Benjamin Stevens, Killing > murder, 30th May 1745.

Reference Number: t17450530-25
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

289. + Benjamin Stevens , was indicted for that he on the 26th day of April , in the 18th year of his Majesty's reign, upon Sarah his wife , in the peace of God. &c. feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault, and with a certain knife, of the value of one penny, which he then had and held in his right hand, in and upon the left side of the breast, between the fourth and fifth ribs, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike and stab, and thereby gave her one mortal wound of the breadth of one inch, and of the depth of three inches, of which she instantly died; and therefore the J urors say, that he she said Benjamin Stevens , the said Sarah his wife, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice asorethought, did kill and murder against his Majesty's peace, &c .

He was a second time charged by virtue of the Coroner's Inquisition for the said murder.

Sarah Connell . The Prisoner and his wife lodged in my house.

Q. Look at the Prisoner, do you know him?

Connell. Yes; it is Benjamin Stevens ; I came here to speak the truth.

Q. How long did they lodge in your house?

Connell. They had been about a month there: it is a ready furnished lodging, and they have a lock and key to themselves. The

action was done three doors off my house: they lodge in a separate apartment from my house.

Q. When was this done?

Connell. It was done the Friday before May Day: the deceased was alive and well, and came to me with a pair of upper leathers between three and four in the afternoon.

Q. What is your husband?

Connell. My husband is a cordwainer , and the Prisoner is the same, and his wife closed upper leathers for the trade. About three quarters of an hour after six the Prisoner came to my house, and desired I would go into the chamber to his wife; he was in a good deal of confusion and disorder. I asked him what was the matter; he said he was afraid she was dead: I said I hoped there had been no quarrel, or that she had not fell into a fit.

Q. Did she use to fall into fits?

Connell. I cannot tell: he said he wished I would make haste up, for there was a great effusion of blood: I said, I hoped they had not been quarrelling; he said with a great deal of concern, it was a very bad quarrel, for he was afraid she was dead. Said I, I hope you have not killed your wife; he said, he had given a helping hand to it, for she was stabbed; I told him I was sadly surprized at it.

Q. How came he to tell you this?

Connell. I cannot tell; he came himself.

Q. Was he drunk or sober?

Connell. I thought he was very sober; he always behaved himself in a very handsom manner.

Q. Did he behave well to her?

Connell. He always behaved in a very pretty handsom manner to her, and as I think in a very loving manner.

Q. Did the Prisoner offer to run away?

Connell. I'll tell you by and by. My husband said, why don't you go? I said, I did not care to go among blood by myself, so Rose Dockery and Ann Nugent went with me: we found her in naked bed, in her shift, and dead, but to all appearance, and my belief, when I first saw her, I thought she was fast asleep. I turned down the bed clothes, and there was a wound through her shift into her left breast.

Q. How came she to be in bed in the afternoon?

Connell. He said he had been in bed too, and by the bed it appeared as if he had been in bed too; for when they had got a drop of liquor, they used to go to bed.

Q. How came the Prisoner to come and tell you such a story, and not run away?

Connell. I cannot tell. I desired Ann Nugent to go for a Constable, and not to make any noise about it, for if he should know of a Constable being sent for, he may go off; and I will go and keep him in discourse till the Constable comes; so she went to Mr. Oake a Constable in the Coal Yard. I thought to find the Prisoner in my husband's room, but when I came he was gone. I was very angry at it, and said, there was a very barbarous murder committed, and we should be undone.

Q. Had they quarrelled that day?

Connell. I never heard of any quarrel before.

Q. How came you to conceive he had done such a barbarous murder?

Connell. I had not known it if he had not come and told me.

Q. Do you think he was sober when he told it you?

Connell. I think he was as sober then as he is now.

Q. Did you search the wound?

Connell. No; I only laid my hand upon her head and forehead; as she lay quite still, I spoke to her, and desired if she had any breath in her to move or lift up her eyes, but she did not do either. I went there afterwards, and the Prisoner with us, and there was this knife upon the seat that he worked upon [a shoemaker's knife.] I asked him how the knife came there; he said he put it upon the seat himself. The knife was bloody, and there were no sparkles of blood upon her fingers, hands, or face, and hardly any upon the sheet.

Q. Was there any great quantity of blood?

Connell. The blood run through the bed upon the ground, but there was no blood upon the upper sheet. There was no appearance as if she had made any struggling or opposition, and it is my opinion she was killed in her sleep.

Prisoner. Did you ever hear me give my wife an ill word, but only good words, and good usage?

Connell. I never did indeed, Mr. Stevens; I never heard any words between you.

Edmund Killick . On the 27th of April I was sent for to open the body of the deceased; upon viewing the body I found a wound on the left side of the breast, I examined the wound, and found it two inches transversed near the sternon into the pericardium, and into the left ventricle of the heart, and this must be attended with sudden death. I put this knife into the wound, and it fitted exactly.

Q. Are you of opinion that she was asleep when the wound was given?

Killick. It is most probable that she was asleep, because there was no spring of blood: there can be no circulation of the blood without its going into the left ventricle of the heart.

Richard Oake . On the 26th of April Mrs. Connell sent a person to acquaint me that she was afraid there was murder committed; I immediately went and found the deceased bloody in bed, with the bed clothes turned a little way down: I took her by the hand, and found she was dead.

Q. Did you see any knife there?

Oake. Yes.

Q. Was the knife bloody?

Oake. The knife was bloody, and there was a great deal of blood in the bed, and upon the bed. I went to his master Purdue's where he worked and enquired for him, and desired them, if he came to lay hold of him, and send for me, for I believe he had murdered his wife. I went to several houses in Clare Market where the shoemakers use, and could not find him. I went to the house where he lodged before, and he was not there, but they gave him a very good character; then I went back to my house, and found him there drinking a pot of beer with two men. I told him I must take him into custody; he said he was very willing to surrender himself to me. I said, are you the husband of that unfortune woman who is murdered? Yes, said he; I am the unfortunate man who gave her that mortal wound.

He seemed to be vastly concerned, and said, he could freely take the knife and cut his throat for what he had done. He said he believed he should be hanged, and desired nothing but to submit to justice; and desired I would not let him be ill used by the mob. Then he prevaricated, and said, she had got the knife at her breast, and that she said, Now you rogue thrust it in; and that he thrust the knife into her breast.

Prisoner. Did not I surrender myself voluntarily?

Oake. You made no resistance.

Q. Why did not you surrender yourself in the same house where you committed the fact?

Stevens. I was in such a distraction that I did not know what I did.

Ann Nugent . I went with Mrs. Connell, and saw the deceased lye dead in her bed with only her shift on.

Rose Dockery. I went up stairs with Mary Connell between five and six o'clock, and saw the dead body all in her gore, and I saw some blood under the bed upon the ground; and there was a knife which was bloody, and lay upon the seat; I think this is the knife.

Sir Thomas De Veil . The Prisoner was brought before me, and desired to make a voluntary confession. I read the confession twice to him, and he signed it voluntarily and freely, and was very sober. I told him I believed it would be the finishing stroke for him: he seemed to be very penitent, and said, he made this confession of his own accord.

The voluntary confession of Benjamin Stevens , taken before Sir Thomas De Veil , April 27, 1745.

He says, ' That on the 27th of April in ' the evening, he had a quarrel with his wife ' Sarah Stevens , that she put a shoemaker's ' knife to her breast, and bid him kill her, ' and that he thrust the knife into her breast: ' and that they had lived many years in discord. ' And he says that he is sorry for his ' crime, and readily submits himself to justice.'

Sworn Apr . 26, 1745.

Signed voluntarily, Benjamin Stevens .

Prisoner. I had sent her out to buy some victuals, and she came home twice without

any: she went out the third time, and I followed her: we went and drank two or three pints of beer, and she drank a dram, for she has been very much addicted to drinking. I persuaded her to go home and go to bed, and I did design to go to bed, in order to get up betimes in the morning. She took the knife off the seat, which is just by the bed, and desired I would kill her, and I dissuaded her from it, and we both struggled, and both fell down upon the bed, and I fell upon her, and run the knife into her.

Connell. It is my opinion she was asleep when she was killed, for I am sure she could not put the knife from her.

John Purdue . This unfortunate man has worked for me and my father twenty two or twenty four years, and in all that time I never saw him strike or abuse his wife, but has used her with abundance of good manners. No body knows what he has undergone with her.

Q. Did you never see him strike or abuse her?

Purdue. I never saw him abuse her; whenever she wanted money of me she had it, and he paid me again. She had a shilling of me that day this unhappy accident happened. I was surprized when the Constable and his landlady came to my house, and said, he had killed his wife.

Q. You said something of his suffering very much by her, how did he suffer?

Purdue. He did suffer very much, for the poor man could not keep a coat to his back, for she was very much addicted to drinking. He came to my shop about half an hour after the Constable had been there: said I, Stevens, what have you done? They say you have murdered your wife; then he said, if I have, I will go and surrender myself to Justice De Veil, and he said he would go to the Constable who lives in the Coal Yard.

Q. What time was that?

Purdue. It might be half an hour after six, or near seven.

Connell. There was a woman in the room even with the Prisoner's; I asked her, if she did not hear any noise, and she made answer, no, and said there was not a word spoke, and she had not been out of the room; that made me think the deceased was asleep.

Oake. The woman said there was no noise or disturbance at all.

Mary Wyman . On the 26th or 27th of April, on a Friday night, I heard of this unhappy accident; I was the more surprized at it, because Mr. Stevens and his wife had always behaved very civilly and endearing to one another : to be sure the woman was very much addicted to drinking; and he has said, Mrs. Wyman, what must I do with this unhappy woman? And he said, he was afraid she would make him do what he would not do; either to make away with her, or to make away with himself. I said, Mr. Stevens, you have had a great deal of patience, and you must have patience. I never heard him abuse her or say that she was a drunkard; and she was not abusive neither; for if she got a little liquor, she would go to bed.

James Robinson . I belong to a benefit club with Stevens, where they allow some money for burying wives; and hearing of this accident, I went to look at the woman, and the Prisoner desired me to go up to help his wife, or she would die for want of help: when I saw her, I said to him, you have killed your wife; God forbid, said he, but we have had a scuffle, and in this scuffle she has got an unlucky cut. She lay close to the side of the bed-stead, and it was easy for her to reach the knife. He is a very temperate man, and I hardly ever heard him swear an oath.

Q. Do you think there was a sign of any struggling?

Robinson. I cannot tell, her eyes were open. He is a very honest man, I have known him some years; she was very much given to drinking, and he always gave her the best of words, I never heard him give her a miss word.

Mary Robinson . I am wife to the last witness; he keeps a publick house in Drury Lane; I have heard the deceased say, the Prisoner had attempted to make away with himself.

Henry Bell . I lodged in the house with Stevens, and I never heard but he used his wife well, but she was very much addicted to drinking; and he would take her and lead her up stairs, and put her to bed. I never heard him give her an unhandsom word in my life.

Q. How long time do you speak to?

Bill. For about a year, when he lived at Mrs. Wyman's: he has said, when I went into the fields along with him, that he never would come back to Drury Lane, for he would make away with himself, and I believe sometimes he was not in his senses.

Mary Connell . The Prisoner and his wife did live in my house about three quarters of a year, and I never saw any thing amiss of him.

Elizabeth Williams . I have known the Prisoner about five years; I have seen the deceased in liquor, and she has attempted to make away with herself, and he has taken the knife out of her hand, in his own room.

Joseph Owen [at Clements inn] I am an attorney. I have known the Prisoner eight or nine years; he worked for me, and was a man of a sober conservation and good morals. I have often had occasion to go to his apartment (for I have done business for him sometimes, and he has recommended me to others to draw bonds, &c.) and I have heard him talk of parting with his wife, but he would not for fear she should want bread. Guilty Death .


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