JAMES CARSE, Killing > murder, 12th December 1787.

Reference Number: t17871212-3
Offence: Killing > murder
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death > respited

4. JAMES CARSE 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 2d day of December instant, in and upon Sarah Hayes , single woman , in the peace of God and our Lord the King then being, feloniously did make an assault, and with a certain clasp knife, of the value of 2 d. which he in his right hand then and there had and held, her the said Sarah, in and upon the neck and throat, then and there, wilfully and maliciously did strike and thrust, giving her one mortal wound of the length of eight inches, and of the depth of two inches, of which she instantly died .

He was also charged with the like murder on the Coroner's inquisition.

MARY MILLS sworn.

Do you know the prisoner? Look at him, look round. - Yes.

Did you know the deceased, Sarah Hayes? - Yes.

You live in Wapping? - Yes.

Do you know the public-house called the Ship in Distress? - Yes.

Did you see them together there? - No, Sir.

Did you see them together any where? - No where in the world, I did not see them together any where before I went into the house.

Where did you first meet with the prisoner? - I was sitting in the public-house, and he happened to come in, and called for three-pennyworth of rum and water; I was sitting in the box by the fire, he came and sat the next inside, and I believe, to the best of my knowledge, he might drink better than three parts of it, and he proffered the the rest of it; I drank better than half what remained in the tumbler, I offered it him again, and he desired that I would drink it, which I did; he paid the three pence for it, and asked me if I would go home; I told him yes, he desired me to go before him, which I did, on an unhappy time, I am sorry for it; we went into Sarah Hayes 's house, and was about five minutes in the house, and he asked if he could have something to drink; she said yes; he said he would drink no raw spirits, and he said a pot of rum hot; she said that was a very odd thing, she thought a pot of brandy hot would be the thing to drink; he gave her half a crown, she went out and brought it in, and gave him eighteen pence, he put it into his pocket, it was rather too hot; she went to one of the neighbours, and borrowed a pint pot to cool it; he said I will go to bed; then he sat down, and sent out for another pot of brandy hot, and a quartern of shrub, which was in the room when the deceased was found dead; the second time of her going out, she said, will you have any thing to eat? and she carried him up a bit of beef; he never touched a bit of it, he went out once, he said he was going to make water; then he took his shoes off, and went out again without any shoes, while she was out; then he just drank once out of the second pot, and he said he would go to bed; he put his hand into his pocket, and gave her a shilling for the bed; we went to bed; he had buff or white breeches on, and trowsers that buttoned before, which he rolled up, and he put them under his right side, and he had every thing off but his hat, which he doubled up and lay down in; I was to sleep with him, and had every thing off but my gown, he got up in bed, and said, is there any thing more to drink? I handed him the remainder of the liquor, he sat and just drank out of it, I do not think he had laid down two minutes, before he jumped out of bed with a naked knife in his hand, he made a catch at the deceased, at her by the neck, he said, I will, I must, I must, I must! and how I got out, were I to die this moment, I cannot say; he put the knife to her throat naked, cut her throat under the left ear, got her back against the table, and there she lay.

What did he do after this? - I ran out, I could not stay, I was so frightened, I got assistance, the officers of the night; I came back, and when I came back with my assistance,

he stood behind the door with the naked knife in his hand, and he said the first that entered the door, was a dead man.

Do you know how long the deceased lived after this? - She died directly, before any assistance could be got; in about ten minutes I saw her dead, when I returned.

Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Counsel. Had you had any acquaintance with this man before? - Never in my life.

Then he accidentally picked you up as a woman of the town? - Yes.

What aged woman was the deceased? - I believe, to the best of my knowledge, she might be about four or five and twenty; she lived with a young man, and I lived with her; she was going to smoke a pipe in the chimney corner.

According to your account, every thing had been very agreeable? - Not a wry word of any sort, no more than there is now, so help me God.

This poor woman had been attending to him, and gave him his change? - Yes.

You say this was a ground room? - Yes.

Was there any body near the door at the time this happened? - No.

All that this man said of any sort was, I must, I will, I must? - He said, I must, I will, I must.

And immediately jumped out of bed and destroyed this woman; what had he drank? - He had only drank three pennyworth of rum and water.

What is brandy hot? - Hot porter with brandy in it.

Mr. Garrow. It is a very intoxicating liquor? - The shrub never was touched; after this unfortunate thing happened, this man stood at the door with his knife, threatening to kill any body that came in; when the assistance came he did.

Was he naked at that time? - He had nothing on but his shirt; I was going to bed, he was undressed and expected me.

This poor woman and he did not appear to be acquaintances? - No, they had never seen one another to my knowledge.

Had he asked you to come to bed after he went to bed? - No, not a word, but he laid himself quietly down, and his hat doubled; when he asked for liquor I gave it him.

What had he done with the rest of his clothes; you said he folded up his breeches in a foolish sort of way, made a sort of doll of them? - He put them on his right side; I never saw the knife before in my life, nor I should not know the knife.

Do you remember any conversation at the time this accident happened? - Not a word.

Do not you remember him saying, that if he had not done it, he should have been done himself that night? - He said something, but I did not hear what it was.

Do you remember when the assistance had got in and secured him, his being asked by any body that was present, why he had done it? - No, I was so frightened, I cannot say.

Court. How long did you sit with the prisoner at the alehouse? - I believe it was between eight and nine, to the best of my knowledge, when he came in.

How long did he sit? - Not a quarter of an hour.

Had you much conversation? - Not at all, any further than I told you he asked me to drink, and if I was going home, nothing more.

Did he appear (sometimes you may see by a man's manner) to be disordered in his mind? - Nothing at all, any more than any gentleman present.

Mr. Garrow. What was you doing at the time he seized the other woman? - I was standing just ready to go into bed, he never asked me to come to bed, nor spoke the least cross word any more than any gentleman here.

GEORGE HAWKINS sworn.

I am a constable, I was called on this occasion, I met this Mary Mills coming up in her snift, and she hallooed out murder; when I came to Sarah Hayes 's lodgings the door was shut; a man came and

walked up against me with a knife in his hand, he had nothing but his shirt on, I had no conversation with him; after I knocked the knife out of his hand, I collared him directly, and then I burst into the room and took him, I made him put his clothes on; he gave no account of himself at that time; after I secured him I took him to the watch-house, and asked him why he did it; he said he thought he heard some people round the house, and he was to have been done himself; then he made answer, I have very good friends, and I am not afraid of getting through it; he owned to me that he did the fact.

Mr. Garrow. He never made any secret of his having killed the woman? - Not at all.

He told you he thought he heard people round the house, and expected to have been done himself that night? - That is what he said.

This was a ground floor? - Yes.

Whereabouts did you meet with Mary Mills ? - About ten yards from the watch-house, about sixty yards from the house; when I came I found the man, he walked to the door with a knife in his hand, and presented it to me; I do not recollect that he threatened me at all.

He had not attempted to put on any of his clothes till you came? - Nothing on but his shirt.

No shoes; and you forced him to put on his clothes? - Yes.

Did you know this poor woman that was killed? - I cannot say I did.

She was a harmless creature, offended nobody, did she? - I cannot say.

(The knife produced, a large clasp knife, very bloody.)

Court to Prisoner. Would you say any thing in your defence?

Prisoner. I was threatened my life at the same time.

Who threatened your life? - This woman, and the woman that I killed.

How did Mills threaten your life? - They both did, both the girls.

How did they threaten your life? - There were people round the house at the same time.

CAPTAIN HORATIO NELSON sworn.

Mr. Garrow. I believe, Captain Nelson, you was the commander of the Boreas Frigate? - I was.

Did the prisoner fail under your command? - He did.

How long was he in the service under you? - Near four years; he was paid off the 30th of November last, at Sheerness.

What money did he receive? - In August we were paid off, he then received about forty guineas; when the ship was paid off in November, he received ten or eleven more.

Mr. Garrow to Constable. Had he any money about him? - Six guineas and a half; before the Justice; he acknowledged before the Magistrate that he did not lose a farthing to his knowledge.

Mr. Garrow to Captain Nelson. Had you an opportunity of knowing the character of this man, as far as humanity and good-nature were concerned? - Perfectly; it seldom happens that any man can serve four years without being guilty of some sort of offence; that man, at times, I have made some remarks, that he appeared melancholy, but the quietest, soberest man that I ever saw in all my life, he appeared to me to be a man that had seen better days, and at times became melancholy; when I heard of this affair, I said, if it is true, he must be insane, for I should as soon suspect myself, and sooner, because I know I am hasty; he is so quiet a man, and never committed a fault during the time I knew him; seamen, I know perfectly, when they come home, the landlords will furnish them with raw liquors; I saw myself thirty or forty people from that ship, that were made as mad as if they were at Bedlam, and did not know what they did: I know, that when seamen are furnished with British spirits, it turns the brain.

But as to this man, do you apprehend, that liquors upon him would have had that effect? - He is not a drunkard by any means; therefore of course liquors would have had more effect upon him.

Can you fairly say, that this man, under the pressure of a good deal of liquor, did appear to you to be insane? - He was a cooper on board; and at the island of Antigua, I think it was, he was struck with the sun, after which time he appeared melancholy; I have been affected with it; I have been out of my senses; it hurts the brain.

Do you think that has been the case with respect this unfortunate prisoner? - I have thought so years ago when he was under my command.

Is he a man, from your knowledge of him, likely to commit a deliberate foul murder? - I should as soon suspect myself, because I am hasty, he is not.

Court. Do you think, while he was on board your ship, that he was so melancholy, and so much beside himself, if he had committed a fault you would not have punished him for it? - If he had been guilty of a fault I should have punished him; I myself have been struck in the brain, so that I was out of my senses.

When he came home did he conduct himself as a reasonable man? - Usually; always so.

Court to Hawkins. What day was this when you took him into custody? - The 2d of November.

GEORGE NESBIT sworn.

I keep the public house in Lower Shadwell; I know the prisoner; I saw him after he was paid off the first of this month, the day before this unfortunate accident; on the Saturday evening I saw him, and was in company with him, and likewise on the Sunday he was at my house, but I did not see him; I do not know where he lodged on the Saturday night, there was something particular that struck me in him; I had a particular friend that lodged with me, and he began telling me a story of being robbed, or going to be; and I wanted to know the rights of it; he talked in such a manner that I was quite struck, not like a man in his rational judgement; he observed to me, that there was a whole gang of people about him, and he looked as if they were just after him; he looked startled, which I thought he need not be in my house; and he told me that there were about sixteen men that wanted to rob him, knowing that he had property, and had been paid off; and he signified to me, that he gave them a good deal of money to get shut of them, I asked him the particulars twice, and he rather seemed to affront me; I thought it was something very odd, a man that I was acquainted with four years back, that he should, in the first set off give me such answers; and I observed it in an hour after to his friend.

You say you have known him about four years before? - Yes.

I believe it was in the year 1783, before he failed in the Boreas frigate? - Yes.

Did he appear to you to be an altered man? - Greatly so.

Did he appear to you, from his whole conduct, to be a man in possession of his right mind intirely? - That was the observation I made, that he was not; I made the observation an hour after I had seen him, to his friend in the house; he bore, four years before, an extraordinary good character; he was quite the reverse to a man that would do a cruel thing; he appeared greatly altered; his friend's name is Thomas Carse.

Is he a relation of his? - Yes, he is his cousin.

Court. Was it in the morning or in the evening that you had this conversation with him? - In the evening, about six or seven; it was just after candle light.

Had he been drinking? - They had two pots of porter, in my house, among five or six; I looked at him when he talked in such an irrational manner, to see if he was in liquor, but he did not appear to be in liquor, but in sad troubles somehow or other.

How long had he been in your house then? - He was in the house, I imagine, an hour and half, or thereabouts.

Had he been drinking elsewhere? - Not to my knowledge.

How much had he drank while he was in your house? - I think it was two pots of porter; there were five or six of them; his cousin, and more friends, I looked at his face two or three different times; his giving me such an odd answer made me look in his face to see if he was in liquor, which I did not think he was at the time; I do not know where he had been before he came to my house.

THOMAS CARSE sworn.

I am a first cousin to this man; I am a cooper; I lodged at the house of the last witness; I first saw the prisoner on Saturday was fortnight, after he came from Sheerness, he came to the house to me.

Did you observe any thing particular in his manner and conversation? - Yes, Sir, a good deal different to any thing I had seen before.

What was the first that struck you? - He spoke sometimes in a different style, and did not express himself as I have heard him before; he was some way melancholy, and did not speak freely, and used to sit a considerable time without speaking any thing at all.

When he did talk, what sort of conversation did he hold with you? - What he talked about to me was mostly, that coming from Gravesend, he was robbed by some people resembling watermen.

Did he say whether he had been robbed, or attempted to be robbed? - He said they attempted to rob him, and threatened him with his life; and he told me he gave them fourteen guineas to save his life.

Did he say whether that had satisfied them or not? - He said to me, that they seemed to be satisfied with it, but that they threatened his life, if he did not give them the money.

Did he appear as much at his case, and as little under apprehension as he used to be? - He did not seem to be as he used to be, for he was all confused, and did not care whether he spoke to any body or not.

Was he that sort of man before he went to the West Indies? - No; he was not; I never heard any thing else said of him in my life.

Was he drunk at the time of this conversation? - No; he was not drunk, as he appeared to me.

Did he appear to you to be under any alarm about these people? - He wished to be out of my company; he wished to get home; he said he was all sore, and wished to get home to his bed; he spoke to me as if he had been beat by somebody.

Do you know whether that was true, or mere fancy? - I could not tell only as he told me.

He did not talk of going before any Magistrate? - No; he was in company with me on Saturday night, and the Sunday night also.

Court. Was this morning or evening that you had the conversation with him, about people threatening to rob him? - It was the evening I suppose; to my knowledge, it was between five and six.

Do you know where he had been the former part of the day? - He had not been above an hour or two in town; he told me he came from Blackwall.

To Captain Nelson. Was the prisoner sent to the hospital in consequence of being ill? - He was sent to the hospital with a fever which affects the brain; I thought to send him home as an unfit person to serve in that climate.

Have you known instances of that disorder of the brain leading persons to acts of desperation? - It has happened to a person.

Court. How was he now in coming home in point of his understanding? - He appeared to me melancholy almost always.

Did he do any act of desperation while he was on board your ship? - Never.

Did he know what he was about after he came from the hospital? - Yes; I never

had any complaint of him; he never committed any fault, I thought him mild even to the last; he did not care to associate with any body, he used to appear melancholy and reserved.

Court to Jury. Gentlemen, the crime of murder consists in slaying a person by malice prepense, or aforethought; and so bad is this, that whoever slays another, the law presumes it is done with malice aforethought; and it behoves the prisoner to give a reasonable excuse for his actions; and if he does not, it is the duty of the Jury to find him guilty. The excuse here is that of madness; if that excuse had been proved to the utmost of its extent, and to your satisfaction, it would undoubtedly be a reasonable one; but then the madness that is brought on a prisoner, must arise from the visitation of God; it must be the consequences of some disease; but even if there be antecedent disease, if there be the seeds of madness lurking in the blood, and the party be reasonable and in his senses, in the ordinary transactions of life, and he voluntarily inflames his blood, and by means of drunkenness, draws out that madness which before was lurking in it, the law does not excuse him: whether or no this is the present case, it will be for your consideration. Under all the circumstances of it, the question is, what sort of madness this was that afflicted the prisoner at this time; it seems pretty clear, that at the time he committed this act, he clearly was mad; there can be no doubt upon it, he could have no provocation for it, the woman had not taken any of his money, the deceased woman had not robbed him, she was sitting quietly smoaking her pipe; that, coupled with all the evidence, can afford no doubt in your minds but that he was at the time insane: the only question is, how he was, when he was sober? for at this time he was drunk, there can be no doubt of it; he had been drinking so much of this hot beer and brandy, that it was enough to over-set any man alive; then you hear, that coming home from Antigua, he was sober, perfectly mild, never in a passion, never committed any desperate act whatever, or any thing that bordered on lunacy; on the other hand he was melancholy, he was mild and of a gentle disposition; the captain tells you that British spirits make sailors mad; whether he had been drinking that night does not appear, he talked like a madman, on the Sunday night; he had been drinking in that house only two or three pots of porter with five or six people, not sufficient to intoxicate him; but whether he had been drinking before this does not appear; therefore it is for you to form your judgment; if you think that when he was sober and free from liquor, he knew what he was about, and was capable of discerning right from wrong (and the captain tells you he was) then it is no excuse at all that he got drunk. Whoever gets drunk, and commits a crime, it does not excuse him at all; he is still answerable for it, in consideration of the law. If you think when he was in his sober senses, he certainly was accountable for what he did; then, when he was intoxicated, he voluntarily brought upon himself that infanity, in which he committed this rash action; on the other hand, if you think whether drunk or sober, he was equally unaccountable for his actions, you must acquit him.

Jury. My Lord, the gentlemen wish to know of the keeper, how his conduct has been since he has been in custody?

Court. Why I enquired that, before I put him on his trial; but the keeper shall tell you.

Mr. Akerman. Mr. Villette has had more conversation with him than any body.

(Mr. Villette sent for.)

Mr. Akerman. I have heard nothing of that sort; since he has been with me, he generally kept his room.

Mr. VILLETTE sworn.

Court. The Jury wish to be informed by you, Sir, how the conduct of this man has appeared to you, when you conversed with him? - Why, I really thought him insane; at one time he gave a very odd account of

men and boys following him down Ratcliffe-highway; I asked him for what; he said he thought they wanted to rob him; I asked him how he came to commit such a horrid offence; he said he picked up this girl, and went into the house with her, and got into bed; and he desired her to get into bed, but she did not; and she said to him, you will not want your shoes and stockings any more; and he thought he heard men and boys at the door, and that before that, men and boys had chaced him down Ratcliffe-high-way, and they accused him of house-breaking.

Had he the appearance to you at that time of a man disordered in his mind? - That odd account struck me; at first I thought him perfectly in his senses, but that account appeared odd to me, I could not conceive why men and boys should chace him down Ratcliffe-highway.

Court. It seems to have always turned upon that by the evidence.

Jury. Did you frequently converse with him during his confinement? - I have talked with him two or three times; this was the second time; I sat down some time; he confessed he had killed the girl, and that was the account he gave.

Mr. Recorder. He never had the appearance of a man counterfeiting madness by your account? - No, he never had.

- PITT sworn.

Have you had any conversation with this unfortunate man since he has been committed? - Very little.

Has he at all times had the appearance of a man in his perfect senses, or has he at any time had a different appearance? - I can say very little to that; he has kept very close in his ward; but he came out once, and wanted to speak to me; I asked him what he wanted; he said he wanted me to lend him three guineas; I said that was what I never did to any prisoner; the man has been very comical at times, very much by himself, and seemed rather indifferent about the matter; at one time he told me, if he had not served them so, they would have served him the same; but that one of the women ran away, or else he should have served her the same.

The Jury retired for some time, and returned with a verdict

GUILTY , Death .

Guilty, on the Coroner's Inquisition.

Court. James Carse , hold up your hand. You stand convicted of wilful murder: what have you to say, why the Court should not give you judgment to die according to law.

(Proclamation made.)

Mr. Recorder. James Carse , you stand in a miserable situation, being convicted of one of the greatest crimes that human nature can commit; you have taken away the life of an innocent and unoffending fellow-creature, in a manner, accompanied with a degree of savage fierceness, that is without example; it does not appear that you received any provocation whatever from the unfortunate victim of your brutal rage; what motive therefore can have instigated your mind to the commission of so cruel and atrocious an act, is at present unexplained to the Court; but by your own intemperance, you have brought yourself into that state of mind, and inflamed with liquor, you have been guilty of this cruel act; the law rightly provides that you must answer for that offence, and will not suffer any person to derive an excuse from their own intemperance and folly. It therefore becomes my duty to follow up the verdict of the Jury, by pronouncing upon you the dreadful sentence of the law, which is, that you be taken from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Wednesday next, to the place of execution, there to to be hanged by the neck, until you be dead; and that your body be afterwards delivered to the surgeons, to be dissected and anatomized, pursuant to the statute; and the Lord have mercy on your guilty soul.

But from the circumstances of the case, which were by the learned Judge submitted to the consideration of the Jury, though they have been of opinion, that in point of saw, under the right direction of that learned Judge, they were under a necessity of finding you guilty, the Court will respite the execution of your sentence, till his Majesty's pleasure shall be further known.

Jury. It was the unanimous request of the Jury, if your lordship's goodness had not anticipated it, to have recommended it, as particularly necessary, that an enquiry should be made into the state of the man's mind before execution.

Court. It is certainly a proper case for such an enquiry, not to be hasty upon the occasion, till the opinion of the King and Council shall be further known.

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice HEATH.


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