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Newgate Calendar - JOHN PALMER


Executed 23rd November 1808, for Cutting and Maiming in the Course of a Burglary

††††††††††† This man was an old offender, though only about twenty-three years of age, and was known to the police officers to be as bad a character as ever was brought to justice. He was indicted at the Old Bailey, before the Recorder, in the September sessions, 1808, for having, on the 8th, feloniously assaulted William Waller; and for having, with a certain sharp instrument, which he held in his right hand, stabbed and cut him, in and upon his head, with intent in so doing to kill and murder him.

††††††††††† William Waller stated, that he was a porter employed by Mr. Kimpton, an auctioneer, to take care of the house and furniture, No. 20, Manchester-square. He was consequently in charge of that house on the 8th of September, 1808. About four o'clock in the afternoon, he shut up the door and the windows, and made them safe. He stayed in the house till about seven o'clock; he went out then, having left the house secured; he returned between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock the same night. He found it the same as he left it; he opened the door and went in, and locked the door; he put the chain on it; he went upstairs straight forward up in the room as usual. His room was on the right-hand garret. He went straight forward in the room, and pulled the sash down: he returned back to the bed-side, he pulled his coat and waistcoat off, and his handkerchief and shoes; he saw the blankets and the mattress disturbed to what he left it in the morning; he said to himself he did not leave these things in this manner; he turned round and touched the latch of the other garret; he had the latch in his hand, the prisoner at the bar caught hold of his collar. He was between the doors of the two garrets. He immediately laid hold of his collar; witness said, "Lord have mercy upon me." The prisoner said, "Do not speak a word, sir; lie down on the bed; that is all you have got to do: then he shoved witness on his breast to the bed, sideways, and threw him on the bed. He stood over witness, and the other man was behind him, whom he called Joseph. He said, Joseph, dón him, fetch the pistol, and we will blow his brains out, he will not lay still; with that witness gave him a shove, and darted to the window; then he received a blow on his head immediately, from the same man who had hold of him and pushed him. Witness fell towards the window, and as he fell he lifted up the sash; he put his head out of the window, and hallooed out murder, as loud as he could; the people below hallooed out, Come down and open the door; he hallooed out, He would as quick as he could. He did; he unbolted the top bolt, and unchained it, and the people outside shoving the door so violently to get in, they shoved witness down; they knocked him backwards; he got up and went to the door; and while he stood there, the prisoner was standing there; the watchman had got him; he was outside of the door. Witness saw the prisoner in custody; he knew him directly. He said to him, "You rascal, you are the man that hit me on the head." He never spoke to witness. The blow he received was very heavy, but he could not then tell what it was done with; the constable found it was done with an iron crow; witness bled much, and was very faint. He was attended by a surgeon ever since. He was not yet recovered. He had no doubt but that the prisoner at the bar was the person that struck him; the other person made his escape; witness could not have recollected his person; he only took notice of the prisoner. It was a moonlight night, and he was standing over him when he laid on the edge of the bed; his face was about a foot, or a foot and a half, from him. His voice was particular. He knew him afterwards by his person and his voice.

††††††††††† Henry Dance, a solicitor, living at No. 17, Manchester square, said, that on the 8th of September, about half past eleven, or near twelve o'clock at night, he heard a cry of murder several times repeated. On going into the street, he perceived it appeared at the front garret of No. 20: several persons called out to the man who was crying, "Can you let us into the house?" he said he was bleeding to death, and could not come down, for they would murder him. Four or five of the strongest people began to kick against the door, in order to break it open; while they were doing this, a man appeared behind the area, within the rails; he got over them, and jumped down in the street; immediately witness supposed him to be one of the persons belonging to the house. Witness laid his hands upon him, and said, "What have they been doing to you?" He said, "They wanted to murder the man that is in the house." Witness then said, "Who the devil are you?" He made no answer to that as he heard, and he was therefore seized by a number of people, among whom witness was one, and James Coburn another, and the watchman of their street another; this was close to the threshold of the door; by this time it appeared that the people had burst open the door, and amongst them was William Waller in his shirt, bleeding very much indeed. Witness asked Waller if any person belonged to the house but himself: he said, No. Witness said, Then this man must be secured. Another watchman of the name of Scofield came up; witness gave him to the watchmen, and examined the prisoner very attentively, in order that he might know him again.

††††††††††† James Cobourn, belonging to the barrack office, and who lives in Shepherd-street, Manchester-square, corroborated this statement. He was one of the persons who burst open the door, in doing which he knocked down the prosecutor. He saw him bleeding, and lying in the passage. He heard Waller say, that the prisoner was the man who struck him. The prisoner was then secured, and delivered to the watchmen.

††††††††††† George Ducas and William Scofield (the two watchmen) swore the prisoner was the man who had been given in charge to them. Ducas challenged him while the gentlemen were kicking open the door. He saw him in the area. Prisoner pretended that he belonged to the house, and that he slept below stairs. Henry Howard, a constable of the parish, said, that the next morning, while the surgeon was dressing Waller's wounds, he searched No. 20, Manchester-square; and on the two pair of stairs window he found an iron crow, which was produced. Witness was desired to look at a red mark on it, which he thought was rust; but the jury were of opinion that it was blood.

††††††††††† Benjamin Baker, another constable, said, he searched the Prisoner, and found on him a bottle of phosphorus, matches, &c. also a paper with the following writing, "No. 13, Edward-street, and a house in Harley-street; No. 30, Oxford-street, and No. 20, Manchester-square,ódone:" a pair of snuffers and some picklock keys were also found on him. Waller swore the snuffers was part of Kimpton's goods which he had to take care of.

††††††††††† James Lomon surgeon, said, that the wound on Waller's head was about an inch and a half in length, and about the eighth part of an inch in depth; there was also a small wound upon his left arm. The blow fell slanting upon the head, and came on the arm.

††††††††††† The prisoner in his defence, said, he was going by at the time of the noise. He found the snuffers and the keys. On his coming up again he was seized by some people, and taken to the watch-house. He was quite unprepared for his trial, or he could have produced witnesses who knew him for years, particularly Captain Rolles of the Lion, and Captain Ogle, of another ship, in which he went to the Mediterranean. He declared he had only been seven months ashore. The jury, however, found him Guilty, and he was ordered for execution, on Wednesday, November 23, 1808.

††††††††††† A few weeks before his execution he gave evident proofs of his wicked disposition: he conceived a plan of escape, which would have involved him in the additional guilt of murder, but which he, notwithstanding, determined to pursue. As it was necessary to have assistance, he communicated his intentions to a fellow prisoner in a similar situation with himself, who gave his consent to participate in his danger, in the hope of sharing in his success. It was arranged between them, to attempt their plan on the following Sunday, when the prisoners and the principal turnkeys were attending divine service, (from which Palmer and his associate were to excuse themselves on account of illness.) Their scheme was to assassinate the keeper in the press-yard, in the first instance: and as there was only another turnkey, whose station was on the inside of the outer gate, he was the only person who would interpose between them and their liberty; him they hoped to subdue by threats, and to be able to lock him up in a place of safety; but, in case of resistance, it would be necessary to dispose of him in the same manner as his comrade. In the event of the farther keeper being by accident on the outside of the gate, they were provided with rope ladders to scale the walls, and also with saws to release them from their irons. When they reached the outside, they expected to be received by their friends, with proper means to transport them quickly from their pursuers. The confidant and companion of Palmer not being so hardened in iniquity as himself, communicated in due time to Mr. Newman the scheme in contemplation, when a search was made, and a rope ladder, with several instruments, were found about the bed of Palmer, and proper means taken for his better security.

††††††††††† Finding himself foiled in the object which he had entertained sanguine hopes of accomplishing, his mind was for a time so agitated and disturbed, that he could not apply himself seriously and attentively to prayer. As the period now approached for his execution, he seemed desirous to have the term extended for one week, to the end, he stated, that he might have the more time to make his peace with God, an object he had hitherto neglected for schemes of villainy and wickedness, which had ended in grief and disappointment. Mr. Sheriff Hunter preferred his request to government, but it was refused; he, therefore made the best use he could of the few remaining hours left him. He demeaned himself properly to all about him, confessed the justice of his sentence, and professed to die in charity with all men. In order to atone for the crimes he had committed, he made a full confession of every robbery and burglary he had been concerned in, which threw light upon various transactions that might otherwise have remained for ever unknown.

††††††††††† On passing through the press-yard on Wednesday morning, on his way to the scaffold, he invoked a blessing on all his fellow-prisoners, and requested of Dr. Ford, the ordinary of Newgate, that the cap might not be drawn over his face until the moment it was absolutely necessary. A silk handkerchief which he had in his pocket for the purpose, was, at his earnest request tied over his eyes. He attempted to address the mob from the platform, but his speech failed him. He contented himself with bowing to the populace. His conduct to the last moment on the platform was becoming and proper, and such as fully accorded with the promise he had lately made, that he would die a true penitent.


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