James Collins, James Whem, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 17th September 1762.

Reference Number: t17620917-7
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

241, 242. (M.) James Collins , and James Whem , were indicted, for that they, together with John Sutherland , not taken, in a certain field and open place near the king's highway, on Sarah West , spinster , did make an assault, putting her in corporal fear and danger of her life, and taking from her person one iron key, value one penny, and two shillings in money, numbered, her property, and against her will , August 3 ++.

Sarah West . On the 3d of August, between the hours of nine and ten at night, it was a very moonlight night, the night before the full-moon, I was coming along in a field between Kentish-town and Pancrass ; three men in soldiers cloaths came cross the field, Collins was one of them; he passed me, then turned again, and with his left hand knocked me down; he had a drawn sword in his right hand. It laid me senseless for some time; when I came to myself, he with a very hoarse voice said, give me what money you have; and d - d me, and swore he would murder me, if I made any noise. I gave him two shillings; he asked me. if I had any more? I told him that was all I had; he seeing the key of my box in my hand, took it. The other prisoner at the bar was robbing a gentleman, named Sykes, at the same time; he was coming over the field at

the same time I was; after that I saw all the three men run down to the place where they came from.

Q. Did the other prisoner say any thing to you?

S. West. No: he did not.

Q. from Collins. Which way did the men that robbed you come up to you?

S. West. They came from behind a hedge from a cross path, with their ha stopped. They all three of them passed me, and I saw the other man strike Mr. Sykes on the hand with a stick, just before Collins struck me.

Peter Sykes . I was coming from Kentish town with Mr. Halm and a young women; and Mrs. West fell into company with us: we were all walking together; three men attacked us; the first came and struck me over the head with a stick; I returned it, and knocked him down, and got upon him. The attack was so sudden, I cannot take upon me to swear to either of the prisoners.

Q. to S. West. Are you certain to the prisoners being two of the men?

S. West. I am; and that from their faces and their dress.

Q. to Sykes. Was it light or dark?

Sykes. It was a very fine moon-light night, a face might be distinguished very well; when I was upon the man, another of them came and gave me a blow on my forehead with a sword; they asked me for my money. I felt in my pocket, and told them it had tumbled on the ground; I told them it was a guinea.

Q. How do you know you was struck with a sword?

Sykes. The surgeon told me it was a sword; I was pretty much wounded, and bleed very greatly; it must be by a sharp weapon, the bone of my forehead was cut, [he shewed the fear, about an inch and a quarter long, just above his right eye] the blood running all over my face, I could not find the money for them: They took my gold watch and hat; the two prisoners were soon taken, but I was not able to pursue. They were carried before justice Welch. I could not go the first time, but was at their second examination. Then Collins wanted to be admitted an evidence. The other would not say any thing.

Daniel Halm . I was coming from Kentish-town with Mr. Sykes and Mrs. West. Mr. Sykes walked first, the women between, and I last; I saw three men coming down a bank. I took them at first to be drunken people. They attacked Mr. Sykes; I ran up; the third man immediately knocked me down. and held his hands over my eyes. I believe it was neither of the prisoners that knocked me down; he took from me a metal watch; he asked me for my money. I told him at first. I had a guinea; he put his hand in my pocket: I then recollected I had changed it, and told him he would find two six and nine penny pieces, and some silver, which he took, and my hat, and before he went away, he put a hat upon my eyes, that I should not observe him as he went off. [A hat with a cockale produced.] This is the hat. I heard When before justice Welch claim this hat as his own. Upon their going off I got up, and heard some people coming, who were brought there by the cries of the woman. They asked what was the matter? I said, we had been robbed by them men; there they go, cross the field. I went a little way with them after the men, but returned again to Mr. Sykes, because he had complained he was very much wounded. I never got my watch again, my hat was found in the field where the two prisoners were taken, likewise a great oaken stick. [Produced in court.]

Samuel Clay . I am high constable. On the second of August, I received a search-warrant from Mr. Welch late in the evening, for a general search. I called twenty-seven men to my assistance. There had been an account laid before the justice of divers robberies in and about Pancrass-fields; we divided into three parties; we set out I believe between eight and nine, from the sign of the boot in the Foundling-fields; it was a very fine moon-shining night. I could distinguish a person at the distance of one hundred yards, and could swear to a person's face at the distance of ten yards, or more. The party that I was of, which was about eight of us, went to the sign of the George, in the road leading to Highgate, just by the turnpike; then it was between nine and ten o'clock; we heard the cries of a woman very violent.

Halm. We were attacked in the field near that place.

Q. to S. West. Did you cry out?

S. West. I did.

Clay. The officers and men made the best haste they could to the place, some of them were there before me. When I came there, I saw Mr. Sykes lying on the ground, and b lood all about his head; there were some women. I said, have you been robbed? they said, they had, of their watches and money, several voices made the answer. The officers immediately pursued; some of the swiftest of foot. I desired some of the constables to take the gentleman that was wounded and the women to the Adam and Eve. I then followed the pursuers: When I came up, they had taken Whem, and were pulling him out of a ditch at full length on the ground. The officers said, there was another man in the ditch; I drew my hanger, and one of the officers said to me, you shall not go into the ditch; he took the hanger out of my hand and jumped in, and soon brought out Collins. I asked them several questions, but

could get no proper answers. I only got some had language from Whem. The next day I was with them before the Justice; there Collins wanted to be admitted an evidence. Whem said very little; we had intelligence of the other person, but we could not meet with him. After we had taken the prisoners out of the ditch, and hand-cussed and pinioned them together, I asked for a candle and lanthorn: there were two brought; the officers got into the ditch and found a gold watch, which I imagine had been in the hand of Whem, he being wounded on the right hand and right eye; there was then, and is now, blood upon the case of the watch. I suppose he was wounded by Mr. Sykes [The watch produced, the jury inspect it, and Mr. Sykes swore to it as his property which he lost that night]. There was a great deal of mud and water in the ditch; they were up to their middles in it; we found also this hat, [Producing one very bloody.] it was lying on the grass near the ditch, deposed to by Mr. Sykes.

Clay. Here is a sword also which was found in the ditch. The scabbard and belt were found in three separate places. [Producing the sword.]

S. West. Collins owned that sword before Justice Welch.

Clay. Here is a small key which one of the constables delivered to me, [Producing it,] deposed to by S. West, as the same key she was robbed of that night.

Zachariah Halyer . I am constable: I was with Mr. Clay at the George in Pancrass-wash; I heard the cry of a woman, or women; I immediately pursued. When I came to the upper end of a field leading to Kentish-town (there was a brother officer ran with me) we came with Mrs. West; she said, gentlemen, we have been robbed by three fellows, and there they go. At that time I computed them to be about fourscore yards from us; I discerned them very distinctly, going all three abreast, it being a very light night. We pursued them about half way down the second field with all the speed we could. I halloo'd to my brother officers in order for them to follow. When the men found they were pursued, they ran, and turned out about the middle of the second field. The person with me could not keep up, and I thought proper to halt a little; still I had them in my fight. When the other officers came up, I saw the three men run by the side of a hedge; there we lost sight of them. When we came up to the place, we found they had jumped into a ditch. I was the first person that saw Whem in the ditch. It could not exceed five or six minutes before we took them both out; I was by at the time.

Wm Halfpenny . I am an headborough: I was upon this search. As we were standing at the door of the George ale-house, I heard a great outcry of a woman,; I pursued with the rest of the officers. I missed my way, and went a little about, but met them. There I saw Mr. Halm, Mr. Sykes, Mr. West, and another woman. I saw three men running.

Q. Did you see any body point to them?

Halfpenny. I was in such a hurry. I cannot say I observed it, if they did. The gentlemen said, they had been robbed, and the men were just gone on; Mr. Sykes's face was all over bloody. As I passed, I heard them say it was by three soldiers, and I imagined they must be the men that robbed them. I ran as fast as I could, and never staid to hear any more, but kept my eye stedfast upon the men, and kept hallooing. At that time I saw none so near them as myself; I saw them drop into the ditch; I kept my eye upon the place, and went up, and was by when the two prisoners were taken out of the ditch. I saw the watch also taken out; the ditch was almost covered with bushes and brambles. The sword was delivered to me by an officer out of the ditch, drawn, and I delivered it to Mr. Clay. I was at both their examinations; I understood that Collins wanted to be admitted an evidence.

Michael Spregue . I am an headborough: I was at this search. I heard the word murder. I have been robbed by three soldiers; this was in a field beyond Pancrass church; we pursued. The people said, when we came to them, if we went a little farther, we should soon overtake them. I had not ran above fifty yards, before I came to have fight of all three of them: One of them made off on the right hand side, and two of them concealed themselves in a ditch. I took Collins out of the ditch, and found this watch, here produced, on his right-hand side; he was fitting as deep as the waistband of his breeches in water; the other prisoner was taken out before him: After I brought him out and went in again, I found the hanger drawn, and likewise the sheath and belt, all separate; this last was found lying in the field by the side of the bank. Collins before the justice would sain have turned evidence, but the justice would not admit him.

Q. How near were the prisoners to each other when in the ditch?

Spregue. They were about eight or nine yards distant. The sword was found near where Collins lay.

Richard Gay . I am a constable: I was ordered out on this search; and between nine and ten o'clock we heard the cry of murder; we went up, and saw Mr. Sykes bleeding. They said, they had been robbed by three soldiers. I asked which way they were gone? They said, over the fields.

Q. Did you hear this expression, We have been robbed, and there they go?

Gay. Yes, I did; I am sure one of them said so. I looked for them, and saw three soldiers; we never lost fight of them, till they got to the thick part of

the boushes, where they went under them into the ditch; I saw the two prisoners at the bar taken out. Whem owned this oaken stick afterwards, [That is here produced,] this stick was taken out by the side of the ditch (it was a large oaken plant, better than a yard long).

Collins's Defence.

I know nothing at all of it. To be sure I was in the ditch; we had been both of us out, and coming along, we lost our road, and coming over the ditch we dropped in; we heard a cry from a parcel of people, and so we lay there, being in liquor.

Whem's Defence.

I know nothing at all of the matter indeed: We have no occasion for any witnesses. There are so many prosecutors about, there are enough to hang us if possible. If we were to tell your lordship the truth, I know nothing how that would go; I should be sorry to lose my life. Your lordship hears how it goes against us; I am as innocent as the child born but yesterday. The woman says enough against me; what can I do then, you know? I have sent for none of my officers, and our people are upon guard to-day; so I have nobody here to give me a character as to my behaviour and honesty.

Both Guilty , Death .

There were two other indictments against them, for robbing Mr. Sykes and Mr. Halm.


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