20th February 1782
Reference Numbert17820220-5
VerdictNot Guilty

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158, 159. JANE SWEATMAN and MARY HUMPHRIES were indicted for the wilful murder of John Thatcher , on the 28th of January last, by choaking, suffocating, and strangling him with a silk handkerchief, of which the said John Thatcher did instantly die .

They were likewise charged with the same upon the Coroner's inquisition.

(Mr. William Andrews served as a juror, in the room of Peter Poe , who was fined 5 l.)

(The prisoners desired the witnesses might be examined apart.)


I am a painter, I knew the deceased; I lodged with John Thatcher about two months before his decease, he lived in Calender's-yard, Long-alley, Moorfields, he was a scale-beam maker . On the 28th of January, being Monday, he came to my house, No. 18, Peter-street, Halfmoon-alley; he said, I have bought a tune, will you be so good as to play the tune for me on your flute; he asked me to take a scale-beam home for him, it was a small one to weigh silver; I delivered it to a maker on Snowhill, we went together, he shewed me the door; I parted with him between six and seven, the clock had struck six, it must be half after six; I did not observe any handkerchief about his neck; he and I drank but one pint of beer; he was as sober as any man born; we parted at the One-tun door, at the corner, not very far from Eagle and child alley, the corner of the market and Snowhill.


I lived apprentice to John White , a bedstead maker, Fleet-market, the shop where I work is directly over the place where I found the man dead, the work-shop is in the alley; on Monday the 28th of January, between the hours of seven and eight in the evening, I went from the work-shop in Eagle and Child alley , I was obliged to go out, I returned in about a quarter of an hour, down the alley. I heard somebody in the passage No. 1, I did not concern myself then, passed the place, and went up to work, in two minutes I heard the whispering of two women, at that instant I did not hear what it was, I heard the door open, I instantly looked out of the window, I saw one of the women just come off the threshold of the door, and the other come out by the side of her; I have seen them both I am clear of it, up and down that alley before, it was as clear a moon-light night as ever was seen, it was a full moon, quite a bright night.

Look at those women, are they the same? - I am clear of it, I had heard Sweatman's name before, I had not heard the other, I heard one of the women say, it is, or it was dangerous, I cannot confine myself to which, nor which it was made use of the words; they stood as close as they could together in the passage, they might stay there a minute; they left that passage where the man lay, and went to the passage above in the said alley, to conceal themselves; I saw them go in, and while they were in it, there came down a woman of the name of Mary

Stebbing, she went into the passage where the women were, on her going in I saw the two women come out together, and they went past the place, down the alley, whispering together, I heard none of their expressions, as soon as they passed the place, I went down stairs, thought they were going to steal something, I put my hand against the door, it would not above half open; the passages leading to these houses, are inhabited by hard working persons, the premises belong to my master; there is a long passage, you cross a yard, it is no thoroughfare where the man was, it leads to the house, there are three passages, the alley is a thoroughfare that leads to them; I was then without a light, I went up stairs for my candle, I went down, and found a man laying on the ground with his breeches down, I took him by the hand and touched his forhead, found him very cold, and no appearance of life at all, with his breeches down, I did not examine into the cause of his death, I was frightened and went out of the passage to my master; we were consulting to get some assistance, or a surgeon, while we were speaking, Mary Stebbings came down the alley to us, there came then a sailor, Edward Gatliff , we all went into the passage together, a great many people gathered together, the young fellow the sailor went to him, and held up his head, I saw the handkerchief upon his neck, Edward Gatliff untied it; I suppose it might be six or seven minutes from the time I first found him, before he untied the handkerchief; when I found him, I went immediately down to my master, and returned immediately back; I was present at taking the prisoners, the sailor, and Stebbings, and I, came out of the passage together, I told Gatliff I knew the women, we went down the alley, and crossed, and went into the White-hart, the corner of Bear alley, I sent Mary Stebbings in first, she said they were both there, I went in and Gatliff followed, I took Sweatman and brought her out, and said, there is the other, he took her, I charged Jane Sweatman with what had passed, and how I had seen him; I asked them whether they did not go to the passage to hide themselves, and whether Mary Stebbings did not see them there, Sweatman said, they had been in that passage, and went to ease themselves, not the passage where the man lay, that they went to ease themselves, but they had not been near the man; I told them I saw them go into the passage, but they said they had not been where the man lay; the constable took charge of them, and searched the deceased, he took out of his breeches pocket two sixpences, and he took a pair of buckles out of the left hand waistcoat pocket, and a handkerchief, and his pocket, book out of it.

From the prisoner Sweatman. Ask him if he did not come out with Mary Stebbings , and ask which was the woman, and turn us round to see which was the women. Did not you say so to this woman? - Not at all; every body knows I said I was clear they were the women, there was no dispute arose concerning which they were, nor who they were, I am confident of.

Sweatman. Ask if he did not turn Humphries about, and said look at her, I am told they had two bed-gowns on? - No such words; I never turned her about and looked at her, I am confident and clear of it; I would not take a wrong woman, as there were more women in the place; as to any words I should make use of at that time, I know of none, concerning saying I did not know the woman; I was as clear of the women, and knew them both well, not only from seeing them then, but from hearing them use different expressions, I had known them for a long time past.

Prisoner Humphries. He and the other young man turned me round to examine me.

Witness. I believe I might look down at her cloaths to be clear of her dress and person.


I am a sailor; I remember being in Eagle and child alley on Monday the 28th of last month, I was at the Eagle and child drinking; a woman came in, and said there was a murder committed in the next alley, in

Nan Clayton 's entry; this was one Caton, Nan Caton lived in the same house; I went down, and went to open the door, Bothwell was in it; when I went to look at the man, I saw him foaming at the mouth, I said he was strangled with his handkerchief, it was so tight I could not put my fingers in between it without raising the skin; I went to undo the handkerchief, the first knot was so tight I was obliged to take my teeth to it, I was five minutes about it, it was a cross-bar'd silk handkerchief; I was three minutes about the second, that was quite tight, the shirt was in wrinkles in his neck; I saw no appearance of marks of hurt or bruise about him; I opened his breast, and he was quite warm, I did not take notice, I took off the handkerchief, and unbuttoned his waistcoat; I came out of doors, and heard one say, I know where the women was, I desired them to go after them; Stebbing was afraid to go by herself, I went with Bothwell, he knew the two women directly, he fixed first on Jane Sweatman , he looked at the other, (Humphries) and said that was the other they were both in the entry at the bar, I believe going to have some liquor; we took them before the constable came, I did not hear Bothwell charge them with any thing; Mary Humphries said I was drunk to meddle with them, that she knew nothing at all of any thing.

What part of the neck were the knots of the handkerchief? - Just before, right upon the gullet; the apron was tied in the same way round his waist pretty tight, I fancy he tied that himself, that was in two knots, the same as the handkerchief was.

Where were you when you had this conversation with Humphries? - Coming up the end of the alley after we got out of the public house; all that was said was coming up the alley, she spoke to me at the White Hart, she said nothing to Bothwell, he said she had done something; she spoke to me when we were oery hear to the alley, there was no conversation at the White Hart, and nothing said till we came to the alley; she said, where was I dragging her to, she knew nothing at all of the affair.

She knew nothing of any thing were her words? - Yes; I carried them opposite to the door where the man was murdered, he was brought into the alley out of the entry; I know no more, but Jenny Sweatman told the other not to tremble.

When was that? - In the alley, at the same time, I believe they were then bringing him out of the house when she said that, the alley was full of people; when opposite the door, after the man was brought out and laid under the window, close to the house, she bid the other not to tremble; I examined the man's breast, I saw no marks, he was a little warm when I opened it.


I get my bread by selling fish and oysters; on the 28th of January last, it was on a Monday evening, I was coming down for some wine and water; just as I came out, Jane Sweatman and Mary Humphries were in the yard; I live in the alley; they said, how shall we get his cloaths off; I know one by name, the other by sight, I had known Sweatman some time about Fleet market, and the other by sight some time; when they saw me, they said, Mrs. Stebbing you need not be frightened, there is no man here but our two selves, Jane Sweatman said so; I asked what they did there, they told me they only came to the necessary; I looked in there, I thought they had got a man there; Mary Humphries said satisfy her (meaning me) that there is no man there, she said so to Sweatman: I went down the alley and returned, they were in the same place, when I came in they came out; I heard the out-cry in ten minutes, that a man was killed in the next entry; I went down and said I knew the women; I saw the deceased lay in the next alley, and saw Gatliff examine the body; I pointed out the women in the house, Bothwell was there, and he laid hold of the women, he also singled them out from the rest.

Are you clear those are the women at the bar? - Yes; I heard nothing else, I did not hear any thing they said as they were coming along.

Jane Sweatman . If you look at her character it is infamous, she cannot pay her debts, and she will swear any thing; I never was before a justice in my life.

Sarah Higgins . I am a market woman, and sell fish, and walk the streets with fish, I lodge in one of the houses belonging to Mr. White; I saw Jane Sweatman stand with her back towards the church-yard wall, in Eagle and Child alley, a quarter after seven I heard the chimes go, there is a dead wall there, I saw Mary Humphreys stand facing her, Jane Sweatman said to Mary Humphreys this, damn it he is not yet cold, how shall we get his cloaths; Humpheys said, it is rather dangerous, and then they both went close together towards the market; I went about my business till I heard Mr. White's apprentice say to his master, O Lord, sir, he is dead, I said I knew who did it, it was Jane Sweatman and Mary Humphreys , in a white bed-gown.

From Prisoner Sweatman. Where was she at the time she heard those words? - Our door might be about three yards and a half from where they were as I was coming out at the door.

Was you in your door or in the alley? - I was coming out of the alley.

How could you see us coming out of a dark alley? - I was out of the alley at the end, it was moon-light, and as proper light as it is now in a manner; it was very moonlight, you might have seen to have picked up a pin, either in the court or the yard, you might have seen it, if a pin had laid down I could have picked it up.

To Bothwell. Was there any thing on his neck besides the handkerchief, any stock or neckcloth? - Nothing as I perceived at all.

To Gatliff. Was there any thing round his neck besides the handkerchief? - No.


I am a constable; I was called in upon this affair in Eagle and Child alley, one Mr. Upton came and called me, and told me there was a murder done there; I went as fast as I could, and went to the deceased and searched him, and found in his left-hand waistcoat pocket this pair of silver buckles, and in each of his breeches pockets there was a six-pence, and in the waistcoat pocket a halfpenny and a bit of sealing wax, and this pocket-book in his coat pocket, and this handkerchief I found just about the pole of his neck. (He then produced a silk handkerchief.)

To Gatliff. Is that the handkerchief you took from him? - Yes; there is the mark of my teeth in it.

Wilkins. There is the mark of the sailor's teeth on the outside of the handkerchief.

Are there any marks of blood about it? -

Gatliff. There are three spots of blood on it.

Mr. Wilkins. I found this paper (producing a song set to music).

What time was this? - About seven o'clock; I searched the women and took them to separate goals, I found two pair of scissars, and some duplicates.


I keep a public-house, the White-hart, in Fleet market, I saw the prisoners at my house the night John Thatcher was found dead, I remember Bothwell and Stebbing coming there, the women were there then, they came in I believe, between seven and eight o'clock in the evening, and asked for a quartern of gin; before they had an opportunity to drink it, White's apprentice came and took them; I cannot say there were other women, there might or not, they were taken away immediately.


I am a surgeon, I was called in to examine the body of the deceased John Thatcher , on Monday night, about eight o'clock; I went, and met the corpse in a shell, in the Eagle and Child alley, I desired them to put it down, they spoke very abruptly to me, and told me I might come into the house, it would be soon enough when he was carried in; I said no time was to be lost, I put my hand down, and felt him, and found he was quite dead; he was taken to the burying ground, I told them it was not a proper place to inspect the body; he was then carried into a room, I then examined him.

Tell us the cause of his death to the best of your judgment? - I cannot form any idea what was the cause of his death, there was no marks of violence.

Did you examine the whole of the body? - I examined the whole, I examined the head to see if there was any contusion, there was not; there was another gentleman dropped in belonging to St. Thomas's Hospital; there were no marks of violence at all on the body, that person will confirm the same I believe, if called.

You cannot say what was the cause of his death? - I cannot form any idea of what was the cause of his death.

Did you open the head? - No.

Did you examine his neck? - I examined his neck, and round his chest and side; I examined about his neck very particularly.

Were there any marks there? - There were no marks at all, as I saw.

Did you open him? - No, Sir.

Did you open his head? - No, Sir.

Did not you hear at that time some ideas how this man came by his death? - No, Sir; I heard nothing of those particulars.

Did nothing pass, from which you might think it material to open his head? - No, Sir; I had nothing occur to me then to make it necessary to open his head: it was all confusion, one saying one thing, another another thing, and another another thing; some said it was murder, and some said not.

Were any of those people present? - The overseer was present.

Did you see John Bothwell ? - No.

Jury. Was it possible for a man to be strangled, without marks of violence, by a silk handkerchief? - Upon my word I cannot tell that; I cannot take upon me to say that.

Counsel. Would it be possible to strangle a man with a silk handkerchief, with or without a mark of violence appearing? - In all cases where I was called in, I always saw marks before.

Did you ever see a person strangled with a silk handkerchief in your life before? - No.

Court. If a man dies by being strangled, whether with a silk handkerchief or cord, or any thing else, would it not affect his countenance? - I should think so.

Was this man's face at all affected? - Not at all in the least; he had a very pleasing countenance.

Was it black? - Not in the least.

In your judgment could a man be strangled with any thing, without having some effect upon his face? - I should think not.

Court. Would that blackness of the countenance appear immediately after the death of the person, or does it require any space of time before it appears? - I should conceive it would appear instantaneously.

Where do you live? - In Holborn, sir.

Do you practice as a surgeon? - Yes.


I had been all the afternoon in Robinhood's court, I was going along by this place, and saw this woman, Humphries, I asked her where she was going, she said, to Mrs. Topham's, I am sensible she is acquainted with her, I said, I had not seen her a good while, and I would go and treat her, she went with me; as I was going by this place, I said, I wanted to go and ease myself, we went to the necessary together; I never saw any person in the alley but Mary Stebbings , and no person ever met us in the alley but that woman.


I was going up to Mr. Topham's, I have known her a great while, in going there. I met Jane Sweatman , I had been very ill, we went up this place to see sir where the necessary house was, she told me she would go and treat me, going there, the two men came up and took me up this alley, I never saw the man in my life, neither dead nor alive; I was carried up to the work-house, and kept there from a little after seven to half after nine; the two surgeons said, if they had been there an hour before, they might have saved the man's life; he was carried into the church-yard in a shell, it was a very cold night; the officer said let nothing be wanting, as here are lives depending;

the two gentlemen said if they had been there an hour before, they might have saved him, but now it was all over; there was hot water ordered; I was ordered to the morning I asked whether or alive, they said he was dead: that is all I know of the matter.

Court to Sweatman. Have you any witnesses?

Sweatman. No; I did not know that my trial would come on before two o'clock; I have one Mary Howard . (She was called, but did not appear.)

Mary Humphries . I expected people here, I was told my trial would not come on till about two o'clock, we were told so.

Sweatman. We were told so, that it would not come on till two o'clock.

Court to Mr. Pinches. Suppose a man had dropt in a fit, would it or not be a natural consequence, that his throat would be so far affected as to distend the neck, and make the handkerchief appear so tight as it was? - Probably it might at that time.

The Jury brought in their verdict



Tried by the London Jury, before Mr. Justice BULLER.

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