JOHN CLAYTON and WILLIAM JENKINS
Executed for Burglary
THE activity, daring and ingenuity of the London 'cracksmen' is well exemplified in the following case:
It appears that Reid, a constable belonging to Perry's party of patrol, received information from a person technically called a 'nose' -- that is, an informer or spy -- that a set was made at the house of a Mrs Martin, a lady residing at No 4 Bury Street, St James's, by a party of thieves, who had derived sufficient knowledge of the customs of the house from the servant girl, Mary Wakelin, to induce them to suppose that the robbery would be a profitable speculation. Their mode of making themselves acquainted with this circumstance was as follows: The girl, like most others of her condition and years, was vain of her personal charms, and the prisoner Clayton was a young man of pleasing manners and insinuating address. The 'crack' was fixed upon, and Clayton was set to work upon the girl's vanity, and so obtain the necessary information to enable his assistants and associates to complete it cleverly. He addressed her one evening at the public- house to which she was in the habit of going to fetch her mistress's beer and, having passed a few encomiums upon her beauty, was soon admitted into conversation. The impression which he made was not unfavourable, and he was too good a judge to allow an opportunity to pass, by which he might benefit himself.
Day after day he was found at the same place, and each day he was more attentive than the last, till the girl at length looked upon him in the light of a suitor. He informed her that he was a trunk-maker living in Oxford Street, and in return obtained information that her mistress was in the habit of visiting the theatres or some other place of public amusement nearly every night. He did not fail to improve upon his acquaintance at every fresh interview, and at length a Monday evening was fixed upon, when the lover was to be admitted to spend an hour with the girl in the kitchen during her mistress's absence.
It was at this period that the officers gained information of the intended robbery, and they in consequence obtained permission to occupy a room opposite to Mrs Martin's house, from which they could witness all that passed. Half-past eight o'clock was the time appointed by Mary to see her swain, and the constables took care to be as punctual as he. A few minutes before the time, they saw four men and two women arrive at the spot, from whom Clayton separated himself and went and knocked at the door. He was, however, doomed to be disappointed. The mistress was unwell and could not go out, and therefore, with a kiss or two and an affectionate hug, the sweethearts were obliged to part, not, however, without fixing the next Tuesday to carry out their design.
Tuesday night came, and the officers were again at their post; but the loving pair separated after taking a little gin together. Wednesday evening passed in the same manner, Mrs Martin being still too unwell to go out; and notwithstanding the most praiseworthy attention on the part of the supposed trunk-maker to his inamorata, every evening until the following Tuesday passed in the same way, the professions of inviolable attachment made by the tender-hearted youth growing each night more strong, and his anxiety to enter the house increasing at every meeting. On the Tuesday night, however, the girl told Clayton that her mistress was so much recovered that she expected she would be well enough to go the following night to the play, and on Wednesday night, about eight o'clock, Mrs Martin, accompanied by a male and female friend, went in a coach to the theatre. A few minutes after, the servant girl came out, and returned shortly with Clayton, arm in arm together. They talked together several minutes at the door, and then went in. In about a quarter of an hour, Clayton came out, and returned in about five minutes, accompanied by another man, Clayton knocked at the door, and the girl opened it. She appeared to refuse to let the other man in; but Clayton forced open the door, and the other man rushed in.
The officers, who had been upon the close watch every night, then went over to the house and heard all three talking very loud in the kitchen. From the noise, and what they saw through a keyhole, they ascertained that the two men were dragging the girl upstairs against her will, and she was exclaiming, 'Lord have mercy upon me! what shall I do?' One of the men told her if she made such a noise he would blow her brains out, and presented a pistol to her head and kept it there. They forced her upstairs, and the officers heard doors being broken open, &c. A few minutes after, the second man came downstairs, and returned with the kitchen poker. They then heard other doors break open, but not hearing the noise of the girl continued, the officers were afraid she was being murdered, and were proceeding to force the street-door with an iron crow, when the girl exclaimed it was her mistress, gave a sudden spring, released herself from her assailants, and ran downstairs, with the robbers after her. They got into the passage just as the officers had entered. Clayton and Jenkins appeared as if nothing had happened, and wanted to get out; but Perry and Reid seized them. The villains made a most desperate resistance, which they were enabled to do, being very tall, stout, powerful men; but they were eventually secured. On searching Clayton, a large clasp knife and a bad dollar were found. On Jenkins were found a pistol, two bad dollars, &c. On examining the house, the officers discovered that a large quantity of property had been packed up, ready to be carried off. Several rooms and closets were broken open, and the thieves were in the act of breaking open a chest when they were disturbed. The trial of these desperadoes came on at the Old Bailey, on the 15th of January, when Mary Wakelin, before named, deposed that she first became acquainted with the prisoner Clayton about eight or ten days before the 1st of January. He then came to her mistress's house, when she answered the door, and told her his name was Wilson and that he had a letter for Mrs Martin, which was the name her mistress went by. A night or two afterwards he threw things down the area. Her mistress sent her out with a message, and she then saw Clayton, who asked her to take something to drink, which she at first refused; but upon his insisting they went and had something to drink. She saw him a night or two afterwards in the streets, as she went out on an errand, and frequently after that; but she never saw the prisoner Jenkins till the night of the 1st of January.
The jury found both the prisoners guilty, and they were sentenced to death. The fearful sentence was carried into effect on the scaffold before the Debtors' door, Newgate, on the 19th February 1812, at the usual hour, and with the accustomed solemnity. Clayton was twenty-eight years of age, and Jenkins thirty-five.
After the culprits had been divested of their irons, Clayton observed to Jenkins it was an awful moment, and he exhorted him to cheer his spirits, and die with manly fortitude -- adding that the sentence was just, and trusting their example would warn others against keeping bad company.