Thomas Masterson, John Tompson, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 3rd July 1751.

Reference Number: t17510703-46
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

459. (M.) Thomas Masterson and John Tompson , otherwise Garret Lawler , were indicted for that they, on the king's highway, on William Couty did make an assault, putting him in bodily fear, and stealing from him one hat, value 4 s. one perriwig, value 10 s.

May 26 . ||

William Couty . I keep a cabinet shop , my house joins to Somerset-house in the Strand ; between twelve and one in the morning of the 26th of May, as I was within three doors of my own house I was attacked in a most violent manner by the two prisoners with another person; Lawler was the person that stopped me, he sprang in before me just to my very face; I remember his face well, I gave a spring from him, and at that time I saw the other prisoner's face, which I well remember, with their cutlasses and weapons; they cut me in four or five places, in three places on my right hand, and my breast and several places; I was down I do not know how often; one of their hangers went thro' both the crown and the rim of my hat. (Produce in court, and examined by the jury.) The hat I found after they left me; I called out, watch, watch, murder, very loud.

Q. What did they say to you?

Couty. I don't remember any distinct word they said to me; I know not how I came by my wig again ; I went home with my hat and wig too; it was a moon-light night, and two great lamps just by me, that I was able to distinguish the very men; five watchmen came after they were all gone away ; but before they came, a sentinel, who stood at Somerset-house gate, who I believe saved my life, pursued them with his bayonet fixed.

Q. Did not you go to the Gatehouse, and there had some difficulty to know the men?

Couty. I made so little difficulty I knew them at the first sight, and I believe I could know the third person; he dogged me from Serjeants Inn to the Change not three weeks ago. I saw the advertisement of Justice Lediard within two or three days after this, so I went by myself to the Gatehouse; the man that keeps the Gatehouse shewed me a great many; said I, can you shew me no more? then he shewed me into a little room, there Masterson sat in one corner; I was satisfied in my conscience he was one of the men; after that I saw the other (Lawler) and was satisfied about him; then I went to Justice Lediard and described them, and his Worship was satisfied I knew them; he desired me to take his clerk with me another time, and see if I could point them out to him, which I did.

John Holmes . On Saturday between the 25th and 26th of May I was sentinel at Somerset-house gates, from about the hour of ten till five in the morning, with my firelock on my shoulder; betwixt the hours of twelve and one I heard a call of watch; I went into the road, and stood to hear if I could find it out; after I had gone about ten yards I saw the two prisoners laying abominable blows on the gentleman, as I went towards them the gentleman called, murder; I said, here is assistance coming; I saw Lawler with a hat in his hand, he held another on his head at that time; I saw Masterson, he also had a hat on at that time; Masterson ran down the Strand, I turned him twice there; then he ran up Catharine-street; I having my gun in my hand and all my accoutrements about me they prevented my taking him, and I knew the consequence might have been bad had I left them behind me.

Q. Did you see them after this?

Holmes Yes, my lord, I saw them at the Justice's in Westminster about a week after this thing happened; I described Masterson by his coat before I saw him there; I described the hat also before I came to the Justice, saying, it was a well-cocked up hat, which one had in his hand, and I described Lawler's person.

Q. In what manner did they use the prosecutor?

Holmes. They dealt multitudes of very violent blows upon him.

Q. With what sort of instruments?

Holmes. I saw a stick in Masterson's hand when I ran after him, and by the light saw something glitter before I came to him, but whether it was a sharp weapon I cannot tell.

Q. How far was Lawler from the prosecutor when you saw him with the hat in his hand?

Holmes. He was about three yards from him.

Q. Did you see any other besides the two prisoners?

Holmes. I saw none but the two prisoners and the gentleman lying on the ground.

Q. What became of this hat?

Holmes. When I came back the gentleman had it in his hand, and his knuckles all over bloody.

Q. to the prosecutor. Where did you find your hat?

Prosecutor. I found it about eight yards towards Somerset-house from where they knocked me down.

Cross examined.

Q. How did you describe Lawler?

Holmes. I said he appeared to be a shorter man and fresher coloured than Masterson; I said the person I chased was in a dark coloured waistcoat and stockings, and Lawler had a blue grey coat.

Q. Which way was Lawler's face when you observed him?

Holmes. When I saw the hat in his hand his face was towards me, and I said before the Justice, I had rather a greater view of Lawler's face than the other's.

Q. Did not you say you did not know the other witnesses ?

Holmes. No, sir, I did not say so.

To shew how they were armed, and in what manner taken.

John Lee. I am a watchman; on May 28, between 12 and 1 in the morning, in a court near the prince of Wales's gate, I was attacked by two men, one passed by me, the other, which was Masterson, made a chop at me; I pursued him; he went down Little St. Martin's lane and flung his weapon away; before one o'clock I took him; his weapon was taken up by another watchman.

Q. Did you see him fling it away?

Lee. No, Sir, I did not. This evidence shewed a cut on the right side of his head, which he received by the chop.

Jos. Holmes. On the 28th of May at night, I was upon my duty as constable of St. Anne's parish, between twelve and one o'clock, going round the back part of St. Anne's church I heard an outcry by the end of Knaves Acre, several people crying out, stop thief; I turned up King-street, and three men rushed by my clothes; I followed them down Gerard-street, I went down Newport-alley, and took a watchman along with me; I turned into Cranbourn-alley, and in a passage there I saw three men run into the entrance that leads to the prince of Wales's back gate, I called, stop thief, and pursued them; one of them was down seemingly on one knee, I fell upon him, and called to two sentinels at the gate to come and assist me; I unbuttoned the prisoner's coat (it was Lawler) and took out this hanger, it was in a scabbard, I took him to the watch-house, and in a little time they brought in Masterson.

William Anderson . I was going my rounds a little after twelve on Tuesday morning, I heard by many different voices the cry stop thief, I turned about, and in a little time I saw Masterson come running, I did not observe he had a hanger; I ran into the kennel and called to him to stop; he then flourished his hanger over his head as he ran, and made a stroke at me; I defended it with my stick; he went to Little St. Martin's-lane; I was obliged to call, watch; he went in open defiance to all that came near him; when I came up to him there, James Fergard had him by the coat behind; I said to Masterson, where is your hanger? he said he had none; the hanger was found in a gateway near the place; we took him to the watch-house; the soldiers after this came and brought in a pistol, one of the hangers was shown in the watch-house about an inch and half deep from the point in blood.

James Fergard . I live in Little St. Martin's-lane; between the hours of twelve and one I heard the cry, stop thief; I opened the door, somebody said, there he goes, stop him; I jumped across the way and stopped Masterson about ten yards from the place where the hanger was found.

Richard Barrington . I was sentinel at Leicester-house; about the hour of twelve at night I heard the cry, stop thief, the first man that passed me was Masterson with a cutlass in his hand; he made a blow at my comrade, I thought I heard somewhat fall; the next man that came was Lawler, I seized him by the collar; I had immediate assistance; the prisoner had a hanger by his side in a scabbard; (he produced a pocket pistol;) I found this pistol on the spot where Masterson made a blow at my comrade, loaded and primed.

George Manley . I was sentinel at the prince's back gates, I heard alarm and went out; Masterson came by with a cutlass flourishing it over his head, he made a blow at me; at the same time something dropped from him; after him came Lawler; my comrade and I seized him, we found a cutlass betwixt his two waistcoats; I asked him what he carried that for? he said for his own safety.

Lawler's Defence.

Here is the copy of my detainer, it is for stopping my prosecutor with an intent to rob him ( holding it in his hand;) now he has preferred a bill against us for a robbery; he said, he never heard us speak a word, but he believed when we struck him it was with an intent to rob him.

Masterson's Defence.

I heard him say the same before the justice.

Lawler. I desire justice Lediard may be sworn and examined.

Justice Lediard. Mr. Couty said before me, he was used in the manner he has describ'd, that he had lost his hat and wig, but he could not take upon himself to say, they had taken them from him, for he found them after the scuffle was over. The soldier went farther, he said, he knew Masterson extremely well, for that he had turn'd him two or three times: as to Lawler he was not quite so positive, but said, he was pretty certain he was one of them, and that he saw a hat in one of their hands; that he saw but two; and added, he believed the other might be run away.

John Diamond . I am turnkey at the gate-house: Two or three days after the prisoners were committed, the prosecutor came and ask'd for three prisoners that Justice Lediard had committed; I said, there were not three persons committed for one thing in the goal, but said, he should see all the prisoners we had got; I shew'd him all, but he did not know either a one in particular, this was on the master's side; then he ask'd me, where are the three men? wanting me to show him the particular men; I said, he had seen them among the rest; they had stood all round, and he was within the door. Then he went back to Justice Lediard and brought his clerk, so I shew'd him them again, and the clerk whisper'd to him; and after that he said, now I know them; I ask'd him whether he was rob'd, he said no, he was assaulted, not rob'd, and shew'd me the cut in his hat.

Q. to the prosecutor. Give us an account of this affair when you went to the Gate-house.

Prosecutor. I went to the Gate-house, and this very man shew'd me a great many prisoners, in a place going on the right side of the goal, but I saw none that I wanted; then said I, can't you shew me them that were brought in from Justice Lediard's? he said, that will not do (I then knew no better) then said I, can't you shew me more prisoners? so he shew'd me some more on the left hand side, there I saw the two prisoners, and my concience told me they were two of the men; I went to Justice Lediard's and acquainted him, that I had found out two of the men who had almost murder'd me.

Justice Lediard. Mr. Couty came and said, they had shew'd him some of the prisoners, but refused to shew him all; but at last, said he, I saw two men, and describ'd their persons right; then said I, these are the two prisoners committed by me, so I sent my clerk with him; this Diamond, who is one of the turnkeys, I believe the jury will give but little heed to what he says, for the positively denied he had ever seen the prisoners in his life before, and I have been well inform'd they have been very frequently there before.

For Lawler.

Ann Lewis . I know Thompson, he lodged with me: on the 25th of May, being Whitson-Eve, he came home between eight and nine o'clock, I let him in, and he supp'd in the kitchin. We staid there till between eleven and twelve o'clock, then the maid lighted him up to bed, and I am very sure he could not get out of the house, for I had the key of the door with me.

Q. How long had he lodged at your house?

A. Lewis. About three weeks, my lord.

Q. What day of the week was this?

A. Lewis. It was on a Saturday.

Q. By what do you recollect the day, to be so certain?

A. Lewis. I buried my child that day, (I had lain in just a month.) and I paid for the coffin and shroud that day, and have the receipt by me, that is the reason I remember it.

Q. Where was your child buried?

A. Lewis. It was buried in St. Ann's parish : I have another child lies there.

Q. Have you got that receipt here?

A. Lewis. No, my lord, I have not. I also know the day by having a prisoner then in my house, in a lockt up room, and I have the writ by which he was arrested. My husband is an officer.

Mary Clark. I live servant with Mrs. Lewis: Lawler had lodged there about three weeks, or a month, before this thing happen'd. On the 25th of May, between eight and nine o'clock at night, he knock'd at the door, so my mistress got up and let him in; he went into the kitchin and sat down to supper; about eleven o'clock my mistress call'd to me to give him a candle to go up to bed, then I gave him one and he went up stairs.

Q. Did you go up with him?

M. Clark. No, I did not, I saw him go up: Between eight and nine o'clock the next day he got up and came down stairs, and I know he could not get out, because my mistress takes the key up with her.

Q. Who was up first that morning?

M. Clark. I was up first.

Q. Were the doors all fast?

M. Clark. They were all very safe lock'd, my mistress had the key of the street door in her own chamber.

Q. Do you remember any thing remarkable in the family to cause you to be so certain of the day?

M. Cark. There was nothing remarkable to my knowledge, to put me in mind of the day.

Q. Was there nothing remarkable?

M. Clark. Not as I know of.

Q. Was not Mrs. Lewis's child dead?

M. Clark. Yes, sir.

Q. When was that buried?

M. Clark. I don't know whether it was buried the Whitson-eve, or the day before.

Q. How old was that child?

M. Clark. It was about three months old.

Q. Did you live with her when she lay in?

M. Clark. I did not, sir: I have liv'd with her about five weeks in all.

Q. to Mrs. Lewis. How old was your child that died?

A. Lewis. It was between two and three months old.

Q. to M. Clark. Who was in the house besides your mistress, you, and the prisoner?

M. Clark. There was a mantua-maker, and a prisoner.

Jury. My lord, we would be very willing to pay the expence of a messenger to go and search the register-book of that parish, to be better satisfied about it.

Q. to A. Lewis. What is your husband's name, and the child's name that was buried on Whitson-eve ?

Ann Lewis . My husband's name is Martin, and the child's name was Mary.

A marshal's man was sent with proper instructions to search the books.

Mary Hall. I lodge at Mrs. Lewis's house: I am a mantua-maker, I go to work at eight o'clock in the morning, and come home at eight at night.

Q. How long have you lodged there?

Mary Hall. Ever since last Christmas: In the beginning of May my landlady told me, she had a lodger up one pair of stairs backwards, and that he said he was a sea-faring man: she went to inquire his character a day or two after, the people told her, he was a very honest man, and paid his way through: when he came to the house his name was Thompson, otherwise Lawler. I come home every night at eight o'clock, having odd jobbs to do at home: He came home always at very regular hours, and always very sober; he used to ask the maid for a candle and go to bed: The last time I saw him was the Saturday before Whitson-eve, I had a gown to finish for a gentlewoman that was going to Uxbridge on the next morning, which was Sunday: my landlady, that evening, ask'd me to eat a bit of cold lamb, the prisoner, and a prisoner that was in the house were at supper; after supper I heard the prisoner ask the maid for a candle to go to bed.

Q. What time of the evening was this?

Mary Hall. I can't say what time, it could not be very late or very early, I never saw him after that time; three or four days after that my landlady said, he was in trouble to her great surprize ; I am sure what I say is honest and the truth.

Q. How long have you lodged there?

Mary Hall. It is almost from last Christmas.

Q. How came you to remember the day so particularly ?

Mary Hall. I remember it from the gown I was making for one Mrs. Brown.

Q. What day of the month was it when Mrs. Lewis lay in last?

Mary Hall. I cannot tell that.

Q. What month was it?

Mary Hall. I cannot tell that, I have said all I came to say.

Q. Was you at the labour?

Mary Hall. I was not.

Q. How long was it before Whitsontide ?

Mary Hall. I cannot tell, I have said all I can say.

Q. Can't you tell within a month?

Mary Hall. I cannot.

Q. How old is the child?

Mary Hall. I don't know how old it is.

Q. What is become of the child?

Mary Hall. She has a child now living.

Q. Has she a young child now?

Mary Hall. She has.

Q. What! a child that was born since you liv'd in the house?

Mary Hall. Yes, it is living now.

Q. Pray what month was it you came to live there ?

Mary Hall. I came there the latter end of January.

Q. Was that child born one, two, or three months ago? or a month or two months after you came there ? recollect, you must give an answer as near as you can.

Mary Hall. I believe the child was born about Feb. or March.

Q. Is it now living?

Mary Hall. It was living when we came from home.

Q. Has there been ever a child of Mrs. Lewis's buried since you became a lodger in that house?

M. Hall. No, my lord, there has not.

Both guilty .

Death .

Ann Lewis and Mary Clark were committed to be tried for perjury, and Mary Hall to be confin'd, or find good security for her appearing next sessions to give evidence against them.

Just after the verdict was given the marshal's man return'd, and declared upon oath, that the register-keeper for the parish of St. Ann's had search'd it twice over for the month of May in his presence very carefully, and there was no such child buried, there.

For Lawler see No 7, and No 235, in Sir Samuel Pennant's mayoralty. Lawrence Lawler , tried by the name Savage, was his own brother, see No 163 in Sir Samuel Pennant 's mayoralty.

For Masterson see No 591, in John Blachford , Esq; and No 341 in this mayoralty.


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