BARNEY CARROL AND WILLIAM KING
Convicted under the Coventry Act for cutting and maiming, and executed at Tyburn, 31st of July, 1765
BY an Act of Parliament passed in the 22nd and 23rd of King Charles II. it was enacted that: "If any person, on purpose, and by malice aforethought, and by lying in wait, shall unlawfully cut or disable the tongue, put out an eye, slit the nose, cut off a nose or lip, or cut off or disable any limb or member of any subject, with intention in so doing to maim or disfigure him; the person so offending, his counsellors, aiders, abettors (knowing of, and privy to, the offence), shall be guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy."
This Act was called the Coventry Act, because it was made on Sir John Coventry's being assaulted in the street and having his nose slit.
Carrol and King had both been soldiers, and as such behaved unexceptionably, particularly at the siege of Havana, where Carrol was distinguished by his bravery; but on their return to England they determined to commence as robbers, and this on a plan attended with the most infernal cruelty.
They procured two boys, named Byfield and Matthews, who were to pick pockets, and if they were seized the men were to procure their release by cutting the parties who held them across their faces with a knife.
Carrol having sharpened his weapon of destruction, they all went out together on the night of the 17th of June, 1765, and, continuing their route from Covent Garden to the Strand, saw a gentleman, named Kirby, near Somerset House, who was walking very slow, on account of the heat of the weather, which made them think him a proper object of attack.
On this Carrol directed Byfield to pick the gentleman's pocket. Byfield had got his hand in the pocket, when Mr Kirby seized him and threatened to carry him before a magistrate, but only to terrify him from such practices for the future.
On this the other three villains followed Mr Kirby so closely that he suspected their connection; but he still held the boy, to frighten him the more, though he observed Carrol sometimes before and sometimes behind him. At length the villain came so near that the boy cried out, "Keep off; the gentleman will let me go!" when Carrol replied, "Damn him, but I will cut him!"
Mr Kirby now felt great pain, but had no idea that he had been wounded by any sharp instrument, apprehending that his pain proceeded only from a common blow. At length he found a defect in his sight, and presumed that dust had been thrown in his eyes; but on putting his hand to his face he found that it streamed with blood.
Going to the Crown and Anchor tavern, in the Strand, Mr Ingram, a surgeon of eminence, almost immediately attended him; but, though the utmost expedition was used in calling in the assistance of that gentleman, Mr Kirby had lost nearly two quarts of blood in the short interval. On examination it appeared that the wound had been given in a transverse direction, from the right eye to the left temple; that two large vessels were divided by it; that there was a cut across the nose, which left the bone visible; and that the eyeballs must have been divided by the slightest deviation from the stroke.
The abominable assassins were very soon apprehended, found guilty, and hanged, amid the execrations of an offended multitude.