The murder of which this unfortunate man was convicted, appears to be entirely unjustified by any of those circumstances, which, in some instances, form a palliative, small though it be, for offences of a similar description.
The object of his crime was Mr. John Holiday Ready, who carried on the business of a tailor and draper, at No.125, Ratcliffe Highway. It appears that Pegsworth was a man in a decent station of life, occupying a situation as messenger in the tea-department of St. Katherine's Docks; and he at one time also pursued the trade of a tobacconist, in a shop opposite to that of Mr. Ready, No.69, Ratcliffe Highway, which, however, only a short time before the murder he had given up. In the course of his residence here, he became indebted to Mr. Ready in the amount of 20s., for a jacket which had been supplied to him for his son; but although he had been frequently pressed to pay the sum which was due, he always declined upon some frivolous ground. At length Ready, determined no longer to wait for his money, summoned his debtor to the Court of Requests, and Mrs. Ready having proved the debt on the 10th of January, 1837, an order was made on the defendant to pay the amount with costs. On Pegsworth returning home, he expressed himself much exasperated at the conduct of Ready, and said that he would be "the death of him." His wife endeavoured to pacify him, but in vain; and he went out, vowing vengeance against the man who, he said, had injured him. Proceeding through Ratcliffe Highway, he purchased a large knife, such as would be used in killing a pig, at the shop of a cutler, and armed with this formidable weapon he went direct to the house of Ready. He entered the shop, and calmly and coolly conversed with Mrs. Ready; and her husband having invited him to sit down in the back parlour, he at once advanced towards him. For a few minutes he continued in conversation upon the subject of the debt, when presently he demanded to know whether his creditor intended to proceed upon the judgment which he had obtained? Mr. Ready answered decidedly in the affirmative, upon which he suddenly drew forth his knife, and stabbed the unfortunate man in the right breast. The murdered man exclaimed that he was stabbed, and instantly expired; while his wife rushed frantically into the street, as soon as she discovered what had occurred, calling loudly for assistance. Several persons instantly ran into the house, and they found Pegsworth in the act of withdrawing the knife from the wound, but making no effort whatever to escape. He was immediately secured, and surgical aid was called in, but it was found that the knife of the assassin had passed through the principal arteries into the lungs, and that the unfortunate Mr. Ready was quite dead.
At a coroner's inquest held on the body of the deceased on Thursday the 12th of January, a verdict of "Wilful Murder" was returned against Pegsworth, and he was fully committed to Newgate for trial. Before his trial Pegsworth confessed that he had been guilty of the act with which he stood charged, but he declared that he was intoxicated, and in a high degree of excitement at the time. He professed the most sincere repentance for his act, and declared his intention to pass the remainder of his short life in prayers for forgiveness.
On Friday the 3d of February, the prisoner was arraigned on the indictment which had been preferred against him at the Central Criminal Court. He immediately confessed himself guilty of the offence imputed to him, and notwithstanding the humane interference of the learned judge refused to withdraw that plea.
On Tuesday the 7th of February, the prisoner was brought up to receive sentence, when the recorder addressed to him the following observations: "Let me implore you (said he) to bethink yourself of the awful situation in which you stand, on the brink of eternity and of the grave, beyond which there is no room for repentance. The legislature, in cases of murder, has, by a recent statute, interposed an increased interval between conviction and condemnation, and between condemnation and the final execution of the dreadful sentence of the law. It has done so in its humanity, and consistently with sound policy; but it has extended to the murderer a mercy which the murderer has not shown to his victim. The rash hand of the guilty individual who, without warning, hurries a fellow-creature to another world, cuts off from him the opportunity of approaching his Maker in prayer, or of preparing for that judgment which is painful for the best, and overwhelming for those who are not ready. [Here the prisoner became visibly affected.] You will be afforded an interval for seeking that mercy at the throne of God which you cannot expect from the laws of man." The learned gentleman then passed the sentence of death upon the prisoner.
On Wednesday, the 1st of March, the case of the prisoner was reported to his Majesty, and he was ordered for execution on the following Tuesday the 7th of March.
On that day the sentence was carried into effect; the wretched convict meeting his fate with becoming resignation.