Who played Cards after committing a Double Murder and Arson near Wells. Executed 14th of April, 1732
JONATHAN HAWKINS was born and bred in the parish of Mark, near the city of Wells, in Somersetshire, of honest and industrious parents, who educated him in the principles of religion; but, being poor, gave him little or no learning. His father was a husbandman, and brought up his son Jonathan in his own occupation, whereby he acquired a sufficient livelihood and maintenance. He spent all the time of his youth soberly, and in the fear of God, constantly attending at Divine service. He was not addicted to lying, swearing, blaspheming, hard drinking or keeping any ill company; but detestably shunned and abhorred all those enormous vices and lewd courses.
When he arrived at man's estate he married, and led a sober and regular life during the limited time of the matrimonial bonds. But after his wife's death he began to swerve from his former course of life, and gradually betook himself to commit several petty crimes.
Among the rest of his friends and acquaintances he had contracted a mutual friendship with one George Gase, who resided in the same parish, and was Jonathan's brother-in-law. It seems that Jonathan, having occasion for a certain sum of money, applied to his brother-in-law, who supplied him with the sum requested, and for the security thereof received Jonathan's bond. The appointed time of payment being partly expired, he studied by what means he might free himself from the payment thereof, and concluded to procure the bond into his custody, or at least to deprive his brother-in-law of any advantage thereby.
Monday, the 17th of January, 1732, was the day on which he had prefixed to officiate and determine his intended villainy; when, entering the house of his brother-in-law, and finding no one therein save the old man and his daughter, Mary Gase, he embraced the opportunity, and put his wicked design in execution, by barbarously murdering them both (the one being nearly eighty years of age and the other about thirty), and afterwards firing the house, which doubtless was to consume the dead bodies, that so his villainy might be cloaked, and he pass unsuspected.
As soon as he had completed this horrid act he retired to a neighbour's house, and there played at cards, with as little seeming regret or outward concern as though nothing had befallen him. But in the middle of their diversion they were instantly interrupted, and the scene immediately changed, occasioned by one of the people looking out, and crying: "Fire! Fire!" which sudden disaster alarming them, they all showed a forward and voluntary diligence in going to quench the fire except Jonathan, who on being required to assist them therein answered in the negative.
The major part of the parish were gathered together before the force of the conflagration became unquenchable, so that they entered the house; where, to their great surprise (mirabile dictu!), they found the bodies of the old man (Jonathan's brother-in-law) and his daughter lying prostrate on the ground, weltering in their blood, with their throats cut from car to ear.
By this time all the inhabitants were in a confusion and uproar, and knew not who to charge with the fact. In this consternation they remained for some time, till, Jonathan being asked for the key of the door, he replied: "It is in that hedge yonder" (pointing to a box-hedge), where they found it accordingly.
They had now just grounds for suspicion and, perceiving his countenance to change, they charged him with murdering the people, and carried him to the place where the bodies lay, to touch them. When he had done this, his colour alternately changed; and being taxed with the murder he confessed all. And when it was demanded why he set the house on fire, he answered that he did it to burn the bond which he had given his brother-in-law.
He was seized and carried before a justice, who committed him to Ilchester jail.
After about two months' imprisonment Jonathan was conveyed from Ilchester to Taunton, in order to receive his trial. He pleaded guilty to the indictment, and acknowledged all that was deposed against him in court, and accordingly received sentence of death.
He was executed on the 14th day of April, 1732, being in the thirty-fourth year of his age, on a very high gibbet, erected on a large common, adjoining to the said parish, called Markmoor, and afterwards taken down and hanged in chains in the same place.