he died a few days after. Previous to his death, however, Barnicoat was brought before him, when he declared that he was one of the men who robbed him, and identified him as the man who struck him with a long pole after he had been shot. Barnicoat denied this, upon which the dying man asked him, 'How he could say so, as he stood over him, and threatened to knock his brains out.' Hancock also identified John Thompson as one of the villains who had attacked him.

            In consequence of Hancock's dying declaration, Barnicoat, John Thompson, and his brother, Thomas Thompson, were committed to gaol, and brought to trial, March the 30th, 1821. Barnicoat produced witnesses to prove an alibi, but as they contradicted each other in parts of their testimony, they were disbelieved, and a verdict of guilty was pronounced against Barnicoat and John Thompson. Thomas Thompson was acquitted, the declaration of the murdered Hancock not having included him. Barnicoat was in his twenty-fourth year, and Thompson only in his seventeenth.

            On Monday, April 2, 1821, these two miserable youths underwent the awful sentence of the law at Launceston. About half past nine they were lead to the scaffold, which was erected in the Castle Green, adjoining to the gaol. Barnicoat manifested a considerable degree of firmness; but it was found necessary to support Thompson, who was placed on a chair on the drop. Whilst standing on the fatal platform, the chaplain asked Barnicoat if he still persisted in his declaration of being innocent of the offences for which he was about to suffer. He replied, with much earnestness, that he did; adding, that he knew so more about the attack on Jose, or the murder of Hancock, except what he had heard of them, than the child unborn, and that he was at home in bed during the whole of the night on which the attacks took place. For the truth of his assertions respecting his innocence he solemnly appealed to Thompson, who was now beside him, and about to suffer with him. Thompson confirmed the declaration of Barnicoat, as far as came under his own knowledge. He declared that Barnicoat was not present at either the attack on Jose or the murder of Hancock, nor did he know any thing of them; the persons concerned were himself, his brother William and Thomas Dawe; that Dawe was the person who shot both Mrs. Jose and Hancock; and that it was he himself who carried the pole, and who beat Hancock after he fell: the pole he had was the handle of a pike. The necessary preparations being completed, the chaplain spent a few minutes in prayer with the culprits, and then withdrew; almost immediately after, Barnicoat gave the signal previously agreed we and with his companion was launched eternity, in presence of a great concourse of spectators.

 

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