Executed at Guildford, July 9, 1709, for the murder of Jane Young
This is a very singular case, and will excite different opinions respecting this unhappy man's commission of the deed for which he was executed.
He was the son of a miller at Westbury-Green, in Surrey, who apprenticed him at Godalming. When his time was expired, he lived in several situations, and afterwards took a malt-house at Shalford, when his aunt became his housekeeper, and he acquired a moderate sum of money by his industry.
He now paid his addresses to Jane Young, and it was generally supposed he intended to marry her. The last time he was seen in her company was on the evening of the 5th of October, 1703; from which day she was not heard of for a considerable time, on which suspicions arose that Slaughterford had murdered her.
About a month afterwards, the body of the unfortunate girl was found in a pond, with several marks of violence on it; and the public suspicion being still fixed on Slaughterford, he voluntarily surrendered himself to two justices of the peace, who directed that he should be discharged; but as he was still accused by his neighbours, he went to a third magistrate, who, agreeable to his own solicitations, committed him to the Marshalsea Prison; and he was tried at the next assizes at Kingston, and acquitted.
The majority of his neighbours, however, still insisted that he was guilty, and prevailed on the relations of the deceased to bring an appeal for a new trial; towards the expense of which many persons subscribed, as the father of Jane Young was in indigent circumstances.
During the next term, he was tried by a Surrey jury, in the court of Queen's Bench, before Lord Chief Justice Holt, the appeal being lodged in the name of Henry Young, brother and heir to the deceased.
The evidence given on this second trial was the same in substance as on the first; yet so different were the sentiments of the two juries, that Slaughterford was now found guilty, and received sentence of death. It may be proper to mention the heads of some of the depositions, that the reader may judge of the propriety of the verdict.
Elizabeth Chapman, the mistress of Jane Young, deposed, that when the young woman left her service, she said she was going to he married to the prisoner, that she had purchased new clothes on the occasion, and declared she was to meet him on the Sunday following. That the deponent sometime afterwards inquired after Jane Young, and, asking if she was married, was informed that she had been seen in the company of Slaughterford, but no one could tell what was become of her since, and that he himself pretended he knew nothing of her, but thought she had been at home with Mrs Chapman; which had induced this witness to believe that some mischief had befallen her.
Other witnesses proved that Jane Young was in company with the prisoner on the night that the murder was committed; and one man swore that, at three in the morning, he met a man and woman on a common, about a quarter of a mile from the place where the body was found; that the man wore light-coloured clothes, as it was proved the prisoner had done the preceding day; and that soon after he passed them he heard a shrieking, like the voice of a woman.
It was sworn by a woman, that, after the deceased was missing, she asked Slaughterford what was become of his lady: to which he replied, 'I have put her off; do you know of any girl that has any money? I have got the way of putting them off now.'
It was deposed by another woman, that, before the discovery of the murder, she said to Mr Slaughterford, 'What if Jane Young should lay such a child to you as mine is here?' at which he sighed, and said, 'It is now impossible;' and cried till the tears ran down his cheeks.
In contradiction to this, the aunt of Mr Slaughterford and a young lad who lived in the house deposed that the prisoner lay at home on the night that the murder was committed.
Slaughterford, from the time of conviction to the very hour of his death, solemnly declared his innocence; and, though visited by several divines, who urged him, by all possible arguments, to confess the fact, yet he still persisted that he was not guilty. He was respited from the Wednesday till Saturday, in which interim he desired to see Mr Woodroof, a minister of Guildford: from which it was thought he would make a confession; but what he said to him tended only to confirm his former declarations.
As soon as the executioner had tied him up, he threw himself off, having previously delivered to the sheriff a paper, containing the following solemn declaration:
GUILDFORD, JULY 9, 1709
Being brought here to die, according to the sentence passed upon me at the Queen's-Bench bar, for a crime of which I am wholly innocent, I thought myself obliged to let the world know, that they may not reflect on my friends and relations, whom I have left behind me much troubled for my fatal end, that I know nothing of the death of Jane Young, nor how she came by her death, directly or indirectly, though some have been pleased to cast reflections on my aunt. However, I freely forgive all my enemies, and pray to God to give them a due sense of their errors, and in his due time to bring the truth to light. In the mean time, I beg every one to forbear reflecting on my dear mother, or any of my relations, for my unjust and unhappy fall, since what I have here set down is truth, and nothing but the truth, as I expect salvation at the hands of Almighty God; but I am heartily sorry that I should be the cause of persuading her to leave her dame, which is all that troubles me. As witness my hand this 9th day of July.
We have already observed, that the case of Slaughterford is very extraordinary. We see that he surrendered himself to the justices when he might have ran away; and common sense tells us that a murderer would endeavour to make his escape; and we find him a second time surrendering himself, as if anxious to wipe away the stain on his character. We find him tried by a jury of his countrymen, and acquitted; then again tried, on an appeal, by another jury of his neighbours, found guilty, condemned, and executed.
Here it should be observed, that after conviction on an appeal, which rarely happens, the king has no power to pardon; probably, had Slaughterford been found guilty by the first jury, as his case was dubious, he would have received royal mercy. Some of the depositions against him seem very striking; yet the testimony in his favour is equally clear. There appears nothing in the former part of his life to impeach his character; there is no proof of any animosity between him and the party murdered; and there is an apparent contradiction in part of the evidence against him. He is represented by one female witness as sneering at and highly gratified with the murder; while another proves him extremely affected and shedding tears on the loss of Jane Young.
The charitable reader must, therefore, be inclined to think this man was innocent, and that he fell a sacrifice to the prejudices, laudable, perhaps, of his incensed neighbours. He was visited, while under sentence of death, by a number of divines; yet he died with the most sacred averment of his innocence.