HAPPILY a crime of this enormity occurs but seldom; too many are wicked, but few, thank God, are found unnatural enough to destroy the source of their own being, by imbruing their hands in the blood of a parent.
John Keys lived with his father, a poor farmer, in Enniskillen, Ireland. His eldest brother was absent in the army, and John had received a part of the little farm as his inheritance, it being a common thing there to divide the land among the children. On the 23d of April, 1822, John and his father went out in the fields to make a ditch. They appeared in great harmony; came home, dined together, and afterwards went again to their work.
In the evening John returned without his father, and being asked where he was, said he had gone to the mountain to look after the goats. The old man not having appeared that night, the same question was repeated by his sister next morning, when he prevaricated, and said that his father had gone to look for his brother, who was in the army.
Suspicion was now excited. A brother of the deceased came and commenced a search, when the body was found buried in a ditch. The skull exhibited marks of violence, and no doubt remained but the son had murdered his father with the spade, and afterwards buried him. The parricide was at this moment seen walking by the side of a neighbouring lake, and the people ran to apprehend him. With conscious guilt, when he saw them approach he ran into the water up to his neck, saying, 'You want to accuse me of murdering my father -- I will not endure to he pointed at as the murderer of my father.' At this time no one had accused him. His uncle entreated him to come out of the water, and surrender himself, but he refused. When the people would withdraw a little he came out, but the moment they attempted to close upon him he ran in again, leaving nothing visible but his head. In this posture he was proceeding to make his will, determined to drown himself sooner than surrender, when a man arrived who could swim, and who quickly brought him out of his watery position. Being taken to the house of a magistrate, he told the constable that his brother had come to him the day before the parricide, and persuaded him to join him in murdering their father, that they might share the farm between them.
Keys was brought to trial at Enniskillen on the 21st of March, 1823, and found guilty on the clearest evidence. After sentence had been pronounced he acknowledged his guilt, and completely exonerated his brother, and all other persons, from any participation in his crime. He committed the dreadful act in consequence of a trifling dispute with his father, and had accused his brother in the vain hope of being admitted as king's evidence.
At the place of execution he repeated the confession of his guilt, and exculpated all others from any participation. He was little more than twenty years of age, and had been brought up in total ignorance of all religious duties. During his confinement he had profited by the school opened in the gaol, and had listened attentively to the pious instructions of the chaplain. Keys, being a Protestant, was attended by a minister of the established church.