John Stevens.
9th April 1766
Reference Numbert17660409-67
VerdictNot Guilty

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280. (M.) John Stevens was indicted on the coroner's inquest, for the wilful murder of John Arthur , March 31 . *

The witnesses were examined apart.

William More . I was a prisoner in Tothil-fields-bridewell, for asking charity in the street; John Arthur , the deceased, was a prisoner there before I was: he was about 16 years of age. I was there 28 days; he was hearty when I first went in; he was committed, as I heard, for an impostor: he could speak but very few words, and was what might be called an ideot . The people once were playing the rogue with him, he made a great noise, and awaked Mr. Stevens's child; Mr. Stevens beat him wherever he could, over head, back, belly, and every where; this was about 3 weeks before he died; he was whipped with a cat-o'nine-tails about 9 nine days before he died, by Mr. Stevens, for befouling himself; he used to do it as he sat or lay. We stripped him naked, and washed him at the pump; then he was locked up in a cold ward for 3 hours, quite naked, because his cloaths were all wet, not fit to be put on; when the sun shone I let him out, and he sat down on the threshold, and was brought soon to be right. The night before he died, the prisoner beat him with a bunch of keys: he was taken sick about 3 days before he died.

Q. Was he really dumb?

More. We could get nothing out of him; he could say, Tottey Mom, Tottey Mom Wansey, that was all: if any body gave him a piece of bread, he would sing and dance for an hour together.

Q. When did he die?

More. He died last Monday night was se'nnight; I was with him; he lay on his face and died; he eat his allowance on the Friday before, and almost his allowance on the Saturday. He was beat with a bull's pizzle once, about a fortnight before he died, by the prisoner; he used to befoul himself so, that we had no rest in the ward; every body wondered how we could live there, the ward was in such a condition.

Cross examination.

Q. How were his legs when he came first in?

More. His legs were marked with a little red by sitting by the fire; but that was not done in Bridewell; there was not much fire to sit by. The prisoner told us all he had been to Sir John Fielding , to get him discharged, and he would not discharge him.

Q. Is there not a place to ease yourselves in?

More. When we are locked up we go to a tub, o n purpose for that use: but, at other times, we go to a place in the yard.

Q. Did you reckon he had not understanding enough to know how to go to the necessary-house?

More. No, he had not understanding enough; he would eat and drink 3 or 4 men's allowances; and he would sit 5 hours together, if no body molested him.

Q. If you bid him get up and fetch a thing, would he go and fetch it?

More. Yes, he would at once, a pot or mug; and he would refuse it, if he knew it was not for him.

Q. Whether, if they bid him fetch a thing that was not to eat, would he go and fetch it?

More. He would as soon fetch a thing not to eat, as he would a thing to eat; he would do any thing they bid him, good or bad.

Q. Do you know any particular advantage that could arise to Mr. Stevens, from any cruelty to the deceased?

More. No.

Q. Was you ever ill used by the goaler?

More. No, I never was in my life.

Q. Did he misuse the prisoners in general?

More. No, I never saw that he did.

John Sutherland . I was committed to Tothil-fields-bridewell for begging; I never saw the prisoner strike the deceased, or use him worse than the rest of the prisoners, while I was there; the prisoner was foolish; the deceased had his allowance the same as the rest had; there was a tub in the place to do our occasions in, but the deceased had not sense to make use of it. We desired Mr. Stevens to take him out of the place, but he would not; he was very bad on a Sunday night, and on the Monday night he died.

Q. What was the cause of his death?

Sutherland. That I cannot tell; he had a violent purging upon him, and the weather was very cold.

Q. How long did you know the deceased there?

Sutherland. I was there about a week before he died.

Cross examination.

Q. Was the prisoner able to walk about when you first came in?

Sutherland. He was able to eat his allowance.

Q. Supposing you was to bid him fetch a thing, would he do it?

Sutherland. He would.

Q. Then how can you call him a natural fool?

Sutherland. I judged so by his actions.

Q. Did you take him to be such a fool, as not to know how to discharge nature?

Sutherland. It seemed so to me, because we had a tub to go to, and he would not use it.

Q. Did you look upon him to be such a fool, as not to know where to go on that account?

Sutherland. I will not say that.

Godfrey Synod . I was a prisoner in Tothil-fields-bridewell; when I came in the prisoner had nothing but a shirt on, neither shoes or other cloathing; I saw the prisoner strike the deceased with a bunch of keys on the Sunday night, the day before he died; it was only one blow upon the back. I begged of the prisoner to put me into another ward, because the deceased smelt so; he used to foul himself; the prisoner said, he wished he was dead and gone; when he sat in the kitchen, his ordure would run from him: he once flung a bone over the wall, into the garden, and the prisoner beat him for everlasting.

Darby Matthews. I am going on 15 years of age: the deceased was brought into Bridewell about 10 at night, about 7 weeks ago; he grew very dry in the night, and called out for a pot of water, and made a noise; the prisoner opened the chamber-window, and said, You rascal, hold your tongue; he was still a little while, then he called out again; then Mr. Stevens said he thought the fellow was mad; he went and locked him into the Black-hole; then the deceased began to make a great noise: Mr. Stevens brought a chain about 3 yards long, and put a bezel round the deceased's leg, and put a pair of hand-cuffs on, and put the chain to his leg; he found he could reach to the side, then he put the chain shorter; but then the deceased halloo'd out, Water: then Mr. Stevens sent down a bull's pizzle, to have him licked by James Cole , and Cole would not lick him. Then the other keeper begged he might be let out; No, said Mr. Stevens, I will not let him out, my wife shall not be frighted; but, with great persuasion, he let him out. The deceased was so ignorant he used to lie in his own dung, and his breeches all dirty; the rest of the prisoners washed him naked, and they washed his cloaths for him; after that, I saw Mr. Stevens beat him with a cat-o'nine-tails, but there were but 6 tails upon it. I saw Mr. Stevens strike him with a bunch of keys, one blow over his back, the day before he died; the deceased cried out, O dear.

Q. What was you committed for?

Matthews. They said it was for stealing a pair of old shoes; but there was no bill found against me, and I am now discharged.

James Cole . I am a seaman; I was in Bridewell for a bastard child; I have been there almost 6 months; the deceased was brave and hearty when he came in: he used to run about the place, and make a great noise like a mad man; he could speak but a few words; Mr. Stevens's wife being big with child, he locked him up in the Blackhole, where he remained 2 days and 2 nights; that is a place they put those in who do not behave well: when he came out he was noisy again; and Mr. Stevens ordered a bezel to be put on his leg, and a small chain put through it, about a foot in length, and he was chained in the Black-hole; when he came out, he was about the yard all day; he had a great purging on him; having neither shoes, nor stockings, or breeches

on, his legs were very sore; when he first came into the place, his right leg had one sore on the shin, and the other upon the knee; the other leg seemed to be burnt by setting by the fire, they were both swelled.

Q. Was the bezel upon the wound?

Cole. No, it was below the wound. After the last confinement he ran about the yard and made a great noise: Mr. Stevens came out and said, you rascal, get down into the ward, or I'll lick you; you frighten my wife. She was big with child. He did not offer to move; Mr. Stevens fetched a bull's pizzle, but I went away and did not see him strike him. He had a cat with six tails, with two knots on each; I once saw him strike him with that, but do not recollect the day. He was very ignorant; he had a violent purging came upon him; on the Sunday he could not eat his allowance; he died the next day as he lay on his face.

William Huck . I rent the tap of the prisoner, I entered on it on Michaelmas last. When the deceased was brought in, he laughed and seemed to be a silly fellow, but seemed healthy; within two or three days after I saw his legs seemed as if he had been sitting by some fire, they looked read and swelled.

Q. Did you see the prisoner use him ill?

Huck. I saw him beat him with a bull's pizzle about four or five strokes, about three weeks before he died.

Q. What was that for?

Huck. I do not know for what; it was about his back and shoulders. I saw him strike him with the keys the day before he died, for not going fast enough; the deceased cried out as if he was hurt. That is all I ever saw.

Mr. Archibald Harris . I am a surgeon: I was sent for to view the deceased's body in Bridewell, I found the surgeon of the Westminster hospital there at the request of the prisoner; we found a mortification on the deceased from his toe to his hip, on the left leg, and upon various parts of both legs. I saw nothing of any marks of violence upon the body, neither back nor belly. I inspected the legs to see if there were any marks of irons, which we understood had been put on him; I found no such marks at all; there was no appearance of any injury of that kind.

Q. Could the iron be the cause of the mortification?

Harris. No; we enquired to know how this mortification arose; we found he was an unruly fellow; they had put breeches on him, and he pulled them off. We looked upon it as he had these sores on his legs before he came in; it was the severity of the weather that brought on the mortification; there was a great inflammation.

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

Harris. Upon my oath I think he died a natural death, so far as it was owing to a mortification.

Mr. Humphrys. I examined the deceased's body. I never in all my life saw a body so free from marks of violence in my life; the mortification, no doubt, was the occasion of his death; the blows by no means could not cause it, nor the cat o'nine-tails, nor the putting the iron on. I apprehend the cold weather brought on the mortification.

Prisoner's defence.

I never injured the deceased in the least, I should be very unhappy in myself if I was conscious that I did.

Acquitted .


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