Executed in the Market-Place of Windsor, 7th of March, 1764, for Murder
THIS hardened villain was nearly sixty years of age when he committed, with aggravated cruelty, the foul crime for which he most justly underwent the sentence of the law.
Two maiden ladies of fortune, of the name of Hammersley, resided near Windsor. On the night of the 4th of February some ruffians broke into their house with such caution that they took the ladies' pockets from under their pillows while the owners were asleep. A maid-servant, who it was supposed had been alarmed, was murdered by them before they quitted the house.
The struggles of the poor woman awoke the ladies. They called, but getting no answer they got up, and procured a light, and, to their horror, found the dead body of their faithful servant, with a handkerchief crammed into her mouth, a cord tightly twisted round her neck, and her head forced between her legs, and tied to the foot of the bedstead.
A reward of fifty pounds being offered for the apprehension and conviction of the murderer, Thomas Watkins, by trade a gardener, was taken up on suspicion, and committed to Reading Jail.
His trial occupied eight hours, during which the hardened wretch behaved with great resolution, asked the witness many questions, and asserted his innocence in the strongest terms. Though no absolute proof could be adduced of his having committed the murder, a great number of concurring circumstances rendered his guilt clear to the jury, who, with little deliberation, found him guilty, and he received sentence of death.
He was carried in a post-chaise from Reading to Windsor, where the murder was committed, accompanied by the executioner, the under-sheriff and his javelin-men.
A short time before he was turned off the culprit beckoned to some one among the spectators, when a man named William Innis, a day-labourer, in Clewer Lane, a neighbour to Watkins, thinking it might be for him, went up to the cart, and got upon the stock of the wheel. The malefactor placed his face close to that of Innis, so that their cheeks touched ; when the latter said, 'What do you want?'
Culprit. Here are a great number of spectators.
Innis. Are you guilty? If you are, satisfy the crowd.
Culprit. I will not. I have been hanged in chains two days before, in my own way.
Innis. What way is that?
Culprit. Ask Mrs. H—.
Innis. Did you murder the girl?
Culprit. I had no design to do it, but she refused to be familiar with me: she would not consent; upon which I took a string out of my pocket, and tied it round her neck, which made her squall out: I then tied it tighter, but did not think of choking her, and then I had my wish.
He attended but little to his devotions, and on the 7th of March, 1764, was launched into eternity, amid the execrations of a vast concourse of people. His body was afterwards hung in chains. It was supposed that this obdurate sinner, in his dying moments, would, by his insinuation to Innis, have traduced the good fame of the ladies whose house he had broken open and robbed. Had this been known through the crowd, it was supposed they would have torn him to pieces. He had an associate or more, evident from their footsteps, and we regret not being able to find that his accomplices were ever apprehended.