Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Captain Jaen


a Murderer

Though there is not perhaps any sin so opposite to our nature as cruelty towards our fellow creatures, yet we see it so thoroughly established in some tempers, that neither education nor a sense of religion are strong enough to abate it, much less to wear it out. The person of whom we are speaking, John Jaen, was the son of parents in very good circumstances at Bristol, who they bred him up to the knowledge of everything requisite to a person who was to be bred up in trade, and he grew a very tolerable proficient as well in the knowledge of the Latin tongue, as in writing and accounts, for his improvement in all which he was put under the best masters. When he had finished that course of learning which his friends thought would qualify him for what they designed him, he was immediately put apprentice to a cooper in Bristol, where he served his time with both fidelity and industry. When it was expired, he applied himself to trade with the same diligence, and sometimes went to sea, till in the year '24 he became master of a ship called the "Burnett", fitted out by some merchants at Bristol, for South Carolina. In his return from this voyage he committed the murder for which he died.

On the 25th April, 1726, an Admiralty Sessions was held at the Old Bailey, before the Hon. Sir Henry Penrice, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, assisted by the Honourable Mr. Baron Hale, at which Captain Greagh was indicated for feloniously sinking the good ship called the "Friendship", of which he was commander; but as there appeared no grounds for such a charge, he was acquitted. Afterwards Captain John Jaen, of Bristol, was set to the bar, and arraigned on an indictment for wilfully and inhumanly murdering one Richard Pye, who had been cabin-boy, in the month of March, in the year 1724. It appeared by the evidence produced against him that he either whipped the boy himself or caused him to be whipped every day during the voyage; that he caused him to be tied to the mainmast with ropes for nine days together, extending his arms and legs to the utmost, whipping him with a cat (as it is called) of five small cords till he was all bloody, then causing his wounds to be several times washed with brine and pickle. Under this terrible usage the poor wretch grew soon after speechless. The Captain, notwithstanding, continued his cruel usage, stamping, beating and abusing him, and even obliging him to eat his own excrements, which forcing its way upwards again, the boy in his agony of pain made signs for a dram, whereupon the captain in derision took a glass, carried it into the cabin, and made water therein, and then brought it to the boy to drink, who rejected the same. The lamentable condition in which he was made no impression on the captain, who continued to treat him with the same severity, by whipping, pickling, kicking, beating, and bruising him while he lingered out his miserable life. On the last day of this he gave him eighteen lashes with the aforesaid cat of five tails, in a little time after which the boy died. The evidence farther deposed that when the boy's body was sewn up in a hammock to be thrown overboard it had in it as many colours as there are in a rainbow, that his flesh in many places was as soft as jelly, and his head swelled as big as two. Upon the whole it very fully appeared that a more bloody premeditated and wilful murder was never committed, and Sir Henry Penrice declared, that in all the time he had had the honour of sitting on the Bench he never heard anything like it, and hoped that no person who should sit there after him should hear of such an offence.

Under sentence of death he behaved with a great deal of piety and resignation though he did not frequent the public chapel for two reasons, the first because the number of strangers who were admitted thither to stare at such unhappy persons as are to die are always numerous and sometimes very indiscreet; the second was, that he had many enemies who took a pleasure in coming to insult him, and as he was sure either of these would totally interrupt his devotions, he thought it excusable to receive the assistance of the minister in his own chamber. As to the general offences of his life, he was very open in his confession, but as to the particular fact for which he suffered, he endeavoured to excuse it by saying he never intended to murder the boy, but only to correct him as he deserved, he being exceedingly wicked and unruly; he charged him with thieving in their voyage out, being yet worse as they came home, and that particularly one evening when he was asleep in the cabin, the lad broke open his lockers, and took out a bottle of rum, of which he drank near a pint, making himself therefor so drunk that his excrements fell involuntarily from him, which stunk so abominably that it awakened him (the Captain), whereupon he called in several of his men, who found the boy in a sad condition, and were obliged to sit down and smoke tobacco in order to overcome the stench he had raised. This produced the terrible punishment of tying him to the mast for several days and the offering him his excrements which he rejected.

Notwithstanding the captain owned all this, yet he could not forbear reflections on those who gave testimony against him at his trial, charging them with perjury and conspiracy to ruin him, though nothing like it appeared from the manner in which they delivered their testimony. As the time of his death approached nearer, the fear thereof, and remorse of conscience, brought the captain into so weak and low a state that he could scarce speak or attend to any discourses of others, but lay in a languishing condition, often fainting, and in fine appearing not unlike a person who had taken something to produce a sudden death, in order to prevent an ignominious one. Yet when such suspicions were mentioned to him, he declared that they were without ground, that he had never suffered such a thought once to enter into his head. His wife, who attended him constantly while in prison, said she loved him too well to become his executioner, and that she was positive since his commitment, he had had nothing unwholesome administered to him.

As he was carried to execution, he was so very much spent, that it was thought he would hardly have lived to have reached it. There he had the assistance of a minister of distinction, who prayed with him till the instant he was thrown off, which was on the 13th day of May, 1726, being then about twenty-nine years of age. As soon as he was cut down, he was put in chains, in order to be hung up.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals