JAMES HACKMAN, Killing > murder, 4th April 1779.

Reference Number: t17790404-3
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death

187. JAMES HACKMAN , Clerk , was indicted for the wilful murther of Martha Ray , spinster , April 7th .

He was charged with the like murther on the coroner's inquisition.

JOHN M'NAMARA , Esq. sworn.

You was coming from the playhouse with Miss Ray on the 7th of April. - I was. On Wednesday the 7th of April, seeing Miss Ray in some difficulties at the playhouse, and, being a little acquainted with her, I was induced to offer my assistance to hand her to her carriage; she took me by the arm.

What time of the night was this? - Past eleven o'clock, I believe; I am not precise to the time. As we came out of the passage that leads into Covent-Garden playhouse, when we were in the piazzas, very near the carriage, I heard the report of a pistol.

You was not with her then; you had only handed her to the piazzas? - I came out of the passage with her. I had not quitted her at the time the fatal accident happened; she had hold of my hand at the time. After I came out of the passage in the piazzas I heard the report of a pistol, and felt an impression on my right arm, the arm she held with her left, and which I conceive to be the ball, after it had passed through her head, that had hit my arm; she instantly dropped.

How far had you proceeded from the playhouse door when this accident happened? - Within two or three yards of the front on the outside, in the street, within two steps of the coach; she had got out of the portico; it was in the piazzas that it happened. I thought the pistol had been fired out of wantonness; I had not an idea that there was a ball though I felt the impression on my arm. I stooped to assist her in a fainting fit, as I conceived it to be, through the fright of the pistol.

Did you at any time observe the prisoner? - No, I did not; I do not know he was the person at all, but from what passed afterwards in the Shakspeare. I threw myself upon my knees to attempt to help her up, and found my hands bloody; I then had an idea of the truth of it, and by the assistance of a link-boy I got her into the Shakspeare tavern. Upon the prisoner being secured, I was induced to ask him what could possess him to be guilty of such a deed? or some question of that sort; and he answered me by saying, that it was not a proper place to ask that question, or something to that effect. I am not precise as to his answer. I asked him his name, and I understood from him that his name was Hackman; I think he pronounced his name with an H. I asked him if he knew anybody. He said, he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven-street in the Strand, and desired he might be sent for. He desired to see the lady. I did not tell him she was dead; somebody else did. I objected to his seeing her at that time. I had her removed into another room. From the great quantity of blood I had about me I got sick, and was obliged to go home. - I know no more abou t it.

When the prisoner heard the lady was dead did he make any observations in your hearing? - I cannot recollect that he made any observation.

MARY ANDERSON sworn.

On Wednesday, the 7th of April, after the play was over, where were you standing? - Close by the lady's carriage.

What are you? - I sell fruit.

Give an account of all that you observed under the piazzas.

I was standing at the post. Just as the play broke up I saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse; a gentleman in black followed them. Lady Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up, the gentleman handed the other lady into the carriage; the lady that was shot stood behind. Before the gentleman could come back to hand her into the carriage the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her by the gown, and pulled out of his pocket two pistols; he shot the right hand pistol at her, and the other at himself. She fell with her hand so (describing it as being on her forehead) and died before she could be got to the first lamp; I believe she died immediately, for her head hung directly. At first I was frightened at the report of the pistol, and ran away. He fired another pistol, and dropped immediately. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistols, and desired somebody would kill him.

Whereabouts did he beat himself? - Just about the right temple. (Describing it.)

His own head? - Yes.

Did you see him in Tothilfields Bridewell the next day? - Yes.

Was the person you saw there the person who discharged the pistol? - Yes.

Is he here? - That is the gentleman. (Pointing to the prisoner.)

Cross Examination.

You say Mr. Hackman pulled two pistols out of his pocket - do you mean he pulled them both out of one pocket with one hand? - He pulled them out of different pockets with different hands, and they went off just so. (Describing it by claping her hands twice, one immediately after the other.)

Was one taken out first, and the other afterwards? - No; both together.

Was the pistol cocked? - I saw him cock both the pistols at the same time.

Did you see him do any thing to the pistols? - I saw him let them off.

Do you know the make of a pistol? - No.

Did you see him do any thing to the pistol before he let it off? - No.

RICHARD BLANDY sworn.

I am a constable.

Tell what you observed on the evening of the 7th of April? - Coming from Drury-Lane house, as I came by the piazzas in Covent-Garden I heard two pistols go off, and heard somebody say two people were killed. I went up, and saw the surgeon had Mr. Hackman and a pistol in his hand. Mr. Mahon gave me the pistol, and desired me to take care of the prisoner, and take him to his house.

To Mr. Mahon's house? - Yes; when I came to the corner by the Red-Lion, the door was shut. I found the prisoner very faint; somebody called to me, and desired me to bring him back to the Shakspeare tavern; that Mr. Mahon was there, and I brought him back to the Shakspeare.

Cross Examination.

You are a constable? - Yes.

When you saw this gentleman what situation was he in? - All bloody; he was wounded in the head. I searched his pocket and found two letters, which I delivered, as I was desired, to Mr. Campbell, the master of the Shakspeare tavern.

Do you know who they were addressed to? - No.

Nor the contents of them? - I do not.

JAMES MAHON sworn.

I am an apothecary. I live at the corner of Bow-street. Coming through the piazzas in Covent-Garden, intending to go through the passage home, I had just put my foot on the first step when I heard two pistols go off. It struck me that two gentlemen had quarrelled in the boxes, and taken that method to settle the difference. I went back, and saw the gentleman lie on the ground, reclining in this posture (describing it) he had a pistol in his left hand, and was beating himself violently. I understood that his name was Hackman. The prisoner is the gentleman. I wrenched the pistol immediately out of his hand. He bled very much. I gave the pistol to Blandy, the constable, and desired him to take the prisoner to my house that I might dress the wound, and stop the

violent effusion of blood. I was going towards my own house; at the corner of Russel-Street I met Mr. Campbell, who keeps the Shakspeare tavern?

It is no matter what passed between you and Mr. Campbell, did you see any thing of the lady? - At first I did not.

When did you see her? - In the space of two or three minutes I saw her lying at the bar, supported by a person I did not know. I perceived the wound was mortal. I said I could give her no assistance.

DENNIS O'BRYAN sworn.

I am a surgeon. I was called upon to view the body of Miss Ray. I saw the body at the Shakspeare the same night soon after the murther; I examined the wound, and found it to be a mortal one. I felt the vessels of sensation, and tried every other way to see if I could perceive any life, and pronounced the woman dead. The wound was received in the front of the head, in the Centra coronalis, and the ball was discharged under the left ear.

PRISONER's DEFENCE.

I should not have troubled the court with the examination of witnesses to support the charge against me, had I not thought that the pleading guilty to the indictment gave an indication of contemning death not suitable to my present condition, and was in some measure, being accessary to a second peril of my life; and I likewise thought, that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact established by evidence.

I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and complete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her who was ever dearer to me than life, was never mine till a momentary phrensy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brother-in-law after my decease, will have its due weight as to this point with good men.

Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death, or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgement of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this enquiry into my conduct and intention.

Examination to support the Prisoner's Defence.

WILLIAM HALLIBURTON sworn.

This letter (producing the letter found in the prisoner's pocket) was delivered to me by Mr. Bond, at Sir John Fielding 's; he said it was delivered to him by Mr. Booth.

Is Mr. Bond here? - No.

Mr. Mabon. This is the letter that was taken from the prisoner; I remember particularly the hundred pound mentioned in it being written in figures; I read it in Mr. Booth's hand; I saw it taken out of the prisoner's pocket sealed up; Mr. Booth opened it and read it in my presence.

The letter was read, directed to Frederick Booth , Esq. Craven street, in the Strand.

"My dear Frederick,

"When this reaches you I shall be no more, but do not let my unhappy fate distress you too much; I have strove against it as long as possible, but it now overpowers me. You well know where my affections were placed; my having by some means or other lost her's (an idea which I could not support) has driven me to madness. The world will condemn me, but your good heart will pity me. God bless you my dear Fred. Would I had a sum to leave you, to convince you of my great regard: you was my only friend. I have hid one circumstance from you, which gives me great pain. I owe Mr. Knight, of Gosport, 100 l. for which he has the writings of my houses; but I hope in God, when they are sold, and all other matters collected, there will be nearly enough to settle our account. May Almighty God bless you and yours with comfort

and happiness; and may you ever be a stranger to the pangs I now feel. May heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act, which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured. Oh! if it should ever be in your power to do her any act of friendship, remember your faithful friend,

J. HACKMAN."

GUILTY Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice BLACKSTONE.


View as XML