Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 17 August 2022), January 1820, trial of JOSEPH SKELTON (t18200112-42).

JOSEPH SKELTON, Killing > murder, 12th January 1820.

250. JOSEPH SKELTON was indicted for the wilful murder of William Turney .

For the Prosecution, MR. ALLEY.

WILLIAM HUGHES . I and the deceased William Turney , were coal-heaver s, in the employ of a coal-merchant. On the 23d of December, about five o'clock in the evening, he and I were driving the waggon along Chandos-street, Covent-garden - the lamps were lit in the shops and street - the prisoner is a dustman ; he was fetching dust out of a house; his cart stood in the narrow part of the street, his horse's head was towards Covent-garden; he stood tolerably straight, the cart was between two or three feet from the pavement, and a potatoe-cart stood on the opposite side of the way.

Q. Were you able to pass with your waggon - A. There was not room. The deceased stopped, went to the prisoner, and asked him civilly to be so good as to move his cart a yard forwards. The prisoner said,

"No, d - n his eyes, there was room enough for any man that knew how to use his whip." The deceased said to me,

"Go on, Will; we can pass if any one can." Our waggon touched the hind part of the prisoner's cart, but did no injury. We passed both the dust and potatoe-carts without doing any injury. Immediately as we got past, the prisoner ran up, hit the deceased right and left, and knocked him under the wheel. I ran from the fore horse, which I had hold of, to save the deceased, and said to the prisoner,

"What did you hit him for?" he up with his fist, and knocked me against the horse of the potatoe-cart. Our horses, being young, went on before I could recover myself, and ran over the deceased.

Q. Had you done any thing to the prisoner before he hit you - A. No, I only asked what he hit the deceased for?

Q. If he had not struck you, could you have saved the deceased - A. I think he must have had one leg broken, but I should have saved his arm. I called to the horses to stop, and as I was taking hold of the deceased, I asked him what he hit him for? and he knocked me down. The horses went on; the fore wheel of the waggon went over his legs, and the hind and fore wheel over his arm. We took the deceased to the Westminster Infirmary. The prisoner must have seen the situation the poor man was in, when he struck me, he was not two yards from him. This was on Thursday, he died on Saturday morning.

JURY. Q. Did the prisoner know the deceased before - A. Not that I know of. He drove, and had the whip. The waggon had thirty-five sacks of coals in it.

Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. Q. You had a team of young horses - A. Yes. We were near the end of Bedfordbury, which is the narrowest part of the street, and were going towards St. Martin's-lane.

Q. Did not your mate use very coarse language to the prisoner - A. Not that I heard.

Q. Did not somebody say to the deceased,

"I'd be d - d if I would not go on at any rate" - A. No. I had the fore horse, the deceased was at the wheel horse.

Q. When you passed the prisoner's cart, did not somebody cry out,

"Why you have almost killed a man" - A. Several cried out so when the deceased was ran over. Our waggon drove the hind part of his cart towards the houses. If our horses had not gone on this would not have happened. The whooping and hallooing would make them go on.

MR. ALLEY. Q. The cry of

"You have almost murdered a man!" was after the deceased was ran over - A. Yes. When the horses stopped the deceased laid just before the fore wheel. I could have saved him if the prisoner had not struck me.

JURY. Q. Could the prisoner have made room with his cart if he chose - A. Yes, and it was in his power to have helped the deceased up, if he had been so disposed.

MR. ANDREWS. Q. Did not your mate think there was room to pass as he went on - A. As the prisoner said there was room, my mate told me to go on, and said he would see if he could pass. There was not room - we hit his cart in going by.

COURT. Q. When you saw the horses going on again why not stop them - A. They stood still until he struck me, then the hallooing made them go on.

JAMES GORMAN . I am a bricklayer. I was in Chandos-street - the dust-cart stood on one side, and a potatoe-waggon on the other, which blocked up the street - there was not room for a waggon to pass between them; the dust-cart stood about fourteen inches from the curb, a sufficient space could have been made by moving it nearer to the pavement. The deceased went to the prisoner, and begged him to move on about a yard, and he would have room to pass; he spoke as civil us any man could, but all he could do he could not prevail on him, he refused. A Hammersmith stage-coachman got off his box, and asked him to move, he would not. The coachman went to move his horses a bit, and the prisoner knocked him under the horses' feet. At that moment the prisoner went in tobring out some dust, taking no farther notice, and without moving his cart. The coachman was covered with mud; he got up, and asked which of the two dustmen had knocked him down? the prisoner said he was the man, and if he wanted any thing to come out into the street, and he would serve him the same again; the coachman then went away to his coach. The prisoner went, and fastened his horse's head down to the collar, he would not move his cart. He turned, and went into a cook-shop for dust, saying there was room enough for any man who knew how to use his whip. At that moment the deceased dragged his horses on slowly; the wheel of his waggon touched the wheel of the dust-cart, and brought the cart and horses round, and turned the horses's heads into the middle of the street, no mischief was done. The deceased was near the centre of his horses, and Hughes was at the horses' heads, leading them - the dust-cart was partly over the pavement. Several people were standing by; it was very near driving them through the window. The prisoner did not wait to put his cart right, but ran off after the deceased - the waggon was still going on, until it got about thirty yards down the street. The prisoner swore with an oath that he would knock him down; and as the hind part of the waggon was passing the fore horse of the potatoe-cart, he shot by between them, and came up to the deceased behind him - he touched him on the left shoulder, and as the deceased turned round, he gave him a violent blow, and knocked him right forward under the horses' feet; the horses were then going on - he fell under the nearest horse to the shaft horse. Hughes hallood to the horses to stop, they stopped for about half a second. The deceased cried out,

"For God's sake stop the horses!"

Q. How far was the prisoner from him then - A. Not a yard, I suppose. He had sufficient time to draw him from under the horses and save his life, if he liked, but he made no attempt to do it. Hughes left the fore horse immediately, came to the prisoner, and asked him what he did that for? he up with his fist and knocked him on the pavement - he went against the front of the houses, or he must have fallen.

Q. On your oath, might the prisoner have saved the poor man's life - A. In my opinion he could have done it if he had wished.

Cross-examined. Q. This happened in the narrow part of the street, near Bedfordbury - A. Yes; the accident happened there, but the dust-cart stood about thirty yards nearer to Covent-garden. The pavement is so narrow, that when the dust-cart swung round, it endangered the lives of the passengers. Some women cried out,

"You have nearly killed the people." Mr. White was in his shop, his window was not broken. I think there was not room for a person to pass between the tail of the cart and the houses - there is not room for more than two when there is no obstruction - the cart was turned round. The prisoner used bad expressions, and followed the deceased directly. The horses were going on when he struck him - they stood still at the instant he struck Hughes, the hallooing made them go on. The potatoe-cart was rather more towards St. Martin's-lane than the dust-cart; the horses' heads were both one way.

Q. The Hammersmith coachman used very coarse language - A. He said he must be at his destination at a certain time.

MR. ALLEY. Q. The potatoe-cart was quite close to the pavement unloading - A. Yes; if the dust-cart had been close there would have been plenty of room. The horses did not stop until the deceased fell. I declare the prisoner might have saved the man's life with all the pleasure in the world.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON . I am a constable. I was in Chandos-street, on the left-hand side of the way, coming from St. Martin's-lane. Just as I came by Bedfordbury I saw some confusion. I got about three doors past Bedfordbury, and saw the dust-cart with the ladder against the wheel - the foot of the ladder was against the curb-stone, to keep it from slipping. I had not time to observe any thing else, before the dust-cart turned short round - I could not pass, and crossed over, about thirty yards farther down towards St. Martin's-lane, and just as I came round the horses' heads of the coal-waggon, the prisoner came and struck at the deceased, who stood by the next horse to the shaft horse, the horses were then going on. The deceased called out,

"For God's sake stop the horses!" I called out,

"Bring a light!" the deceased laid close by the horses' feet, under the shaft horse. I turned to look at the prisoner, for he nearly hit me when he struck the deceased. Hughes came towards the prisoner, and said,

"What did you hit my mate for?" the prisoner up with his fist, hit him away from the horses' heads, and from his mate, as he was going to stop the horses.

Q. If the prisoner had not struck him from the horses might he not have stopped them - A. I should think he might. The horses instantly went on again, and I heard the man groan. I got a light, and saw him lying flat on his back, with his leg broken to pieces, his whip laid by him. I secured the prisoner with assistance. At that instant Hodge, the prisoner's partner, came up, and told him to bolt; for it was all wrong. I left the prisoner in custody of some people I knew. I took Hodge also.

Cross-examined. Q. You must have been as near the deceased when he fell as the prisoner was - A. I dare say I was. I was glad to get out of the way from the scuffle. I had no idea at that moment that he was in any danger, and thought he would have scrambled out of the way.

COURT. Q. Did you see Hughes come up to the prisoner - A. Yes, my Lord. The horses had been made to stop for a moment - the mischief was occasioned by their going on. Hughes called whoa! to the horses, and then went up to the prisoner.

LUKE FRANKLIN . I am a carpenter. I was standing in Mr. Bennett's shop, just opposite the tail of the coal-waggon. I heard a great confusion in the street, and saw the dust-cart at the cook-shop door. Somebody asked the dustman to move on. I came out, and heard one of the dustmen say, d - n their eyes, they would not move for any one. I came to the tail of the coal-waggon, a coachman was knocked down against me; I ran back to the shop, returned, and heard some one order the coal-waggon to drive on. I crossed over by the eating-house, and was driven into the door by the tail of the dust-cart. Iheard the prisoner use bad expressions, and say he would knock him down, or give him a downer. In a moment after I heard the deceased cry out,

"You have murdered me!" or

"I am murdered!" He laid with his arm over his head; his leg was crushed to pieces. I wiped the blood off his face, and helped to carry him to the hospital.

MR. HENRY BOND . I am house surgeon of the Westminster hospital. The deceased was brought in about six o'clock in the evening. I found him with a severe compound fracture of his left leg and left arm - amputation was performed. He lived until six o'clock on Friday evening. The injury he received was the cause of his death.

Prisoner's Defence. Jefferson has false-sworn himself.

MARY BAKER . I lodge in Chandos-street. I was looking out of window, and heard the deceased say he would go by. The Hammersmith coachman got off his box, and asked who the dust-cart belonged to? he said,

"D - n me if I don't see who it belongs to." He moved it to make room. There was an altercation between him and one of the dustmen. A man said,

"If I belonged to that waggon I would see if I could not pass or no." The deceased then said,

"D - n me if I don't go on." He whipped his horses violently, and they went very fast along, and his waggon turned the dust-cart furiously round - one or two persons on the pavement had nearly met with an accident from it, if White's door had not been open. The prisoner ran across after the waggoner - I saw nothing more.

GEORGE WHITE . I keep a cook-shop in Chandos-street - the dust was loading from my house. The prisoner was filling in my cellar, and the other dustman was minding the horse. The wheel of the cart was nearly a foot from the pavement. There was a potatoe-waggon nearly opposite my house. The coal-heaver asked the prisoner's mate to move, that he might pass; he refused until he had done, and said they were allowed twenty minutes. He fetched another basket up, and was again asked to move, but refused - he went down again. A coachman got off his box, and d - d and swore; he looked into my house, and said,

"Why don't you move this cart?" He began to abuse a man, and said,

"Why don't you move this cart?" The man said the cart was nothing to him. The coachman said, that unless he found the man that did belong to it he would move it himself. He went to the horse's head - the prisoner was underneath, and must have heard all that passed. He ran up and said,

"D - n me, the first man that moves my horse I'll knock him down." He rushed out, and the coachman came to my door covered with mud. I did not see him knocked down. I went out and told the prisoner to move away, and come another day for the dust. The prisoner immediately went to move his cart. He said he would move it for me, but not for them. He was just clearing from my window to move it, when it was jammed against my door. I crept out of my door, under the cart, after the coal-waggon, to take the number. I saw a woman with her hands up, screaming Murder! Just as I passed the waggon; I saw a man lying in the road; he appeared to have been ran over - he was carried away on a shutter. I took the name on the waggon, for running violently against my house and endangering peoples' lives. I have known the prisoner two years - he is an inoffensive man, and acted with forbearance.

MR. ALLEY. Q. Do you call it forbearance to knock the coachman down - A. I did not see him knock him down - he said he would.

JANE ISAACS . My father lives in Chandos-street. I saw the coal-waggon come up; there was not room for it to pass, the coachman said he would find a passage - he moved the cart. He said to the deceased,

"If I was you I would soon make the cart move." The deceased then said,

"D - n me, and so I will." He whipped his horses and went on; the wheel of his waggon turned the dust-cart round with great violence - several people expected. White's window would be broken. Jefferson said he had enough to do to save a woman's life. I afterwards heard a man was run over.

GUILTY. Aged 27.

Of manslaughter only .

Confined One Year .

First Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice Holroyd.