Newgate Calendar - ANN THOMPSON


A Prostitute, Indicted for the Murder of her Keeper, and Found Guilty of Manslaughter


Another Warning to Females not to Depart from the Paths of Virtue.


            KEPT women and acknowledged courtesans were formerly, and very justly so, denominated infamous; but now they rear their heads in every assembly, and, with unblushing effrontery, stare virtue out of countenance, and mock the ear of modesty. The attention paid to them is a disgrace to polished society, and destructive of polite morals. Their gallants make them the depository of the hear-say scandal attached to the families of rank and distinction; and as every woman, lost to virtue from a congeniality of soul, has in private a confidential friend, lost to honour, the scandal is circulated, and the libeller, thus envenomed, shoots his poisoned arrows abroad, and defames and vilifies the first characters in the land. Of late years these wretches have greatly increased, both in numbers and notoriety; and, under that demi-royal duchess Mrs. Clarke, they have acquired a new title. We now no longer hear of "Kept women;"—the Cyprian Corps are to be henceforth styled, "Under protection." The luxury of a shilling ride in a Hack to half price in the upper boxes of a Theatre, gives place to a dashing chariot—malgre the nation's poverty—attended by fellows in laced liveries, who drive and attend the protected harlots to the masquerade, the opera, and the fashionable concert; and, when ruin stares their protector in the face, like the cherished serpent, they turn upon him, and sting him to the worst of deaths.

            Ann Thompson was indicted for the wilful murder of Joseph Walker, by giving him a stab in the side with a knife, of which wound he languished a short time and died. A multitude of witnesses were examined in the course of the trial, but our limits will only allow of giving the substance of their evidence.

            The prisoner is a woman of dissolute life, and lived in Denmark street, East Smithfield. The deceased was a man with whom she cohabited; who were frequently quarrelling and fighting. On the evening of the 26th of December, 1809, they were both drinking together at a public-house, in the neighbourhood of Denmark-street. The deceased wished to go home with the prisoner, which she refused, telling him she had kept him long enough, and would keep him no longer. The prisoner went to her lodgings, and the deceased followed her.

            Some time after, Anthony, a black, who lodged in the same house with the prisoner, heard a violent noise in her room, and a scuffle, as if two persons were fighting. He went to the door of the prisoner's apartment, and looking through the key-hole saw the prisoner standing up with a knife in her hand, and, the deceased lying upon the ground, groaning and complaining. The prisoner was mocking him, and said he only feigned to be hurt. He then fetched a watchman, and on the door being opened the deceased was still lying upon the ground. He then removed the deceased's clothes from the side he said he was wounded on, and discovered an aperture, from whence part of his bowels seemed to have exuded. The prisoner appeared extremely agitated, and exclaimed, "This is the knife that did it; I wish my hand had been off before I had taken it up." She then fell upon the deceased, kissed him, and asked him if it was possible he could forgive her? The deceased replied, "Nancy, I forgive you from my heart." A surgeon was then sent for, who advised that the deceased should be immediately taken to the hospital. The prisoner sent for a coach, and assisted the deceased into it. She also stayed with him in the hospital, and conducted herself as a woman of tenderness should do. The deceased died in her arms, and her affliction was extreme.

            The evidence in defence proved that the prisoner was determined the deceased should not live with her any longer, in consequence of his having so frequently ill-treated her. On the night of the affray he had beat her, and wounded her knee—her face and eyes were discoloured with blows, and her clothes were torn. She succeeded, however, in getting him out of the house; but he returned by a back way; and, having previously exclaimed, in the hearing of the neighbours, that he would mark her for having shut him out, he rushed with great fury into her apartment. The door was fastened, and the fatal blow was given. The prisoner was also described as a quiet and decent woman, considering her way of life.

            Baron Macdonald, in his summing up, observed, that to constitute the crime of murder, there must be either malice propense, express, or implied, from the facts in the case. But if one person struck another, the law would justify a blow in retaliation; and if that blow should occasion death, the law, allowing for the infirmity of human nature, moderated the crime of killing to manslaughter. The jury would therefore look to the evidence in the case before them, and say, whether the deceased had met his death from the pre-determined malice of the prisoner, or whether it was the result of a scuffle, in which the prisoner was defending herself against the violence of the deceased, and unguardedly used the knife in her own preservation.

            The jury were of the latter opinion, and found the prisoner guilty of manslaughter; thus escaping with paying a small fine, and suffering a short imprisonment. She was greatly agitated during her trial, from the fear of being found guilty upon the capital part of the indictment; from which she certainly saved herself by her sorrow and contrition for the foul deed.


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