Thomas Smith.
27th February 1760
Reference Numbert17600227-29
VerdictNot Guilty > accidental death

Related Material

ActionsCite this text | Print-friendly version | Report an error
Navigation< Previous text (trial account) | Next text (trial account) >

109. (M.) Thomas Smith , blacksmith , was indicted for the wilful murder of Benjamin Harthill , January 29 . He also stood charged on the coroner's inquest for manslaughter. ++

William Shirlock . The prisoner, the deccased, and others of their fellow workmen, had been drinking pretty plentifully at the Valentine and Orion, in Goswell Street.

Q. What are you?

Shirlock. I keep that house; after some time words arose.

Q. Who was in company?

Shirlock. There were nine of them in all; there was the deceased's son. I did not know them all.

Q. What liquor had they had?

Shirlock. They had eighteen full pots of beer together.

Q. What were the words about?

Shirlock. They were about their trade, which was the best workman.

Q. What were their trades?

Shirlock. They were nailers and rivet makers. The deceased's son was fighting with the prisoner.

Q. Who were the words between?

Shirlock. They were between the prisoner and and the deceased's son. The deceased's son said the prisoner's father was a thief and a rogue, which provoked the prisoner to strike him, upon which they began to fight.

Q. How long did they fight?

Shirlock. They fought I believe near half an hour, and then they parted and sat down in a box together. The deceased and his son sat opposite each other in the box. Then the prisoner said to the son, whom he had been fighting with (very coolly) what do you know of my father or any of my family, that you should use such language. Harthill equivocated a little, but the father, who sat opposite to him, started up and said the prisoner's father was a rogue and a thief. Then the prisoner struck him one blow, on the right side of his head, with his left hand.

Q. Was it with his flat hand, or double fist?

Shirlock. I can't say which.

Q. What sort of a blow was it?

Shirlock. It was a swinging blow like.

Q. Is the prisoner right or left handed?

Shirlock. I believe he is right handed, but he was on that side the box that lay for his left hand.

Q. Did that blow seem to affect him?

Shirlock. It did not seem to me to affect him; they sat together for an hour peaceably and quiet after that, arguing coolly with each other.

Q. Were there any blows struck after that?

Shirlock. No, nor any likelihood of any.

Q. Did you see them part?

Shirlock. I did, I was in the room at the time.

Q. What condition did the deceased seem to be in?

Shirlock. I saw no other difference then than at any other time, only being fuddled; he was in a bad state of health, in a consumption, long before; his son says, six years before

Q. Do you know what time he died?

Shirlock, I do by his son's account.

Benjamin Harthill . I am son to the deceased, and was in company with the prisoner and him at that time.

Q. Did you hear the last witness give his account?

Harthill. I did, it is much the same; we were drinking all together and talking, and had a good deal of liquor,

Q. Was you sober?

Harthill. We were all fuddled.

Q. Do you remember the conversation you had with the prisoner at the bar?

Harthill. Yes, we were talking about our business.

Q. What conversation did you fall into after that?

Harthill. The prisoner call'd my father thief.

Q. Did not you call the prisoner's father thief or rogue?

Harthill. No.

Q. to Shirlock. Did you not say you heard this witness call the prisoner's father thief and rogue?

Shirlock. I heard this witness say, that the prisoner's father was a thief and a rogue.

Harthill. I did not say so.

Q. What was the reason of your fighting?

Harthill. We were talking about our trade, and he hit me a blow; then I struck him again, and so we fell to fighting, and fought some time.

Q. Are you both of one trade?

Harthill. We are; when we were fighting my father came to part us, and he said the prisoner's father was a thief.

Q. Was this when you were fighting?

Harthill. No, this was after we had been parted about an hour; that occasion'd the blow, but I did not see it given. After that my father and I went home together, I led him by the arm.

Q. Could he not go without help?

Harthill. He was drunk.

Q. What time did you go home?

Harthill. Between nine and ten at night.

Q. What happen'd when he was at home?

Harthill. He went to bed.

Q. Did he complain of any hurt?

Harthill. He complain'd at the alehouse, before he went home, of the blow, and told me the prisoner had kill'd him; so we went home upon that, but when he gave him the blow, I do not think he intended to kill him.

Q. to Shirlock. Was it a violent blow?

Shirlock. It was a hard blow for a man that was infirm; but I do not think it would have hurt me.

Q. to Harthill. How had your father been as to his health.

Harthill. He had been in a very bad state of health these six years.

Q. When did he die?

Harthill. He died about four o'clock the next morning.

John Watson . I was at Mr. Shirlock's house, but not in their company. I saw the prisoner and the last evidence fighting; they had had several words before the young man told the prisoner he was a thief, and his father was a thief before him.

Court. He denies that.

Watson. It is possible he may not remember it, he was very fuddled to be sure.

Q. Did you know the deceased?

Watson. I did some time before he died.

Q. How was he as to his health?

Watson. He was in a very bad state of health; I have heard him often complain, and often-times he could not go to work.

Q. Did you see the blow given?

Watson. No, I did not, but while the prisoner and the young one were fighting I saw the old one (that is, the deceased) put his hand over the bar and pull the prisoner by the hair; the prisoner at the time put his hand over his shoulder, and gave him a blow which knocked him down, but I saw no blow after that.

John Allcock . The prisoner and deceased were my servants.

Q. What is your business?

Allcock. We call ourselves rivet and hoop-makers ; but we are properly smiths . I was informed at home that some of my men were fighting. I went to the alehouse in order to part them, where I found young Harthill and the prisoner fighting. I got between and parted them; they got together and fought again; then the old man, the deceased, went to pull the prisoner by the hair, the prisoner struck him and he fell down, and what by holding by one another, or how I cannot say, but I believe

they all three were down together at that time. I got the old man out at the doo r, and he came in again, and the young one and the prisoner at the bar fought again. They set to it five or six times.

Q. Were they drunk or sober?

Allcock. They were all drunk.

Q. How was the deceased as to his health?

Allcock. He was very ill, and sometimes he could not go to his work for three or four days together; he worked but very little.

Q. How long had they work'd for you?

Allcock. I believe about three years.

Q. What was the occasion of their fighting?

Allcock. They were fighting when I went there; they call'd each other thief and rogue, as drunken people commonly do. I don't think the soldier (the prisoner is a soldier) did intend to do him any hurt, for he is as quiet a man as any I have, and I have about twenty-five of them. He has behav'd as well as any of them for the time he has work'd for me, which is about three years. He is a very quiet man, I never knew him quarrelsome in my life.

Abraham Farrin . After the fray was over I only saw one blow given. The deceased call'd the prisoner's father thief and rogue, and used very scurrilous language; upon that the prisoner at the bar, with his left hand, gave him a blow.

Q. Was it with his double fist, or open handed?

Farrin. I saw the blow, but I cannot say whether it was open handed or double fist.

Q. Did it seem to be a very severe blow?

Farrin. If I had received such a blow, it would not have hurt me a great deal; but the deceased was in a bad state of health.

Mr. Goodman. I was sent for by the coroner. I opened the scull of the deceased, and found the brain in its natural state.

Q. If a blow on the head had been the occasion of his death, how should you have expected to find the brain?

Goodman. We should have found a great quantity of blood there.

Q. Do you think this man's death was occasion'd by that blow?

Goodman. I don't believe it was.

Q. Could you judge, by viewing the body, what was the deceased's state of health?

Goodman. By all accounts I have learned since, he was in a very bad state of health.

Q. Can you account for what was the occasion of his death?

Goodman. No doubt but that any body, in such a bad state of health, might have died by such irregularity in living, without the blow; it is reasonable to think so.

Q. Was there any appearance of any contusion?

Goodman. No, none at all.

Q. Did you see any mark on his breast or any where else?

Goodman. I did not.

Q. What do you think was the occasion of his death?

Goodman. I have known several irregular people, by being put into a very great passion, carried off directly.

Acquitted. Accidental death .

View as XML