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The Newgate Calendar - WILLIAM SHEEN.

Tried for the Murder of his Child.

            The case of this man has always attracted a considerable portion of public attention.

            The facts of the dreadful affair which we have been enabled to obtain, are as follows:-- The alleged perpetrator of the horrid act is a native of Radnorshire, South Wales, and was born about the year 1803. He obtained his livelihood by chopping wood, and selling it in bundles about the streets of the metropolis, as also did his father and youngest brother, who lived in White's-yard, Rosemary-lane, near Tower-hill. The wretched man himself lived, with his wife and infant, at the house of John Pomeroy, No.2, Caroline-court, Lambeth-street. About February 1827, he was married to the mother of the unfortunate child, previously to which she had given it birth, which reaching the ears of the parish officers of St. Katherine, the parochial officers, upon condition that he would marry her, presented him with 5l. From the moment the little creature was born the wretched father seemed to have the greatest hatred towards it, and frequently he would wantonly, whilst it lay in its mother's lap, strike it on its head with his fist, or anything that first came to hand; and whenever the mother offered the child to him to kiss, he always turned his head away in great anger. Yet not the slightest thought ever entered the mind of any person that he premeditated its destruction. On the Sunday before the murder, while the mother was dressing the little creature, he took up a piece of wood that lay on the table, and struck it over the head with such force, that a large bump was raised. About half-past seven o'clock on a Thursday evening in the month of May he came home, and the child was then asleep at the breast in its mother's lap. He gave her money to procure the necessaries for tea, and desired her to leave the child on the bed, as it was in a sound sleep. She did so, and the wretch lay down by the side of it. She left the room, and was gone about a quarter of an hour, but, on her return, and opening the room-door, her feelings of horror can be more easily conceived than described, when she beheld the head of her offspring weltering in blood on the table, with its eyes fixed towards the door. The poor creature, half mad, ran down stairs and called out, "Murder, murder! "and meeting Mrs. Pomeroy, she exclaimed, "Oh, my God! Mrs. Pomeroy, come up stairs, and see what my Bill has done; he has cut my poor child's head off!" The woman and several of the neighbours ran up stairs, and found proof of the horrid deed. The head of the child was lying as above described, and the bleeding body was placed on the bed. Information was directly given at the Police-office, and Dalton and Davis, the officers, proceeded to the room, which they searched, but the weapon with which the murderer committed the deed could not be found; but in one corner of the room they found his fustian coat and hat, both of them covered with blood. Several persons went in pursuit of the wretched man; but the only trace they could obtain of him was, that directly the murder was committed, he was observed running, in his shirtsleeves, towards his father's house, in White's-yard, Rosemary-lane, where he was seen to beckon his father out, who was also in his shirtsleeves, and they both went away together.

            From subsequent inquiries it was discovered that Sheen had borrowed a coat and 10s. from a man named Pugh, who lived in Carnaby Market, pretending that he had had a fight with an Irishman, and was obliged in consequence to abscond; and it was further found, that he had made off, in order to avoid being taken into custody.

            Davis, the officer of Lambeth-street, was in consequence directed by the magistrates to endeavour to procure the apprehension of the supposed offender; and we shall give his statement of the means which he employed to secure this object, exhibiting as they do the most praiseworthy ingenuity and perseverance, on his part, in securing the object which he had in view. The officer was examined at Worship-street Police-office, and his evidence was as follows:--

            "I left town last Friday night, (May the 18th,) by the Birmingham coach, understanding that the prisoner had gone in that direction. While on my way thither, at about a mile beyond Stratford-on-Avon, a person got on the coach, having the appearance of a discharged soldier, who, in the course of conversation, told me he had exchanged a hat on that morning with a man who said he was going to Birmingham, whom, from the description he gave me of his clothing, I believed to be Sheen. On my arrival at Birmingham, on Saturday, about four o'clock, I without delay commenced a most diligent search, which I continued, but without success, until half-past twelve at night. I resumed it on Sunday, and found the person spoken of, about two o'clock, in the Lamb public-house, in Edgestonstreet: he, however, proved not to be the man I wanted. On Monday morning I proceeded through Worcester to Kington, Herefordshire, having reason, from the information I had received, to believe that the prisoner had taken that direction. From circumstances that occurred it struck me that I was in advance of him, and, under this impression, I waited on the bridge, at the entrance of the town, for five hours. While there, considering the best plan I should adopt, I came to the conclusion of going to the remotest inn in the town, to evade publicity, and conceal the object of my journey. While remaining in the town, I deemed it prudent to communicate with one of the county magistrates, and inform him who I was, and what I came down about. I in consequence called on Edward Cheese, Esq., a. magistrate and banker, residing in Kington, and from him received every assistance. From the number of Sheen's relatives living in the neighbourhood, and for twenty miles round Kington, I was kept constantly on the move, and traversed and searched a number of places and houses where I thought it likely he might be concealed.

            "While traversing the country, I, from the fear of being recognised, assumed the dress of a countryman, and, with a smock-frock on, I casually went into a public-house, where there were a number of Cardigan drovers, and here I thought my labours would be unsuccessful, for one of them having read from a London paper an account of the murder, and a description of the murderer, who was at once known, I concluded that such warning would be conveyed to him as would defeat my object, particularly as they were going among all his friends. I returned on the same night to Kington; and on the following day a circumstance occurred which enabled me to secure Sheen. On the morning of that day, while cleaning myself, I left my coat (in the side-pocket of which I generally carry my handcuffs and pistols) in the kitchen, and on my return was surprised at finding that the handcuffs had been removed, and were lying on the seat. This was accounted for afterwards by its being told me that they had dropped out, a circumstance that alarmed me a good deal, as they had my name on them, and would lead, as I supposed, to the discovery of who I was and what was my business. I was not much mistaken, for while in my bedroom the person called on me who picked up the handcuffs, and said, "I know who you are, and guess what your business here is -- I can give you some information which I think will be of service." I then collected from him such facts, and so distinct a trace of Sheen, as induced me to go to Penny Bont, taking with me an active constable, of Kington, named Yates. On my arrival there I stopped at the Severn Arras Inn, and in the after part of the evening a man came in and asked for the London paper; this he read carefully, and when he had concluded, first looking inquisitively round the room, he hastily departed in a very agitated manner. His appearance and conduct excited my suspicions, and I inquired from the landlady who he was, and where he lived. I heard that his name was James -- that he was married to Sheen's aunt, and that he lived at about two miles' distance from the village. I at once followed him, and saw him enter a house, called the Lane House, in Llanbadenwaur, in Radnorshire; and having ascertained where he resided, I returned to the inn, and accompanied by Yates, went back with the intention of searching the house, but thought it prudent not then to do so, as in the event of his not being there, he would be put on his guard. On second consideration I went back again to the Lane House, and having placed Yates at the rear of the premises, I burst in the door, first giving Yates directions, should he see any one coming out answering the description of Sheen, to secure him, and should he attempt to make his escape, to fire at him without hesitation. On going in I found several people in the house, but not the person I wanted, and a third time I returned to my lodgings. In about three hours afterwards, accompanied as before, and making similar arrangements, having received further information, I returned to the same house, and there secured Sheen; he was sitting at breakfast in the chimney corner, and on examining his person, I found on him a shirt spotted with blood, particularly on the neck and right wristband. He came with me very quietly and when I apprehended him, said, 'Oh, Mr. Davis, is it you? -- I shall go with you without any resistance.'" Thus terminated Davis's account, and to some questions from the magistrate, Mr. Wyatt, he said, that Sheen had made no confession to him directly, but that he heard him make one indirectly to the landlady of a public-house in Radnor, to whom he was known, and who asked him, 'How, in the name of God, came you to do such a cruel thing? 'and he replied, 'It was not God, but the devil.'"

            During the time occupied in this search by Davis, a coroner's inquest had been held upon the body of the deceased child, and circumstances having been proved implicating the father of the infant, a verdict of Wilful Murder was returned against him.

            On Friday the 1st of June following, the prisoner was put upon his trial at the Old Bailey, charged upon the indictment with the wilful murder of "William Sheen."

            The circumstances which we have detailed were then proved in evidence, but an objection being taken by the prisoner's counsel as to the sufficiency of the description of the deceased, who had been baptised "William Charles Beadle Sheen," it was held to be fatal to the indictment, and a verdict of Not Guilty was, in consequence, returned.

            Application was, however, made to the court that the prisoner should be kept in custody, with a view to the presentment of a new indictment to the grand jury.

            At the ensuing sessions a second bill of indictment, in which the formal error which we have pointed out was corrected, was presented, and the prisoner was put on his trial on the 13th July. A plea of autre fois acquit was then pleaded in bar, and evidence having been given that the real name of the deceased was sufficiently well known to have enabled the prosecutors to have stated it properly in the first indictment, Mr. Justice Burrough, declared that the prisoner could not be again put upon his trial.

            Sheen was then discharged, but not until he had received a proper and most affecting admonition from the learned judge as to his past life, and a warning to let his future conduct wipe off the stain, which his position had cast upon his character.

            The wretched man is, we believe, still alive, and residing in the vicinity of the spot which was the scene of his unhappy child's death; and we regret to add that he has not unfrequently been the subject of charges before the police magistrates of the district, upon allegations of riot and intoxication.


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