Executed at Leicester for the murder of Mr. John Clarke, March 1821
PERHAPS a more appalling instance of human depravity, involving the dreadful fact of a wife procuring the murder of her husband, after a long course of adultery with his assassin, is scarcely to be found upon record than is developed in the following tale. -–
At the Lent Assizes for the county of Northampton, on the 8th of March, 1821, Philip Haynes was indicted for the murder of Mr. John Clarke, of Charwell-house, Charwelton, Northamptonshire; and Mary Clarke, widow of the deceased, was also put to the bar, charged in the indictment with being an accessory to the said murder before the fact.
Mr. Clarke, (King's Counsel) opened the case for the prosecution, which he briefly stated to the Court and Jury to the following effect:
The indictment charged the prisoner, Philip Haynes, with the murder of Mr. John Clarke, who was an opulent farmer, residing at Charwell-house, near Charwelton, in this county, on the 10th of February last, and Mary Clarke, the widow, with being an accessory before the fact in the said murder, she having excited the other prisoner, Haynes, to commit such murder. The prisoner, Haynes, for more than a year, had been in the service of Mr. Clarke; -- having, however, left him, he went to Byfield, which was about two miles from Mr. Clarke's where he resided till the murder was committed. On the 10th of February last, about four o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Clarke was upon a hay-stack, cutting hay; whilst he was there, and in the act of cutting, he was shot at from the barn, which was distant from the hay-stack seven or eight feet, and struck on the left arm. A labourer at work in the barn, on hearing the discharge of the gun, immediately ran out and met his master walking towards the house, and bleeding; this person observed the smoke to meet him, and to be between the barn and the hay-stack, he therefore was confident that the gun must have been fired from the barn. Surgical aid was immediately procured, Mr. Wildegoose, a surgeon, attended, and amputated the arm, in the hope of saving Mr. C.'s life; before this operation was performed, Mr. Clarke made his will, and in two days afterwards he died. There could be no doubt of the wound, and that the person, whoever it was that committed it, was guilty of murder. Mr. Clarke had strong suspicions of the prisoner Haynes. -- His life had been attempted once or twice before; at one time a rope had been put across the highway, at another time he received a blow against his gate, from which, however, he escaped. In consquence of the suspicions which fell upon Haynes, endeavours were made to apprehend him, but he could not be found; he had not been at his lodgings for a fortnight before; the barn was searched, and in a hole in the straw, capable of containing more than one person, a gun, a wallet, a wooden bottle, a glass bottle, bread and bacon, a powder flask, a small fustian bag, with lead and shots in it, were found. Search was also made to discover from whence the gun was fired; the rafters of the barn were observed to be dirtied and scorched with the flash, and that spot commanded the hay stack, from which it was distant only about seven feet. By direction of Mr. Canning, the executor of the deceased, a guard was placed round the barn on Sunday. On Monday, Mr. Canning desired a more particular examination of it to be made, and after some time, the prisoner was discovered, covered over with barley straw; he was of course taken and searched, and upon him were found a pocket-book, containing a letter from Mrs. Clarke, neither dated nor signed; and on searching his lodgings, a fustian coat was found belonging to the prisoner, a piece from which had been cut out, and comparing that with the bag found in the barn, it appeared to correspond. Also a quantity of lead recently melted, a clasp knife, and a great number of letters in the hand-writing of Mrs. Clarke. An active magistrate attended the deceased, and took his deposition; and the prisoner Haynes, being asked to give an account where he was at the time the gun was fired, refused to give any account of himself. Having disappeared for a fortnight before, seems to have been done so with a view of shewing that he was not in the way.
With respect to the other prisoner, Mary Clarke, there were a great number of letters to produce, to shew that she was the instigator; -- that she was tired of her husband -- that he was old -- that the general outline of the letters was, that she wanted to get rid of him, to enable her to form a connexion with the prisoner Haynes, after the death of her husband. In one of these letters it would be found, that she desired Haynes to procure a quantity of laudanum and to send it to her. The constant theme of the letters would be found to be "do him, if you can." Having heard the evidence, the Jury would have to consider, first, whether the prisoner, Haynes, committed the murder; and next, whether the prisoner, Mary Clarke, incited him to do so.
Witnesses were then called in support of the prosecution.
Anthony Marriott. -- I am a labourer, living at Hellidon, near Charwell-house, and worked as labourer with Mr. Clarke, at his decease. I saw him on Saturday, the 10th of February, against the cow-house door; he was then in good health, and not far from the hay-rick. I went into the barn to thrash, and was about to pull my clothes off to begin, when I heard the report of a gun, which appeared to me to come from without. I opened the door and ran out. I met smoke coming towards me from the west, between the barn and the hay-rick. I perceived my poor master with his left hand supported by his right. He was groaning, and the blood running very much. I laid hold of him and led him to the barn door, in the road to the house. When we got to the barn door, I requested him to stop, and then ran to look over the wall, but could not see any one. I returned to my master, who was bleeding very much, and was very faint, and took him to the house. Mrs. Clarke, the prisoner, met me in the yard with my master, and said, it was no more than she expected, times and often, on account of stopping up the road. [Here it appeared that Mr. Clarke had stopped up a footway through the homestead.] I got him into the house, and pulled his coat off. Mrs. Clarke assisted in tying up his arm. She then ordered me to go for Mr. Yeomans, the surgeon of Badby, distant about three miles, and the nearest surgeon. I saw my master two or three times before his death, which happened on the following Tuesday morning, about four o'clock. The shot was fired about half past three in the afternoon of Saturday. When I went into the barn, I found things were not as I had left them. I found some loose barley scattered. I had swept it up the night before. I searched the barn on Monday morning about nine o'clock, and turned some loose barley back, and after getting down a good bit, I perceived something stir. I trod on his feet, and having stirred the part with my fork, some one said, "Be civil, and I will get up." It was the prisoner. I pushed the fork at him, and said, "You rascal, I have a good mind to stab you -- you did not mind killing my master." We then tied his hands, and secured him. I asked my mistress, on Saturday, whether I should stop all night. She said, "No, there was plenty".
Robert Wildegoose, Esq., of Daventry, formerly a surgeon in the army. I am conversant with gun-shot wounds. I was sent for to attend the late Mr. Clarke; saw him about six o'clock on the Saturday evening, found him on the bed, exhausted from loss of blood; examined him, and found the principal wound was in the under part of the elbow joint; there was another wound higher up; the first wound was so large that I could put my fingers in; it had then stopped bleeding; I found the bone so much injured that I advised amputation; we waited until Mr. Clarke had settled his affairs; he made his will, and the arm was amputated between the elbow and shoulder; we then examined the limb taken off more particularly, and found two loose pieces of bone, and some shots which had been opposed against the bone; we also found the principal artery had been divided, which necessarily occasioned great loss of blood; I saw him the next morning, and again on Monday; he was very weak, but perfectly sensible; I thought him then in a dangerous state; I remained with him for some hours; in my judgment, the wound was the cause of his death.
The evidence of T. Waterfield, Esq., another surgeon, was to the same effect.
John Plomer Clarke, Esq. -- I am a magistrate for this county, and went to the house of the deceased about ten o'clock in the morning of the 12th of February last; he was then very weak, but perfectly collected and sensible, and expressed his apprehensions that he should not recover. I took his deposition in his bed-chamber; his words were faintly spoken; I thought it better that he should not know that Haynes was in custody, until he had signed the deposition -- when signed, I told him Haynes had been taken; and on expressing his wish to see him, I ordered Haynes into the bed-chamber. Haynes came to the foot of the bed, and asked deceased with great unconcern how he did; the deceased looked at him, and with his remaining hand pointing towards him, said, "You bloody-minded fellow, how could you do me this unkind office?" Haynes replied, he had done nothing, and knew nothing about it. I then ordered Haynes out of the room, as the old man was much agitated. I afterwards went downstairs; I stated to Haynes what Mr. Clarke had said, and commented on his unfeeling manner, in the course of which I mentioned to him something about his conscience -- he said he had no conscience. I asked him how he came to be in the barn; he replied, he came there on his own private business, and should not tell me or any other man then, but probably he might tell me before he died.
The deposition of the deceased was then read, in which it was stated, that on Saturday evening he was cutting hay from the rick near the barn; that a gun was fired at him from the barn, which so severely wounded him in the arm, that it was obliged to be amputated -- that on Sunday, Mr. Canning brought in a wooden bottle, which deceased knew belonged to him; also, some bread and cheese, which deceased believed to be of the same kind as they were then consuming in the house; and that the bit of linen also brought in by Mr. Canning, was part of a frock, worn by his (deceased's) little girl.
Mr. Robt. Canning. -- I went with Cockerill, Tubb, and others, to search the barn; I got, by means of a ladder, to the top of the barley-mow, and found a large hole, about seven feet deep and two yards wide, in the barley, by the side of the wall, next the rick-yard, and on the side next the hay-rick; I called Tubb, and told him to go down into the hole and search it; I then called up Lomas, and went down to the hay-rick; they produced, in a short time, a gun, a wallet, a wooden bottle, and a glass bottle; the gun appeared black in the pan, as if it had been used; I took them from Lomas to the bed-side of Mr. Clarke; after I had shewn them to him, I took them home, locked them up, and went to the magistrate. In the wallet were two pieces of bread, one piece of cheese, and a piece of bacon; also a canvas bag or purse, in which was a tin powder flask, with some powder in it, several large slugs, and a quantity of large and small shot. On Sunday evening I set four men to watch the barn and premises, sent four or five men to the lodgings of the prisoner, and remained on the premises till nearly twelve on Sunday night. The next morning, I ordered Noon, Marriott, and Samuel Tubb, to go on the mow and turn the barley over; they shortly after called to me; when I came I looked on the mow and found they had got the prisoner Haynes; I went up the ladder, tied a cord round his arms, and sent him to the house. I observed the eaves of the barn from the hay-stack, where I had placed myself, and directed a gun to be pointed out at me: there is a space at the top of the mow in the barn, under the rafter, at which a gun might be put out. I knelt down on the rick, as if cutting, in a part where the hay had been recently cut, there was blood near it; the gun commanded me. On the Monday after the deceased was shot, on going into the house I met Mrs. Clarke, and asked her how she did; she made me no answer; I said, how is poor Clarke; she said, "I don't know, I have not seen him."
Mr. John Upton. -- I live at Badby, I searched Haynes on Monday, and found the pocket-book with the papers in it now produced, they have been in my custody ever since; the five pound forged note was also in it; I also found a paper with some marks of gunpowder about it, a canvass purse, with keys in it and pocket knives.
Mr. Richard Cole. -- I am one of the constables of Daventry; I went to the prisoner's lodgings, and found there a quantity of letters in a box; found also the bottle of laudanum now produced, in a box -- we found on the shelf in the kitchen, a quantity of lead, and in the same room the old coat or frock now produced. I observed that part of one of the pockets had been cut away. I compared the pocket that had been cut out, with the bag produced; it is my opinion, that it is part of the pocket, as it fits.
Robert Smith, I am a labourer, and worked with Mr. Clarke. I went for the doctor; whilst saddling the horse, Mrs. Clarke came to me about a quarter of an hour after the accident; she said, when I was mounting, "Don't kill the horse," -- when I came back, I was in the room assisting the surgeon. Mrs. Clarke, was in the kitchen, I called for some cloths, for Mr. Clarke was vomiting; she said, "there were cloths enough, and we might take them." There were none in the room, and she did not come up stairs, we therefore took a sheet off the other bed.
Several other witnesses were examined, whose testimony tended to substantiate in the most complete manner the evidence here given in detail. On the letters from the wretched woman to her brutal paramour being put in, a feeble attempt was made by the counsel for the defence to question their admissibility, on the ground that the hand-writing of the prisoner had not been sufficiently proved; -- to these objections the counsel for the prosecution were about to reply, when they were stopped by the Judge, who instantly decided that the letters were perfectly admissible. These letters were numbered, 1, 2, 8, 9, 11, 17, 24, 28, 29, 36, 40, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, and the following extracts from them prove too well the nature of the guilty compact existing between the prisoners.
No. 1. "I have caught a cold in getting out of bed to do his shoulder. He has an inflammation, and I hope God Almighty will take him before it be long."
No. 2. "You must have another plan, for when he goes out again he means to bring some one with him -- he has no thoughts of you -- when the night grows dark you may lit on him, and get another pistol which will carry -- he says the man that gave him the blow had a red striped waistcoat, and a short man -- I pray, day and night, it may be done between now and Christmas. -- I hope you will send word if you mean to watch again -- I am sure it may be done."
No. 8. "I hope it will not be long -- I hope you will watch all you can -- I shall not see you till you have done it -- I hope you will do it as soon as you can -- do it safe,"
No. 11. "I could be happy if the Old -- was dead."
No. 17. "I hope you will watch him all you can, and do him, if you can."
No. 24. "The £10 you change at Bonham's keep £1 yourself, and send me the rest."
No. 28. "Our shepherd is gone soldiering, and the Old -- shepherds himself, now is your time to do him and settle him, if you intend to do it."
No. 29. "I cannot tell when he will go out anywhere -- and I dare not let you come when he is here -- when it is done, -- ."
No. 36. "I wish you would contrive to do it, for it may as well be done first as last -- and now he goes himself, you may do it better."
No. 40. "When they are a-field you must hide yourself, and do it -- On Sunday he is in all day -- I wish the -- would fetch him -- I shall not come down to Byfield till you have done it, and settle the Old --. I dreamt that you and I were talking against the meadow-gate, and the old man came to us, and you ran after him and fired at him, and missed him -- but when you do, you mind that and yourself -- you must watch for him all day when you can, and do it -- and mind yourself."
42. "I tell you the Old -- has seen Elkington; but he did not say he see you and I together -- mind yourself."
No. 44. "I hope you will try all you can to get rid of the Old -- now I must tell you, you don't mean to do it -- so tell me from your heart, whether you mean to do it or not -- for I will make away with myself if you don't do it."
No. 45. "If it is not done in a short time, I cannot see what will be the end of it -- I with you would do it as soon as you possibly can -- It seems strange to me that it should be so long about -- I must say I think you can't watch for him so much as you say -- I am sure he has no will made no more than what I told you of."
No. 46. "I wish you would send me some laudum [laudanum] and I will see what I can do for him -- I will do it if I can -- send me that or something else."
No. 47. "I pray you to do all you can to get shut of him, for there is nobody knows what I go through, but God and myself. -- I have thirteen calves and lambs to serve, and thirteen dozen of butter, but d-- him, do him if you can."
The above letters are generally addressed to the prisoner, Haynes, in the terms of "my dear friend."
The prisoner, Haynes, being called upon for his defence, said he was innocent, and never had a gun, or any thing of the kind.
The prisoner, Mary Clarke, said she left her defence to her counsel.
The Judge then recapitulated the whole of the evidence to the Jury, and observed, that in order to find the prisoners guilty of the offence charged, they must be satisfied, first, that Mr. Clarke died in consequence of the wound he received, and that Haynes fired at and gave him that wound; and secondly, they must be satisfied that the prisoner Mary Clarke, instigated him to commit the crime.
After a short consultation, the Jury returned a verdict of Guilty, against both the prisoners. His Lordship then proceeded to pass sentence: he stated, that the prisoners had been convicted upon the most clear and satisfactory evidence, of the foul and tremendous crime of murder, which in this particular case was aggravated by every consideration, it having been committed by the wife and servant, after a long and libidinous intercouse; that the law permitted them but a short time to live; that it would be in vain for either of them to expect mercy in this world; that in a very few days, and indeed in a very few hours, the follies and vanities of this life would be closed upon them for ever -- a short time only was open for repentance, but there were hopes that by a sincere and true repentance, even at the last, the Divine wrath might be averted; that Philip Haynes, who said he had no conscience, must have an inward monitor who told him that he had transgressed, and that Mary Clarke, although her affections were alienated from her husband, owed still a duty to herself; that he hoped both would sincerely repent, and prepare for what was to come -- that it was his Lordship's painful duty to denounce against them that sentence which the law had awarded to their crime; that sentence was -- "That you, Philip Haynes, and you, Mary Clarke, be taken from hence to the prison from whence you came, and taken from thence on Saturday next, the 10th day of March instant, to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the necks until you are severally dead, and that your bodies when dead, be taken down and dissected and anatomized; and may the Lord have mercy on your souls!"
Previous to their execution, these wretched culprits made confession of the crime for which they were to suffer, and narrated in detail the particulars of their proceedings for the accomplishment of their diabolical purpose. They acknowledged that a criminal intercourse had subsisted between them for nearly two years, and also that many schemes had been planned for the purpose of effecting the destruction of their victim; and the female prisoner acknowledged to having made repeated overtures to her guilty paramour for the destruction of her husband, long before the dreadful deed was effected.