A Murder Most Foul in 1741

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published in 1795

Circumstantial Account of JAMES HALL, who was hanged in the Strand for the Murder of his Master.

This malefactor, according to the account given by himself, was descended of honest parents, of Wells in Hampshire, who gave him such an education as might qualify him for any ordinary rank of life.

Being unwilling to remain in the country, he came to London, and lived some time with a corn-chandler; and after a continuation in this service, he married, and had several children; but not living happily with his wife, articles of separation were executed between them. After this he married another woman, by whom he had one child, and who visited him after his being in custody for the murder.

At the sessions held at the Old Bailey, in August 1741, he was indicted for the murder of John Penny, gentleman, and pleading guilty, received sentence of death.

Mr. Penny had chambers in Clements Inn; and Hall had lived with him seven years before he committed the murder; nor had he formed any design of being guilty of the horrid deed till within about a month of its perpetration; but having kept more company than his circumstances could afford, he had involved himself in difficulties, which made him resolve to murder and rob his master.

On the 7th of June, 1741, he intoxicated himself with liquor, and then determined to carry his design into execution. Mr. Penny coming home between eleven and twelve at night, Hall assisted in undressing him in the dining-room; and while he was walking towards the bed, the villain followed him with a stick which he had concealed for the purpose, and struck him one blow with such force that he never spoke afterwards; and continued his blows on the head till he was apparently dead.

Willing, however, to be certain of completing the horrid tragedy, and to avoid detection, he went into the dining-room, and stripping himself naked, he took a small fruit knife belonging to his master, and returning to the chamber, cut his throat with it, holding his neck over the chamber-pot. Mr. Penny bled very freely; for when the blood was mixed with a small quantity of water, it almost filled the pot five times; and three of the pots thus mixed the murderer threw into the sink, and two in the coal-hole. He then took his master’s waistcoat, which was lined with dussil, and bound it round his neck, to suck up the remainder of the blood.

This being done, he took the body on his shoulders, carried it to the necessary, and threw it in head foremost; and flying back immediately to the chambers, under the most dreadful apprehensions of mind, he took his master’s coat, bloody shirt, the stick that he had knocked him down with, and some rags that he had used in wiping up the blood, and running a second time naked to the necessary-house, threw them in at a hole on the opposite side of it.

The body being thus disposed of, he stole about thirty-six guineas from his master’s pocket, and writing-desk; and such was the confusion of his mind, that he likewise took some franks, sealing-wax, and other articles for which he had no use; and then he employed the remainder of the night washing and rubbing the rooms with cloths; but finding it no easy matter to get out the blood, he sent for the laundress in the morning to wash them again, telling her that his master’s nose had bled over night.

On the following day the guilty wretch strolled from place to place, unable to find rest for a moment any where; and all his thoughts being engaged in concealing the murder, which he hoped was effectually done, from the place in which he had secreted the body.

On the Friday following he went to Mr. Wooton, his master’s nephew, on a pretence of enquiring for Mr. Penny, who he said had quitted the chambers two days before, and gone somewhere by water; so that he was afraid some accident had happened to him.

Mr. Wooton was so particular in his enquiries after his uncle, that Hall was exceedingly terrified at his questions, and knew not what answer to make to them. After this the criminal went twice every day to Mr. Wooton, to enquire after his master, for ten days; but lived all the while in a torment of mind that is not to be described.

So wretched was he, that finding it impossible to sleep in the chambers, he got his wife to come and be with him: and they lay in Mr. Penny’s bed: but still sleep was a stranger to him.

At length Mr. Wooton had Hall taken into custody, on a violent suspicion that he had murdered his uncle. On his first examination before a magistrate, he steadily avowed his innocence: but being committed to Newgate he attempted an escape: this, however, was prevented; and a few days afterwards he confessed his guilt before some relations of the deceased.

He was hanged at the end of Catherine Street in the Strand, on the 15th of September, 1741 and his body afterwards hung in chains at Shepherd’s Bush, three miles beyond Tyburn Turnpike, on the road to Acton.

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