JOHN COLLEY.
29th May 1811
Reference Numbert18110529-53
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis

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433. JOHN COLLEY was indicted for the willful murder of Mry Colley , his wife.

ANN THOMPSON . Q. Did you know the deceased, Mary Colley . - A. Yes, I had an apartment of her on Sunday the 12th of May , about half past five in the evening, I was at the deceased's house. At the end of Sun-yard I stood about five minutes, and turning my head round, I saw Mr. Colley, the prisoner, coming, I ran as quick as I could to tell his wife, - he was coming, she answered, is he? Momently Mr. Colley entered the door, and as soon as he entered the door, he said it was his wedding-day, and he had come to do murder, he drew the knife from his trowsers, and plunged it into his wife's bowels.

Q. Do you mean by that, that he thrust it into her bowels. - A. Yes, he turned round, drew the knife from her, and went to stab Thomas Ferguson that sat in the room.

Q. Do you mean that he attempted to stab him?

A. Yes, he made a second stab at Fergusons breast, and Ferguson with his arm struck him into a chair, then I screamed out murder, and Mr. Elias came to my assistance, Mrs. Colley ran from her own house to Mr. Brown's, the public house, I left the house, and went over to the deceased at Mr. Brown's, I said Mrs. Colley, are you much hurt, she said look Nance, I could not see the wound for the blood. Then Mr. Brown, the landlord, told me to run for an officer as fast as I could, upon which I ran for Mr. Lucas, I did not see any more of it until I saw the deceased dead, she died the same evening about half past nine.

Q. Had the deceased said any thing to her husband, or given him any ill language when he came in. - A. No.

Q. Do you happen to know how long it was before that he had seen her. - A. About three weeks or a fortnight I saw him go through the yard.

Q. But he had not seen her that day. - A. No.

Q. What was his situation in life. - A. A sea-faring man .

Q. He had been a sea-faring man, and you had not seen him at home for a fortnight or three weeks before? - A. No.

Q. And you do not know that he had seen his wife between that time. - A. I cannot say.

Q. And when he came in, she did not say any thing to him. - A. No, not a word.

Mr. Alley. Ferguson you mentioned as the man that was found in the room with her. - A. Yes.

Q. The prisoner was a sailor. - A. Yes.

Q. While he was abroad Ferguson cohabited with her. - A. That I do not know.

Q. I ask you whether you do not know that during the absence of the husband Ferguson supplied his place. - A. He ate and drank there, I can answer no more.

Q. You saw him there in the morning. - A. Yes.

Q. Did you see him there at night at bed time. - A. Yes.

Q. How many bed rooms had she in the house. - A. Three.

Q. How many were let out, you had one. - A. Yes.

Q. Who had the other. - A. Nobody.

Q. On what floor was the room in which she slept. - A. In the lower room in which she died; I occupied

the one pair of stairs, the garret was the room in which the other bed was.

Q. When you got up early in the morning or when at bed time. I ask you have not you seen him in that room morning, noon, and night. - A. I have.

Q. Do you not know that the prisoner had given her a ticket of three pounds a month to draw his wages. - A. That I cannot say.

Q. Did not he upbraid her of disposing of the money that he allowed her and giving it to Ferguson. - A. I never did hear it, I cannot say.

Q. Did not Ferguson get up when the husband came into the room and endeavour to push him out. - A. No. he said I came here to do murder. It was after he had stabbed her that Ferguson arose.

Q. Then I am to understand from you that Ferguson did not offer any violence to the prisoner until after the blow was given by the prisoner. - A. He did not.

Q. Were you examined before the Coroner. - A. Yes, and I gave the same account then.

THOMAS FERGUSON. Q. You knew Colley and his wife did not you. - A. Yes, I have known them about twelve or fourteen years.

Q. Were you in the room at the time this unfortunate circumstance happened. - A. Yes, it was on the 12th of May, I saw the prisoner come in, I was in the deceased's room, when the prisoner came in I was sitting on a chair, Mrs. Colley was sitting at the table cutting bread and butter at the time, and when the prisoner came into the house the first words that he repeated were, Here I come, it is my wedding day and I am come to make a murdering day of it; immediately as these words came out he plunged the knife into the bowels of the deceased, with that I arose up immediately off the chair and went towards the prisoner, I asked him if he had come to commit murder, and with that he made a pluage at me with the same knife which time the knife penetrated through my waistcoat and shirt and just grazed my skin, with that I waded it off with my hand, it did no further injury than just graze my skin, he made the second plunge at my breast, I struck him across the breast and he staggerd back into a chair.

Q. You struck him into a chair. - A. Yes, when he made the second plunge at me I immediately secured his arms, got hold of the knife and took it from him, and when I wrenched the knife from him, I gave it to Mr. Elias, who came into aid and assist me, and for a few minutes I held him in the same state that I had him when I wrenched the knife out of his hands, after that I let go the prisoner, he arose up from the chair, he said I hope I have finished her and he was very sorry he had not finished me the same, I asked Mr. Elias to take charge of the prisoner and not to let him go out of the house, I went out of the house with the intention of going for an officer, instead of that, finding there was no doctor to assist the deceased I went and found a doctor, he came immediately and then I ran to look for an officer, I met an officer coming about three or four hundred yards from the house, I returned back with the officer to the deceased house, I gave charge of the prisoner, the officer took him away.

Q. You knew the prisoner, did not you. - A. Yes.

Q.Had he been separated from his wife at all. - A. Yes.

Q. How long was it since he saw her last. - A. I cannot really say. The last time I saw him was about a month before the accident happened.

Q. Was he living with his wife then. - A. No.

Q. Could you tell us whether there was any dispute between the deceased and her husband. - A. Not a word passed between them.

Q. You lodged in the same house, did you not. - A. Yes.

Mr. Alley. You lodged in the same house, which bed did you sleep in. - A. Generally in the two pair when I slept in the house.

Q. Do you mean to tell me upon your oath that always when you were in the house at night you slept in the two pair. - A. Yes, I do mean to tell you so, at my first going into the house I slept in the first floor, and after the first floor was occupied I went and slept in the two pair room.

Q. What are you. - A. I am a seaman.

Q. You told my Lord that it was a month before that, that man was in his house. - A. That I saw the man in the yard.

Q. Did you help to turn the man out of his house that day month. - A. No, I did not.

COURT. Had you ever turned him out of the house? - A. Once I did, when he and I had a quarrel in the house, he struck me and gave me occasion to do it.

Q. Then upon that occasion there were blows. - A. There were.

ELIAS JOSEPH. I live next door to the deceased. On Sunday the 12th of May, about half past five, I was standing at Mr. Brown's public-house door, and the landlady was standing there also, I saw Mr. Colley, the prisoner, go into Mary Colley 's house. He had not been in a minute before I heard the cry of murder, I went towards the house, I met the deceased coming out of the house bleeding, saying, I am stabbed, I left her and went into the deceased's house, I saw Ferguson having hold of the prisoner on a chair, the prisoner had a knife in his hand, I saw Ferguson take the knife out of his hand, Ferguson turned round to me and said, Mr. Elias you take the knife, I took the knife and put it into my side pocket. I told Ferguson to let him go and to go for an officer. I staid with the prisoner until the officer came.

Q. Did the prisoner attempt to get away. - A. No, when Mr. Lucas, the officer, came I gave him in charge and the knife also, the deceased died that evening.

MR. RICHARDSON. I am a surgeon, I saw the deceased on the 12th of May, between five and six o'clock in the evening. I found her in a state of insensibility, I found a wound about three-quarters of an inch in length on the lower part of the left side of the abdomen.

Q. With what instrument did it appear to you that the wound was inflicted. - A. It must be some sharp instrument, it was a smooth wound.

Q. What was the consequence of that wound. - A. Whether she died of the wound or not it is impossible for me to say, whether that was the cause of her death, as I did not open her body, it is impossible for me to say.

Q. You can tell me this, whether it appeared such a wound as might be the cause of her death. - A. It did.

Q. When did she die. - A. I was called to her about ten o'clock in the evening and found her dead.

Q. After you found her dead, did you examine the body. - A. Nothing farther.

Q. Then you cannot tell whether she died of that wound or not. - A. I cannot say.

Q. I think you said this, that it was such a wound as might probably occasion her death. - A. It certainly was.

Q. Did you see any thing else about her that was likely to occasion her death. - A. I saw nothing else.

Q. Now be so kind as to tell us how often you saw her after you first saw her? - A. I was called in between five and six in the evening I dressed the wound.

Q. Can you tell me how deep the wound was. - A. I cannot say how deep it was, it was about an half, or three-quarters of an inch in length. I ordered her to be put to bed, she revived a little, I then left her. About nine o'clock I sew her again, and found her quite insensible, I gave her some stimulating medicines, she recovered and was able to speak, she exclaimed, Oh my belly, oh my back. She was very restless, I left her then, it was about nine o'clock; about ten o'clock I was sent for again, when I arrived I found her dead.

Q. Pray Sir, in your judgment, seeing all this and being sent for again and again, what, in your opinion, was the cause of her death. - A. In my opinion that wound was the cause of her death.

Q. I ask you what in your opinion as a medical man was the cause of her death. - A. In my opinion that wound was the cause of her death.

Q. Have you any doubt about it. - A. I have no doubt about it.

Q. That is the question I asked you before. - A. I did not understand your lordship, I could not swear that was the cause of her death, but I have no doubt about it. I wanted to open the body, but the father of the deceased would not admit it.

JOHN LUCAS . I went to the deceased's house, the prisoner was setting in the arm chair, there were several people in the room. I asked which was the man that stabbed the woman, he said, here I am; I asked the prisoner if he had stabbed the woman, he said yes, he had, I asked him if he had got any more weapons about him, he said no he had not, I searched him and found none, he got up, I told him I must confine him, he said I had no occasion to do that, he should go very quietly with me, I insisted upon tying his hands, he gave me a handkerchief himself to do it. Mr. Elias tied his hands while I held him. This is the knife that Elias gave me he said, that it was the knife with which he had stabbed the woman.

Q.(to Elias) Did you give Lucas that knife. - A. Yes, that is the knife that Ferguson took out of the prisoner's hand, he gave it me.

Q.(to Ferguson) Is that the knife with which the prisoner stabbed the deceased. A. Yes.

Prisoner's defence. I am troubled with fits, and being out of my mind at times by this man and this woman treating me as they have done for two or three years past, I might have done it, but one half what they say is false. This man cohabited with my wife, and when I came home, he turned me out of the house. On the Wednesday before I went to the house, and that very woman that has sworn against me, I trod upon her toes almost. She and my wife shut the window down, that women shut the door. I went to the hospital and sent for my wife, she sent me word that she would not come, she wished me better, I have a fracture on my skull, and sometimes I am out of my mind.

GEORGE MASON . I am a sea-faring man.

Q. Did you at any time sail in company with the prisoner. - A. Yes, in an East Indiaman, in the Ceylon; I was ship steward, and the prisoner was boatsman.

Q. During the time that you were in company with him on board that ship, did you observe any thing particular in his conduct. - A. On the evening he left St. Helena, in May, 1806, or the beginning of June, I had been in the carpenter's cabin, in company with the Carpenter and the captain's steward. I left there at ten o'clock, we retired to our separate beds; in a few minutes the carpenter sent to me for a light, which I sent him, and immediately followed myself; I found the carpenter and the captains steward breaking open the prisoners door, and when the door was opened, we found the prisoner laying on his cot, his throat cut in a most dreadful manner. We sent for Mr. Newberg the surgeon, he with a great deal of trouble sewed up the wound, the prisoner was very restless during the time, and attempting to tear it open. Upon examination, we found a razor under the bed, and the whole of the night he attempted to tear the wound open; the carpenter and I sat up with him the whole of the night, and we were obliged to have a man to be with him the next day. The whole of that night he appeared deranged, he fancied he saw a man with a bundle of ratans.

Q.Had you an opportunity of knowing whether he had been at that time allowing his wife any maintenance. - A. His wife received his monthly money, due to him; if ever he took a drop of liquor it turned him into a state of derangement, he was refrained from liquor the whole passage out.

COURT. When he was refrained from liquor he was in his perfect senses was he. - A. When he refrained from liquor he was.

CHARLES BALE. Q. I understand you were a mess-mate with this man. - A. I sailed with him on board another ship, the Isabella, a West-Indiaman, in last July, he always seemed to be a man comical in his senses, and not like another man, he kept walking by himself fore and aft on the deck, and would not be sociable with any one. I was in St. Thomas's hospital with him a week before this happened, he there seemed strange and totally insensible. On Sunday about four o'clock in the day, the mischief was done, he left the hospital, he put up his crokery ware, knife and fork, and some other dirty things in a dirty shirt, and carried it with him, I saw no more of him afterwards until he was in custody.

COURT. If he was out of his senses, how came you to let him go at large. - A. Nobody has any business to stop any person from going out, if I had known his business, I would have gone with him.

ANN WOOD . I was nurse in the ward in St. Thomas' hospital where the prisoner was, I have observed him several times to be in a deranged state, he would get up in the night, and wander about, and talk to himself.

I have advised him to reconcile himself and content himself in bed, or I should be obliged to state it to the serjeant, he would try other means, to which I have had but a slight answer from him, he seemed to be in a melancholy state.

GEORGE CHANBERLAIN. Q. I understand you were an officer on board the ship in which this man sailed, the Ceylon. You have heard that fact of the prisoner cutting his throat, do you know that fact. - A. Certainly, and his conduct was generally so strange, that those officers whom it was usual for him to mess with would not associate with him. And one instance besides, I now consider when the ship was in distress in the River Thames, and I expected from him, as boatswain, great assistance, he refused it, and took a boat and left the ship in that dangerous situation.

COURT. When was it he cut his throat. - A. In some part of May, 1806.

Q. How long did you sail with him afterwards. A. I think it was between two and three months that we arrived in England.

Q. Did you send him to any hospital. - A. We had a surgeon on board the ship, he sewed up the wound.

Q. Did the surgeon treat him afterwards as an insane man. - A. He was not trusted with any command afterwards.

SUSANNAH GILLAM. I live in Worcester Street, St. George's in the East, I am a married woman and let out lodgings. On the 2nd of February the prisoner came to lodge at my house, he lodged there eight or nine days. He frequently at his meals would jump up and throw his knife and fork away, and walk backwards and forwards in the kitchen, and speak very incorrectly about some person, and by his discourse I suspected it to be his wife, he would get out of bed of a night, and walk backwards and forwards in the room, talking to himself. I did not think him in his right senses, he would frequently in his exclamations say, Oh God protect me. I have frequently observed him, when he has been in this way, to go into the yard and wash his head over to make it cool. About the 8th or 10th of February, he left me in the morning, he asked me for a little money, which I gave him; he told me he was going to be paid by the ship. I did not see him for four or five days, then he came and told me that his wife had arrested him, and seemed to be in great agitation of mind. After he paid me he left me, and I saw no more of the prisoner until I saw him in Newgate.

Verdict of the Jury.

NOT GUILTY, believing him to be insane at the time .

Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice Grose,


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