John Girle, Killing > murder, 14th July 1756.

Reference Number: t17560714-26
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death; Death > executed

309. (M.) John Girle was indicted for the wilful murder of Thomas Roberts , Aug. 16, 1755 .*

At the request of the prisoner the witnesses were examined separate.

Sarah Roberts . The prisoner came to sell my husband, the deceased, some birds, on the 16th of August last, about six or seven o'clock in the afternoon.

Q. Where do you live?

S. Roberts. I live next door to the Bishop of Ely's Head , in a cellar in Holbourn . My husband was in the cellar, and I was sitting at the door The prisoner asked my husband if he wanted any birds, and he said no.

Q. What was your husband's business?

S. Roberts. He dealt in birds, being a cripple . The prisoner said, D - n you, you hump-back son of a bitch, if you was up stairs I'd punch both your eyes out. I said, sure you would not, take your answer and go about your business, we do not want any birds. He directly put a crab tree stick down into the window, and broke a cage that hung there. I went to push him away from doing farther damage. My husband came up stairs, and the prisoner made no more to do but put the crab-tree stick over my shoulder, and push'd his eye out.

Q. What did you do to him?

S. Roberts. I only push'd him away from the window.

Q. How long was the stick?

S. Roberts. I believe it might be about two yards and a half long.

Q. How near was your husband to you?

S. Roberts. He was pretty near me.

Q. Which eye did it go into?

S. Roberts. His left eye. My husband said, Stop the rogue, my eye is out. I directly turn'd my head, and saw the blood and jelly of his eye running down his cheek.

Q. What sort of a shove did you give him?

S. Roberts. Only with very good manners, and desired him to walk away. After this I followed him, and with assistance took him, and carried him before justice Fielding, who committed him to New-prison. But about ten at night he had the impudence to come and call down the cellar, saying, So, my lord, I am got clear. At that time nobody expected my husband's life a minute together.

Q. By what means did he get out of prison?

S. Roberts. I don't know that. I dressed my husband's eye with white of eggs and rose-water, for having a great family, and great rent to pay, I could not afford to go to a surgeon. From that time he never was well, nor ever held up his head; be was always complaining of his eye, and a shooting in his head.

Q. When did he die?

S. Roberts. He died the last day of March last. A few hours before he died he said to me, My dear, hang that rogue, for he is the death of me; he never could do any thing after, but I maintained him.

Q. What did he mean by that rogue?

S. Roberts. That was Jack Girle .

Q. What do you think was the occasion of his death?

S. Roberts. I think the blow on his eye was. He never had a convulsion fit till the time of the hurt of his eye, and after that he had such strong convulsion fits that several people were obliged to hold him.

Q. What state of health was he in before?

S. Roberts. He was in a very good one before that.

Prisoner. The deceased ran up stairs, and struck me two or three times

Q. Did your husband strike the prisoner at the bar?

S. Roberts. He never struck him, nor gave him a word in anger.

Q. Did your husband punch him?

S. Roberts. No, nor touch him neither.

Prisoner. He follow'd me 9 or 10 yards.

S. Roberts. My husband was not two yards from the door, when it was done.

Q. Was it a strong, or what sort of a stick was it?

S. Roberts. It was a stick hard enough to run thro' a man's head instead of his eye.

Prisoner. I said if he would have no birds he might let it alone; then he ran up stairs with a stick and struck me. I said, what did he do that for. He said, if I did not like it, he'd give me another.

S. Roberts. As I hope to be saved my husband did neither strike nor push him.

Prisoner. She also shoved me from the stall.

S. Roberts. I had then two children in my arms, I could not shove him with violence.

Samuel Powel . Thomas Roberts was a tenant of mine, he had a room under my shop. I stood in my own shop and heard some words between the prisoner and evidence.

Q. What words?

Powel. I can't tell what words.

Q. Were they angry words?

Powel. They were. She endeavour'd to keep the prisoner from her birds as well as she could, and he was for knocking the cages about. She had two children in her arms, and could not possibly keep him away. Then the poor fellow he deceased came up; he was a poor object, a lame discrepid poor creature as one shall look at. There were some words passed between them, and in a very little time I saw a great slick push'd with the prisoner's right hand, darted as it were thro' his left hand thumb and fore finger. He made a motion the first time, and the second it went into the deceased's eye. The deceased's back was towards me.

Q. Did it seem to be level'd at his eye ?

Powel. It did. the deceased directly drop'd down, as he was endeavouring to get up to the prisoner, seemingly to lay hold on him. He cry'd out in a terrible agony after his eye was out. He was carried down into his cellar, and put upon his bed. I went down, and we got a surgeon.

Q. Where was his wife ?

Powel. She was then gone before the justice with the prisoner. The surgeon wiped the congealed blood and stuff away, and said we had better take him to the hospital, saying, there was something broke and the sight of the eye gone, and that it would be of bad consequence

Q. What was the surgeon name?

Powel. His name is Blackwell.

Q. How did it appear to you?

Powel. It was very bloody, and the sight appeared to be out. He had such strong convulsions with the agony, that several people could hardly hold him.

Q. Did you see the deceased offer to strike or push the prisoner?

Powel. No, I did not; he did not the least in the world.

Q. How long did he live after this?

Powel. He lived I believe five or six months afterwards, and then died.

Q. What sort of a stick was it done with?

Powel. It was a long crab stick, five foot high, with knots upon it.

Q. from prisoner. Whether you was out at the door when you saw the stick push'd in his eye?

Powel. I was in the shop.

Q. Could you see it there?

Powel. I could very easily. The prisoner stood on one side the channel, and the deceased on the other, about three or four yards from the door.

George Scott . I was in Mr. Powel's shop, and saw the deceased come out of the cellar. They had words about something before, but I do not know what. I saw the prisoner thrust his slick in the deceased's eye; they had a little scuffle together.

Q. Who began the scuffle ?

Scott. The prisoner offered to strike at the deceased's bird-cages, and the deceased endeavoured to prevent it: The prisoner went towards him, and put the stick in his eye.

Q. In what manner did the deceased endeavour to prevent him?

Scott. He closed with the prisoner.

Q. What do you mean by closing?

Scott. To hinder him from hurting the birds.

Q. What did he do to the prisoner?

Scott. He laid hold on the prisoner.

Q. Did you see any blows struck?

Scot. I saw the prisoner strike at the deceased but once.

Q. What was the consequence of that?

Scott. I did not go out of Mr. Powel's shop; what passed in the street I do not know.

Q. In what manner did the deceased lay hold on the prisoner?

Scott. He did not endeavour to strike him, but to prevent him from destroying his birds.

Q. from prisoner. Whether I came out of the cellar, or was only standing at the door?

Scott. He came out of the cellar.

Q. Are you sure of that?

Scott. To the best of my knowledge I think he did; I am not positive.

Q. from prisoner. Ask the woman if I was in the cellar at all.

Sarah Roberts to the question. He was only on the cellar stairs.

John Brown. The deceased was always in pain and misery thro' this misfortune.

Q. Was you present at the time it was done?

Brown. No, I was not.

Q. How was his eye?

Brown. It was exceeding large, and ready to come out of his head.

Q. Was it bruised or bloody?

Brown. It was red all round it; he cry'd out often with the pain and anguish of it, and at last said that was the death of him, which were the last words I heard him speak.

Q. What was the death of him?

Brown. That blow on his eye.

Q. Did he mention who gave him the blow?

Brown. He mentioned the name of John - I can't remember the other name.

Q. Do you know the prisoner?

Brown. No, I do not

Q. How long did he live after he said these words?

Brown. He died in a few hours after, I believe in about four or five.

Q. from prisoner. Whether the deceased did not go a catching of birds last Michaelmas, after the time he had the hurt, and about his other business?

Brown. Yes.

Q. Did you ever see him catch birds in that time?

Brown. No, I did not see him, but I know he was out.

Q. from prisoner. Had he no other distemper about a fortnight before he died?

Brown. No. none.

Prisoner. They say he had a fever.

Court. That will do you no service at all, if this injury occasioned it.

Elizabeth Briley During the deceased's illness he always complained of his head, and about his eye; he said he thought that was the occasion of his death, and that rogue had killed him.

Q. How long did he live after he received the hurt?

E. Briley. I believe about four or five months.

Prisoner's defence.

I was coming with my partner with some birds. I used to sell the deceased some for several years.

My partner went down into the cellar to him, with intent to sell him some birds. I stood by the stall, and his wife was by me. My partner came up and said he will not have any. I said, then he may jet it alone; on which his wife shoved me from the stall. I asked her what she meant by that, and shoved her against a table; he then came running up with a stick and struck me. I said, what is that for; he said if you don't like that I'll give you another. Then I took the stick out of his hands, but in twisting to get it from him, as it turn'd betwixt us, it struck him some how on one side of his eye. I was tried at Hicks's-Hall for the same offence, and ordered to be confined a year in Newgate, out of which I have been there ten months.

N. B. That indictment was laid only as a misdemeanor.

Court. There has an event happened since you was tried, the man's death.

For the prisoner.

Mary Whitehouse . I keep a stall at the corner of Hatton-Garden, and live at Mrs. Carpenter's, a butcher, in Chick-Lane. I was coming by the deceased's house and heard a noise; I saw Mrs. Roberts (I never saw the prisoner, or the deceased before) she said to the prisoner, you dog, you kick my bird cages about! you shall not. She had two children, one under each arm; there was a woman had a board with old books on it, and she put the children on that; she immediately collar'd the man, and he to get clear of her pushed her against an old table, which fell down; he got from her, and went as far as the Bishop of Ely's Head, when Roberts came out of the cellar, and ran after him; I met him, turn'd back, and saw them both have hold of a stick, struggling, and twisting it backwards and forwards.

Q. Had Roberts a stick in his hand as he ran?

M. Whitehouse. He had not to my knowledge.

Q. Was it the prisoner's ?

M. Whitehouse. I don't know that the prisoner had it.

Q. Did you observe any thing done to the deceased's eye?

M. Whitehouse. No, not till the woman cried out, and said her husband's eye was injured.

Q. Did she cry out before they had both hold of the stick, or after?

M. Whitehouse. It was when they had hold of the stick.

Q. Did you take notice of his eye upon her crying out ?

M. Whitehouse. No, I did not, for I went away immediately to the stall. I am quite an impartial person.

Q. Did you ever see the deceased after this?

M. Whitehouse. I did, and he then spit in my face, because I appeared against him at Hicks's-Hall.

Q. What are you?

M. Whitehouse. I sell fruit and oisters, and in prejudice to me they have hindered me of my bread as much as they could.

Q. to Powel. Did you see this woman there?

Powel. I saw her at Hicks's Hall.

Q. Did you see her on the spot when the man was hurt?

Powel. No, I did not I doubt whether she ever saw him or not.

George Lockey . I saw Roberts go about his business as usual; after his eye was push'd out he lived several months.

Q. When did he die?

Lockey. He died the latter end of last March.

John Hughes . I know that Roberts after his eye was beat out went about as usual, and lived till the last day of March.

Q. to Lockey. Did you ever observe the deceased to be quarrelsome ?

Lockey. No, I never did.

Q. to Hughes. Did you ever know him to be quarrelsome?

Hughes. No, not at all; and I have been often with him.

Q to Sarah Roberts . Did you see that woman Mary Whitehouse at the time this thing happened?

Hughes. No, I did not.

Q. Should you have seen her had she been there do you think ?

S. Roberts. I think I should; I have enquired, and found her character very bad. She lived with two or three fellows in that neighbourhood.

Guilty , Death

He received sentence immediately (this being Thursday) to be executed on Saturday following. Which execution was done accordingly .

The jury declared, they did not believe one word Mary Whitehouse had sworn. They desired she might stand committed. She was committed for perjury. &c.


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