Robert Atkinson.
23rd February 1732
Reference Numbert17320223-41
VerdictNot Guilty > accidental death

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51. Robert Atkinson , of St. Martins in the Fields , Sadler , was indicted for the Murder of Ann Atkinson , his Mother, by throwing her down a pair of Stairs, upon a Pavement of Tiles below, and by which fall her Skull was broke, and she receiv'd one mortal Bruise, of which she instantly dy'd , the 15th of this Instant February . He was a second time indicted on the Coroner's Inquisition for the said Murder.

Mary Parrot , the Prisoner's Maid. Last Tuesday was Seven-night, between 12 and 1, my Mistress (the Prisoner's Mother) told me I might go to Bed (for I was not very well) and she would sit upto let my Master in; and so I did. My Bed is below in the Kitchin, and my Mistress lies with me. I fell asleep, and was waked with a Noise above Stairs about One or Two o'Clock. The Prisoner was knocking violently against the Inside of the Door of the Room where he lay, the Room is even with the Shop; and I heard him call out, Damn ye, ye old Bitch, do ye think I'll be lock'd up in my own House ? My Mistress told him she would not open his Door, till she had open'd the Street Door first: I heard her open the Street Door, and go out, and shut it after her. As soon as she was gone, my Master came down into the Kitchin, and call'd to me; Mary, says he, where are ye? Here, Sir, says I; What in Bed? says he; Yes, Sir, says I; What do ye want? I am come to bid you good Night, says he, give me a Buss. I was very much frighted, for he was stark naked without his Shirt. Sir, says I, you had much better go to Bed: No, says he, I will have a Buss first. He came to my Bed-side, and as he did not offer any Rudeness, I suffer'd him to kiss me once or twice, in hopes that he would then go away. But instead of that, he got upon the Bed ( out side the Bed-Clothes) and lay upon me ry hard, and endeavour'd to pu his Hand into the Bed, but with much difficulty I kept them out ; I begg'd him to leave me, and look after my Mistress, who was gone into the Street, and might come to some hurt a that time of Night. I had hardly spoke, when my Mistress appear'd by my Bed-side (for she had the Key of the Street-Door in or Pocket when she was dead.) You Dog, said she, what business have you upon the Maid's Bed ? With that he got up and said, Damn ye, you old Bitch, I don't know what Business you have in my House. She ran into the Coal-Vault to hide herself, and in running, her Candle went out. He ran to the Fire, and lighted a Match, and went to look for her; but she got by him and ran up Stairs, and he after her. I heard a great Scuffle, and a Struggling in the Passage at the Stairs Head as if he was running after her, and she was endeavouring to get away from him; I heard no Blows indeed, but presently she fell down with such Violence, as if Part of the House had fall'n with her: She neither spoke, nor so much as groan'd. He ran down immediately after her, and cry'd out, Damn the old Bitch, I have murder'd her, and I shall be hang'd for her. Mary! bring me a Candle. I am coming Sir, says I, but being in a Fright, I ran up Stairs in my Shift to Mr. Gold's Chamber, and begg'd that I might stay there a little, (Mr. Gold and his Brother lie together.) Aye, pray do, said they, and bolt the Door, for in his Passion he may murder us too. The Prisoner continued calling out, Mary! bring a Light! I have murder'd my dear Mother, and I shall be hang'd; after some time the Gentlemen bid me call the Watch, and then I ventur'd down again. The Street Door was open, and a Washerwoman came in with a Candle and Lanthern; but I was in such a Fright, that I don't remember whether it was I or any Body else that open'd the Door. Then the Prisoner call'd for a Knife, or a Fork to bleed his Mother; I brought him a Fork, he prick'd her Arm, it bled a little, and he said, He would give a 1000 l. to save her Life. She had a Napkin on her Head, and it was bloody. The Prisoner sent for a Surgeon, and Mr. Martin came and said, he believ'd she was dead.

Court. How long had you liv'd with the Prisoner? Parrot. About a Month.

Court. How did he behave himself to his Mother in that time? Did you ever observe that he treated her with ill Usage?

Parrot. He would sometimes scold at her as I thought, but I don't know what he said, because he us'd to speak in French; but at such times I have seen him pull her by the Nose, and push his Hand in her Face, thus -

Court. In Anger? Parrot. Yes.

Prisoner. Did not you say you would hang me if you could, and that you would hang me rather than be hang'd your self?

Parrot. No, some People that were strangers to me were saying, that if they had been as me, they would have let my Master have lain with them to have saved his Life. And I answer'd, that I would see half the World hang'd before he should lye with me, or Words to that purpose.

Prisoner. How much Liquor did you fetch your Mistress that Night?

Parrot. About 2 o'Clock I fetch'd her half a Pint of Gin and Bitter (I think they call it) and she gave me a Glass to carry to the Watch and to another Woman. I never saw her fuddled in my Life, and yet I know she would drink a great deal; but she was so much used to it, that it would hardly disorder her.

Prisoner. Was I drunk or sober?

Parrot. I cannot say you was drunk, I have seen you much worse, I believe you had been drinking, but you seem'd to be sensible, only you was in a great Passion.

Prisoner. How did I behave my self after you came down?

Parrot. I was so frighted that I could not take particular Notice; but I remember you trembled and said, You would give a thousand Pounds to save her Life.

Arthur Gold . I lodg'd up one Pair of Stairs at the Prisoner's House, about 2 in the Morning I heard a violent Out-cry of Murder. I waked my younger Brother who lay with me, and the Noise continuing I went down and found the Prisone (in his Shirt and Breeches, without his Wag) opening the Street Door, his Mother had a Candle in her Hand, and Mrs. Bormen stood crying with her Hair loose about her Ears, and the Prisoner gave her several Blows, and call'd the Watch, and bid them carry her Home, or to the Roundhouse. I asked him if he was not asham'd of himself, he said, She was an but his Mother said, was and Woman, and had brought him had lost his Watch and his M. When Mrs. Brown was gone, I was going upto bed again; but the Deceas'd pull'd me by the Sleeve, and pointed to his Door that I should get him to Bed. I persuaded him into his Room, and he sat down on the Bed side. As he was undressing himself, he told his Mother, that she was a wicked, drunken Monster, and a base Woman; that she had been the Ruin of him; that all his Misfortunes were owing to her, and that he had paid 15 or 16 l. for her but a few Days before. His Mother said, if it was so, it did not become him to tell her of it in that manner. He was in a great Passion, but at last I got him to Bed, and we went out; I shut his Door, and his Mother shut the Door of the Shop that goes into the Passage. I advised her to go to Bed, she thank'd me, and went down, and I went up.

Court. Was either of them drunk?

Gold. I believe they had both been drinking, but they both spoke perfectly well, and appear'd to be well in their Senses; I had not been a-Bed three Minutes when I heard a violent Noise at his Door. He swore he would not be lock'd in, but would break open the Door. I thought then he was coming to have a farther Dispute with his Mother, for I did not think the Maid was in the House because I had not seen her when he quarrell'd with Mrs. Bowman. While he was knocking at his own Door. I heard his Mother say. If I must open this Door, I'll have it. When his Door was open'd, I heard the Street Door shut, and then I was pretty easy. But soon after I heard a running and a scuffling Noise, as if two were struggling, and something fell down with a violent Force. After which I heard somebody come up to my Door barefoot, I at first thought it was the Prisoner, but opening the Door I found it was the Maid. Lord, Sir, says she, my Master has murder'd my Mistress, and I am afraid murder me too; and so I let he in. We all went down in a little time, and I believe my Brother

open'd the Street Door and call'd the Watch. I went into the Kitchin, and found the Prisoner sitting stark naked with his Mother's Head in his Lap. He cry 'd, O God! God! what shall I do? my Mother is dead!

George Miller , Watchman. As I was crying the hour of the Night, I came to the Prisoner's Door, and found a strange Watchman. What do you do here Friend, says I, Why, says he, I have lit a Man and a Woman hither. I heard a sort of a Dispute with a Woman within doors, and by and by the Deceas'd came out and asked who I was? and I told her, I was her Watchman, so she bid me fetch a Pint of Beer to make my Brother Watchman drink, which I did; and when I was come back with the Beer, I heard words encrease betwixt the Prisoner and the Woman, and at last I heard Blows, and the Woman cry'd Murder 3 times; with that I knock'd at the Door heartily, and the Prisoner open'd it. Who are you? says he, I am your Watchman, Sir, says I; then light this Woman safe home, says he, and I'll give you Six-pence; but when he felt in his Pocket he had no Money, and so he asked his Mother for some, she said she had neither Copper nor Silver. Why then, damn it, (says he, in a Passion) give me some Gold! The Woman had no Head-clothes on when she came out of his House, but she had 'em in her hand, and put 'em on at the Door, and so we lighted her home, and she gave us a Shilling. I came again to the beginning of my Beat, and then I went to the Prisoner's door, and found a Washer-woman there, and she said she believed there was Murder done; so I went in (for the Door was open) and down Stairs, and there I saw the Prisoner sitting as naked as ever he was born, with his Mother's Head betwixt his Legs; I went and called the Constable, and other Watch, and the Prisoner said, he had murdered his dear Mother, the best Friend he had in the World, and called for a Penknife, or a Rezor, to let her blood.

Court. Are you sure he said murder'd ?

Miller. Yes. And Mr. Cockerel, the Constable, was there at the same time.

James Cockerel . I came thither betwixt 3 and 4, the Prisoner had then got a Gown on, and a Man and a Woman were holding the Deceas'd up. The Prisoner said, he was afraid his poor Mother was dead.

Court. Did you hear any Expression about Murder?

Cockerel. I don't remember any such.

William Plowman , Watchman. I found the Prisoner sitting stark naked, with his Mother's Head between his Legs; I asked him why he sat in that Posture? and he told me that he never lay in a Shirt. And, says he, I am afraid I have killed my dear Mother, and I shall be hang'd. Lend me a Fork, or a Penknife to save her Life if I can. Then I went for Mr. Martin the Surgeon.

John Barber , the Prisoner's Apprentice. I was waked about 2 in the Morning, by a Noise which was made in the Quarrel with Mrs. Bowman, who is our Embroideress. I heard her Shriek, and cry Murder. The Prisoner bid the Watch take her away, and she said, Ay, for God's Sake do, get me out of this House. After she was gone, I heard my Master knock at his Room-Door, and say, That be would not be lock'd up in his own House. And his Mother said, What a-devil ails the Man? I won't open it; or if I do, I'll go into the Street. Then I heard both the Doors open, and the Street-Door shut to again; and in a little time I heard her open the Street-Door with the Key, and come in.

Court. Where was you when you heard all this?

Barber. I lay up 3 pair of Stairs, but the Stair-Case is made with a Well-hole, so that I could hear very plainly. Then something fell down stairs, and any Master cry 'd, O ! what have I done? What have I done? Mary! Mary! bring a Light! Capt. Dunbar, who lodges in our 2 pair of Stairs Room, called out to me, For God's Sake, Jack, get up, he'll murder the poor old Woman! So I went down, and he was making his Complaint, and said, O my poor dear Mother; she is dead. Why won't you speak to me? he bid me fetch a Surgeon. I went up and saw several Watchmen, and I sent one of them for Mr. Martin, and went myself for Mr. Weems.

Court. Did you ever observe that he treated her in an undutiful Manner? Barber. No.

Mr. Martin, Surgeon. I was called up about 3 to come to the Deceas'd; I found her lying along on her Back: Says I, She's dead, you have no need of me. The Prisoner was standing sideways, and desired me to bleed her; I prick'd her Arm, but she bled but about a Spoonful, for there was no Circulation of the Blood. I observed a Wound on the back-part of the Head, about an Inch long. Next Day the Coroner sent for me, and (Mr. Weems being with me) I opened the Skull,

and found it crack'd in two Places from Ear to Ear, and a Piece of the Skull separated; so that it was impossible she should ever speak after the Blow. There was much extravasted Blood.

Mr. Weems, Surgeon. Between 3 and 4 in the Morning, I found the Deceas'd dead; I felt of the Wound, but found no Fracture at that Time; I did not see the Prisoner, he being then in the next Room. I came again the next Day, and found the Skull crack'd 4 or 5 Inches, and a vast deal of extravasated Blood contained in the Ventricles of the Brain.

[The Prisoner's Defence.]

All that know me inwardly, know that I lov'd my Mother above all Things; that I lov'd her as dearly as any thing upon Earth; and I believe she has said the same to all the World. I went out in the Morning to speak with Capt. Randal, and from him I went to Mr. Hasleton, the Riding-Master's, and so to several others, drinking with one and with another. I was at the Tavern all the Afternoon, and went to the Ale-house at Night: From thence I went to Mrs. Bowman's; she ask'd me for my Watch, and a few Shillings that I had, that she might take care of them, and so she came home with me. My Mother ask'd her to stay and lie with her, and so did I too, but she would not consent, and that put me in a Passion, and so I beat her, and called the Watch to take her away. When she was gone, Mr. Gold put me to bed, but I did not like to be lock'd in, and so I got out and went down to the Maid without my shirt, and laid myself upon the Bed; and then my poor Mother came down, and ask'd me what Business I had with the Maid? and so I got up, and - and - my Mother run into the Coal-Vault, and I lighted a Match to look for her, but then she run Up-stairs, and I followed her; and some how or another, as she was endeavouring to get by me in the Dark, I suppose her Foot slipp'd, and she fell down. And this is the Truth, as I hope to see the Face of Almighty God.

William Atkinson , the Prisoner's Brother. I am Cook to Col. Handiside , and used to go and visit my Brother when I was at Leisure, and always found a good Harmony between my Mother and him; and if I had not believ'd from his constant Behaviour towards her, that he could not be guilty of such a barbarous Action, I would sooner have been an Evidence against him than for him: But he always shew'd such a tender Regard for her, that if any hasty Expression happened to fall from him, he would be sorry for it. Sometime in September last, I had heard some spightful People say, that he had used her ill, and with unbecoming Language when he was in Drink. I ask'd my Mother about it, and she said, O Lord, Billy, it's quite otherwise, he has always treated me in the most tender endearing manner that ever Son did. Ah, Billy, I wish you was but half so good! She had enough to maintain her and therefore had no need to live with him if he had used her ill: But for 4 or 5 Years past she has been very much given to intoxicate herself with Drink.

Mary, the Wife of William Atkinson. I visited my Mother frequently for several Years, and saw nothing but Love and Unity between her and my Brother: I never saw any Disturbance but once. when he desir'd her not to drink so much. But she always said he was the most endearing Child in the World, and the most dutiful Child that ever Woman bore. About a Year and a half ago, there was some falling out betwixt me and her, and thereupon I said I would never go into her House again; but however, she came to see me, and always said what a good Son she had. After my Mother's Death, I heard Mary Parrot say, She would hang the Prisoner before she would be hang'd herself; and that she would hang him if possible; and that the first time she saw him, she believ'd by his Looks, he would come to be hang'd one time or another.

Court. What reason could she have for saying, She'd hang him rather than be hang'd herself? for it don't appear that she was in any Danger of being hang'd.

M. Atkinson. I don't know not I; but so she said.

Court. Mary Parrot , did you say so?

Parrot No; but some Woman said they would let the Prisoner lye with them to save his Life; and a Journeyman said, the Prisoner should lye with his Wife rather than be hang'd; and they blamed me for not letting him come to bed to me, because, they said, that would have saved his Mother's Life, and his too. I was very much provoked to hear them talk in that manner; and so I told them, that I would sooner see half the World hang'd, than he or any Man else should come to bed to me against my Will.

M. Atkinson. There was no such Discourse about lying with her to save his Life; but she said, she would hang him rather than he hang'd herself; and that I'll swear.

Mary Burnet . The Sunday Night before this Accident happened, the Deceas'd told me, that her Son Robert was the dutifullest Child that ever was born in the World; that he was the best of Children, and that no Woman could be happier in a Son. I asked Mary Parrot if she knew what she had been Swearing, and if she knew what an Oath was? and she said, as how, she would swear that -

Court. What did she say she would swear?

Mr. Burnet. I ask'd her if she had swore any thing against him unjustly? Court. That was a very odd Question; and what Answer did she make? Burnet. Why, she said she'd swear his Life away, before she'd lose her own. Court. Were those the Words? Burnet. Yes; she said she would swear his Life away before he should take her's. Court. Repeat that again. Burnet. She said she would hang him rather than be hang'd herself. I am sure she said so.

Mary Sunderland . The Sunday Night before the Accident, the Deceas'd told me she was the happiest Woman alive, in a Son; and except she pleased, she need never have an angry Word from him; for it was her Fault if ever she had.

Court. How came you to talk about the Prisoner just at that time?

M. Sund. Why, I don't know. We were talking about Families, and one thing or another. And so it came about.

Prisoner. My Mother was continually speaking in my Praise, in all Company where-ever she came.

M. Sunderland. I was afraid the Maid, Mary Parrot , had swore too rashly, and so I spoke to her about it; and she said, she'd hang him if she could For, says she, If he was not a vile Wretch, he would never have murder'd his Mother. Ay, says I, Can you swear that? I have sworn what I thought fit, says she, and what I have swo rn, I will stand to; and I will hang him if I can. And Mrs. Atkinson was by when she said so.

M. Parrot. I don't know that I ever saw this Woman's Face before.

- Baily. The Night before the Accident, I supp'd with the Deceased, and we had two Quarts of Beer, and half a Pint of Gin together. O Madam! says she to me, my poor dear Child is my best Friend; but when I am ill I dust not let him know it, for fear he should break his Heart. And after she was dead, I says to Mary Parrot , Do ye think that your Master threw his Mother down? As I hope to be saved, Madam, says she, I don't know that he did, for I was in Bed.

Court. She swears the same now.

- Baily. No: But she said she believ'd he never touch'd her. And pray, says I, did she drink the Gin that I left? Yes, Madam, says she, and I fetch'd her half a Pint more. And, Mary, says I, those are sad, ugly, loose Stairs at your House. Yes, Madam, says she, and so they be. And, says I, the poor old Woman was very fond of her Son. Ay, Madam, says Parrot, she would hang half the World to save him.

M. Parrot. I said I had fetch'd her more Gin, but that she did not drink it; and the Stairs are not so bad, but my Mistress always went up and down 'em very nimbly in the Dark; and she thought much to let me have a Candle. There was only one of the Stairs a little loose, and that was at the Bottom.

Mr. Watkins. The Deceased was ill last Christmas, and I was her Apothecary. I never saw a Son more dutiful to a Mother, or more concerned for her Welfare; he was quite tiresome and teazing, in begging me to take care of her, if it cost him all he had in the World. The Passage at the Top of the Kitchen-stairs is not above a Yard wide. The Door that leads down the Stairs is in the Corner; and the Door into the Shop is almost close to it, not a Foot asunder; so that any Scuffle there might easily be the Occasion of a Fall; and if her Foot slipt at the Top, the Stairs are so steep, she must certainly fall to the Bottom.

Rachel Reaves . I have known the Prisoner these thirty Years. He was all Obedience and Duty! A tender affectionate Son at all Times! The Delight of his Father's Heart. His Mother was continually praising him. She was always commending him for his Industry, and said, that he left every thing in her Hands. I sat up with her four Nights in a Week when she was sick, and he was always expressing a great Concern for her.

Charles Humes . I have been the Prisoner's Journey-man 4 Years. He was as dutiful a Son to a Mother as ever could be; and I never observed that he was guilty of using any passionate Expressions.

Elizabeth Baxter , a Washer-woman. I have known the Prisoner and his Mother between 4 and 5 Years; and his Behaviour towards her was always very dutiful, and she always gave him a good Word as far as I know, for I never heard to the contrary.

John Tackell , Servant to Col. Handiside . I lodged at the Prisoner's House 3 or 4 Months in the Year 1727, and have frequented the House, and he was always a dutiful Son, and she a loving Mother; for I never heard of any Quarrel between 'em.

Major Smith. The Deceased often came to me, to define me to recommend her son to some Customers; and she told me he was very good to her.

- Baily. I was vastly intimate with the Prisoner, who was my Neighbour; he was a dutiful Son, and she a good Mother. Only she would drink. She has been at my House when she could hardly stand, so that I once affronted her by speaking to her about it; for, in short, I was afraid, that in time, by their Intimacy, my Wife might follow her Example. I never saw a worse Stair-Case, it is open and steep, dark and dangerous.

William Baily , Brother to - Baily. The Prisoner always shew'd the utmost Tenderness and Concern when he spole of his Mother. So that I believe he would be the last Man in the World that could be guilty of any Barbarity towards her; and he was a good-natur'd Man in Company.

Hen. Gobin. I live behind the Prisoner's House. Between 2 and 3 in the Morning I heard a Noise, a Cry of Murder, and high Words, and then all was Calm again. And by and by I heard the Prisoner bemoan himself in a very piercing Way; and then he call'd out, Mary! bring me a Fork or a Penknife! Mary! Mary! for Jesus Sake, Mary! What, will no Body come a near me? O my God! She's dead! She's dead! My poor dear Mother's dead! but I did not hear a Word of saying, I have murder'd my Mother.

Court. Can you take upon you to swear that you heard every Word, and were not in the same House?

Gobin. Yes, every Word.

Court. How? when you was behind the House, could you hear every Word that was spoke in the Kitchin?

Gobin. No; I did not mean every Word, but I did not hear that Word.

Mr. Hatchet. About 2 Years ago, I lodged a tweleve Month in the Prisoner's House, and I saw no Misunderstanding betwixt him and his Mother, and he was a very honest Man, and his Conversation very Moral.

Mary Philips . I have often heard the Deceased praise the Prisoner as the most dutiful Child that ever Woman had. She gave him the best of Characters, and said she was blest in a Son.

- Bromly, a Sadler. I was Journeyman where the Prisoner was Prentice, he was a perfect sober young Man, he was continually reading good Books, he was guilty of no manner of Vice, neither Drinking, Whoring, Swearing, nor of any other Sin whatever.

Will. Foster. This time was Twelvemonth the Deceased was at my House, and said she had been sick, and that her Son never left her Night nor Day, but continually sat by her Bed all the time, and cry'd like a Child, without ceasing.

Some of the Prisoner's Witnesses having attempted to invalidate the Evidence of Mary Parrot , two Tradesmen of Reputation appear'd to establish her Character.

William Pempillion . I have known Mary Parrot about 7 Years, and she always bore the Character of a good, honest, sober Servant; and I don't believe she would swear wrongfully upon any Account whatever.

James Prior . I have known her 7 Years or more, and she has all along been esteem'd a sober, modest young Woman, I never heard that her Character had ever been stain'd on any Account, and I am far from thinking that she could ever be prevail'd with to take a false Oath.

Prisoner. If the Jury should think that there was any Scuffle betwixt me nd my Mother, I hope they will consider there is a difference betwixt That and Malice.

The Jury Acquitted the Prisoner, and found (on the Coroner's Inquisition ) that the Death of Ann Atkinson was Accidental .


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