Daniel Blake, Killing > murder, 23rd February 1763.

Reference Number: t17630223-19
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death > death and dissection; Death > executed

131. (M.) Daniel Blake was indicted for that he, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved by the instigation of the devil, on the 1st of Feb. on John Murcott did make an assault, and with malice aforethought, with a certain knife. value 1 d. on the throat of the said John wilfully did strike and cut, giving to him on his throat one mortal wound, the length of 4 inches and depth of 3 inches, of which mortal wound he instantly died .

Mr. Benjamin Cotes and Mr. John Warton , having been on the Coroner's Jury, desired not to be on this, and William Lightfoot and Samuel Jones were sworn in their stead for this trial.

After the indictment was read, Mr. Cox, council for the prosecution, spoke as follows:

May it please your Lordship; and you Gentlemen of the Jury,

I am council in this case on behalf of the prosecution against the prisoner Daniel Blake , who now stands charged with a soul murder committed (by him, as I am instructed to say) on the person of John Murcott , his fellow-servant.

Gentlemen, this is one of those kinds of murders, which, like many thousands of others, are so far committed in secret, that no one can swear to their being present, and seeing the fatal blow given. The consequence of which is, the evidence now to be laid before you, (except what appears from the confession of the prisoner) will depend upon circumstances merely; but they are circumstances of that kind, so connected, so cemented together, and so explanatory of one another, that I dare say they will have the effect with you, as hitherto they have had with other people: they will leave no doubt with you with regard to the prisoner at the bar. The facts are so strong, and the prisoner's case so melancholly, that I shall do little more than name them to you.

It will appear in evidence, that the person called John Murcott , was butler to Lord Dacre, that on the evening of Monday the 31st of Jan. last, he was not very well; he went into the housekeeper's room, and there complained that he was ill; that the housekeeper made him some small tea, or something of that kind; that he had all the appearance of calmness and serenity, and no other complaint than a common cold, or some flight disorder. Some little time after this he complained of being hungry; he had something to eat and drink; he went to bed sober, perfectly so, and the next morning was found dead, with all the horrid circumstances of murder about him; his throat was cut, and he had violent blows on his head: you will hear what knives and things were there to induce the world to believe he murder'd himself.

It is our business to shew you, why we call upon the prisoner at the bar to answer for his offence.

We shall shew this in the following manner: that prior to the day when this fact was committed, the prisoner was in very great poverty; he was drove to such distress, as to want a single shilling; but upon the day the murder was committed, things were changed, for that very day, before noon, he paid some small sums of money, he applied to the very person to whom he had complained a day or two before of his poverty, (and where he had left his silver buckles in pawn) and, without any solicitation, paid a debt to that person.

On the same day he went to another person, to whom he owed some money for washing, paid her, and told her he had received the money of his uncle, and though this was done on the day the poor man was murdered, (and you know murder occasions conversation in every family in the neighbourhood) yet when he paid this money, he took no notice of this man's death, and did not so much as mention one single circumstance of it.

Upon the same day that the murder was committed, (so far were his circumstances alter'd) he bought linnen cloth to the value of 8 l. and on the same day he gave directions to a person to make it up into shirts, and he then (sorry I am to bring this circumstance home to him by giving his generosity in evidence) made a present to a child belonging to that person, of half a guinea. He paid on the same day 25 s. for a pair of breeches; and the next day, he was not satisfied with buying necessaries, but it will appear to you, he became extravagant, for he bought himself a watch.

Gentlemen, it will appear to you, that at the time this murder was supposed to be committed, a noise was heard on the stairs, and it was suspected to be by the prisoner's going backwards and forwards. There were many circumstances of the like kind, but as I have had notice that all the witnesses will not be here, I would not open willingly any fact that shall not be proved in evidence, it being expected that the trial would not come on till tomorrow.

I mention these circumstances, because I would not have a man in his unhappy situation be too much affected by what comes out of my mouth; therefore were the proofs to rest on what I have opened to you, few people can doubt of the prisoner's guilt, But more remains behind.

He was afterwards taken up, and before a Magistrate, after having repeated warning to be catious what he said, and after being told that all admissions might be used as evidence against his own life, he, struck with a proper contrition for his offence, and willing to deliver his fellow-servants from this heavy charge, he acknowledged,

he murdered this man. He did it in so deliberate a way, he calls for pen and ink, and desires him to write it down; on writing the word murder, he asked how it was spelt, and being informed, he took the pen in his own hand, and wrote these four words, I MURDERED THE MAN. This he wrote before the magistrate, who then was enquiring after the murder of John Murcott , and therefore the words could be applied to nothing but the murder of that very man. After that he signed a formal confession, and, I believe, he wrote a letter to the Noble Lord whom he served, acknowledging he was guilty of this fact.

These facts, Gentlemen, are so connected, that I dare say, when they are proved in the manner I have opened them, you can do no less than find the unhappy prisoner guilty.

John Barnfield , sworn.

John Barnfield . I am porter to my Lord Dacre, in Burton-street, Berkley-square . On Tuesday morning, the 1st of this instant Feb. the prisoner called me up between 7 and 8 o'clock, and told me it was that time.

Q. How long had he lived in the family?

Barnfield. He had lived in the family about 10 or 12 weeks.

Q. In what capacity?

Barnfield. He was my Lady's footman . As soon as he had called me, he went down stairs; I believe he might be down about 5 minutes before me.

Q. Where did you lie?

Barnfield. There are 2 beds in the garret, the prisoner and my Lord's footman lay in one bed, and I in the other. When I came down he was cleaning the plate in the servant's hall, I went into the butler's pantry, and fetched that part of the plate which I cleaned; at 8 o'clock the prisoner had done his plate, and was carrying it into the butler's pantry to put it up, I said, Daniel, call Mr. Murcott up, it is 8 o'clock.

Q. Who was Mr. Murcott?

Barnfield. He was butler to my Lord. When he came back into the servant's hall, I said, Daniel, did you call Mr. Murcott? he said, Yes, I called him two or three times, but he never spoke. Then I said, Daniel, go and call him, and make him speak, you must awake him; at which he made no answer. When I had done my plate, I went to dry a cloth, and wipe it over, I put it up in the butler's pantry in the chest, after that I went and read the news in the laundry; in the mean time my Lord's bell rang, and Mrs. Jones called me to call Mr. Murcott, and said, my Lord's bell rang: I went to call him, I called 5 or 6 times, he never spoke; I laid my hand on the bed, and found he was there, I shook him pretty hard, he never stirred; I thought to myself, God bless me, the man is dead sure, or dead asleep; the cloaths were thrown over his face, I pulled them from his face and found them all bloody; then I went back into the housekeeper's room, and told my Lady's maid, and the housekeeper, that I believed he was dead, for I could not make him move, and his face was all bloody, then my Lady's woman, named Fortiscue, came and pulled the cloaths more down from his face, and near his breast saw a knife, I was there but did not knife; she went on the other side of the and said, let us see if we can lift him up; she on one side, and I on the other, we lifted him up; then his head dropt quite back, and we saw his was cut, on each side as far almost as un ears, (describing it with his own fingers) and quite deep.

Q. Did you see the prisoner soon after this?

Barnfield. Yes, he had been out for some mussins and French rolls, for breakfast, he came in while we were in the pantry, he went to the door, and came out directly, and fell in a great crying and ringing his hands; I bid him not make a noise, for it was a great misfortune, and my Lord and Lady would hear of it too soon.

Q. Was it mentioned to the prisoner that the deceased was dead?

Barnfield. It was directly on his coming in.

Q. What did he say?

Barnfield. He said nothing further.

Q. Do you know of any thing afterwards that relates to this matter?

Barnfield. No, nothing at all.

Q. Did you observe whether there were any other marks of violence?

Barnfield. I saw a cut on the side of the deceased's temple that morning, when I went to look at him about an hour afterwards, it seemed a longish cut, near the temple, about 2 inches long.

Q. Whether it appeared to be a clean cut with a knife, or whether it appeared to be a bruise?

Barnfield. There appeared to be a bruise with-all, besides the cut.

Q. Did you examine that wound, to see if it was deep?

Barnfield. I did not.

Q. Whereabouts in the house did the deceased lie?

Barnfield. He lay in the pantry below stairs, that is down stairs from the street, one pair of stairs below the street, upon the kitchen floor.

Q. When had you seen Mr. Murcott last, before you found him dead?

Barnfield. I saw him about 12 o'clock, when I went to bed.

Q. When did the prisoner go to bed?

Barnfield. He went to bed along with me, and the other footman staid for something to be made hot for his cold.

Q. Can you tell in what condition Mr. Murcott was for liquor when he went to bed?

Barnfield. I cannot.

Q. Do you remember the prisoner getting up?

Barnfield. I knew nothing of his getting up, I heard nothing of him till between 7 and 8 o'clock.

Mary Miller . I am house-maid at my Lord Dacre's.

Q. What part of the house do you lie in?

Miller. I lie in that part of the house that is even with the footman's room. I did not see Mr. Murcott on the Monday night, I went to bed about 8 o'clock.

Q. Did you hear any disturbance in the house that night?

Miller. No I did not. The laundry-maid and the kitchen-maid went down in the morning; about one o'clock, as the watch went one, I went down soon after, it was our washing morning; I went and looked at the clock, it was half an hour after one.

Q. Where did you stay from that time till morning light?

Miller. I went down into the laundry, and took a basket of cloaths, and carried them into the wash-house; the laundry is a great way from the wash-house; the laundry is below stairs down from the street, and the wash-house is farther on, on the same floor where the pantry is.

Q. How far is the wash-house from the place where the butler used to keep his plate?

Miller. The wash-house is a good distance from the pantry, farther than the breadth of this court. Carrying the basket of cloaths, I met the kitchen-maid, after that I went into the kitchen.

Q. What time might you go to breakfast?

Miller. That was about 2. The laundry maid went to light the fire about 4; she came down to me as I was washing, and told me it was about 4 o'clock.

Q. Did you hear any noise or any disturbance during any part of that morning?

Miller. About half an hour after 5 o'clock I went down to the laundry, and was looking at a new gown, I thought I heard somebody come out of Mr. Murcott's pantry, and go into the house-keeper's room, and back again into the pantry, and I thought I heard somebody rattling the plate about; I said, Daniel is up by times nobody made me any answer.

Q. You say, you thought you heard; did you hear the plate rattle, are you sure?

Miller. Yes, I am sensible I heard the plate rattle.

Q. Do you mean you imagine you heard somebody go out, or did you hear a person move about?

Miller. I thought I heard him step.

Q. The noise you heard of a person, as you supposed, did it found like shoes, or a person without shoes?

Miller. That I did not so much observe. I saw the pantry door open, I went in, I had my gown going to carry it up stairs; I knew Mr. Murcott was out on the Monday, and I did not know where he was gone; seeing the bed down (it was a turn-up bed) I was not frightened at all, I went to the foot of the bed, I did not see any body in bed, but I thought I heard him snore.

Q. Do you mean by your saying you thought, you were in any doubt, or did you hear him snore?

Miller. That I cannot tell, I did not stand to mind that, he was laid over head and ears, the cloaths were turned over his head, and his coat and waistcoat were all on a heap at the foot of the bed, the bed cloaths lay very smooth, I could not see any thing of his head.

Q. Had you a candle with you?

Miller. Yes. After that I went up stairs to call my fellow-servant, I went to look also at the clock, it was half an hour after 5; I thought, as I was going up stairs, I heard somebody go up stairs before me without shoes, but I did not see any body.

Q. What occasioned you to think so?

Miller. I saw the footman's room door a little way open, and I thought he might be gone to bed again; I go by the prisoner's room door to my room. I lighted the candle, and went down stairs into the wash house, and said to the laundry-maid, is Daniel here? she said no. I said, if he is not here he is in the kitchen. I went into the kitchen, and back again, and said, Daniel it not there, I fancy he is gone to bed again,

for I thought I heard somebody go up before me.

Q. How came you to think it was Daniel?

Miller. He used to get up to clean his plate on a washing morning, and I thought he was got up too soon, and was gone to bed again. The laundry maid said, Molly, go and draw a little beer. I thought she spoke to me, but she spoke to the kitchen-maid. I went to the pantry, and found the door open; I went in, and drawed some small beer, and left the door open as I found it.

Prisoner. I believe she is not certain of my going up stairs, for I went up stairs with my shoes on.

John Bond . I am a chairman, I have known the prisoner about 12 months, I carry a lady that he did serve. I remember the morning this unhappy affair was talked of; the prisoner came to me that morning between 8 and 9 o'clock; I did not hear the man was dead till the evening.

Q. What day of the week was it?

Bond. It was on a Tuesday. The prisoner owed me some money, I heard him call Bond; I jumped out of bed, and threw up the sash; he said, I want to speak with you, I am come to pay you some money I owe you: he came into the room, and threw me half a guinea, (it was for lodging) I gave him change, he paid 8 s. then he wanted the key, to take out some things from his trunk, he having sent a man, while he was at this place, for some things out of it; I went to look for the key in my other coat pocket, he said, I'll be here again in 10 minutes, and went away, and soon returned; I gave him the key, he took out what he had a mind to, and went home; and about 10 or 15 minutes before 4 o'clock he came again, and took out a music book for pricking down tunes in. I said, what do you do with that old trunk? Said he, I am going to Monmouth-street to buy a box. I said, I can sell you one, I have 3 or 4 up stairs; he went up, and bought one of me for 3 s. 6 d. I changed him a guinea, and gave him half a guinea, a 5 s. and 3 d. and the rest in silver, and he paid me, and called for a pot of beer.

Q. How long had he lived at my Lord Dacre's?

Bond. As far as I understand between nine and ten weeks.

Q. Do you know whether he was worth any money when he came from his last place?

Bond. He had some money coming to him, but it was but a trifle I believe.

Q. Did he leave any thing with you on account of this debt?

Bond. He owned my wife 14 s. for washing, and he left a pair of silver buckles with her; that was before he came to my Lord Dacre's services, that was when he left Mrs. Clift; he left them when she went out of town, and when she came to town again he came in three or four weeks time and paid the money, and took the buckles.

Mary Pain . I am a washer-woman, I know the prisoner, I washed for him.

Q. Had you any conversation with him the Friday or Saturday before this accident happen'd?

Pain. He told me, he would come and pay me 3 s. and 10 d. which he owed me. Some time before, and on the Friday, he owed me 4 s. 10 d. he told me, if one shilling would be of service to me I should have it, but he could not give me any more till Sunday or Monday. This money had been running up three weeks or a month.

Q. Did he give you any reason why he could not pay you any more at that time?

Pain. He said, he had a grand-mother was dead and had left him 10 l.

Q. When did you see him next?

Pain. On the Tuesday evening, that this unhappy affair happened. I had not heard of it then. He came about candle lighting; he paid me what he owed me.

Q. Did he at that time say any thing about this unhappy accident?

Pain. No, he never mentioned it.

Q. When did you see him again?

Pain. On the Wednesday morning, a little after 9 o'clock; he desired my little boy to carry him up a shirt about half an hour after 10.

Q. Did he say any thing about this unhappy accident then?

Pain. No, he said nothing about it then.

Thomas French . I am a linnendraper, and live at the Sun in Bond-street; I never saw the prisoner before the 1st of Feb. He came to me in the morning and bought some linnen of me to the amount of 8 l. 1 s. 8 d. He left 2 guineas with my servant, and said, he would pay the remainder when he came for the goods; I was then not at home. In the evening he came, I was then at home, he paid the remainder to me, and took the linnen away. I believe the money he paid was 8 l. 1 s. 6 d. I know no more; only I was at Sir John Fielding 's, and heard him confess the murder.

Q. to Barnfield. Did you see the knife that was found in the deceased's bed?

Barnfield. I did some time in the day after, it was all bloody; it was one of my Lord's knives that we dine with, a silver handled common table case knife.

Q. Where did they stand?

Barnfield. The clean and foul knives are all put together in the pant ry with the rest of the plate.

Mary Gregory . I take in washing and needle-work; on Tuesday the 1st of February, in the morning, the day this unhappy accident happened, the prisoner came to me between 11 and 12 o'clock; he told me if I would call in Hanover Square (at Sir Francis Clark 's) at night, he would let me have some shirts to make; he gave a child of mine, that is about two years and an half old, half a guinea; I went, he was there, and had brought a piece of Irish cloth, there was one piece of 25 yards, the other 26; he delivered one piece to me, and some muslin to make him some neckcloths; he delivered one of the pieces then, and the other on Friday morning; when he came he did not mention one word of the unhappy affair of the man's being murder'd; but when he came again on the Friday, he said, there had been an unhappy affair in their house; I asked him what it was; he said the butler had murdered himself, and added, if his lady should make him butler, what a fine fellow he should be; he should wear fine lac'd cloaths, and he had already got them.

Fermer Hast. I lodge in Pall-Mall; I am a surgeon; there was a message sent from my lord Dacres for Mr. Hawkins to come there; Mr. Hawkins sent me, I went about 9 in the morning on the 1st of February: I found the man dead; I returned; after that my lord sent to Mr. Hawkins desiring he would let me be there the next morning to attend the Coroner. I went between ten and eleven; I found the deceased's throat cut through, and the wind-pipe and the large blood-vessels were divided. I discovered a wound on the right temple, a little above the ear. Feeling about the wound, I perceived an unevenness of the bone underneath, and upon removing the sealp round the wound, I discovered a large fracture. There were two small wounds on the right corner of the lip, and another likewise on the head, near the other place.

Q. What did you think those wounds had been given by?

Hast. The fracture must have been given by something weighty, from the extent of that and the wound.

Q. Cou'd that wound have been given by the deceased himself?

Hast. I should suppose not, it was a large fracture.

Q. What say you as to the cut on the throat?

Hast. It was a very large wound on the throat.

Q. Do you imagine a wound in the manner that appeared to you, that a person could have made such an incision upon his own throat?

Hast. I should not have thought it in a man's power to make such a wound on himself.

Q. You must have some reason for forming that judgement.

Hast. Because there was a fracture on the head, and that also no man could be able to cut his own throat in that manner; it is impossible, alter that wound on the head, that that cut could have been done by himself; the wound on the head was mortal, after that was given, which must be by a blow, I suppose, he never stirred afterwards.

Elizabeth Helt . I live at my Lord Dacre's, I am laundry-maid. (She produced a strong kitchen poker very much bent.) I remember seeing this poker by the side of the laundry-fire the night before this unhappy accident, it was very strait then; I found it bent in this condition before the accident was heard of in the house, and made observation of its being thus bent; this was about 7 o'clock; I found it in the laundry-fire, I had not put it there over night.

William Marsden . I am clerk to Sir John Fielding . I was present when the prisoner was examined before him. I was at my Lord's house best part of two days. He was examined with the rest of the servants, then no guilt appeared on him any more than the rest, till the second day; then some circumstances appeared, that pointed with some suspicion at him. (The first day he was examined upon oath, the second he was not.) He was ordered into custody, and sent to the Justice's house. He was there charged with laying out that money that has been mentioned; to answer that he said, he had received 10 guineas the week before from his own brother. I went to his brother, who is a baker in Little Britain, and found that account to be false. I think he was committed to New Prison on Thursday night. He stiffly denied the fact there. He had wrote a letter, that occasioned his being examined again before the Justice that evening. He confessed the taking the money, that was 20 guineas, out of a cupboard, but denied the murder for some time; but at last he said, there needs no inquiry. The gentleman present seemed to take it as if he was going to make a confession. He, being hand-cuffed, said, if they would let

these things be taken off, and give him the use of pen, ink, and paper, he would satisfy every body. I was directed to give him paper; I gave him a piece that I have here. (Producing a paper.) He first put the letter I, and addressed himself to me and said, how do you spell murder? It struck me, it was an improper thing for me to dictate. There were several noblemen there, and I think it was the Earl of Sandwich told him how to spell it, then he writes the rest as it stands here. This is his own hand-writing; it is, I murder'd the man. (The clerk of arraigns reads it, &c.). Sir John Fielding said, this is not enough, I murder'd the man; what man? then the prisoner said, I will tell you all the circumstances as it happened. Then he was told by Sir John, it was putting a halter about his own neck, or words to that effect; he was told the consequence of signing such a confession, and asked, whether it was a voluntary thing? he declared, he desired to do it to prevent any innocent person being charged with the same fact. Then this paper (producing another paper) I took down from him, he dictated the contents of it, it is his own words, he did it under this admonition. At first when he had wrote the first paper, he seemed to have his mind easier than it was before, he seemed to talk more reasonable. I read this his confession over to him before he signed it.

It is read to this purport.

Middlesex, to wit. The Examination and voluntary Confession of Daniel Blake , taken down before us three of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Middlesex, this 5th of February, 1763.

"This Examinant voluntarily confesseth, and

"says, that on Tuesday morning last, about 5

"o'clock, he entered the room of Mr. John

"Murcott, late butler to Lord Dacre, and on

"seeing the said John Murcott lying in his bed,

"it came into his head to murder him; accordingly

"he went into the laundry, where he found

"a large poker, with which he struck the said

" John Murcott two violent blows, and that he

"then with a knife cut his throat, and that he

"instantly expired. And farther says, the day

"before he committed this horried crime, he took

"20 guineas out of his room, which he found

"in a cupboard, wrapt up in a paper: and he

"does not make this confession from any threats

"or persuasion whatsoever, but freely from conscious

"guilt, and that no innocent person may

"be charged with the same wicked fact. And

"he took out of his pocket, after he was dead.

"3 guineas and a half in gold.

" Daniel Blake ".

Signed before us, John Fielding , John Cox , Thomas Kynaston .

Prisoner's Defence.

I took the money out of Mr. Murcott's cupboard, I said I took it out of a cupboard in his room, I did not think it was Mr. Murcott's money. I have nothing to say for myself any farther than this: at the time I came down stairs, I had no thoughts of doing it, - Murder the man I did.

Guilty , Death .

Being asked, what he had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, he said,

To be sure it is a horrible murder, I am sorry. for it, and I desire to die for it. A light shone before me when I went up stairs, and then it vanished from me,

He received sentence immediately, this being Thursday, to be executed on the Saturday following, and his body dissected and anatomized. He was executed accordingly, and his body hung in chains on Hounslow-Heath .


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