Offence: Killing > murder
Punishment: Death > death and dissection; Death > executed
WILLIAM WOODCOCK was indicted, for that he, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the 27th day of October last, in the parish of St. Luke, Chelsea, upon Silvia Woodcock , his wife , in the peace of God and our Lord the King, then and there being, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault, and with a certain wooden stick, of the value of 1 s. which he, in both his hands, then and there had and held, her, the said Silvia, in and upon her head and face did strike and beat, giving her, by such striking and beating, one mortal wound, of the length of three quarters of an inch, and of the depth of three quarters of an inch, on the right side of her head, and also divers mortal bruises on her head, of which said mortal wounds and bruises she languished till the 31st of October, and languishing did live; on which said 31st of October she died: and so the jurors, on their oaths, say, she the said Silvia, he the said William, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did kill and murder .
He was also charged with the like felony and murder on the Coroner's inquisition.
(The Witnesses examined separate, by desire of Mr. Peatt, prisoner's council; except the surgeon.)
The case opened by Mr. Silvester.
May it please your Lordship, and you, Gentlemen of the Jury, this is an indictment against the prisoner at the bar, William Woodcock , for the wilful murder of Silvia Woodcock , his wife. The deceased was a Mulatto woman; and in January, 1779, was married to the prisoner: at that time he was a labourer . They continued for some years living together; but for the last two or three years of her life he resided in London and she at Enfield. On the 27th of October last he went down to Enfield, and persuaded her to come to London; telling her he had taken a lodging in Holborn for her, which would be more convenient for him, as he said he was a servant in London. She proceeded from Enfield to London with him, at two o'clock, on Tuesday the 27th of October. On Wednesday the 28th of October, a gardener's servant, who lived at Chelsea, was preparing to go to market: in a narrow lane, called Robinson's Lane, he found a woman laying partly in the ditch, very much beaten indeed, and apparently dead. He immediately applied to the watchman, and told him the situation of the woman; that watchman applied to a second; and they came there, and found the woman in that situation. Supposing she was dead, they covered her with her apron, took care of her, and went to the parish-officer: he, early in the morning, directed this poor creature should be carried to the workhouse, and put into a warm bed; and that a surgeon and apothecary should be instantly sent for. They went immediately; she was put into a warm bed. She remained insensible till towards the evening; then recovered her senses; told who she was, and where she came from. On the next morning a magistrate attended, and she there gave a description of herself; saying her name was Silvia Woodcock ; that she had been married, in the year 1779, to a man of the name of William Woodcock ; that she resided at Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire; that her house, or dwelling, was near the highway, Enfield; and that, on the day before, he had persuaded her to come to town, for the purpose of getting lodging; that he had walked her from Enfield to London, only stopping once; that, when it grew dark, he asked her for the key of her lodging, which she refused, and that he immediately struck her with a large stick which he had in his hand, and which rendered her insensible; that she knew nothing more. Having the description of her person, and the person she was with, application was made at Enfield; and there it turned out, that a neighbour of her's, a Mrs. Brace, had seen this woman
I am a gardener's servant; I live at Chelsea. On the morning of the 28th of October I was going to market; a little turned of three, about a quarter or ten minutes, to the best of my knowledge. I found a woman, which I observed afterwards to be a Mulatto woman: I was going on the road to fetch my master's horses, to go to Covent Garden; it was in Robinson's Lane, Chelsea : I saw she had been very ill used by somebody, and I went and called one William Pennyfeather , a watchman; then we came back, and as I left her so I found her; then we went for one Richard Glover , a watchman, and called him; then I went about my business.
Court. Describe a little more particularly, as far as your observation went, the state and condition in which she was when you first found her? - She laid across the ditch that was on the side of the road, with her head towards the road. I saw she had had a violent blow, or a cut, on the side of her
How did her cloaths, her dress lay; was she covered? - She was covered as far as this, every thing of her cloaths lay straight upon her.
Did her cloaths lay in the manner in which, if she had met with any accident, and had fallen, they were likely to lay; or did they appear to have been smoothed? - No, I cannot say they appeared any thing like that; the cloaths lay all straight, as if she had laid herself down, and pulled her cloaths straight, by what I could see of her.
Was the ditch hollow, was there any depth? - A little hollow.
Did the body rest in the bottom of the ditch? - Yes.
Where were the feet? - The feet leaned against the hedge, against the bank.
Were they raised? - Yes.
So the head and the feet were raised, and the body sunk? - Yes.
I am a watchman. At the end of Church Lane, Chelsea, I was called by Cannon to a woman who was found in Robinson's Lane. She was laying flat upon her back; no cap at all; her hair tied at top of her head, either with a red ribbon or a garter; her apron was down, and her feet under a hedge; and I saw her wounds very plain on each side of her head: the head was the side of the road, and the feet under the hedge. There was room enough for a person to walk by. She was cut in a most shocking manner; her temples were both cut open, but her left was rather more; and whether her eye was out I cannot justly say, but her left eye was sadly swelled. She had a white apron on; I took it and flung it over her face, and tucked it under her head.
Court. Was the apron clean? - It had been a clean apron, but I really believe there was blood upon it, I cannot justly say; it appeared to be very rumpled. I went down to Richard Glover , to get assistance to take her down to the doctor; and Cannon left me; and Glover and me went and fetched her down; he had her by the right arm, and I by the left: we took her between us, and put her against Mr. Powell's shop, at the end of Robinson's Lane; we set her up against the wall.
Could she walk? - She walked, I suppose, the value of twelve or fourteen yards, and then she said she could not walk any further, she was so weak and so faint: she asked several times, how much further we were going to take her. The clock struck four: I left Glover and went to my watch again. I never saw her after, till I saw her a corpse. I left her in the care of Glover.
She had discovered signs of life before you went to call Glover? - Yes, and spoke to me.
What was the first thing you asked her? - The first thing I asked her was, whether her name was Sophia, because there was a person very like her description who lived near there; she was a Mulatto woman; and she said Silvia, twice very plain: that was all I could get out of her. I asked her several times, who it was used her so ill; she made no answer.
Was that before you went to call Glover? - Yes.
I am another watchman at Chelsea. I was called by Pennyfeather and Cannon, to go to a woman that was laying in Robinson's-Lane. Cannon left us: I took my lanthorn, and went up to Pennyfeather, and saw the body lay; I said, it is a pity she should lay here; let us take her somewhere, to get some relief for her. I went to the bottom of the lane, and called the beadle. He came in about five minutes; then he went to the overseer, and came back again. He said he must take her up to the work-house. Going along, I found
Did any thing pass? - I could not understand a word, she had such a rattling in her throat.
Where did you find that shoe you spoke of? - One side the ditch. On the right-hand side going up.
Did you find it in the road, or by the bank, or in the ditch? - In the ditch, where I took her body from.
Can you tell whether her shoes were on at the time you took her up to lead her away, or whether that shoe was off? - I could not tell that.
Then in helping her up, perhaps, you might have drawn off the shoe? - Yes. The next day, the surgeon and apothecary said the body had lost one of her ears; and in the thick of the blood, I raked with my finger, and found her ear; there was a deal of blood there. When it was light in the morning, I went to the spot where she was laying, and there was a deal of blood.
How was she when you first found her? - All over blood; we could not tell what colour she was, only by her hands.
Whereabout did you find the blood? - In the ditch where I took her body from.
Was it a quantity of blood, or drops of blood dispersed? - I believe there might be near a quart of blood, because it was sunk down into the ground. It was quite matted hard; I parted it, and took her ear up. It appeared to be a whole ear that I took out of the blood; I gave it to the surgeon.
Did you find any thing else? - There was a seal lay where her body was in the ditch.
Any thing else? - There was a stick picked up. This is the stick.
(A piece of a common stick shattered at the end)
Mr. Peatt. You was there before she was raised from the ground? - Yes.
Were her feet close together, or in any other position? - Her feet were nearly together.
You never saw her before? - No.
You do not know who she was? - No.
What age did she appear to be of? - I could not tell, she was all in such a situation.
Mr. GIBBS sworn.
I am overseer of the parish of Chelsea. I was called up about five in the morning of the 27th of October, by the beadle, who informed me the watchman had found a woman very much beat and bloody; and that he did not know whether she would live, or was living. I told him to take her to the work-house, and order the master of the work-house to send immediately for a surgeon and apothecary; and as soon as it was light, I went up myself. The surgeon and apothecary were there. They examined the woman, and found that one of her ears was cut off or beat off, and that she was very bloody; and they were of opinion, that she must have been beat some time before, from the congealed blood.
Court. You mean some hours before? - Some hours before. We agreed then to meet at four in the afternoon.
It was a Mulatto woman? - Yes. We agreed to meet at four o'clock, and find then, whether she was able to give any account where she came from; accordingly we met. She informed us, that her name was Silvia Woodcock , of Enfield Highway; and that she, with her husband, came from Enfield Highway, about two o'clock, on Monday, the 27th; and that they stopped at the Basing-house, and drank one pint of beer between them; (that is in Kingsland Road, I believe) and he told her she was to go to a lodging in Holborn; and she walked with him a long way, till it came dark, till they went to a bye place, where there were a few houses; and after passing them, they came to a narrow lane; he then asked her for the keys of her lodging and box; she then told him, William, it is time enough to give you the keys when you come to your new lodging, with that he hit her with a stick, and knocked her down, and she knew no more till she was in Chelsea work-house. When
(Handed up to the Court.)
It was a seal that turned upon pivots, I see? - Yes.
Mr. Peatt. What time did she mention she came from Enfield? - Near about two o'clock.
Did she say how long it was from the time they left Enfield, to the time of the difference taking place? - She said it was dark. I imagine it was near seven o'clock. She repeated the words twice over.
How far is Enfield from Robinson's Lane? - I should think it fifteen miles. I am not acquainted with the ground.
Court. How could they get to Robinson's Lane, without coming through London? - They must go through the New-road, Islington; that is the only way I know, and then they must go through Hyde Park. I believe the prisoner knows that part of the town very well; as I have heard from Mr. Hall, that he lived groom at Hyde Park Corner.
I am a surgeon at Chelsea.
Describe to my Lord and the Jury, the whole that you know of this transaction? - On Tuesday morning, about six, I was called up to a poor woman who had been brought into the work house, they said, almost dead: she was a Mulatto woman. I went there and saw her. I met Mr. Powell, the apothecary, and we went and found her in bed. She was in so bad a state at that time, I did not imagine she would live many hours; she was almost senseless at that time. She appeared to have received several wounds on the head, and to have lost a great quantity of blood; her hair was so matted by the blood, that I could not make any examination immediately of the exact state of the wounds. I desired her head might be fomented with some warm water and cloths; I recommended to have some wine given to her, and I should return in the course of a few hours, when I thought I should form a proper examination: it was very evident at that time she had lost her ear. I returned in four or five hours; I found her then considerably better. I examined her head then, and there were in all eight wounds; there were one on each orbit of the eye, the bones of which were laid bare, and evidently fractured and broke, the orbit that was on the right side; on the left side there appeared to be a wound, but I could not at that time find any fracture; there were several other wounds on different parts of the head, but none of them so material as that. I attended her with Mr. Powell the apothecary, two or three times a day; we were generally together. She died, I think, on the Friday night. I saw her on Friday, the last day. On the Sunday, in company with Mr. Powell, I examined her head.
Do you mean that you opened the head? - No, we did not open the head, for we found no fracture of the skull. These were the bones that were taken out of the left side, and those were taken out of the right side; for on examination after this, we found both sides of the face were broke, and the bones shattered in a dreadful manner; that is, the bone which forms the greater part of the orbit: that part of the orbit was detached from its connections entirely on both sides, both from the jaw below, and the skull above.
(The bones that were taken out handed to the Jury.)
On our return, the ear was picked up
Could you judge from the appearance of the separation, in what manner it was most likely to be effected; whether it was cut off, or torn off, or wrenched off, or beat off by some sudden blow? - I found myself very much puzzled to form any judgment; but on the whole, I think it was struck off from behind with a stick. It was taken off very close.
Not cut, you think? - I think not.
All that you can say is, that it was more probable it was taken off by a blow from behind? - I should rather suppose so.
(The ear produced to the Jury.)
I suppose it is hardly practicable to have twisted it off? - I should rather suppose not. I really could not form a proper judgment; I endeavoured, and considered the matter as much as I possibly could.
Mr. Peatt. Then you do not affect to know with what weapon it was done? - No, Sir, it is impossible.
If you had seen this subject, independent of the sticks and things you saw, would you have then thought it was done with a stick? - I think I should: if I had been obliged to give one opinion, I should certainly have said I thought it was done with a stick behind, independent of seeing the sticks.
Court. In your judgment, were the wounds the cause of the death? - There can be no doubt but the woman died in consequence of the wounds.
What way did the wounds operate to produce death: was there any appearance of mortification, or was the brain affected at all? - The brain was not affected at all.
Was there any fever? - Only a kind of fever that is occasioned by loss of blood.
Was there any mortification? - A mortification took place all over the face before she died, particularly on the right side. I could form very little judgment of the soft parts, they were in such a state of mortification.
Mr. Peatt. She appeared to be considerably mangled? - Very much.
It is possible that a subject might have that appearance of being so wounded by a round smooth iron? - Undoubtedly.
And there might be much difficulty to distinguish by which the wound was given? - It is not possible to tell whether the blows were given by a stick or by a poker.
Court. You attended this woman from Tuesday morning to Friday evening? - Yes.
During what part of that time was she able to speak? - From the time I returned the second time to the work-house, she was perfectly sensible, even to the last time I saw her. She spoke and gave a very rational account, and very particular as to the several circumstances that have been mentioned. I was the first person that did hear the account.
What was the account she gave? - I will recall it as well as I can to memory. I took it down on paper, then I gave it to one of the officers. The first was, that her name was Silvia Woodcock , that she set out from Enfield in company with her husband, at two o'clock; that they walked together for some hours; when it grew dark about seven o'clock, that they then came to a narrow bye lane, and he asked her for some keys; her reply was, William, it will be time enough to give you them when I see the lodging; and upon that, some altercation took place, and he struck her down.
Did she use the expression altercation, or is it your idea? - It is my idea; she said, upon her refusal again, she received this blow, which deprived her of her senses.
You mean no more by altercation than that there was a talk about the keys? - That was all.
Did you hear this twice, or only once? - I heard it once, which was the first time and every time. I endeavoured to get all I could out of her; and she was very particular in mentioning the keys, and receiving
I How often do you think you spoke to her on the subject? - Every time I dressed her, which was twice a-day, from Tuesday to Friday.
Then the subject was mentioned four or five times, or more? - Oh, repeatedly. I endeavoured every time, as much as the state of her health would permit.
Were the accounts she gave uniform? - Very much so, indeed.
Consistant? - I do not know that she prevaricated once. I do not recollect a single mistake.
When you asked her questions as to the states of her health, were her answers clear and sensible? - Perfectly so.
It appeared only so then, that these accounts were given with a perfect possession of herself? - Quite so indeed.
Do you know whether she conceived herself to be in any danger? - I do not know that. The day before she died; she seemed to think so; for on a question being asked her, she said it was no matter.
Was this subject mentioned to her on that day at all? - On the day before she died?
Yes? - No, I do not recollect it was mentioned that day.
Did she express any desire that the person that had done her this injury should be punished? - I never heard her.
Did she describe the injury with coolness, or with marks of resentment against the person who had used her so? - No. I think with great coolness.
She expressed no desire of revenge, or any thing of that kind? - Not in my hearing. I never heard her.
Mr. Peatt. You knew nothing of her, but what she said of herself? - Nothing more.
Court. What aged woman did she appear to be? - She was so very much hurt and mangled, that I could form no judgment. I thought she might be between thirty and forty; but I found she was considerably more than that.
What sized woman? - A very small woman: very short.
Was there any circumstance about her person, as far as your observation went; that could lead to her being very well known? - I should suppose from her figure and her colour; that there could never be any mistake made about her person.
Was there any ring on her finger? - There was a ring found before I saw her, by the people of the work-house.
Were her cloaths preserved? - Yes.
Are they to court? - Mr. Gibbs. Not the things she had on when she was taken to the work-house.
They should have been here. Is there any thing here that was about her person at the time? - I believe not.
Court to the watchman. Describe the gown more particularly? - It was like second mourning. Like a raven grey, to the best of my knowledge.
I am an apothecary to Chelsea workhouse. I was sent for early on the 28th of October. Between five and six I went up to the work-house, as soon as I was called. When I came there, this Mulatto woman was just put to bed. She just swallowed a little warm wine and water. I then looked over her head; it was all blood, and a number of wounds in different parts of her head and face. I looked on the right side of her head, there was no ear: the blood was matted considerably in the hair of her head, and remained very hard; the face was considerably swelled, the blood oozing from the eyes, and from the nostrils. I begged them to put warm things to her feet, and to give her a little more wine, if she could swallow it: then I was informed Mr. Read, the surgeon, was sent for, and I retired immediately, till he came. Mr. Read and Mr. Gibbs soon came, then we three went to her again; and the head was so covered with blood, it appeared so matted, that Mr. Read and me agreed, with the use of warm milk and water, and cloaths, to have it opened a little; we also
Was she collected and sensible in the afternoon of that day? - She gave an account of her name, and where she was married; she said that she had been married about nine years, at Cheshunt. She said her name was Woodcock; that her husband was a gentleman's servant, and hired somewhere in London; but London was a large place. Afterwards Mr. Read, Mr. Gibbs, and me, went; as we went home, we met Glover, the watchman, and went with him to the place where he found the body; and when we came to that place, the weeds of the ditch seemed to have been pressed down, and on the side of the bank there was blood; and there was blood interspersed among the weeds, in different places. We there found a piece of a stick, and part of a swing seal. Upon recollection of the dryness of the blood upon the woman's head, we could not tell whether she was ill treated there; or had been brought there. We searched for the ear, and found the ear among the weeds, in that ditch; that ear, in my opinion, must belong to the same body.
Court. Then you was satisfied, when you found the ear, that she had been ill-treated there? - Perfectly satisfied. After this I assisted Mr. Read in examining the wounds of the head. The orbit of her right-eye was fractured; the cheek-bone beat in, and fractured; the head was very putrid; I believe there were five fragments of bones taken from the right-side; on the left-side there was a fracture also, and two or three fragments were taken from there, which were quite loose: the putrefaction was very great.
What was the cause of her death? - I should suppose the wounds, and contusions, and bruises, must be the cause of her death; and loss of blood, most likely, contributed also. I heard her give an account of herself at different times.
How many times? - She gave a very good account of herself Tuesday evening; and Wednesday she gave an account of herself; tolerably on Thursday; on Friday I had not an opportunity of asking her many questions.
Did the accounts agree? - They always agreed; the woman seemed to speak the pure truth. I asked her how she got her livelihood; she said, working in the gardens, or any thing. On Thursday evening the putrefaction was getting on so fast at that time, Mr. Read and I had agreed that Mr. North, another surgeon, should be called in. Mr. Read said he did not know whether she would recover or not; the putrefaction was coming on very fast. She gave a good account of herself still; at this time her memory was good. On Friday I do not know of asking her many questions.
Did she seem to have much attention herself to her own condition? - Very little. She wished she could die, because she had no eye-sight, I believe; for when that seal was shewn her, to ask her if it was her husband's seal, she said she could not see, and it sometimes made her blunder. I question whether she could see at all, the swelling was so very great, and the injury.
Mr. Peatt. Would you have taken upon you to say, with any degree of certainty, if the circumstances which have been described had not been told to you, could you have given any opinion as to the instrument? - From the lacerated state of the wounds, I should presume to say it was not done with a cutting instrument.
Would you have said, to any degree of certainty, whether it was done by an instrument of iron or wood? - I could not say any such thing.
What size woman was she? - A small size; delicately made. I have seen many She was rather diminutive: she had no deformity, that I saw: she seemed to be a neat little woman: she was rather pale; than they usually are, but that might be from loss of blood.
I think you say that she said, in general
I am a magistrate of the county. I live in Chelsea. I attended at the poor-house, and saw this woman.
Mr. Peatt. Was the examination taken down by your clerk? - I took it down myself; I keep no clerk.
Have you it here? - It was sent to court.
(The examination shewn.)
This is the examination you took yourself from the woman's own mouth? - Yes.
Was she then in a state of perfect recollection? - She was.
Did you put it into your own language, or did you copy it from her own words? -
I asked her the questions, and the answers I put down into writing. I told her it would be necessary for her to speak the truth. I told her I was a magistrate, and I was come to take her examination, and she was to swear to it, and sign it. I asked her if she knew the nature of an oath; (I found she was a Mulatto woman, a native of the East Indies) she said she knew the nature of an oath: I told her she was calling God to witness the truth of what she was to relate; she said she would. In consequence of which I asked her these questions, and these are the answers, in her own words.
Court. What time of the day was it? - About eleven o'clock.
Mr. Silvester. Did you administer the oath to her? - I did. I read it over to her afterwards, and gave it to her to sign; she said she could not see, but she said she would make a mark on the paper, which she did.
Court. Did you tell her your reason for coming to her? - I did. I told her it was necessary for her to tell the truth, that we might find out the person that had used her in that manner.
Did you say any thing to her of the situation in which she herself was at that time; any allusion to her being in any danger? - No, I did not.
(The paper read.)
"Middlesex, To wit. The information
"&c. who being duly sworn, on her oath
"says, that she was lawfully married to
"church of Cheshunt, Herts; that they
"had not cohabited together for some
"months; that she lived in a small apartment
"at High-street, Enfield; that on
"Monday last, the 27th of October, her
"said husband came to her, and told her
"he had got another lodging for her, and
"insisted upon her going with him to see
"it; that she left Enfield with him about
"two o'clock, and stopped once on the
"road, and had a pint of beer; that at
"night, being very dark, he took her into
"a narrow lane, and asked her for her
"keys; that she told him it would be
"time enough to give him the keys when
"she saw the new lodging; upon which he
"knocked her down with a large stick he
"had in his hand, and beat her about her
"head and face in a most horrid manner;
"when she fell down, but does not know
"what became of her till she found herself
"at Chelsea Workhouse. Sworn before
"me, this 29th of October, 1788.
I live at Enfield Highway. I knew the prisoner very well.
Did you know any other part of the family? - Only his wife.
Where did she live? - At Enfield Highway, the next house to me.
Did he live with her? - Not lately, Sir; he had been at a gentleman's place for about two years, and as much as since last August.
He did not live with her? - No; he came backwards and forwards.
When had you seen him before that? - I saw him the seven-and-twentieth.
About what time? - About two o'clock on Monday, the 27th of October.
Did you see her then? - Yes, she went from my house.
Tell us if you heard from him, or from her, in his presence, where they were going? - Yes; she came to me the 27th of October, and told me she was going to Holborn: he came afterwards to the door; I says, Mr. Woodcock, you are come, says I; I do not like this parting at all; says he, do not you like it, then you may keep her; keep her, says he again, if you do not like it: says I, Mr. Woodcock, what should I keep your wife for. She started up to go; it was about two o'clock; and he said, what need you be in such a hurry, you are in a devilish hurry, you will be time enough; so she staid a little longer, and then she got up, and took her leave of me, and set off for town.
How long had she been to you, to take leave of you, before he came? - About a quarter of an hour.
Mr. Peatt. Was he present when she said she was going to Holborn? - I went to their own house about one, and I said, Mr. Woodcock, are you going? and he said, yes; they were then both together going to dinner.
What did you say? - Says I, what, do you think of going? and they said, yes. Says I, where are you going, Mr. Woodcock? and he said he was going to Holborn. I said, and what is your wife to do there? he said she was to clean a room that was as dirty as the devil, by taking the grates down. Says I, is not your wife to come back? he said he did not know for that; but if she did not, he should come back again. I said, what is your wife to do in an empty room? he said she might lay at his lodging. Says I, do not you lodge at that place? no, says he; but he said he lodged just by. She says, Will, says she, I must come back again to pack up my pea-sticks: she had a large garden, and she had made a reserve of the pea-sticks. Then I took leave of them, and came away from them. I said, I will not bid you good-b'ye, I shall see you again; because they were to leave the key of the house with me, and pass my house to town. She came about two o'clock to me, and he followed her about a quarter of an hour after she had been at my house: they set off a little after two o'clock. When they came, that passed which I have related before, and he went in about half an hour afterwards. He went back to the house, and came back again. I asked him what room he had taken, he said a room in Holborn; and I asked him what he might give a year for the room, and he said, what did I think; I said 5 l. and he said 5 l. 10 s. but he said that was cheaper than giving 10 l. a year. 10 l. says I, you pay but 4 l. what do you give for your lodging in town? he said, what do you think? I said 18 d. he said, yes, but there is nobody to get a bit of hot victuals, and he paid 4 l. for the place he rented there. Then I asked him, when do you think of returning again? when he brought the keys to me, which might be near half after two, for what I know; and he said he should be back on Tuesday or Wednesday, at the furthest; this was Monday: then he went away. He came down again the 30th of October, which was the Thursday, about nine in the morning; he came by one of the morning coaches. He came in for the keys; the officers had been at my house on the Wednesday; and when he came, says I, Woodcock, here has been some of Mr. Wilmot's runners after you. Runners! says he, what should they want with me? Says I, I do not know what they want with you, Woodcock, but they want you; they were here, for one of them was in my house half an hour. I told him the officers had asked me a many questions, and I answered them indifferent, and I am sure they want you; and I told them I expected him home on the Wednesday: he said it must be a mistake, they could not want him. When
Did he say he was going the back way? - No; he went down the great road, as if he was going into the country; I saw him about a stones's throw from my house. I know no further.
Court. Had the people that came from the Justices told you their business? - No; they kept me in the dark; quite so.
Did he leave the key with you again? - Yes.
For what time have you known the woman? - I have known her, I believe near seven years; between six and seven years.
She was a black woman? - A Mulatto.
Do you know of what country? - I cannot rightly say the part she came from.
Where did he marry her from? - From one Mr. Lane's; who lived at Cheshunt at first, but moved after to some part of the town.
What sized woman was she? - She was a very small woman.
Mr. Silvester. Did you see her after this? - No.
Did you see her body afterwards? - Oh, yes, I saw her at Chelsea.
What you was sent for? - Yes.
What day was it you went to Chelsea? - It was on Tuesday; I was there in the afternoon.
And you saw the body at Chelsea? - Yes.
When she left Enfield, what did she take with her? - She had a handkerchief, with a trifle of things in it.
What kind of handkerchief? - It was a blue and white checkered handkered, which she bought in my house of a man that day: what was in it I cannot tell; there were a small quantity of things.
How was she dressed? - In a very good black bonnet, with a white lining; and a very good black satin cloak.
What was the colour of her gown? - A half-mourning gown, and a green petticoat.
Did you see any cloaths when you was at Chelsea? - I saw her gown and her petticoat; and I am positive the corpse was the same.
Mr. Peatt. How far is your residence from the Basing House, in Shoreditch? - About ten miles.
Did you examine the gown and petticoat that you saw at Chelsea? - No, I cannot say I did.
Then, if I understand you right, it was a gown and petticoat of the same colour that she used to wear? - Yes.
The body you saw was very much mangled, was not it? - No.
Was not it in a state of putrefaction? - Why, it smelt very much; but her face was the same as if she had been living.
Was not her face very much disfigured?
Which was the most perfect part of her face, the lower part or the upper part? - I do not know. Her nose rather seemed flatter.
Did you ever observe, in her life-time, what kind of ears she had? - Never. Her face was not disfigured; I knew her as well as if she had been living. I always had an impression on my mind, on her first coming to tell me she was going to leave me.
Should you have known the woman, without these impressions on your mind, if you had seen her in any field; should you have known that woman upon seeing her in a ditch or field near your house, without any impression on your mind that the woman was murdered or destroyed? - I believe I could, very safely.
Do you think you would say that, upon the recollection that the life of another human creature depends in some measure on what you say, that you can say to a certainty that that was the woman that you knew? - I believe I could, very safely.
Was she altered at all in her colour? - No.
Not the least altered? - No.
I am a coachman to Mr. Harvey, at attorney, in the Adelphi.
You knew the prisoner? - No; I apprehended him in this manner. I was coming down Half-Moon-street, Piccadilly; there was an alarm of this man going down, that had done the murder on his wife, Silvia Woodcock ; they were going to follow him to a public-house, and sent for a constable; I said there was no occasion for that, and I seized him immediately, and put him into a coach, and carried him to the Rotation Office, in Lichfield-street. I asked him, in the coach, if he had not a wife of the name of Silvia Woodcock ; he said, yes. I asked him what he had done with her; and he said he had not seen her for a fortnight; I said that was very strange. I asked him afterwards where she was; and he said he did not know.
What day did you take him? - Upon Saturday the 8th of November.
Mr. Peatt. Did he tell you that he had been in town all that time? - I did not ask him that, nor he did not tell me.
Did he happen to tell you where he had been in that space of time? - No.
I am an officer belonging to Lichfield-street. On the 8th of November the prisoner was brought to the office in Litchfield-street, and examined by the Justice. After he had been examined some time, the advertisement being read, and describing him in a red waistcoat, the magistrate asked him it he had such a thing; he said he had, but that it was at Enfield. After that, the magistrate desired him to be taken in the back-office, and searched; he was searched, and this key taken out of his pocket, and some other things, which were trifling; money, and things of that kind. He afterwards asked to speak with his last wife, who was there; she told me she was his last wife; and the magistrate suspecting she was going to take away something, as she had a coach ready to go off, I went with her, and searched his box, at his lodgings, in Charles-street, Westminster, with the key; I took from the prisoner, and I found these things in the box. Here is a cloak, a bed-gown, and a coloured apron, and some other trifling things. The cloak appears to be all blood; as full of blood as it could hold. I was desired, by some of the officers of the parish, that we should dry the cloak. We could not make any thing particularly out. There was a cap in the bundle, in which they lapped some of the wet part of the cloak; and since that it appears in this state. The cloak was wrapped up in the bed-gown; and here is some blood in the bed-gown.
Court. What is the cloak? - It is a black satin cloak. There was a 10 l. Bank-note found in the prisoner's box,
Jury. Did you ever examine if there was any blood on the waistcoat? - We did examine if there was any, but there does not appear to be any.
Does the waistcoat appear to have been cleaned? - I do not know; it is in the state it was. I found this handkerchief, and a coloured apron, all tied up together in the box; except the red waistcoat, which laid on the outside; the handkerchief appears to be clean; there were two course aprons between it and the cloak.
Mr. Peatt. Do you happen to know whether that is blood or no? - Yes.
Do you affect to take upon you to know it from similar substances? - I take upon me to say that that is blood to the best of my knowledge and belief.
To Mrs. Brace. Look at that bed-gown? - I believe it to be her's; there is no particular mark by which I know it; I have seen her wear such a bed gown.
Do you know the cloak? - It is like her's; I do not know it; she wore such a cloak; her's was a black satin cloak, and the same of the cap. She bought just such a handkerchief as this. I believe all these things to be her's; but there is no mark that I would chuse to swear to. This handkerchief is of the very pattern of that which she bought at my house that morning.
Called to prove the second marriage.
Court. I do not think the relation of that circumstance to this case is necessary. It certainly goes to prove that this man meditated to be guilty of bigamy, his former wife being then living; but it does not prove that he meant to go the length of murdering his former wife. I do not see that it is necessarily connected.
Mr. Silvester. My only idea was, to shew that this man was asked in church previous to going out with her.
Court. It is proving upon him another crime, in order to raise a circumstance of general suspicion; and it is general only: it has no relation to any particular fact. It has very often been objected, that that which was an independent crime, could never be given in evidence against a party in another crime: the answer has always been, yes, provided it is a circumstance and ingredient composing another part of that crime; but if it is only a circumstance which leads you to suppose that it is probable that a man may have it in his mind to commit a crime, we never receive it; it is too remote; for if so, all the other bad circumstances of a man's former life may be brought; but that is too general. The obvious tendency of the man in the second marriage, is to be guilty of bigamy.
Mr. Peatt. Does your Lordship think that the proof of these wounds being given by a stick, is sufficient to go to the jury.
Court. The stick is but a circumstance, and if it was with an iron bar, it would be sufficient proof of the indictment.
Court to prisoner. Here is a heavy charge against you, and proved by a chain of evidence, that is very pressing upon you; I hope you may be able to give an answer to it. This is the time for you to make your defence: you will be heard with all manner of indulgence, and say what you can for yourself.
Prisoner. I am not guilty of any thing of the kind.
Mr. Peatt. If you wish to say any thing for yourself, you may, I am not permitted to do it for you.
Prisoner. I can call plenty of witnesses to prove where I was at the present time.
Mr. Peatt. Your solicitor is not here. Do you know what is stated to me as your defence: did you give the instructions yourself? - I did. They are all over the way.
Then you wish your witnesses to be called? - Yes.
Mr. Peatt. Tell the officers, if any one of them is in court, except the one that is called, they will not be examined.
Court. Let the names of the witnesses
(The witnesses all called into court, and set to the inner bar, and an officer ordered to take them into the parlour, and bring them out as called for.)
Mrs. PEACH sworn.
Are you single or married? - A widow. I live at No. 14, Charles-street, Westminster.
What are you? - I keep a butcher's-shop.
Do you recollect the prisoner coming to your house at any time, and when? - The 27th of October. I cannot positively say the time of night. I cannot say any thing that happened that day respecting the prisoner.
Did you see him on that day? - I did.
What time on that day? - After the dusk of the evening.
At what hour, as near as you can recollect? - I cannot particularly say.
Court. Not whether it was early in the morning, or late in the evening? - It was after the dusk of the evening. I cannot be particular as to the time.
Not within three hours? - I sup about nine, and he was there then, but I cannot say particularly the time.
How long had he been there before you went to supper? - I am not particular. I have a shop to mind, and could not be particular to such a thing. I am sure I saw him in the evening of that day.
Mr. Peatt. Do you recollect whether it was in the evening before supper, or after supper? - Before supper. He went to his lodgings. I cannot tell what became of him afterwards. I saw him again the next morning about nine.
Mr. Silvester. How far is your house from Chelsea? - Upon my word, I cannot tell; I never was at Chelsea but once in my life.
I am at present out of business. I am a gentleman's servant. I live at No. 29, Lancaster Court, Bond-street.
Did you at any time see the prisoner, and when? - I kept the house that the prisoner lodged at: I did then; I do not now. I saw him on the second of November; about eight it might be.
Did you see him any time before that? - Yes. I cannot positively say, he came backwards and forwards to my house as a lodger; sometimes he lay out, and sometimes there.
Do you know where he was the 25th of October? - No.
Court. How came you to mention the second of November? - Because I am positive he was there that night; because we had a six-penny club, and he was at that club, and came home that night.
Where was he the Monday week before that? - At my house.
Do you know what day of the month that was? - I believe it was the 27th.
Mr. Peatt. Then you saw him on the 27th of October? - Yes.
Court. About what time? - I cannot rightly say to a minute or so. He was there in the evening.
What time in the evening? - I know he was at home at ten or eleven. I saw nothing of him any further than going to bed. I cannot positively say I saw him go to bed.
When did you see him again? - I saw him the following morning. He generally came down about half after seven.
Had he then the appearance of a man that had had his natural rest? - Yes, as far as I can judge.
What are you? - A journeyman coach-maker.
Where do you live? - Why, Sir, at present in New Round Court, in the Strand.
Did you at any time sleep with the prisoner at the bar, and when? - Yes. Sometime back he slept along with me, when I lodged in a house in Wood-street.
As near as you can recollect? - It may be about three or four months ago.
Cannot you tell within a week, think you, when it was? - No, I cannot.
Is there any circumstance that brings to your recollection the time? - No.
Mr. Peatt. My Lord, there is a circumstance that I forgot to ask the first witness; does your Lordship see any impropriety in my calling her again? - Court. Not the least in the world.
To Mrs. Peach. Had the prisoner any thing with him when he came to your house? - Yes.
What had he with him? - A bundle; but what was in it, I cannot tell.
Did you, or did you not see any thing taken out of that bundle? - No, I did not.
Did you see it open? - No, I did not.
What are you? - A taylor by trade; a little master. I live at No. 7, in Wood-street, Westminster.
Do you recollect any time before the imprisonment of the man at the bar, seeing him where, and when? - Yes; I saw him on the Wednesday, the 5th of November.
Did you see him at any time before that? - I cannot say I did. I drank with him at the bar of the Horse and Groom in Wood-street, on Wednesday, the 5th of November.
Had you seen him on the Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday before that? - No, I cannot say I did.
Had you seen him on the Monday or Tuesday? - No, I did not.
I am a farrier. I keep a shop in Wood-street, Westminster.
Did you at any time see the prisoner? - Yes. I have known him above four years by acquaintance.
How soon before he was taken up for this affair did you see him? - I saw him go past the shop several times.
Do you recollect any particular day or time? - No, but I believe it was in the month of October.
Have you any notion what time in the month it was? - No. It was at a club at a publick-house, which I believe was the 27th of October.
What day of the week was it? - On a Monday night. Our club is held on a Monday night. A weekly club.
Court. What time does your club meet? - At seven. I went away from it about eight.
Was the prisoner there when you went away? - No, I did not see him.
You did not see him the whole of that day? - No. I did not see him that evening.
Why did you say he was at the club that evening? - I did not say so. He was not there while I was there.
Where is the club kept? - At the Horse and Groom, Wood-street. I might have seen him there that day. I do not know; I do not recollect; but I did not see him that evening at the club.
I am a master hair-dresser, No. 16, Wood-street, Milbank.
Do you recollect seeing the prisoner at any time before he was apprehended? - Yes. He was in my shop. I shaved him on Thursday morning; and the Saturday following he was taken.
What day of the month was Thursday? - I cannot recollect. I did not take any notice of it.
You do not know where he was on the Monday or Tuesday? - I do not.
- HADDICK sworn.
I keep the Horse and Groom where the prisoner lodged.
When do you recollect seeing the prisoner before he was apprehended? - He slept with me the 4th and 5th of November.
Any time before that? - I did not come into the house before then.
Do you know of his having any birds, or partridges, or pidgeons, or any thing of that kind? - No, I do not.
Had he any bundle with him? - No.
Mr. Peatt. Now I shall call witnesses to his character.
(Called on the steps and no answer.)
If they should appear, your Lordship will have the goodness to hear them.
Court. Certainly. Would you ask Mrs. Peach.
Mr. Peatt to Mrs. Peach. What do you know of him? - I never saw any thing amiss of him.
Does he seem to be an ill-natured bad meaning fellow? - I never saw any thing of the kind.
- BOOTH sworn.
I keep a publick-house. I have known the prisoner sixteen years.
What is his character for humanity? - He lived servant with me for two years, and behaved well.
I have known the prisoner four years.
What is his character for humanity? - I drank with him several times. I never saw any harm by him.
You never saw any disposition in him to be cruel or severe to any person? - I never did.
Court. Gentlemen of the Jury, William Woodcock stands indicted for the wilful murder of Silvia his wife, by beating her on the head and face with a stick, giving her there by several mortal wounds and bruises, of which she languished for some time, and then died. In support of this charge several witnesses have been examined; and I will state to you the substance of their evidence. [Here the learned judge summed up the evidence for the prosecution, in the course of which he observed, he would at once state to them; because it was satisfactorily proved by Mrs. Brace, that that woman was the deceased Silvia, the wife of William Woodcock ; and that Mr. Gibbs had behaved with great humanity, which did him great honour, and was fit to be mentioned to his credit.] His Lordship then added, I was willing you should see how the case stood, even supposing she had been senseless and had never uttered a word; and it seems to me as if the evidence was of a pressing and urgent nature against the prisoner, even so taken: because, here is this man's wife found in the morning, in this dreadful condition at Chelsea, having set out from Enfield Highway by appointment, with the prisoner, in order to go to a lodging in Holborn; the prisoner acknowledging that he joined her at the Basing house, on the professed business of that journey. That he should join her on the road, and should be at that lodging, there is no account of her ever coming to that lodging at all; but she was found at Chelsea the next morning, having, by all appearance, laid there many hours from the state of the blood. The prisoner afterwards returning to Enfield Highway, and there declaring that his wife had gone on the Tuesday morning to Hampton Court, which was absolutely a falsehood; and coupled with that, as soon as he understands that the people were come down in search of him, he goes off another way; and added to all that, articles of wearing apparel, exactly corresponding with those articles of wearing apparel, which that woman set out with that day, found afterwards in the prisoner's possession, in a state which corresponds exactly with the situation in which that woman was found. If the case stood so unexplained by the prisoner, and he was able to shew you, either that he missed her, or that after he had conducted her to Holborn, and there left her; and that she must in some other manner have found her way to the place in which she was afterwards found, being unable to explain the story he told of Hampton Court, and these articles of dress found in his possession, if it stood so, it would have been a series of circumstances
I know it is possible that persons in such a situation may aggravate from feelings of resentment. It is possible that though they may appear to be in their senses to those that are about them, yet there may be a false train of reasoning. They have possessed such very infirm minds, where the body is so infirm, that there may be, to that purpose, a sort of sensible delirium, if I may so call it; that is, that they may talk with appearance of reason from a false impression made on the mind: therefore I have thought, that though these kinds of declarations may be received, yet they are to be received with a great deal of caution; and are more or less material, according to the particular nature of the particular case to which they are applied. Here, in truth, they have such abundant corroboration, that I am afraid there can be no room at all for hesitation, as to the decree of credit that ought to be given to this woman's declarations, under all the circumstances; as those declarations were uniform and consistent, both to the surgeon, to the apothecary, to the overseer, and to Mr. Read; that she was the wife of Woodcock; was to go with him from Enfield Highway to Holborn; that she set out, he met her at the Basing-house, walked with her a long way; that, when it grew dark, he got her into a bye place, and demanded her keys; that she told him, William, it is time enough to give you the keys when I see the lodging; that, upon that, he gave her several blows, which, in the end, made her senseless, and she had no further recollection of what passed. And if this was the state of the fact, as I am afraid there is too much reason to believe it was, if she had never said it, then there remains no room for doubt, or for explanation, with respect to the case: it must, in that case, be a very barbarous murder, committed by this man in the coolest and most deliberate train of wickedness that the human mind could be supposed to have framed.
Gentlemen, the prisoner has, in answer to this charge, not been able to explain one single circumstance. He has made, indeed, an attempt to produce something like an alibi; but it amounts to nothing: it consists of the evidence of a Mrs. Peach, who tells you that she lives in Charles-street, Westminster, and that on the 27th of October, after the dark of the evening, the prisoner came to her house: that she sups about nine, and he was there, then, before supper; but cannot say what time he came in. Another witness says he was at his lodgings after supper: and that is the whole account he has given of himself, from the time he left Mrs. Brace, at Enfield Highway, at half past two, till the time that he went to bed at his lodging, at past ten. Now it is obvious that, perfectly consistent with that account, every article of the charge may be true; and it brings him to London, and it creates upon himself the necessity of giving some account of himself before he came to his lodgings, in order to avoid the imputation which naturally arises from his having taken upon himself the care and custody of his wife. Having taken her to carry her to a particular place in Holborn,
The Remainder of this Trial in the next Part, which will be published in a few Days
TAKEN IN SHORT-HAND BY E. HODGSON, PROFESSOR OF SHORT-HAND; And Published by Authority.
NUMBER II. PART II.
KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON, &c.
she being found in that condition, he is obliged to account for her some way or other, from the time he received her into his care, to the time he was seen in London.
Mrs. Peach mentioned a circumstance which rather strengthened the case against him; which was, the circumstance of his bringing a bundle to Mrs. Peach's house. She did not see what was in that bundle; but it was a circumstance that the woman set out with a bundle; that she had not her bundle when she was found; and that the prisoner had a bundle, at an hour later, under all the circumstances, than of the time when the fact was committed: and that there had been afterwards found in his box things which might be conveyed in that bundle.
The rest of the evidence is to shew that he did not abscond; so far it is material for him. He certainly was seen in and about London several times before he was apprehended, after the time this woman came by her death. That there was a woman, when he was carried before the Justice, who appeared in the character of his wife; and there is some reason to apprehend that he married such a woman; therefore he certainly was in about London. In general, to be sure a man appearing openly, against whom there is any ground to lay such a charge as this, is a favourable circumstance. One would not suppose, that a man could have a mind so hardened in guilt, not to wish to fly to the remotest corner of the earth; therefore it would certainly tell, in another case, very much in his favour: what effect it may have in a case so loaded as this is with urgent circumstances, you are to consider.
There are, besides these, three or four witnesses who speak to his character. The character, if it were better established than it is, weighs but little against a chain of circumstances. You will have to consider, first, there is no doubt but that this woman has come by her death by a violent outrage committed on her person, and that it is murder in somebody.
Gentlemen, this man's fate is in your hands. The public justice of the country requires you should give the case a full and solemn consideration; both for the sake of the public, which is deeply injured by the loss of a subject in the way this poor creature has lost her life, and also the fate of the individual who is charged before you as being the author of it. You will do justice between them.
The Jury immediately gave their verdict,
GUILTY , Death.
GUILTY on the Coroner's Inquisition.
Clerk of the Arraigns. William Woodcock , hold up your hand. You stand convicted of Wilful Murder; what have you to say for yourself, why the Court should not give you judgment to die, according to law?
Prisoner. Not guilty, my Lord.
Proclamation being made, Mr. Recorder pronounced Sentence, as follows:
William Woodcock , you have been convicted, after the most cautious and attentive examination of every circumstance, and upon the clearest and most satisfactory evidence, of a crime the most enormous that human nature can possibly commit. The crime of murder, in itself, whether we consider the malignity of heart which produces it, or the fatal consequences to society, has ever been considered as a crime of dreadful magnitude: the blood of the innocent is said to cry to Heaven for vengeance. The laws of God, as well as of man, pronounce, that whose sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. The crime of murder, in itself, is of such a degree of malignity, as scarcely to admit of aggravation. What must be the horror of your accumulated guilt, under the circumstances with which this murder has been attended! It has been committed with a degree of savage barbarity and violence, scarcely to be found in the history of the most shocking murders: it has been committed without a shadow of provocation, and against that unhappy person to whom you were united by the sacred ties of marriage - ties equally sacred in the sight of God and man - which bound you to cherish and protect the unhappy object who was so connected with you, and not to be the author of dreadful and brutal violence to herself. The circumstances that attend your case, afford but too great reason to believe, that this proceeded from the most deliberate blackness and malignity of heart; and that you seduced this unhappy woman from her dwelling, for the horrid purpose of putting an end to her existence. God only knows what influenced your savage heart! whatever it was, admits of too little ground for any sort of mitigation. Under these circumstances, you cannot, consistent with public justice and the good of society, expect any mercy from those who are entrusted with the administration of the law. The law is for the public; and the safety of society is, that you should
N. B. This sentence was executed on on the prisoner on the Monday following, the 19th of January .
Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before the LORD CHIEF BARON.
TAKEN IN SHORT-HAND BY E. HODGSON, PROFESSOR OF SHORT-HAND; And Published by Authority.
NUMBER II. PART II.
KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON, &c.