The Newgate Calendar - JOHN HANNAH

Executed for the Murder of his Wife.

            This case exhibits so much brutal insensibility, that we shall give it in the words of the witnesses on whose testimony he was convicted. He was indicted at the general sessions for Yarmouth, September the 3d, 1813, for the wilful murder of his wife. His age was sixty-seven years.

            On the trial, Elizabeth Betts deposed that she rented a room directly over the one in which the prisoner lived; that on the morning of the 15th of April she was alarmed about three o'clock with a dreadful cry of murder; she went down stairs and called out, 'You old rogue, you are murdering your wife;'-- she heard Elizabeth Hannah say, 'For God's sake come in, for my husband is murdering me!' but witness, knowing the violence of the prisoner's temper, was afraid, and said she dare not go in, but went up stairs to dress herself, with a view of procuring assistance; she went out and told a neighbour, of the name of Thomson, that Hannah and his wife were quarrelling, and was going to the watch-house to procure some assistance; she, however, did not succeed, the watch being off duty; on her return her children were crying and out of bed, which obliged her to remain with them; she called frequently to the prisoner to come out of his room, or he would be the death of his wife; she heard the cries of the deceased about a quarter of an hour after her return from the watch-house; she distinctly heard three heavy groans, after which all was silent, and she went to bed; she got up about six o'clock, and did not leave the door of the prisoner till it was opened by the constable.

            James Storey, a constable, deposed that he broke open the door of the house, and entered the room with several neighbours, when he saw Elizabeth Hannah lying on the bed, dead, with her arms by her side, as if laid out, and the bedclothes covered smoothly over her; the bed-clothes were removed, said he saw the deceased had apparently a bruise on the front of her neck; he saw the prisoner sitting near the bed-side, smoking a pipe, and looking at the bed. He said to him, 'Why, John, surely you have murdered your wife:' to which he replied, 'She was always quarrelling with me.' Witness said there were other means of getting rid of her than killing her. The prisoner made no reply.

            The prisoner made no defence, and the jury brought in their verdict, Guilty. The trial lasted five hours, during which the prisoner, who was represented of a most ungovernable temper, remained entirely unmoved. He behaved likewise with the same brutal insensibility at the place of execution on Monday, September 6th, 1813. On ascending the gallows he confessed 'That he was the murderer of his wife, by strangling her with his hands, and not with a rope, as had been stated; he said they had lived a very uncomfortable life for many years past, owing to his wife giving her company to other men, which was the cause of his committing the murder.' The instant before being turned off, he particularly requested to see his daughter, when he was informed it was not possible, as she was confined in Bedlam; he also desired the gaoler to look under the step of the cell, and he would there find four shillings and sixpence. He had disposed by will of some little property, the joint savings of himself and his wife. A signal was then given, and the unfeeling man was immediately launched into eternity. The body, after hanging the usual time, was delivered to the surgeons for dissection. The gaoler, on his return, found the money, as described, in the cell.


Previous Next