William Baker.
5th April 1769
Reference Numbert17690405-47
VerdictGuilty > manslaughter
SentenceMiscellaneous > branding; Imprisonment > newgate

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265. William Baker was indicted for the wilful murder of Joseph Curtis . He also stood charged on the coroner's inquest for the said murder, March 23 . ++

John Palmer . I am a peruke-maker, and live in Duke-street, Grosvenor-square. On Thursday,

the 23d of March, Joseph Curtis was at my house, he went from thence between six and seven, and in about a quarter of an hour after he came back again with his hand on his left side. He unbuttoned his waistcoat, and pulled off his coat and waistcoat; his shirt was bloody, and his hand full of blood. I asked who had done that? He said they were grinders ; they have done for me. I went out directly, saying I would go and see after them. I went to Mr. Wild's house, at the corner of Little Duke-street ; they had ran backwards into the yard, where they were soon found. After we had secured the prisoner and his brother, we took them before Justice Spinnage; there they were examined, and searched. There was a knife found upon the brother, but none upon the prisoner. The surgeon sent his compliments to the Justice, and desire; the prisoner and his brother might be brought to Mr. Curtis's house. I went with them. They were brought to the deceased's bed side; (it was upon a ground floor in a parlour;) the curtains were undrawn; it was a buroe bedstead, intirely open, so that the person in bed might see the two men. Somebody desired they might be brought closer; upon which they were brought close to the bed, when Major Spinnage desired the deceased to touch the man that stabbed him, and the deceased touched the prisoner at the bar with his right hand. It was bloody. He said, That is the man that stabbed me. The prisoner said, I am innocent, do not go to take an innocent man's life away. Mr. Spinnage asked the deceased, whether he would take his oath of it, as he hoped to go to heaven when he died. He answered, Yes. There was a book put into his hand, and he swore it.

Q. Did you know what he meant, when he answered your question, by saying the grinders?

J. Palmer. Yes; the prisoner and his brother had been about the streets grinding a day or two.

Q. Had you ever seen them before?

J. Palmer. No.

Q. How long did the deceased live after this?

J. Palmer. He lived from the Thursday night till about ten minutes after two on the Sunday morning following.

Q. Did you see him after the Thursday night?

J. Palmer. I saw him on the Friday morning; I believe it was about eight o'clock; he said then they had done for him; they had done his work.

Q. Did he go into particulars?

J. Palmer. No, he did not.

Q. Did he say they had done for him?

J. Palmer. No, he said he (meaning the prisoner) had done for him.

Q. Did anybody in your hearing ask him what had led to this unhappy accident?

J. Palmer. No.

William Palmer . I am son to the last witness. Mr. Curtis came into our shop with his hand on his side, and said, They have done for me! I said, God bless me! what is the matter? How came this? O! said he, for God's sake go and fetch somebody. I ran out for a surgeon, and the surgeon came in about ten minutes. Mr. Curtis was in our shop when he came. He lay upon the ground with his clothes off. He was carried home on a chairman's horse, and put to bed. The surgeon desired another surgeon might be sent for. Mr. Thompson the surgeon sent to Major Spinnage , desiring the prisoner and his brother might be sent there, to see which of them it was that had stabbed the deceased. The prisoner and his brother were brought up close to the right side of the bed where Mr. Spinnage's clerk, Mr. Jones, and several other persons were.

Q. Tell exactly what past, as near as you can recollect.

W. Palmer. Mr. Spinnage said to him, Pray, Mr. Curtis, which of these men is it that gave you this stab? The deceased held his right hand out to the prisoner, but I do not know whether he quite touched him or no. He pointed to him with his bloody hand, and said, That is the man in the blue apron. It being candle light, he said presently after, I beg pardon, Mr. Spinnage, it is the man in a green apron. (The prisoner had a green apron on.) Blue and green are very easily mistaken for each other by candlelight. Mr. Spinnage said, Are you sure and positive this is the man, as you hope to go to heaven if you depart this life? He answered, Yes.

Q. Did you see him any time after this?

W. Palmer. Yes, I was with him on the Friday evening.

Q. Did the deceased enter into any particulars?

W. Palmer. No.

Q. Did you see him afterwards?

W. Palmer. I saw him on the Saturday. I went to take my leave of him. I laid hold of his hand, and said, Mr. Curtis, God bless you. He said to me, God bless you. That is all that past then.

Major William Alderton . On Thursday, the 23d of March, I was spending the evening with Justice Spinnage, when the prisoner and his

brother were brought in. A little after seven o'clock, a message came from Mr. Thompson, the surgeon, desiring they might be brought down, and that Mr. Spinnage would come and take the deposition of the dying man, the surgeon having said the wound was mortal. Upon seeing the coat and waistcoat that were brought to the office, I thought it was a very bad affair, there being two stabs on the left side of the coat and waistcoat.

Q. Do you mean a stab through the coat, and another through the waistcoat only?

Mr. Alderton. There were two separate cuts; one above the other; one not so deep as the other. There had been two stabs. I went with Justice Spinnage to the house, but I do not know the name of the street. The deceased lay in a buroe bedstead, with the head turned to the door. Major Spinnage desired the two men might be put to the end of the bed, between the foot and the side (it was a very small bedstead) as close as they could be. I stood near the Major, and the prisoner and his brother were next: they were handcuffed together. I said to Mr. Curtis, The surgeon has pronounced your wound mortal, in a very few hours you will be before your Maker, point out to me which is the man that did you the injury. Upon which he drew his hand from under the bed clothes, and pointed to the prisoner, and said, That is the man that stabbed me. I again desired him (as he seemed very sensible, but in a languishing condition) to take rest, and point out to me the person again. Upon which he pointed to the prisoner again, and said, Him with a blue apron (as he took it to be); and more particularly he said, It was a man with one eye. Upon which I desired the people to take notice. (The prisoner has but one eye.) After that the deceased very earnestly desired the prisoner might be let go, saying he was innocent, and had done him no harm, for it was the other that stabbed him. I turned round to see the information that was preparing, something having past that I did not hear, when the prisoner desired the deceased to forgive him, and offered to kneel down with his hands together. The deceased said, God forgive you, but I cannot; you are the man that stabbed me! The information was then brought for the deceased to sign; but he was so weak, I was desired to give way for Major Spinnage 's clerk to bring the book for him to sign. I moved away for the book to be laid under him, and the information was signed by the dying man, by his making a mark upon it; and afterwards he was sworn upon it. I desired the witnesses to take notice of every thing that past, as I was sure I should never see the deceased again. I was very cautious in every act I did.

Q. When the deceased pointed to the prisosoner first, do you recollect what the prisoner said?

Mr. Alderton. The prisoner said he was deaf, and what he said was repeated to the prisoner. Then he said, He was not the man, he was innocent. As Mr. Spinnage is a major, and so am I, I see some have mentioned questions as asked by him, which I asked.

Q. Look at this paper. (He takes it in his hand.)

Mr. Alderton. This is the information. I saw the deceased make this mark upon it. ( Pointing to it.) He could not support his hand to make a cross, so he made this long mark.

Q. Are you sure he was sensible when he made this mark?

Mr. Alderton. He was as sensible as I am of every circumstance I had been speaking of. I take it from his pertinent answers, from his behaviour, and from his asking for something to drink after he had signed. He shewed thro' the whole that he was sensible.

Q. How long might the prisoner be in the room with the deceased?

Mr. Alderton. It might be altogether about twenty minutes, while the information was taking, and these questions asked.

Q. to John Palmer . How long did you stay in the room with the deceased?

J. Palmer. I stayed in the room till the information was signed.

Q. Do you remember any thing of the prisoner clapping his hands together, and desiring the deceased to forgive him?

J. Palmer. I remember any his clapping his hands together, and saying, I am as innocent as the child unborn. I cannot say I took any notice of his asking the deceased to forgive him.

Q. to William Palmer . Do you recollect the prisoner asking the deceased to forgive him?

W. Palmer. I remember he kneeled down, and said he was innocent. I was behind the bed; therefore though I could see him, yet I could not hear every thing. I saw his mouth go, but could not hear all he said.

William Jones . As I was coming from Grosvenor-Square I heard a noise, and presently was informed Mr. Curtis was stab'd, Having a brother-in-law of the name, made me enquire into the

matter. I went, and saw the prisoner and his brother were in a crowd, who were going with them to Major Spinnage 's. I took them both in custody at the Major's office door. They were examined separately, and both declared they were innocent. In the interim Mr. Curtis's man brought in a bloody coat and waistcoat, with a message, desiring the two prisoners might be brought to the deceased. I took them both to Mr. Curtis's house in Heart-Street, by Grosvenor-Square. When we came in, Mr. Curtis was groaning in great agony. I went up to him, and said, Sir, which is the man that stabbed you? (The two brothers were in the room, but not close by the bedside.) He pointed to the prisoner, as I thought, and said, That is the man in the blue apron. I knowing it to be a green one, said, Come close to the bedside. Then I said, Mr. Curtis, put your hand upon the man that did it. He put out his hand from his left breast, all over bloody, and put his hand on the prisoner's left-hand, and said, That is the man that stabbed me.

Prisoner. He never touched my hand; he put his hand upon my coat.

Q. Was he sensible?

Jones. He was sensible. After this was over, I stood behind; there was a great crowd. To be convinced that he was sensible. I went to him the next morning, about seven o'clock, and asked him how he did; he said he was very bad. I asked him if he knew me; he said, Yes; you belong to Sir John Fielding .

Q. Did you know him before?

Jones. I do not know that ever I saw him before.

Q. How came he to know you belonged to Sir John Fielding ?

Jones. I believe somebody told him so when I brought in the prisoners. I saw him on the Friday night, and on the Saturday, when he was going to receive the sacrament. When I went away, which was before he had received it, he thanked me for the trouble I had been at, and said, Fare you well! God bless you, for what you have done for me. He said, May God forgive him as freely as I do, for I freely forgive him from my heart.

Henry Rudd . I am clerk to Major Spinnage . A person came to our office, and told me a man had been stabbed. I said, Is the person taken? he said, Yes; they are coming up. The prisoner and his brother were brought in. I believe the Major was then in the back parlour. There was a little short knife taken out of the prisoner's brother's pocket, but there was no appearance of blood upon it. While the Major was examining them, a message was brought from Mr. Thompson, desiring the Major would let the prisoners come down to the person that was wounded, for he was then in a state of sensibility, to discover the person that had stabbed him. They were carried there, and placed by the bedside, as has been mentioned. The question was asked Mr. Curtis, If he knew the man that stabbed him? He said, That is the man that stabbed me: pointing to the prisoner.

Q. Who asked the question?

Rudd. I cannot say who asked it.

Q. Was the question, Which of the prisoners? or, Who stabbed you?

Rudd. I cannot be sure which. They then were removed as nigh the bed as they could be, in order to be more clear, and the question was asked again; then the deceased put his hand out, (if he did not touch him, he was very nigh touching him) and said, That is the man. I took a short information of what be said; then I read it over to him as distinctly as I could: I then asked him if it was true; he told me it was. I said, He must be very particular, because here were two brothers changed. I asked him, Whether John Baker , the brother, was any way assisting in giving him the stab? he said, No, he was not. Then I asked him if he could sign that information; he said he could not write his name, but he would endeavour to make a mark. I was sitting on the bedside at the time, when he made his mark. (He takes it in his hand.) This is the information. Major Spinnage asked him if that was his mark; he said it was. He asked him if he had heard it read over; he said he had. He then asked him if it was true; he said it was; and then the deceased swore it. The Major administered the oath to him, and he kissed the book. I then proceeded to write the mittimus.

The information read in court to this purport:

"The information of Joseph Curtis , taken

"upon oath before me, one of his Majesty's

"Justices of the peace for the county of Middlesex,

"the 23d day of March, 1769, &c.

" Joseph Curtis , of Hart-Street, Grosvenor-Square,

"now sensible, and supposed to be

"mortally wounded, maketh oath and says, A

"person now present, who calls himself William

"Baker, was the very person that stabbed

"him with a knife on his left side, of which

" he languisheth: and this deponent farther

"says, that another person, who calls himself

" John Baker , was no way concerned in giving

"him this wound.

"Signed with the - (Mark of) JOSEPH CURTIS ."

Daniel Walden . On the 23d of March I had been in the country, and came back to the Running Horse. The person that keeps the house said, There had been a bad accident happened; young Mr. Curtis, the tinman, has been stabbed. I went to the door. Mr. Palmer was there. I went into his shop, and there the deceased lay on the ground all bloody. I said he should be got away. There was a chairman or two, so I helped to carry and lay him on a chairman's horse, and he was carried to his father's house in Hart-Street Grosvenor-Square. We took him from the horse and laid him on a bureau bedstead; it stood with the head towards the door which we went in at. The surgeon examined the wound; it was upon his left side; he probed it. I apprehended it to be about four inches deep. After he had laid still a little while, one that was by, and I myself, asked him, If he could know the person if he saw him that gave him this blow or wound; he said, Yes. Upon that, by the desire of some gentlemen that were in the room, the prisoner and his brother were sent for.

Q. Did you know that they were in custody?

Walden. I had heard they were taken up; and it had been told to the deceased in my hearing, that they were taken up and gone to Justice Spinnage's, by the description of being grinders. The prisoner and his brother were brought in; and I thinking they stood too near the head of the bed, I said, Do not do so, take and set them towards the feet, that he may have a full view of them. Upon which they were brought towards the feet, near the fire-place. After some time, I said, Mr. Curtis, was either of these men the man that gave you the blow or wound? His answer was, Yes. Upon which I said, I would have you be very particular and clear, as you may b e upon a dying bed; and farther I asked him, Which was the man? He with his right hand pointed towards the prisoner on the right. They were hand-cuffed together. I said, What, the man on the right? He said, Yes. What, said I, the man with one eye? He said, Yes, that is the man. Upon which they were brought nearer to the deceased; then it was asked by a gentleman, whether he was clear, and sure, he was the man, mentioning to him the consequence of being uncertain in taking an oath. I do not know that I saw him touch the prisoner, but he was within a very little of touching him, and said, I am very sure that is the man. Upon which Justice Spinnage swore him. I asked the prisoner to confess, and to speak the truth, whether it was him or not. Upon which he went down upon his knees, expressing he was as innocent as the child unborn. This is all I can relate as to what arose that night. The next morning I visited the deceased, but he could not talk then: I went to him twice after, that was on the Friday and Saturday mornings. One of the mornings I asked him again how the affair appered; he said, There were two men that went about grinding scissars and razors, or things of that kind, which he saw using a countryman ill, and he said, How can you, or are you not ashamed to use the countryman so ill? You ought to be licked, and if I had you here, or had hold of you, I would knock your heads together. I asked him what ensued upon that, and he said the man with one eye gave him a blow on his side with a knife or instrument. I cannot be certain which day it was that he mentioned this. I visited him again on the Saturday night; he was then very sensible and very chearful, and said he was very contented to die, which would not be long before he did. I was with him till his decease. I was not with him when he received the sacrament. He said more than once that he forgave the poor man; adding, God forgive him, for I forgive him. When the surgeon and apothecary came in, there was a whispering that he said, I do not want to be slattered; I know I shall not be long here; I want to go to Jesus Christ. I believe he was fully in his right mind, as any gentleman here, both then, and at the time he charged the prisoner. I am quite clear in it.

Joseph Wild . I live and keep a public house in Oxford-Road, at the corner of Duke-Street. About seven o'clock that evening, the prisoner and his brother came into my house. There was a great mob at the door. As I went to shut the door, one of his brothers threw something out of his hand into the street. Young Mr . Palmer said, Let me in; you know me. The mob cried, There are two men in your house that have stabbed a man. The prisoner and his brother were sat down in a box, and I desired them to walk out peaceably; which they refused. The people at the door said they had stabbed Mr.

Curtis. Then I opened the door, when three or four of them came in, and took them away. I went afterwards to Mr. Curtis's, and heard him say, That is the man, who has but one eye, that gave me the wound. I believe I have seen the prisoner four times before; his brother I never saw, to my knowledge. They had been both at my house that day, in the afternoon, about five o'clock, and had two pots of beer, and a quartern of rasberry brandy. There was a countryman with a wallet with them.

Jones. It was strongly reported that they were about trepanning the countryman to enlist into the East-India service, which occasioned the uproar.

Mr. Curtis. I am father to the deceased. As long as he was in his senses, he said it was the prisoner that gave him the stab; and he was as sensible, I believe, as any gentleman here, as long as he could speak, which I believe might be within an hour of his death.

Mr. Thompson, the surgeon, gave his evidence follow, it was impossible for the short-hand writer to hear so as to gave it to the public in his own words: but this in general can be ascertained, That he found a very dangerous wound on the deceased's left breast, between the second and third rib, which received the whole length of his probe, and that when he opened the body afterwards, he found there was a wound above two inches deep in the lungs; which wound, he made no doubt of, was the occasion of his death; and that from the first of he his attending him, to the last, he was very sensible.

Thomas Hawes . I am hammer-man to a blacksmith, and work in Little George-Street, Grosvenor Square. When we went into the alehouse to take the two brothers, one of them said, Don't lay hold of me, it was not me: if it was one of us, it was my brother. When I first saw them, the boys were hooting them down Great George-Street, saying, They had used a countryman ill.

Prisoner's Defence.

As my brother and I were going to put my barrow up, a person brought me out a razor to grind; I ground it, and carried it in; they then gave me another and a long clasp knife to grind. When I had begun upon the razor, who should come but a countryman with some corks; he and I were brought up in the same place in the country. He said, I have not seen you a good while, if you will go back to the Quebeck, I will give you part of a pot of beer. I set my barrow up against the wall, took the razor and knife in my hand, and went with him. He called for a pot of two-penny, which we drank: I then called for another pot of beer, and two penyworth of bread and cheese; saying, As you have been so good as to give me part of two pots of beer, if you will go back with me (I had then not a farthing) till I take my money for these things, I will give you part of a quart. We went back, when I had ground the razor and knife, and took 5 d. for them. I went a little farther, when a tripeman called me, and gave me two knives to grind. As I was doing them, the young countryman and my brother came to Mr. Wyld's, where they had a quartern of rasberry brandy. I took my barrow through Mr. Wild's house, and put it up. After it was in the yard a man brought me a small pair of scissars to grind; I ground them, for which he gave me twopence After that the countryman and my brother broke the crank of my barrow. I having but eightpence in the world, I said, I hope you would pay for the mending it; they said they would. I carried it to a smith, he mended it, and charged a shilling. Then the countryman said he would not pay a farthing, and began mobbing the smith, saying, He could have had it done for twopence or threepence in the country. I told him, If he would pay sixpence, I would pay the rest; but he would not pay a farthing. I could not help crying, having nothing to get my bread with. I hit him a blow, upon which he hallooed out murder. There were a great company came about us. He told them, I was putting upon him; the mob sell upon me directly, in throwing of stones and brickbats, and some hit me with their fists before I could make my escape into the house. They threw great bricks after me into the house. My brother took up one, and threw it out at the mob again. While I was there, they said there was a man stabbed. They came and took hold of my brother and me. I knew no more, when they came to take me, what it was for, than the child that never saw a man in it's life. They took me to Mr. Spinnage's, where I was searched, and this eightpence found upon me, and an old pair of rusty scissars. I knowing nothing of the stabbing the man.

For the Prisoner.

John Baker . I am the prisoner's brother. When we were in at Mr. Wyld's, the mob threw a piece of brickbat in after us. I took it up, and threw it out again. (The account he gave exactly corresponded with the prisoner's defence.)

Mary Warton . I live just by Mr. Wyld. I saw Mr. Curtis strike the grinder two blows on the head with his hand, but did not hear what either

he or the grinder said. There was a great mob both of men and boys. I never saw the prisoner and his brother before in my life. There was a cry, in about five minutes after, that Mr. Curtis was stabbed.

John Alexander . I am a grocer, and live two doors from Great Duke-street in the road. About seven o'clock that evening, as I was standing at my door, I heard a great noise in Great Duke-street. I came to the corner, and stood by the White Hart sign post. Just as the people past me, I saw the deceased strike a man two blows on the head with his hand; there were some words passed at the time. As soon as Mr. Curtis had struck, they moved forward, and as they moved, Mr. Curtis followed them, to go across the road, and about the middle of the road, as near as I can guess, the prisoner turned again upon Mr. Curtis. (This was after they might have been got ten yards.) I thought they had been going to fight. I could not conceive what was done, because people were round them. I turned and went in at the door directly; soon after I heard Mr. Curtis was stabbed. I did not see one person else use their hands. I take it the first blow was with the flat of his hand, the other with his fist.

John Davis . I am the prisoner's brother-in-law. I never knew him in any wrangle in my life before this.

Elizabeth Powel . I have known the prisoner sixteen years. I never knew nothing but honour and civility by him.

Q. from Prisoner to his brother. Did you hear me ask the deceased's pardon on my knees?

John Baker . I remember he put his hands together, and said he was innocent.

Q. Did you hear your brother say any thing about hoping he would forgive him?

J. Baker. He put his hands together, and said something, but I do not know what it was.

Guilty of Manslaughter . B . Imprisoned .


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