We do not recollect that we have ever met with an instance of a burglary having been committed attended with greater violence or atrocity, than that for which this man underwent the punishment of death.
The Reverend William Warrington, it appears, was a gentleman of large property, residing at Grove Cottage, West Moulsey, in the vicinity of that well-known spot, Moulsey Hurst, Surrey; and on the night of Wednesday, 19th of November, 1828, his house was entered by four burglars, and a great quantity of valuable property carried off. Mr. Warrington's house adjoined that of Mr. Jeffs, a magistrate of the county, and a ladder, which had been accidentally left in the garden of the latter gentleman, was employed by the thieves in effecting an entrance to the house, which they had determined to rob. The circumstances attending the burglary are as follows:--
Between one and two o'clock on Wednesday morning, Mrs. Warrington was in her bed-chamber engaged in writing, and Mr. Warrington was in the same room in bed, asleep, when the former was terrified by hearing some persons at the back part of the house attempting to force a window on the first floor, which opened to a staircase and to a passage leading to the bed-room. Before she had time to alarm her husband, the fastenings of the window were wrenched off, without breaking the glass, and as she opened her bedroom door, she beheld four men, who had entered at the window by means of the ladder before-mentioned, in the act of ascending the stairs and approaching her chamber. Her fears were so excessive, that she was struck speechless for a few seconds. When she recovered, she shrieked, and exclaimed, "Good God, we shall be murdered; there are thieves in the house." Her husband was awoke instantly by her cries, and he had just time to leap from his bed and proceed in his shirt to the mantelpiece, on which he constantly kept a loaded pistol, before the four villains entered the chamber. He seized the pistol, levelled it at one of the thieves, and fired, but without effect. The first man who entered the room, a dark, ferocious-looking fellow, however, in turn drew from under his coat a pistol, and presented it at Mr. Warrington. The villain pulled the trigger, but the powder did not ignite. He recocked it, and pulled it a second time, and it flashed in the pan. Mrs. Warrington fell upon her knees, and in the most earnest and affecting manner implored the villains not to murder her husband, but to take all the property without interruption. The thieves then produced some cords (which they had stolen from Mr. Jeffs' garden), and tied Mr. and Mrs. Warrington's hands and feet. Their hands they tied fast behind their backs, and cautioned them to be silent as they valued their lives. They left Mr. and Mrs. Warrington in their bed-room for a few minutes, and proceeded up stairs to the servants' sleeping apartments, and there they bound two female servants (the only persons in the house beside Mr. and Mrs. W.) with cords, in the same manner in which they had previously bound the others. After they had bound them, the four robbers carried them downstairs to a vault which was under the house, and fastened them in that cold place, with scarcely any covering. The villains then returned to Mr. Warrington's bed-room, searched his clothes, and broke open his desks and drawers, and, in truth, ransacked the house completely. They took cash to the amount of about 30l., and jewels and plate of considerable value, with which they decamped. The servants had been confined for several hours in the vault, when one of them, after much exertion, released one of her hands from the cord, and forced her way through the door of the vault. After ascending the steps, she found another door fastened, and she had to break through that before she could assist her master and mistress, who were in the most deplorable state of agitation. She unloosed the cords which secured them, and having released her fellow-servant also, they alarmed Mr. Jeff's' family and the other neighbours. Mr. Warrington found that not only all his portable property of value was carried off, but that the villains had actually stolen a horse, value 80 guineas, from the stable, and had taken his phaeton from his chaise-house, and by these means had carried off their booty. Mr. Warrington sent information of the robbery to Mr. Cooke, constable of Kingston, who set off in pursuit of the robbers. He was able to trace the phaeton and horse and two of the robbers from the house of Mr. Warrington, by a very circuitous route, to Waltonbridge, and from thence through several by-roads to Knightsbridge.
On the same day Mr. Warrington also gave information of the robbery at Bow-street, and Ellis, Ruthven, and Bishop, were directed to institute an investigation with a view to the apprehension of the thieves.
Upon the arrival of the officers at the house of Mr. Warrington various minute circumstances transpired, which induced a strong belief in their minds that the robbery had not been committed by experienced thieves; and that it had been "put up," or sanctioned by some person in the house. The clumsy manner in which the boxes and drawers had been opened seemed to point to the first impression, and the undoubted circumstance of six buck-shot having been withdrawn from Mr. Warrington's pistol which had been lying on the mantelpiece during several days, led to the latter conclusion. Suspicion seemed to attach to one of the female servants, who had been familiarly accosted by her name, "Fanny," by one of the robbers, and who had been the first to secure her escape from the cords by which she had been confined, and she was taken into custody. After a few days' imprisonment, however, the officers declared themselves unable to produce any positive evidence against her, and she was discharged.
From this time the most anxious exertions were made by the police officers to secure the robbers. Every means in their power was tried; but although they succeeded in tracing them by witnesses to London, where Mr. Warrington's carriage and horse were found, they were unable to discover who were the persons by whom the burglary had been perpetrated.
In the month of July 1829, however, the long-pending mystery was solved. A man named Barnett, a Jew, had been convicted of a burglary in the house of Mr. Colebatch, in Thames-street, for which he had been, sentenced to transportation for life; but anxious to save himself from the infliction of this punishment, he tendered information as to the parties who had composed "The Moulsey Gang," as they were now called, upon condition of his liberty being restored to him. The proposition was at once accepted, and he immediately impeached Banks, and four other men named John Smith, William Johnson, James Taylor, and William Potts, alias Emery. The officers instantly set about endeavouring to procure the apprehension of these persons, and Cragg, a resolute officer of Bow-street, was directed to proceed in search of Banks. This fellow was a notorious thief, and was suspected to have been concerned in many robberies which had recently been committed; but Cragg had heard that he had frequently declared his resolution not to be taken alive. The officer, however, was determined in his object, and attiring himself in the garb of a butcher, he proceeded in search of him. Many days elapsed before he could find him, but at length meeting with him, he rushed at him, and presenting a pistol at his head, called upon him to surrender himself a prisoner. Banks appeared astounded at this salutation and made no resistance, but exclaimed, "I am a dead man." On his person being searched, a loaded pistol was found in his pocket, and on his back was a coat, which was a part of the produce of a robbery in which he had been recently before concerned, in the house of Mr. Campion, at Waltham Cross.
The other prisoners were apprehended nearly at the same time; and Potts was proved to have pawned a pair of shoes which had also been stolen from Mr. Campion's. Upon their examination before the magistrates at Bow-street, Banks' participation in both burglaries was clearly proved, and he was committed for trial. Both Mr. and Mrs. Warrington identified him as one of the persons who had entered their house, but pointed him out as having acted with some degree of humanity, strongly protesting against the exercise of any cruelty by his companions.
Banks alone was committed for trial upon the charge of burglary at Mr. Warrington's, the evidence against the other prisoners not being sufficiently conclusive to warrant their being indicted, and was found guilty, and sentenced to death at the succeeding Surrey assizes.
After his conviction, he professed himself to be perfectly willing to meet his fate, as he knew nothing of a state hereafter, declaring that all he cared about being hanged was for the pain it would cause him. He refused to receive any consolation from the chaplain, and was perfectly unmoved up to the time of his being pinioned.
He was hanged at Horsemonger-lane jail on the 11th of January, 1830.