Executed at Tyburn, October 5, 1738, for the murder of his wife.
IN the history of this man's crime, we have again to present a cruel and premeditated murder of a good wife. On this strangely unnatural deed, we have already expatiated; and therefore, can only repeat our wonder and abhorrence of men taking away that life which was a comfort to their own.
This malefactor, who was a native of North Currey, in Somersetshire, after having been employed in the business of agriculture, came to London about the time that he had arrived at the years of maturity, and lived in several families as a servant, maintaining always a respectable character.
Having saved some money in service, he married, and took a public-house in the parish of St. John, Westminster, where he perpetrated the murder which cost him his life.
Coming home one evening somewhat intoxicated, he sat down to drink with two women who were in a room with his wife. Mrs. Totterdale quitting the room, her husband soon followed her, with a knife and fork in his hand; soon after which, the cry of murder was heard; when Daniel Brown, who lodged in the house, running up stairs, saw Totterdale stamp on his wife two or three times as she lay on the floor.
On this, Brown seized the knife and fork which Totterdale still held in his hand, and having got the woman into another room, she locked it, and he persuaded the husband to go down stairs.
Soon afterwards, Totterdale's passion increasing, he procured a key, with which he opened the door, when his wife was sitting at the foot of a bed, with the curtains drawn to hide her: so that he did not at first observe where she was; on which, Brown waved his hand, intimating that she should retire; but she did not, being either afraid, or unable to move; and the husband discovering her, a few words passed between them, when he kicked her, caught hold of her feet, dragged her off the bed, and threw her down about seven of the stairs, where she lay senseless.
Terrified at this sight, Brown ran into his own room, where he staid three or four minutes, and then going down the stairs, found that Totterdale had dragged his wife into a room, and fastened the door; but Brown heard her say, "For Christ's sake Johnny! Johnny, for Christ's sake don't kill me!" Mr. Brown then went out, but found the woman dead when he returned, at the end of about an hour and a half.
The husband was now taken into custody, and the body of the deceased being examined by a surgeon, he found that nine of her ribs were broke, and that her right arm was stabbed in the joint, to the depth of four inches.
Totterdale being committed to the Gatehouse, was visited by his wife's sister, who said to him, "O John! John ! how could you be so barbarous as to murder your poor wife?" In answer to which, he said, "The devil overpowered me; I was pushed on by the devil, both to begin and finish the deed -- I cannot recall or undo what I have done; but I wish I could bring back my poor, unhappy, unprepared wife from the grave again."
Some of his acquaintance asked him why he did not attempt to make his escape after he had committed the murder, he replied that he had an intention of so doing, but as he was going out of the room, he imagined be heard a voice saying, "John, John, stay -- What have you done? You cannot go off" which supposed words deprived him of all possibility of effecting, his escape.
Being brought to his trial at the Old Bailey, the evidence against him was so clear, that the jury did not hesitate to find him guilty, in consequence of which he was sentenced to die.
After conviction, he declared that he had no fear of the disgraceful death that awaited him, and that he would willingly suffer any degree of torture, as an atonement, for the crime of which he had been guilty.
On being told that his name was included in the warrant for execution, he replied, "The Lord's will be done; I am ready to die, I am willing to die; only I beg of God that I may not (though I deserve it) die an eternal death: and though I am cut off from this world for my heinous offences, yet I hope it is not impossible that I should live for ever in a better state. I have been guilty of the unnatural murder of my poor wife: the Lord be more merciful to me than I was to her, or else I perish." He added, that he hoped those who had received injuries from him would forgive him; as he freely forgave those by whom he had been injured.
Totterdale found a generous friend in Mr, Paul, a brewer, who had served him with beer while in trade: for when in prison, he supplied him with the necessaries of life. He likewise provided for his two children, and took care to see the unhappy man buried by the side of his wife, agreeable to an earnest request he made in a letter written the day before his execution.
The behaviour of this wretched man, after conviction, and at the place of his death, was decent, devout, and resigned in a high degree. He appeared to be a sincere penitent; and admonished others not to indulge that violence of passion which ended in his destruction.