Executed at Oxford for a Murder he had contemplated but did not commit
JONATHAN BRADFORD kept an inn at the city of Oxford. A gentleman (Mr Hayes), attended by a man-servant, one evening put up at Bradford's house, and in the night the former was found murdered in his bed, and the landlord was apprehended on suspicion of having committed the crime.
The evidence given against him was to the following effect. Two gentlemen who had supped with Mr Hayes, and who retired at the same time to their respective chambers, being alarmed in the night with a noise in his room, and soon hearing groans as of a wounded man, got up in order to discover the cause, and found their landlord, with a dark lantern and a knife in his hand, in a state of astonishment and horror, over his dying guest, who almost instantly expired.
On this evidence the jury convicted Bradford, and he was executed; but the fate of this man may serve as an additional lesson to jurymen to be extremely guarded in receiving circumstantial evidence. At a trial at Nisi Prius, and between personal right and wrong, the jury are often directed by the judge to take into consideration presumptive evidence where positive proof is wanting; but in criminal charges, it seldom should, unsupported by some oral testimony, or ocular demonstration, be sufficient to find a verdict against the accused.
The facts attending this dreadful tragedy were not fully brought to light until the deathbed confession of the real murderer, a time when we must all endeavour to make our peace with God.
Mr Hayes was a man of considerable property, and greatly respected. He had about him, when his sad destiny led him under the roof of Bradford, a considerable sum of money. The landlord, knowing this, determined to murder and rob him. For this horrid purpose he proceeded with a dark lantern and a carving-knife, intending to cut the throat of his guest, while yet sleeping; but what must have been his astonishment and confusion to find his victim already murdered by a servant!
The wicked and unworthy servant had also contemplated murdering his master, and had just committed the bloody deed, and secured his treasure, a moment before the landlord entered for the same purpose!