26th October 1791
Reference Numbert17911026-32
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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412. BENJAMIN CARVER was indicted for feloniously assaulting Thomas Knowles , D. D. on the King's highway,

on the 16th of September last, and putting him in fear, and feloniously taking from his person, and against his will, two guineas, his monies .


I was robbed the 16th of September; I was going towards Finchley church, on a Friday, in the parish of Finchley , between three and five, I suppose it might be about four; I was in a post-chaise; my wife and daughter were with me; we were stopped by the prisoner; I did not know him before; I met him just before, on the other side of the great road; I took notice of him as a suspicious person; soon after, he followed the chaise, and called to the servant to stop; the sun shone bright; the green blinds were up; I saw him before through the front glass; on letting down the blinds, he presented a pistol towards Mrs. Knowles, and demanded our money; I gave him a purse with two guineas, which he took out, and returned the purse; Mrs. Knowles gave him a small purse, which was found on him when he was taken; this lasted but a very few minutes; he said he would not ask for our watches, but touched his hat, and went off; he behaved civilly, not one bad word; I believe he was taken directly, in Barnet; I saw him about an hour after; I was agitated, and I could not recollect him; but presently after I could describe his dress exactly; he had a blue great-coat on when he robbed me (and so he was taken), a linen waistcoat, I remember the sprig of it particularly, with little sprigs at the edges; I particularly wondered he should have a great coat on, it was a very hot day.

Court. Was it one of those very hot days we had in September? - It was: the constable took the purse from him.

Court. Be so good to look at him again.

Prosecutor. I have no doubt about him.

Prisoner. Did not you decline swearing to me at Barnet? - This I said, that his hair was so much dishevelled, and he had a great colour in his face, whereas before he looked exceedingly pale, that I really at that moment could not swear whether he was the person or not, but I can positively swear to him now: I did not swear to him before the magistrate; I had some doubt in my mind; his countenance was so very different, that his countenance convinces me now that he is the same person.

Prisoner. I wish the Court to know the answer that Dr. Knowles gave to the magistrate at Barnet; wheher Dr. Knowles did not refuse swearing to me, because the person who robbed him was of a very pale complexion? - I say so now.

Court. Did you swear to him at all before the justice? - No, I did not.

Did you give intelligence to any person at the time? - Mr. Underwood was with me, and he saw the servant set off after him.


I was in the chaise with Dr. Knowles, my father, when he was robbed; the first notice I took of the prisoner, was his presenting a loaded pistol, and demanding my father's money, and said distress had brought him to do it; my father offered him one guinea, and asked him if that would do; he said it would not; he rapped at the shutter three times with a very bright new pistol to appearance; upon that my mother let down the blind, and my father gave him a guinea; he said he demanded the money; he said distress had brought him to do it; upon which my father offered him a guinea; says he, will that do for you? no, says he, it will not do, for distress has brought me to it, and I must have the other; my father gave him the two guineas and the purse, and desired he might have the purse back again, which he had; and my mother gave him a purse, which I did myself; he never offered to rob me; I could not help looking stedfastly at him the whole time, I could not help it; he had a blue great coat on; and his person, and every thing, has been in my mind ever since, and I could describe the person of him in my sleep; he had a blue great coat, and a dirty-coloured silk handkerchief round his neck, like that one I have seen him pull out just now; he was

three, four, or five minutes with us; my father talked to him, and parleyed with him in that manner.

Court. I need not put you on your guard, that the life of the prisoner may depend on your evidence; I dare say you mean to say what is right; but in all that hurry and agitation of spirits which this must necessarily produce, are you sure and certain, in your own mind, that the prisoner at the bar is the man or not? - I am willing to swear it; I am positive, and have no doubt in the world.

Prisoner. The lady, in giving her evidence so very clearly and deliberately, on observing my person, and the colour of my handkerchief, I beg leave to ask her, whether she did not look in my face at Barnet, and ask which was the man that robbed her father? - I recollect he was among a great number of people, and therefore I might not recollect him quite so well, then; I might recollect him afterwards in my own mind.

Court. Did you ask that question, Which is the man that robbed us? - I cannot tell.

The prisoner desires to know, and he has a right to have an answer to that question, whether you did ask that question, Which is the man that robbed us? - If I recollect myself at all, it was my saying that, because I thought it was the very man.

Have you any recollection of that; consider with yourself? - To say the truth, I was very much frighted at that time; I might say it.

But when your mind was more composed, how were you then? - I recollect the great coat, handkerchief, and every thing, I called to mind; when my mind was more composed, I had a more perfect recollection; it is so much so, that I even can make visions before my eyes.

Prisoner. I beg the Jury will attend to the very deliberate answer, that she should be so cool and deliberate when she came into the room among twenty people looking at me, and asking, is this the man that robbed us; I wish the lady would give that explicit answer, for the satisfaction of the Court.

Court. That will be a circumstance that, among others, will be left to the Jury to judge, how well she is warranted to swear to you.


I am servant to Mr. Underwood; I remember the carriage in which Dr. Knowles was being stopped; the prisoner rode by, and as he passed he pulled out a pistol, stopped the driver, and rode up to the carriage, and tapped at the window, and demanded the money.

Are you sure the prisoner is the man, from the notice you took of him? - Yes: we went but a very little way before we saw some persons at work in a field; one of them got on my master's horse, his name is Jeremiah Pooley ; we pursued the highwayman; he was going very gently, till I rode past him; I turned into the Red Lion, at the bottom of the hill, at Barnet; as soon as he saw that, he clapped spurs to his horse, and galloped away; we pursued and took him, and I saw Doughton take a brace of pistols out of his pocket.

Prisoner. How far, and what pace, he rode with me, before he gave any alarm? - I rode by him as fast as I could, and then gave the alarm.

Prisoner. He has informed the Court that I was riding very gently; he rode with me as far as from Whetstone to Barnet before he gave any alarm at all. - I did not ride with him at all; the person that was with me saw me go past as fast as I could.

What was you promised in case of my conviction; whether he was not promised his part of the reward? - No, my Lord; I was promised no such thing.


I was at work on the 16th of September last, when I pursued the highwayman with the last witness, which was about ten minutes, or rather more, I cannot say; I know the prisoner is the man that I rode after, he was going very gently on horseback; the last witness passed by him; I kept just behind him; the prisoner rode gently till the young man gave the alarm; then the

prisoner made his horse go as fast it could; when he was near the first Red Lion, where the last witness was, I immediately raised a hue and cry after him. I saw nothing taken from him.


I am a mason, I heard the hue and cry, and helped to stop the prisoner. I fancy the prisoner has got his purse again. The prisoner had like to have rode over me; I saw him searched, and a pistol, two guineas, and a purse found on him; I think the Justice ordered him his purse again.


I am a labourer, I saw a post boy hallooing out stop thief, and I caught a man by the cape of his coat; he said, d - n your eyes let me go, what do you want with me? Hill came up and assisted me, I saw him searched, there was a brace of pistols; I saw a purse taken from the young man at the bar in the parlour.


I beg the attention of the Court to what has been said against me, and I rest my defence with the Jury. I beg leave to say a few words with respect to what has been laid against me. First, Dr. Knowles comes now and swears positively against me, nearly two months after he was robbed, when an hour and a half after he declined it. The next is Mrs. Underwood, she comes nearly two months after, describing the colour of the handkerchief of the person who robbed them, describing the colour of his coat, his dress, complexion, and every particular circumstance which she could not describe an hour and a half after, and said when she looked me in the face, which is the man who robbed me? That boy is next called, I put it to him, he declines answering it, how far I rode with him, and what pace. I rode with that boy I suppose more than two miles, at the pace of five miles an hour, when I went through Barnet I went not very fast; then when stopt I made no refusal; there was what money I had when I was before the magistrate; nothing found upon me could be claimed by any other person. I was on my business, if any person claims any part of the property that was found on me, so it must be.

Court. How did you come by the pistols? - I had a pair of pistols about me, which I bought at Cambridge; I have travelled with a great deal of money about me very often, and it was necessary for me to have them for my own defence.

How came you to ride so fast when the boy was going into the yard? - I did not ride fast, I rode gently up the hill, but when I got into Barnet I rode fast, without any particular reason. I have witnesses to my character.


I am a grocer in Wigmore-street, Cavendish-square, I am no relation to the prisoner, I have known him about six or seven years, but not for pretty nigh a year; when I knew him he kept a grocer's shop in Pitt-street, in Pancras parish; at that time I always believed him to be a very honest industrious man: he bore a very good character, but I believe the business in Pitt-street did not answer very well, and he removed to Carnaby-street; there he was rather unfortunate in business, and lived in different places. There are many friends I could have brought to give him a good character, as a sober, honest young man. I never heard of his being guilty of any thing of the kind before.

Prisoner. That gentleman well knows that my friends are in affluence and respectability, and that I have been with them ever since my business declined.

Mr. Rouse. His father and brother are both ministers, they both preach the gospel.

GUILTY, Death .

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

He was humbly recommended to mercy by the prosecutor, on account of his good behaviour and youth .

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