This merciless man was tried at Maidstone assizes, on an indictment charging him with the wilful murder of Thomazin Ward, at St. Peter's, in the Isle of Thanet.
Mr. Gurney opened the prosecution, and he was followed on the same side by Mr. Garrow, who stated the facts attending the case to the jury. The counsel observed, that the prisoner was a private soldier in the King's German Legion, and the unfortunate woman who was murdered was at the time a shopkeeper of respectability, residing in St. Peter's, in the Isle of Thanet. She had taken a walk to Broadstairs, about a mile distant from her place of residence, and not having arrived back again at the time appointed, her husband became alarmed for her safety; and, on search being made, the body was found in a field, about sixty yards from the road. It was evident, the learned counsel observed, that the unfortunate woman had experienced much violence; her body was exposed, and her person had been injured. The prisoner, it would be proved, was seen walking a few yards distant from the deceased a short time before the murder was committed, and it would be proved in evidence that he was absent from his guard without leave from seven to ten o'clock; his shoes were extremely dirty with field-dirt; and it would be proved that he was found in possession of three handkerchiefs, the property of the deceased, which had been taken from her, On being questioned where he was at nine o'clock, the prisoner said he was at the Neptune's Hall public-house, which would be contradicted in evidence; and he said that the handkerchiefs found in his possession had been given him by a stranger. In another conversation the prisoner had said he saw a man knock a woman down, and it was the same man who gave him the handkerchiefs. A ribband was found tied very tight round the neck of the deceased, and it would be proved by her husband that she never wore an appendage of the kind. It would be stated by a surgeon, that by this ribband the deceased was strangled. Under the strong circumstances attending the case, the jury would have no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner.
Henry Blackburn, a carpenter, residing at Broadstairs, stated, that he met a soldier in the regimentals worn by the German Legion, as he was returning home from the village of St. Peter's, about nine o'clock in the evening, and he immediately after met the deceased, with whom he conversed. She was in good health, and was going home. Witness could not swear to the prisoner as being the man whom he met.
Stephen May found the body of the deceased at twelve o'clock at night, in a field about 60 yards from the road, where the preceding witness saw the deceased. She was lying on her back, and her apparel was in a very disordered state, it being mostly torn from her. Her mouth was open, and witness found a handkerchief lying by her side, which was wet, and from appearances it had been stuffed into the mouth of the deceased. A ribbon was also fastened as tight as possible round her neck. Her person had sustained a good deal of injury. There were tracks of two persons having had a scuffle from the road to the field.
Mr. Frome, a surgeon, at Broadstairs, examined the body of the deceased; but there were no external marks sufficient to cause death. There might be a concussion of the brain by a fall, or by other violence, so as not to leave appearances behind. Witness had seen the ribband which was tied twice round the neck; and which he believed was the cause of death by suffocation.
Serjeant Frederick Riford, a serjeant belonging to the German Legion, proved that, on the evening of the murder, the prisoner absented himself from the guard without leave, from seven till ten o'clock. In consequence of information given at the guard-room by a Mr. Barfield of the murder, a privy was searched, and two handkerchiefs found therein, which were proved to have belonged to the deceased. Another handkerchief, which had also been taken from the deceased, was found in the crown of the prisoner's foraging cap. The prisoner had informed witness, that the handkerchiefs were given him by a stranger whom he had seen knock a woman down, after dragging her into a field.
Robert Barfield, sub-deputy of St. Peter's, gave information of the murder at the guard-house, in the presence of the prisoner, who appeared a good deal agitated. This gentleman corroborated what was stated by the preceding witness respecting the finding of the handkerchief; and he also stated, that the shoes of the prisoner were covered with field dirt.
The testimony of other witnesses strengthened the case, so as to leave no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner; and one of them proved that he had left the Neptune's Hall at half-past eight o'clock. Another witness proved, that the prisoner pointed out the spot where the murder was committed.
William Ward, the husband of the deceased, who appeared deeply affected, said that his wife had gone to Broadstairs on the evening of the murder to see her daughter, and he proved that she never wore a ribband round her neck.
Judge Heath summed up the evidence, and the jury without hesitation found the prisoner guilty. He was sentenced to be executed, and his body to be dissected.
The prisoner had an interpreter; and after sentence was passed on him, he said, "There is one God, and one heaven," and he had one prayer to make, the judge having informed him he need not expect mercy in this world.