BENJAMIN TAPNER, JOHN COBBY, JOHN HAMMOND, RICHARD MILLS, RICHARD MILLS THE YOUNGER, AND OTHERS
Revengeful Smugglers, who were executed for a Diabolical Murder, 18th of January, 1749
While London and its environs were beset with gangs of highwaymen and pickpockets, the country was infested by villains not less dangerous, and much more cruel, who preyed upon the public by defrauding the revenue.
Smugglers formerly went in parties, strong enough to oppose the officers of excise; and, whenever a custom-house officer fell into their hands, he was most barbarously treated, and often murdered.
The two unfortunate men who were cruelly murdered by this gang of desperate villains, were W. Galley, the elder, a custom-house officer in Southampton; and D. Chater, a shoe- maker, of Fordingbridge. Having been sent to give information respecting some circumstances attending the daring burglary into the custom-house at Pool; and not returning to their respective homes, a suspicion arose that they had been waylaid, and murdered by the smugglers; and a search for them was therefore instituted.
Those employed for this purpose, after every inquiry, could bear no certain tidings of them; as the fear of the smugglers' resentment, silenced such inhabitants on the road, over which they had carried the unfortunate men, as were not in connection with them. At length, a Mr Stone, following his hounds, came to a spot, which appeared to have been dug not long before; and the publicity of the circumstances of those men being missed, he conjectured that they might have been buried there, and, upon digging nearly seven feet in the earth, were found the remains of Galley, but in so putrid a state, as not to be known, except by the clothes. The search after Chater was now pursued with redoubled vigilance, till found in a well, six miles distant from Galley, in Harris Wood, near Lady Holt Park, with a quantity of stones, wooden rails, and earth, upon him.
The two men, Galley and Chater, went on Sunday, Feb. 14, 1748, to Major Batten, a justice of the peace, at Stanstead, in Sussex, with a letter written by Mr Shearer, collector of the customs at Southampton, requesting him to take an examination of Chater, concerning one Diamond, or Dymar, who was committed to Chichester gaol, on suspicion of being one who broke the King's warehouse at Poole. Chater was engaged to give evidence, but with some reluctance, having declared that he saw Diamond, and shook hands with him, who, with many others, was coming from Poole, loaded with tea, of which he threw him a bag. Having passed Havant, and coming to the New Inn, at Leigh, they enquired their way, when G. Austin, his brother, and brother-in-law, said that they were going the same road, and would accompany them to Rowland's Castle, where they might get better direction, it being just by Stanfield Park.
A little before noon, they came to the White Hart at Rowland's Castle, kept by Eliz. Payne, widow, who had two sons, blacksmiths, in the same village. After some talk, she told G. Austin, privately, she was afraid that these two strangers were come to hurt the smugglers. He said, No, sure; they were only carrying a letter to Major Batten. Upon this, she sent one of her sons for W. Jackson and W. Carter, who lived near her house. Meanwhile, Chater and Galley wanted to be going, and asked for their horses; but she told them, that the Major was not at home, which, indeed, was true.
As soon as Jackson and Carter came, she told them her suspicions, with the circumstance of the letter. Soon after, she advised G. Austin to go away, lest be should come to some harm; he did so, leaving his brothers.
Payne's other son went and fetched in W. Steele, S. Downer, (otherwise Little Samuel,) Edm. Richards, and H. Sheerman, (otherwise Little Harry,) all smugglers, belonging to the same gang.
After they had drank a little while, Carter, who had some knowledge of Chater, called him into the yard and asked him where Diamond was? Chater said, he believed he was in custody, and that he was going to appear against him, which he was sorry for, but could not help it. Galley came into the yard to them, and asking Chater why he would stay there? Jackson, who followed him, said, with a horrid imprecation, What is that to you? and immediately struck him a blow in the face, which knocked him down, and set his nose and mouth a-bleeding. Soon after, they all came into the house, when Jackson, reviling Galley, offered to strike him again but one of the Paines interposed. -- Galley and Chater now began to be very uneasy, and wanted to be going; but Jackson, Carter, and the rest of them, persuading them to stay and drink more rum, and make it up, for they were sorry for what had happened, they sat down again; Austin and his brother-in-law being present. -- Jackson and Carter desired to see the letter, but they refused to shew it. The smugglers then drank about plentifully, and made Galley and Chater fuddled; then persuaded them to lie down on a bed, which they did, and fell asleep. The letter was then taken away, and read; and, the substance of it greatly exasperating them, it was destroyed.
One John Royce, a smuggler, now came in; and Jackson and Carter told him the contents of the letter, and that they had got the old rogue, the shoe-maker, of Fordingbridge, who was going to inform against J. Diamond, the shepherd, then in custody at Chichester. -- Here W. Steele proposed to take them both to a well, about two hundred yards from the house, and to murder and throw them in.
This proposal was not taken, as they had been seen in their company by the Austins, Mr Garnet, and one Mr Jenks, who was newly come into the house to drink. It was next proposed to send them to France; but that was objected against, as there was a possibility of their coming over again. Jackson and Carter's wives being present, cried out, Hang the dogs, for they are come here to hang you. It was then proposed and agreed, to keep them confined till they could know Diamond's fate; and whatever it was, to treat these in the same manner; and each to allow threepence a week towards keeping them.
Galley and Chater continuing asleep, Jackson went in, and began the first scene of cruelty; for having put on his spurs, he got upon the bed, and spurred their foreheads, to wake them, and afterwards whipped them with a horse-whip; so that when they came out, they were both bleeding. The abovesaid smugglers then took them out of the house; but Richards returned with a pistol, and swore be would shoot any person who should mention what had passed.
Meanwhile, the rest put Galley and Chater on one horse, tied their legs under the horse's belly, and then tied both their legs together; they now set forward, all but Race, who had no horse. They had not gone above two hundred yards before Jackson called out, Whip 'em, cut 'em slash 'em, d--n 'em; upon which all began to whip, except Steele, who led the horse, the roads being very bad. They whipped them for half a mile, till they came to Woodash, where they fell off, with their heads under the horse's belly, and their legs, which were tied, appeared over the horse's back. Their tormentors soon set them upright again, and continued whipping them over the head, face, shoulders, &c. till they came to Dean, upwards of half a mile farther; here they both fell again, as before, with their heads under the horse's belly, which were struck, at every step, by the horse's hoofs.
Upon placing them again on the saddle, they found them so weak, that they could not sit; upon which they separated them, and put Galley before Steele, and Chater before Little Sam, and then whipped Galley so severely that the lashes coming upon Steele, at his desire they desisted. They then went to Harris's Well, near Lady Holt Park, where they took Galley off the horse, and threatened to throw him into the well. Upon which he desired them to dispatch him at once, and put an end to his misery. No, said Jackson, cursing, if that's the case, we have more to say to you; then put him on a horse again, and whipped him over the Downs, till he was so weak, that be fell off; when they laid him across the saddle, with his breast downwards, and Little Sam got up behind him, and, as they went on, he squeezed Galley's testicles, so that he groaned with the agony, and tumbled off: being then put on astride, Richards got up behind him, but soon the poor man cried out, I fall, I fall, I fall! and Richards pushing him said, Fall, and be d--n'd. Upon which he fell down; and the villains thinking this fall had broke his neck, laid him again on the horse, and proposed to go to some proper place where Chater might be concealed till they heard the fate of Diamond.
Jackson and Carter called at one Pescod's house, desiring admittance for two sick men; but he absolutely refused it.
Being now one o'clock in the morning, they agreed to go to one Scardefield's, at the Red Lion, at Rake, which was not far. Here Carter and Jackson got admittance, after many refusals. While Scardefield went to draw liquor, be heard more company come in; but though they refused to admit him into the room, he saw one man standing up very bloody, and another lying as dead. They said they had engaged some officers, lost their tea, and several of them were wounded, if not killed.
Jackson and Little Harry now carried Chater down to one Old Mill's, which was not far off, and chained him in a turf-house, and Little Harry staying to watch him, Jackson returned again to the company. -- After they had drank gin and rum they all went out, taking Galley with them; Carter compelled Scardefield to shew them the place where they used to bury their tea, and to lend them spades and a candle and lantern: there they began to dig, and, it being very cold, he helped to make a hole, where they buried something that lay across a horse, like a dead man.
They continued at Scardefield's, drinking all that day, and in the night went to their own homes, in order to be seen on Tuesday, agreeing to meet again upon Thursday at the same house, and bring more of their associates. They met accord ingly, and brought old Richard Mills, and his sons Richard and John, Tho. Stringer, John Cobby, Benj. Tapner, and John Hammond, who, with the former, made fourteen. They consulted now what was to be done with Chater; it was unanimously agreed that he must be destroyed. R. Mills, jun. proposed to load a gun, clap the muzzle to his head, tie a long string to the trigger, then all to pull it, that all might be equally guilty of his murder. This was rejected, because it would put him out of his pain too soon; and at length they came to a resolution to carry him up to Harris's Well, which was not far off, and throw him in.
All this while, Chater was in the utmost horror and misery, being visited by one or other of them, who abused him both with words and blows. At last they all came, and Tapner and Cobby going into the turf-house, the former pulled out a claspknife, and said, with a great oath, Down on your knees, and go to prayers, for with this knife I'll be your butcher. The poor man knelt down; and, as he was at prayers, Cobby kicked him, calling him informing villain. Chater asking what they had done with Mr Galley, Tapner slashed his knife across his eyes, almost cutting them out, and the gristle of his nose quite through: he bore it patiently, believing they were putting an end to his misery. Tapner struck at him again, and made a deep cut in his forehead. Upon this, old Mills said, Do not murder him here, but somewhere else. Accordingly they placed him upon a horse, and all set out together for Harris's Well, except Mills and his sons, they having no horses ready, and saying, in excuse, That they were enough, without them, to murder one man. All the way, Tapner whipped him till the blood came, and then swore, that if he blooded the saddle, he would torture him the more.
When they were come within two hundred yards of the well, Jackson and Carter stopped, saying to Tapner, Cobby, Stringer, Steel, and Hammond, Go on and do your duty on Chater, as we have ours upon Galley. -- In the dead of the night, of the 18th, they brought him to the well, which was near 30 feet deep, but dry, and paled close round. Tapner, having fastened a noose round Chater's neck, they bid him get over the pales to the well. He was going through a broken place; but though he was covered with blood, and fainting with the anguish of his wounds, they forced him to climb up, having the rope about his neck, one end of which being tied to the pales, they pushed him into the well; but the rope being short, he hung no farther within it than his thighs, and, leaning against the edge, he hung above a quarter of an hour, and was not strangled. Then they untied him, and threw him head foremost into the well. They tarried some time, and hearing him groan, they concluded to go to one Wm. Comleah's, a gardener, to borrow a rope and ladder, saying, they wanted to relieve one of their companions, who had fallen into Harris's Well. He said they might take them. But they could not manage the ladder, in their confusion, it being a long one.
They then returned to the well; and still finding him groan, and fearing that he might be heard, so as to make a discovery, the place being near the road, they threw upon him some of the rails and gate-posts fixed about the well, and also some great stones; when, finding him silent, they left him.
The next consultation was how to dispose of the two horses. To prevent discovery, they killed Galley's, which was grey, and took his hide off, cut it into small pieces, and hid them; but a bay horse, which Chater rode on, got from them.
This daring gang, being now broken, a number of witnesses came forward on their trial, and two of their accomplices being pardoned, were admitted evidence against them. The charge, in all its horrors, was fully proved; whereupon the judge, Sir Michael Foster, pronounced sentence on the convicts, in one of the most pathetic addresses that was ever heard; repre senting the enormity of the crime, and exhorting them to make immediate preparation for the awful fate that awaited them; adding, that "Christian charity obliges me to tell you, that your time in this world will be very short."
The heinousness of the crime, of which these men had been convicted, rendering it necessary that their punishment should be exemplary, the judge ordered that they should be executed on the following day; and the sentence was accordingly carried into execution against all but Jackson, who died in prison on the evening that he was condemned. They were attended by two ministers, and all, but Mills and his son (who took no notice of each other, and thought themselves not guilty, be cause they were not present at the finishing of the inhuman murder), shewed great marks of penitence. Tapner and Carter gave good advice to the spectators, and desired dillgence might be used to apprehend Richards, whom they charged as the cause of their being brought to this wretched end. Young Mills smiled several times at the executioner, who was a discharged marine, and having ropes too short for some of them was puzzled to fit them. Old Mills being forced to stand tip toe to reach the halter, desired that he might not be hanged by inches. The Mills's were so rejoiced at being told that they were not to be hanged in chains after execution, that death seemed to excite in them no terror; while Jackson was so struck with horror, at being measured for his irons, that he soon expired.
They were hanged at Chichester, on the 18th of January, 1749, amidst such a concourse of spectators as is seldom seen on such occasions.
Carter was hung in chains, near Rake, in Sussex; Tapner on Rook's hill, near Chichester; and Cobby and Hammond at Cesley Isle, on the beach where they sometimes landed their smuggled goods, and where they could be seen at a great distance, east and west.