Wednesday, 21 March 2012

21st March 1812: The trial of 'Luddite burglar' John Thompson at Derby Lent Assizes

The Nottingham Review of 27th March 1812 continued with coverage of the trial of John Thompson on Saturday 21st March 1812:
On Saturday morning, John Thompson, aged 25, a native of Draycot, in Derbyshire, was put to the bar, and charged with having, in company with others, on the 6th of January, 1812, robbed the house of Thomas Theobald, of Wilsthorpe, in the said County.

Mr. Theobald deposed, that he was the holder a little farm at Wilsthorpe; that his family consisted of two daughters, a servant girl, and a little girl; that just before two o'clock in the morning of the 6th of January, he was awakened from his sleep by two men coming to his bed side, armed with pistols, one of which had a candle in his hand; that they demanded his money, when he said he had but 15 or 16 shillings in his breeches pocket, that lay on the bed, which they took away; that he saw their faces, and was sure the prisoner at the bar was one of them; that a third man came in, that one staied by him while the other two went to search other rooms and came again; but they stopped an hour; that his daughter had the care of his other money; that they took eight five pound notes, five one pound notes, eight silver tea spoons, three silver table spoons, one pair of silver tea tongs, several linen and cotton sheets, and various other articles. Witness further stated that he got up at three o'clock, and when he went down stairs, he found the kitchen window taken out, and that it was large enough for a man to get through. On his cross-examination, he stated that his house was an odd one; that Mr. Harriman, who lived at least sixty yards from him, was his nearest neighbour; that he was 77 years of age, and his eyes not very good; that he knew the prisoner when a child, and was sure as to his person; that when the robbers had taken his money, he told them to go about their business, in reply to which they threatened to shoot him if he spoke another word—would not swear that he had ever mentioned the prisoner’s named till after he was taken, nor could he tell the reason why he had not done so.

Mary Theobald stated herself to be the daughter to and housekeeper of the former witness; that on the 5th of January, at night herself and the servant girl were up the last in the house; went to bed at ten, and was quite sure that she fastened the door and windows. She then stated that at two o'clock in the morning she was alarmed by two men coming into her bedroom, and drawing aside the curtains, one having a candle to his hand, and each holding a pistol, servant who slept with her having fled as they entered the room; and that they told her death should be her portion if she did not lie still. Witness then saw them go into the middle room, and so on into the far room, where the money was, and where her sister slept, who was then on a visit. She got out of bed, notwithstanding the threat, and distinctly saw them rummaging a large trunk, in which was a small trunk, which contain the cash notes named in the indictment. She swore positively to the prisoner being one of the men, though he was not the man who held the candle; and that the other man had a large nose.

Jane Hanberry, daughter to the first witness, deposed that she was on a visit as a father's house at the time it was robbed; that she slept the room where the truck was that had been rummaged; distinctly saw the men; was much alarmed, and would not swear to the person of the prisoner.

Mr. Whiston clerk to Dr. Forester, deposed that he took down the prisoners examination before the Magistrates; and that he, the prisoner, on hearing the deposition of Mr. Theobald read, declared at about three o'clock in the morning mentioned to the indictment, he was walking near Barrowash, and found Cook, Scott, and Fine John, who shewed him that articles said to have been stolen from prosecutors house; but they went to England's house at Derby, and there divided the spoils; that he Cook went up to London, where Cook sold the silver spoons, &c. to a landlord whom he knew; that he bought himself a suit of clothes with part of the money; gave the prisoner another part of it, who then went down to Tewkesbury. The prisoner had nothing to say in his defence; and the Jury, without hesitation, found him Guilty. The Judge, in passing sentence of death upon him, was peculiarly impressive, and very much affected. His Lordship said he understood that the prisoner’s father had ten or eleven children, and that his grandfather now lay dead in the house of broken heart, on account of the prisoner’s abandoned conduct, and the fate that now hung over his head. The Court were in tears; and the Judge, after he had pronounced, in the most solemn manner, the awful sentence of the law upon the prisoner, gave him hopes of mercy, in consequence of some important discoveries he had made respecting the desperate gang.
NB: John Thompson's death sentence was later reprieved by Judge Bayley.

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