Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Catherine Hayes


a bloody and inhuman Murderess, etc.

Though all crimes are in this nature foul, yet some are apparently more heinous, and of a blacker die than others. Murder has in all ages and in all climates been amongst the number of those offences held to be most enormous and the most shocking to human nature of any other; yet even this admits sometimes of aggravation, and the laws of England have made a distinction between the murder of a stranger, and of him or her to whom we owe a civil, or natural obedience. Hence it is that killing a husband, or a master is distinguished under the name of "petit" treason. Yet even this, in the story we are about to relate, had several heightening circumstances, the poor man having both a son and a wife imbrueing their hands in his blood.

Catherine Hall, afterwards by her marriage, Catherine Hayes, was born in the year 1690, at a village in the borders of Warwickshire, within four miles of Birmingham. Her parents were so poor as to receive the assistance of the parish and so careless of their daughter that they never gave her the least education. While a girl she discovered marks of so violent and turbulent a temper that she totally threw off all respect and obedience to her parents, giving a loose to her passions and gratifying herself in all her vicious inclinations.

About the year 1705, some officers coming into the neighbourhood to recruit, Kate was so much taken with the fellows in red that she strolled away with them, until they came to a village called Great Ombersley in Warwickshire, where they very ungenerously left her behind them. This elopement of her sparks drove her almost mad, so that she went like a distracted creature about the country, until coming to Mr. Hayes's door, his wife in compassion took her in out of charity. The eldest child of the family was John Hayes, the deceased; who being then about twenty-one years of age, found so many charms in this Catherine Hall that soon after he coming into the house he made proposals to her of marriage. There is no doubt of their being readily enough received, and as they both were sensible how disagreeable a thing it would be to his parents, they agreed to keep it secret. They quickly adjusted the measures that were to be taken in order to their being married at Worcester; for which purpose Mr. John Hayes pretended to his mother that he wanted some tools in the way of his trade, viz., that of a carpenter, for which it was necessary he should go to Worcester; and under this colour he procured also as much money as, with what he had already had, was sufficient to defray the expense of the intended wedding.

Catherine having quitted the house without the formality of bidding them adieu, and meeting at the appointed place, they accompanied each other to Worcester, where the wedding was soon celebrated. The same day Mrs. Catherine Hayes had the fortune to meet with some of her quondam acquaintance at Worcester. They understanding that she was that day married, and where the nuptials were to be solemnized, consulted among themselves how to make a penny of the bridegroom. Accordingly deferring the execution of their intentions until the evening, just as Mr. Hayes was got into bed to his wife, coming to the house where he lodged, they forcibly entered the room, and dragged the bridegroom away, pretending to impress him for her Majesty's service.

This proceeding broke the measures Mr. John Hayes had concerted with his bride, to keep their wedding secret; for finding no redemption from their hands, without the expense of a larger sum of money than he was master of, he was necessitated to let his father know of his misfortune. Mr. Hayes hearing of his son's adventures, as well of his marriage and his being pressed at the same time, his resentment for the one did not extinguish his affection for him as a father, but that he resolved to deliver him from his troubles; and accordingly, taking a gentleman in the neighbourhood along with him, he went for Worcester. At their arrival there, they found Mr. John Hayes in the hands of the officers, who insisted upon detaining him for her Majesty's service; but his father and the gentleman he brought with him by his authority, soon made them sensible of their errors, and instead of making a benefit of him, as they proposed, they were glad to discharge him, which they did immediately. Mr. Hayes having acted thus far in favour of his son, then expressed his resentment for his having married without his consent; but it being too late to prevent it, there was no other remedy but to bear with the same. For sometime afterwards Mr. Hayes and his bride lived in the neighbourhood, and as he followed his business as a carpenter, his father and mother grew more reconciled. But Mrs. Catherine Hayes, who better approved of a travelling than a settled life, persuaded her husband to enter himself a volunteer in a regiment then at Worcester, which he did, and went away with them, where he continued for some time.

Mr. John Hayes being in garrison in the Isle of Wight, Mrs. Hayes took an opportunity of going over thither and continued with him for some time; until Mr. Hayes, not content with such a lazy indolent life (wherein he could find no advantage, unless it were the gratifying his wife) solicited his father to procure his discharge, which at length he was prevailed upon to consent to. But he found much difficulty in perfecting the same, for the several journeys he was necessitated to undertake before it could be done, and the expenses of procuring such discharge, amounted to sixty pound. But having at last, at this great expense and trouble, procured his son's release, Mr. John Hayes and his wife returned to Worcestershire; and his father the better to induce him to settle himself in business in the country, put him into an estate of ten pound "per annum", hoping that, with the benefit of his trade, would enable them to live handsomely and creditably, and change her roving inclinations, he being sensible that his son's ramble had been occasioned through his wife's persuasions. But Mr. John Hayes representing to his father that it was not possible for him and his wife to live on that estate only, persuaded his father to let him have another also, a leasehold of sixteen pound "per annum;" upon which he lived during the continuance of the lease, his father paying the annual rent thereof until it expired.

The characters of Mr. John Hayes and his wife were vastly different. He had the repute of a sober, sedate, honest, quiet, peaceable man, and a very good husband, the only objection his friends would admit of against him was that he was of too parsimonious and frugal temper, and that he was rather too indulgent of his wife, who repaid his kindness with ill usage, and frequently very opprobious language. As to his wife, she was on all hands allowed to be a very turbulent, vexatious person, always setting people together by the ears, and never free from quarrels and controversies in the neighbourhood, giving ill advice, and fomenting disputes to the disturbance of all her friends and acquaintance.

This unhappiness in her temper induced Mr. John Hayes's relations to persuade him to settle in some remote place, at a distance from and unknown to her for some time, to see if that would have any effect upon her turbulent disposition; but Mr. Hayes would not approve of that advice, nor consent to a separation. In this manner they lived for the space of about six years, until the lease of the last-mentioned farm expired; about which time Mrs. Hayes persuaded Mr. John Hayes to leave the country and come to London, which about twelve months afterwards, through her persuasions he did, in the year 1719. Upon their arrival in town they took a house, part of which they let out in lodging, and sold sea coal, chandlery-ware, etc., whereby they lived in a creditable manner. And though Mr. Hayes was of a very indulgent temper, yet she was so unhappy as to be frequently jarring, and a change of climate having made no alteration in her temper, she continued her same passionate nature, and frequent bickerings and disputes with her neighbours, as well as before in the country.

In this business they picked up money, and Mr. Hayes received the yearly rent of the first-mentioned estate, though in town; and by lending out money in small sums, amongst his country people improved the same considerably. In speaking of Mr. Hayes to his friends and acquaintance she would frequently give him the best of characters, and commend him for an indulgent husband; notwithstanding which, to some of her particular cronies who knew not Mr. Hayes's temper, she would exclaim against him, and told them particularly (above a year before the murder was committed) that it was no more sin to kill him (meaning her husband) than to kill a mad dog, and that one time or other she might give him a jolt.

Afterwards they removed into Tottenham Court Road, where they lived for some time, following the same business as formerly; from whence about two years afterwards, they removed into Tyburn Road,[1] a few doors above where the murder was committed. There they lived about twelve months, Mr. Hayes supporting himself chiefly in lending out money upon pledges, and sometimes working at his profession, and in husbandry, till it was computed he had picked up a pretty handsome sum of money. About ten months before the murder they removed a little lower to the house of Mr. Whinyard, where the murder was committed, taking lodgings up two pairs of stairs. There it was that Thomas Billings, by trade a tailor, who wrought journey-work in and about Monmouth Street; under pretence of being Mrs. Hayes's countryman came to see them. He did so, and continued in the house about six weeks before the death of Mr. Hayes.

He (Mr. Hayes) had occasion to go a little way out of town, of which his wife gave her associates immediate notice, and they thereupon flocked thither to junket with her until the time they expected his return. Some of the neighbours out of ill-will which they bore the woman, gave him intelligence of it as soon as he came back, upon which they had abundance of high words, and at last Mr. Hayes gave her a blow or two. Maybe this difference was in some degree the source of that malice which she afterwards vented upon him.

About this time Thomas Wood, who was a neighbour's son in the country, and an intimate acquaintance both of Mr. Hayes and his wife, came to town, and pressing being at that time very hot he was obliged to quit his lodgings; and thereupon Mr. Hayes very kindly invited him to accept of the convenience of theirs, promising him moreover, that as he was out of business, he would recommend him to his friends, and acquaintances. Wood accepted the offer, and lay with Billings. In three or four days' time, Mrs. Hayes having taken every opportunity to caress him, opened to him a desire of being rid of her husband, at which Wood, as he very well might, was exceedingly surprised, and demonstrated the business as well as cruelty there would be in such an action, if committed by him, who besides the general ties of humanity, stood particularly obliged to him as his neighbour and his friend. Mrs. Hayes did not desist upon this, but in order to hush his scruples would fain have persuaded him that there was no more sin in killing Hayes than in killing a brute-beast for that he was void of all religion and goodness, an enemy to God, and therefore unworthy of his protection; that he had killed a man in the country, and destroyed two of his and her children, one of which was buried under an apple tree, the other under a pear tree, in the country. To these fictitious tales she added another, which perhaps had the greatest weight, viz., that if he were dead, she should be the mistress of fifteen hundred pounds. "And then", says she, "you may be master thereof, if you will help to get him out of the way. Billings has agreed too, if you'll make a third, and so all may be finished without danger."

A few days after this, Wood's occasions called him out of town. On his return, which was the first day of March, he found Mr. Hayes and his wife and Billings very merry together. Amongst other things which passed in conversation, Mr. Hayes happened to say that he and another person once drank as much wine between them as came to a guinea, without either of them being fuddled. Upon this Billings proposed a wager on these terms, that half a dozen bottles of the best mountain wine should be fetched, which if Mr. Hayes could drink without being disordered, then Billings should pay for it; but if not, then it should be at the cost of Mr. Hayes. He accepting of this proposal, Mrs. Hayes and the two men went together to the Brawn's Head, in New Bond Street, to fetch the wine. As they were going thither, she put them in mind of the proposition she had made them to murder Mr. Hayes, and said they could not have a better opportunity than at present, when he should be intoxicated with liquor. Whereupon Wood made answer that it would be the most inhuman act in the world to murder a man in cool blood, and that, too, when he was in liquor. Mrs. Hayes had recourse to her old arguments, and Billings joining with her, Wood suffered himself to be overpowered.

When they came to the tavern they called for a pint of the best mountain, and after they had drank it ordered a gallon and a half to be sent home to their lodgings, and Mrs. Hayes paid ten shillings and sixpence for it, which was what it came to. Then they all came back and sat down together to see Mr. Hayes drink the wager, and while he swallowed the wine, they called for two or three full pots of beer, in order to entertain themselves. Mr. Hayes, when he had almost finished the wine, began to grow very merry, singing and dancing about the room with all the gaiety which is natural to having taken a little too much wine. But Mrs. Hayes was so fearful of his not having his dose, that she sent away privately for another bottle, of which having drunk some also, it quite finished the work, by depriving him totally of his understanding; however, reeling into the other room, he there threw himself across the bed and fell fast asleep. No sooner did his wife perceive it than she came and excited the two men to go in and do the work; whereupon Billings taking a coal-hatchet in his hand, going into the other room, struck Mr. Hayes therewith on the back of the head. This blow fractured the skull, and made him, through the agony of the pain, stamp violently upon the ground, in so much that it alarmed the people who lay in the garret; and Wood fearing the consequence, went in and repeated the blows, though that was needless since the first was mortal in itself, and he already lay still and quiet. By this time Mrs. Springate, whose husband lodged over Mr. Hayes's head, on hearing the noise came down to enquire the reason of it, complaining at the same time that it so disturbed her family that they could not rest. Mrs. Hayes thereupon told her that her husband had had some company with him, who growing merry with their liquor were a little noisy, but that they were going immediately, and desired she would be easy. Upon this she went up again for the present, and the three murderers began immediately to consult how to get rid of the body.

The men were in so much terror and confusion that they knew not what to do; but Mrs. Hayes quickly thought of an expedient in which they all agreed. She said that if the head was cut off, there would not be near so much difficulty in carrying off the body, which could not be known. In order to put this design in execution, they got a pail and she herself carrying the candle, they all entered the room where the deceased lay. Then the woman holding the pail, Billings drew the body by the head over the bedside, that the blood might bleed the more freely into it; and Wood with his pocket penknife cut it off. As soon as it was severed from the body, and the bleeding was over, they poured the blood down a wooden sink at the window, and after it several pails of water, in order to wash it quite away that it might not be perceived in the morning. However, their precautions were not altogether effectual, for the next morning Springate found several clots of blood, but not suspecting anything of the matter, threw them away. Neither had they escaped letting some tokens of their cruelty fall upon the floor, stain the wall of the room, and even spin up against the ceiling, which it may be supposed happened at the giving the first blow.

When they had finished the decollation, they again consulted what was next to be done. Mrs. Hayes was for boiling it in a pot till nothing but the skull remained, which would effectually prevent anybody's knowing to whom it belonged; but the two men thinking this too dilatory a method, they resolved to put it in a pail, and go together and throw it in the Thames. Springate, hearing a bustling in Mr. Hayes's room for some time, and then somebody going down stairs, called again to know who it was and what was the occasion of it (it being then about eleven o'clock). Mrs. Hayes answered that it was her husband, who was going a journey into the country, and pretended to take a formal leave of him, expressing her sorrow that he was obliged to go out of town at that time of night, and her fear least any accident should attend him in his journey.

Billings and Wood being thus gone to dispose of the head, went towards Whitehall, intending to have thrown the same into the river there, but the gates being shut, they were obliged to go forward as far as Mr. Macreth's wharf, near the Horseferry at Westminster, where Billings setting down the pail from under his great coat, Wood took up the same with the head therein, and threw it into the dock before the Wharf. It was expected the same would have been carried away by the tide, but the water being then ebbing, it was left behind. There were also some lighters lying over against the dock, and one of the lightermen walking then on board, saw them throw the pail into the dark; but by the obscurity of the night, the distance, and having no suspicion, they did not apprehend anything of the matter. Having thus done, they returned home again to Mrs. Hayes's where they arrived about twelve o'clock and being let in, found Mrs. Hayes had been very busily employed in washing the floor, and scraping the blood off from it, and from the walls, etc. After which, they all three went into the fore room, Billings and Wood went to bed there, and Mrs. Hayes sat by them till morning.

On the morning of the second of March, about the dawning of the day, one Robinson a watchman saw a man's head lying in the dock, and the pail near it. His surprise occasioned his calling some persons to assist in taking up the head, and finding the pail bloody, they conjectured the head had been brought thither in it. Their suspicions were fully confirmed therein by the lighterman who saw Billings and Wood throw the same into the dock, as before mentioned.

It was now time for Mrs. Hayes, Billings, and Wood to consider how they should dispose of the body. Mrs. Hayes and Wood proposed to put it in a box, where it might lie concealed till a convenient opportunity offered for removing it. This being approved of, Mrs. Hayes brought a box; but upon their endeavouring to put it in, the box was not big enough to hold it. They had before wrapped it up in a blanket, out of which they took it; Mrs. Hayes proposed to cut off the arms and legs, and they again attempted to put it in, but the box would not hold it. Then they cut off the thighs, and laying it piecemeal in the box, concealed them until night.

In the meantime Mr. Hayes's head, which had been found as before, had sufficiently alarmed the town, and information was given to the neighbouring justices of the peace. The parish officers did all that was possible towards the discovery of the persons guilty of perpetrating so horrid an action. They caused the head to be cleaned, the face to be washed from the dirt and blood, and the hair to be combed, and then the head to be set upon a post in public view in St. Margaret's churchyard, Westminster, so that everybody might have free access to see the same, with some of the parish officers to attend, hoping by that means a discovery of the same might be attained. The high constable of Westminster liberty also issued private orders to all the petty constables, watchmen, and other officers of that district, to keep a strict eye on all coaches, carts, etc., passing in the night through their liberty, imagining that the perpetrators of such a horrid fact would endeavour to free themselves of the body in the same manner as they had done the head.

These orders were executed for some time, with all the secrecy imaginable, under various pretences, but unsuccessfully; the head also continued to be exposed for some days in the manner described, which drew a prodigious number of people to see it, but without attaining any discovery of the murderers. It would be impertinent to mention the various opinions of the town upon this occasion, for they being founded upon conjecture only, were far wide of the truth. Many people either remembered or fancied they had seen that face before, but none could tell where or who it belonged to.

On the second of March, in the evening, Catherine Hayes, Thomas Wood, and Thomas Billings took the body and disjointed members out of the box, and wrapped them up in two blankets, viz., the body in one, and the limbs in the other. Then Billings and Wood first took up the body, and about nine o'clock in the evening carried it by turns into Marylebone Fields, and threw the same into a pond (which Wood in the day time had been hunting for) and returning back again about eleven o'clock the same night, took up the limbs in the other old blanket, and carried them by turns to the same place, throwing them in also. About twelve o'clock the same night, they returned back again, and knocking at the door were let in by Mary Springate. They went up to bed in Mrs. Hayes's fore-room, and Mrs. Hayes stayed with them all night, sometimes sitting up, and sometimes lay down upon the bed by them.

The same day one Bennet, the king's organ-maker's apprentice, going to Westminster to see the head, believed it to be Mr. Hayes's, he being intimately acquainted with him; and thereupon went and informed Mrs. Hayes, that the head exposed to view in St. Margaret's churchyard, was so very like Mr. Hayes's that he believed it to be his. Upon which Mrs. Hayes assured him that Mr. Hayes was very well and reproved him very sharply for forming such an opinion, telling him he must be very cautious how he raised such false and scandalous reports, for that he might thereby bring himself into a great deal of trouble. This reprimand put a stop to the youth's saying anything about it, and having no other reason than the similitude of faces, he said no more about it. The same day also Mr. Samuel Patrick, having been at Westminster to see the head, went from thence to Mr. Grainger's at the Dog and Dial in Monmouth Street, where Mr. Hayes and his wife were intimately acquainted, they and most of their journeymen servants being Worcestershire people. Mr. Patrick told them that he had been to see the head, and that in his opinion it was the most like to their countryman Hayes of any he ever saw.

Billings being there then at work, some of the servants replied it could not be his, because there being one of Mrs. Hayes's lodgers (meaning Billings) then at work, they should have heard of it by him if Mr. Hayes had been missing, or any accident had happened to him; to which Billings made answer, that Mr. Hayes was then alive and well, and that he left him in bed, when he came to work in the morning. The third day of March, Mrs. Hayes gave Wood a white coat and a pair of leathern breeches of Mr. Hayes's, which he carried with him to Greenford, near Harrow-on-the-Hill. Mrs. Springate observed Wood carrying these things downstairs, bundled up in a white cloth, whereupon she told Mrs. Hayes that Wood was gone down with a bundle. Mrs. Hayes replied it was a suit of clothes he had borrowed of a neighbour, and was going to carry them home again.

On the fourth of March, one Mrs. Longmore coming to visit Mrs. Hayes, enquired how Mr. Hayes did, and where he was. Mrs. Hayes answered, that he was gone to take a walk, and then enquired what news there was about town. Her visitor told her that most people's discourse run upon the man's head that had been found at Westminster; Mrs. Hayes seemed to wonder very much at the wickedness of the age, and exclaimed vehemently against such barbarous murderers, adding, "Here is a discourse, too, in our neighbourhood, of a woman who has been found in the fields, mangled and cut to pieces. It may be so", replied Mrs. Longmore, "but I have heard nothing of it."

The next day Wood came again to town, and applied himself to his landlady, Mrs. Hayes, who gave him a pair of shoes, a pair of stockings and a waistcoat of the deceased, and five shillings in money, telling him she would continue to supply him whenever he wanted. She informed him also of her husband's head being found, and though it had been for some time exposed, yet nobody had owned it.

On the sixth of March, the parish officers considering that it might putrify if it continued longer in the air, agreed with one Mr. Westbrook, a surgeon, to have it preserved in spirits. He having accordingly provided a proper glass, put it therein, and showed it to all persons who were desirous of seeing it. Yet the murder remained still undiscovered; and notwithstanding the multitude which had seen it, yet none pretended to be directly positive of the face, though many agreed in their having seen it before.

In the meantime Mrs. Hayes quitted her lodgings, and removed from where the murder was committed to Mr. Jones's, a distiller in the neighbourhood, with Billings, Wood, and Springate, for whom she paid one quarter's rent at her old lodgings. During this time she employed herself in getting as much of her husband's effects as possibly she could, and amongst other papers and securities, finding a bond due to Mr. Hayes from John Davis, who had married Mr. Hayes's sister, she consulted how to get the money. To which purpose she sent for one Mr. Leonard Myring, a barber, and told him that she, knowing him to be her husband's particular friend and acquaintance, and he then being under some misfortunes, through which she feared he would not presently return, she knew not how to recover several sums of money that were due to her husband, unless by sending fictitious letters in his name, to the several persons from whom the same were due. Mr. Myring considering the consequences of such a proceeding declined it. But she prevailed upon some other person to write letters in Mr. Hayes's name, particularly one to his mother, on the 14th of March, to demand ten pounds of the above-mentioned Mr. Davis, threatening if he refused, to sue him for it. This letter Mr. Hayes's mother received, and acquainting her son-in-law Davis with the contents thereof, he offered to pay the money on sending down the bond, of which she by a letter acquainted Mrs. Hayes on the twenty-second of the same month.

During these transactions, several persons came daily to Mr. Westbrook's to see the head. A poor woman at Kingsland, whose husband had been missing the day before it was found, was one amongst them. At first sight she fancied it bore some resemblance to that of her husband, but was not positive enough to swear to it; yet her suspicion at first was sufficient to ground a report, which flew about the town, in the evening, and some enquiries were made after the body of the person to whom it was supposed to belong but to no purpose.

Mrs. Hayes, in the meanwhile, took all the pains imaginable to propagate a story of Mr. Hayes's withdrawing on account of an unlucky blow he had given to a person in a quarrel, and which made him apprehensive of a prosecution, though he was then in treaty with the widow in order to make it up. This story she at first told with many injunctions of secrecy, to persons who she had good reason to believe would, notwithstanding her injunctions, tell it again. It happened, in the interim, that one Mr. Joseph Ashby, who had been an intimate acquaintance of Mr. Hayes, came to see her. She, with a great deal of pretended concern, communicated the tale she had framed to him. Mr. Ashby asked whether the person he had killed was him to whom the head belonged; she said, No, the man who died by Mr. Hayes's blow was buried entire, and Mr. Hayes had given or was about to give, a security to pay the widow fifteen pounds "per annum" to hush it up. Mr. Ashby next enquired where Mr. Hayes was gone; she said to Portugal, with three or four foreign gentlemen.

He thereupon took his leave; but going from thence to Mr. Henry Longmore's, cousin of Mr. Hayes, he related to him the story Mrs. Hayes had told him and expressed a good deal of dissatisfaction thereat, desiring Mr. Longmore to go to her and make the same enquiry as he had done, but without saying they had seen one another. Mr. Longmore went thereupon directly to Mrs. Hayes's, and enquired in a peremptory tone for her husband. In answer she said that she had supposed Mr. Ashby had acquainted him with the misfortune which had befallen him. Mr. Longmore replied he had not seen Mr. Ashby for a considerable time and knew nothing of his cousin's misfortune, not judging of any that could attend him, for he believed he was not indebted to anybody. He then asked if he was in prison for debt. She answered him, No, 'twas worse than that. Mr. Longmore demanded what worse could befall him. As to any debts, he believed he had not contracted any. At which she blessed God and said that neither Mr. Hayes nor herself owed a farthing to any person in the world. Mr. Longmore again importuning her to know what he had done to occasion his absconding so, said "I suppose he has not murdered anybody?" To this she replied, he had, and beckoning him to come upstairs, related to him the story as before mentioned.

Mr. Longmore being inquisitive which way he was gone, she told him into Herefordshire, that Mr. Hayes had taken four pocket pistols with him for his security, viz., one under each arm, and two in his pockets. Mr. Longmore answered, 'twould be dangerous for him to travel in that manner; that any person seeing him so armed with pistols, would cause him to be apprehended on suspicion of being a highwayman. To which she assured him that it was his usual manner; the reason of it was that he had like to have been robbed coming out of the country, and that once he was apprehended on suspicion of being an highwayman, but that a gentleman who knew him, accidentally came in, and seeing him in custody, passed his word for his appearance, by which he was discharged. To that Mr. Longmore made answer that it was very improbable of his ever being stopped on suspicion of being an highwayman, and discharged upon a man's only passing his word for his appearance; he farther persisted which way he was supplied with money for his journey. She told him she had sewn twenty-six guineas into his clothes, and that he had about him seventeen shillings in new silver. She added that Springate, who lodged there, was privy to the whole transaction, for which reason she paid a quarter's rent for her at her old lodgings, and the better to maintain what she had averred, called Springate to justify the truth of it. In concluding the discourse, she reflected on the unkind usage of Mr. Hayes towards her, which surprised Mr. Longmore more than anything else she had said yet, and strengthened his suspicion, because he had often been a witness to her giving Mr. Hayes the best of characters, viz., of a most indulgent, tender husband.

Mr. Longmore then took leave of her and returned back to his friend Mr. Ashby; when, after comparing their several notes together, they judged by very apparent reasons that Mr. Hayes must have had very ill play shown him. Upon which they agreed to go to Mr. Eaton, a Life Guardman who was also an acquaintance of Mr. Hayes's, which accordingly they did, intending him to have gone to Mrs. Hayes also, to have heard what relation she would give him concerning her husband. They went and enquired at several places for him, but he was not then to be found; upon which Mr. Longmore and Mr. Ashby went down to Westminster to see the head at Mr. Westbrook's. When they came there, Mr. Westbrook told them that the head had been owned by a woman from Kingsland, who thought it to be her husband, but was not certain enough to swear it, though the circumstances were strong, because he had been missing from the day before the head was found. They desired to see it and Mr. Ashby first went upstairs to look on it, and coming down, told Mr. Longmore he really thought it to be Mr. Hayes's head, upon which Mr. Longmore went up to see it, and after examining it more particularly than Mr. Ashby, confirmed him in his suspicion. Then they returned to seek out Mr. Eaton, and finding him at home, informed him of their proceedings, with the sufficient reasons upon which their suspicions were founded, and compelled him to go with them to enquire into the affair.

Mr. Eaton pressed them to stay to dinner with him, which at first they agreed to, but afterwards altering their minds, went all down to Mr. Longmore's house and there renewed the reasons of their suspicions, not only of Mr. Hayes's being murdered (being satisfied with seeing the head) but also that his wife was privy to the same. But in order to be more fully satisfied they agreed that Mr. Eaton should in a day or two's time go and enquire for Mr. Hayes, but withal taking no notice of his having seen Mr. Longmore and Mr. Ashby. In the meantime Mr. Longmore's brother interfered, saying, that it seemed apparent to him that his cousin (Mr. Hayes) had been murdered, and that Mrs. Hayes appeared very suspicious to him of being guilty with some other persons, viz., Wood and Billings (who she told him, had drunk with him the night before his journey). He added, moreover, that he thought time was not to be delayed, because they might remove from their lodgings upon the least apprehensions of a discovery.

His opinion prevailed as the most reasonable, and Mr. Longmore said they would go about it immediately. Accordingly he immediately applied to Mr. Justice Lambert and acquainted him with the grounds of their suspicions and their desire of his granting a warrant for the apprehension of the parties. On hearing the story the justice not only readily agreed with them in their suspicions, and complied with their demand, but said also he would get proper officers to execute it in the evening, about nine o'clock, putting Mrs. Hayes, Thomas Wood, Thomas Billings, and Mary Springate into a special warrant for that purpose.

At the hour appointed they met, and Mr. Eaton bringing two officers of the Guards along with them, they went altogether to the house where Mrs. Hayes lodged. They went directly in and upstairs, at which Mr. Jones, who kept the house, demanded who and what they were. He was answered that they were sufficiently authorised in all they did, desiring him at the same time to bring candles and he should see on what occasion they came. Light being thereupon brought they went all upstairs together. Justice Lambert rapped at Mrs. Hayes's door with his cane; she demanded who was there, for that she was in bed, on which she was bid to get up and open it, or they would break it open.

After some time taken to put on her clothes, she came and opened it. As soon as they were in the room they seized her and Billings, who was sitting upon her bedside, without either shoes or stockings on. The justice asked whether he had been in bed with her. She said no, but that he sat there to mend his stockings. "Why, then", replied Mr. Lambert, "he has very good eyes to see to do it without fire or candle", whereupon they seized him too. And leaving persons below to guard them, they went up and apprehended Springate. After an examination in which they would confess nothing, they committed Billings to New Prison, Springate to the Gate House, and Mrs. Hayes to Tothill Fields Bridewell.

The consciousness of her own guilt made Mrs. Hayes very assiduous in contriving such a method of behaviour as might carry the greatest appearance of innocence. In the first place, therefore, she entreated Mr. Longmore that she might be admitted to see the head, in which request she was indulged by Mr. Lambert, who ordered her to have a sight of it as she came from Tothill Fields Bridewell to her examination. Accordingly Mr. Longmore attending the officers to bring Mrs. Hayes from thence the next day to Mr. Lambert's, ordered the coach to stop at Mr. Westbrook's door. And as soon as he entered the house, being admitted into the room, she threw herself down upon her knees, crying out in great agonies, "Oh, it is my dear husband's head! It is my dear husband's head!" and embracing the glass in her arms kissed the outside of it several times. In the meantime Mr. Westbrook coming in, told her that if it was his head she should have a plainer view of it, that he would take it out of the glass for her to have a full sight of it, which he did, by lifting it up by the hair and brought it to her. Taking it in her arms, she kissed it, and seemed in great confusion, withal begging to have a lock of his hair; but Mr. Westbrook replied that he was afraid she had had too much of his blood already. At which she fainted away, and after recovering, was carried to Mr. Lambert's, to be examined before him and some other Justices of the Peace. While these things were in agitation, one Mr. Huddle and his servant walking in Marylebone Fields in the evening, espied something lying in one of the ponds in the fields, which after they had examined it they found to be the legs, thighs, and arms of a man. They, being very much surprised at this, determined to search farther, and the next morning getting assistance drained the pond, where to their great astonishment they pulled out the body of a man wrapped up in a blanket; with the news of which, while Mrs. Hayes was under examination, Mr. Crosby, a constable, came down to the justices, not doubting but this was the body of Mr. Hayes which he had found thus mangled and dismembered.

Yet, though she was somewhat confounded at the new discovery made hereby of the cruelty with which her late husband had been treated, she could not, however, be prevailed on to make any discovery or acknowledgment of her knowing anything of the fact; whereupon the justices who examined her, committed her that afternoon to Newgate, the mob attending her thither with loud acclamations of joy at her commitment, and ardent wishes of her coming to a just punishment, as if they were already convinced of her guilt.

Sunday morning following, Thomas Wood came to town from Greenford, near Harrow, having heard nothing further of the affair, or of the taking up of Mrs. Hayes, Billings, or Springate. The first place he went to was Mrs. Hayes's old lodging; there he was answered that she had moved to Mr. Jones's, a distiller, a little farther in the street. Thither he went, where the people suspected of the murder said Mrs. Hayes was gone to the Green Dragon in King Street, which is Mrs. Longmore's house; and a man who was there told him, moreover, that he was going thither and would show him the way; Wood being on horseback followed him, and he led him the way to Mr. Longmore's house. At this time Mr. Longmore's brother coming to the door, and seeing Wood, immediately seized him, and unhorseing him, dragged him indoors, sent for officers and charged them with him on suspicion of the murder. From thence he was carried before Mr. Justice Lambert, who asked him many questions in relation to the murder; but he would confess nothing, whereupon he was committed to Tothill Fields Bridewell. While he was there he heard the various reports of persons concerning the murder, and from those, judging it impossible to prevent a full discovery or evade the proofs that were against him, he resolved to name an ample confession of the whole affair. Mr. Lambert being acquainted with this, he with John Madun and Thomas Salt, Esqs., two other justices of the peace, went to Tothill Fields Bridewell, to take his examination, in which he seemed very ingenuous and ample declaring all the particulars before mentioned, with this addition that Catherine Hayes was the first promoter of, and a great assistance in several parts of this horrid affair; that he had been drawn into the commission thereof partly through poverty, and partly through her crafty insinuations, who by feeding them with liquors, had spirited them up to the commission of such a piece of barbarity. He farther acknowledged that ever since the commission of the fact he had had no peace, but a continual torment of mind; that the very day before he came from Greenford he was fully persuaded within himself that he should be seized for the murder when he came to town, and should never see Greenford more; notwithstanding which he could not refrain coming, though under an unexpected certainty of being taken, and dying for the fact. Having thus made a full and ample confession, and signed the same on the 27th March, his "mittimus" was made by Justice Lambert, and he was committed to Newgate, whither he was carried under a guard of a serjeant and eight soldiers with muskets and bayonets to keep off the mob, who were so exasperated against the actors of such a piece of barbarity that without that caution it would have been very difficult to have carried him thither alive.

On Monday, the 28th of March, after Mrs. Hayes was committed to Newgate, being the day after Wood's apprehension, Joseph Mercer going to see Mrs. Hayes, she told him that as he was Thomas Billings's friend as well as hers; she desired he would go to him and tell him 'twas in vain to deny any longer the murder of her husband, for they were equally guilty, and both must die for it. Billings hearing this and that Wood was apprehended and had fully confessed the whole affair, thought it needless to persist any longer in a denial, and therefore the next day, being the 29th of March, he made a full and plain discovery of the whole fact, agreeing with Wood in all the particulars; which confession was made and signed in the presence of Gideon Harvey and Oliver Lambert, Esqs., two of his Majesty's justices of peace, whereupon he was removed to Newgate the same day that Wood was.

Wood and Billings, by their several confessions, acquitting Springate of having any concern in the aforesaid murder, she was soon discharged from her confinement.

This discovery making a great noise in the town, divers of Mrs. Hayes's went to visit her in Newgate and examine her as to the and motives that induced her to commit the said fact. Her acknowledgment in general was: that Mr. Hayes had proved but an indifferent husband to her; that one night he came home drunk and struck her; that upon complaining to Billings and Wood they, or one of them, said such a fellow (meaning Mr. Hayes) ought not to live, and that they would murder him for a halfpenny. She took that opportunity to propose her bloody intentions to them, and her willingness that they should do so; she was acquainted with their design, heard the blow given to Mr. Hayes by Billings, and then went with Wood into the room; she held the candle while the head was cut off, and in excuse for this bloody fact, said the devil was got into them all that made them do it. When she was made sensible that her crime in law was not only murder, but petty treason, she began to show great concern indeed, making very strict enquiries into the nature of the proof which was necessary to convict, and having possessed herself with a notion that it appeared she murdered him with her own hands, she was very angry that either Billings or Wood should, by their confession, acknowledge her guilty of the murder, and thereby subject her to that punishment which of all others she most feared, often repeating that it was hard they would not suffer her to be hanged with them! When she was told of the common report that Billings was her son, she affected, at first, to make a great mystery of it; said he was her own flesh and blood, indeed, but that he did not know how nearly he was related to her himself; at other times she said she would never disown him while she lived, and showed a greater tenderness for him than for herself, and sent every day to the condemned hold where he lay, to enquire after his health. But two or three days before her death, she became as the ordinary tells us a little more sincere in this respect, affirming that he was not only her child, but Mr. Hayes's also, though put out to another person, with whom he was bred up in the country and called him father.

There are generally a set of people about most prisons, and especially about Newgate, who get their living by imposing on unhappy criminals, and persuading them that guilt may be covered, and Justice evaded by certain artful contrivances in which they profess themselves masters. Some of these had got access to this unhappy woman, and had instilled into her a notion that the confession of Wood and Billings could no way affect her life. This made her vainly imagine that there was no positive proof against her, and that circumstantials only would not convict her. For this reason she resolved to put herself upon her trial (contrary to her first intentions; for having been asked what she would do, she had replied she would hold up her hand at the bar and plead guilty, for the whole world could not save her). Accordingly, being arraigned, she pleaded not guilty, and put herself upon her trial. Wood and Billings both pleaded guilty, and desired to make atonement for the same by the loss of their blood, only praying the Court would be graciously pleased to favour them so much (as they had made an ingenuous confession) as to dispense with their being hanged in chains.

Mrs. Hayes having thus put herself upon her trial, the King's Counsel opened the indictment, setting forth the heinousness of the fact, the premeditated intentions, and inhuman method of acting it; that his Majesty for the more effectual prosecution of such vile offenders, and out of a tender regard to the peace and welfare of all his subjects, and that the actors and perpetrators of such unheard of barbarities might be brought to condign punishment, had given them directions to prosecute the prisoners.

Then Richard Bromage, Robert Wilkins, Leonard Myring, Joseph Mercer, John Blakesby, Mary Springate, and Richard Bows, were called into Court; the substance of whose evidence against the prisoner was that the prisoner being interrogated about the murder, when in Newgate, said, the devil put it into her head, but, however, John Hayes was none of the best of husbands, for she had been half starved ever since she was married to him; that she did not in the least repent of anything she had done, but only in drawing those two poor men into this misfortune; that she was six weeks importuning them to do it; that they denied it two or three times, but at last agreed; her husband was so drunk that he fell out of his chair, then Billings and Wood, carried him into the next room, and laid him upon the bed; that she was not in that room but in the fore room on the same floor when he was killed, but they told her that Billings struck him twice on the head with a pole-axe, and that then Wood cut his throat; that when he was quite dead she went in and held the candle whilst Wood cut his head quite off, and afterwards they chopped off his legs and arms; that they wanted to get him into an old chest, but were forced to cut off his thighs and arms, and then the chest would not hold them all; the body and limbs were put into blankets at several times the next night, and thrown into a pond, that the devil was in them all, and they were all drunk; that it would signify nothing to make a long preamble, she could hold up her hand and say she was guilty, for nothing could save her, nobody could forgive her; that the men who did the murder were taken and confessed it; that she was not with them when they did it; that she was sitting by the fire in the shop upon a stool; that she heard the blow given and somebody stamp; that she did not cry out, for fear they should kill her; that after the head was cut off, it was put into a pail, and Wood carried it out; that Billings sat down by her and cried, and would lie all the rest of the night in the room with the dead body; that the first occasion of this design to murder him was because he came home one night and beat her, upon which Billings said this fellow deserved to be killed, and Wood said he would be his butcher for a penny; that she told them they might do as they would do it that night it was done; that she did not tell her husband of the design to murder him, for fear he should beat her; that she sent to Billings to let him know it was in vain to deny the murder of her husband any longer, for they were both guilty, and must both die for it.

Many other circumstances equally strong with those before mentioned appeared, and a cloud of witnesses, many of whom (the thing appearing so plain) were sent away unexamined. She herself confessed at the bar her previous knowledge of their intent several days before the fact was committed; yet foolishly insisted on her innocence, because the fact was not committed by her own hands. The jury, without staying long to consider of it, found her guilty, and she was taken from the bar in a very weak and faint condition. On her return to Newgate, she was visited by several persons of her acquaintance, who yet were so far from doing her any good that they rather interrupted her in those preparations which it became a woman in her sad condition to make.

When they were brought up to receive sentence, Wood and Billings renewed their former requests to the Court, that they might not be hung in chains. Mrs. Hayes also made use of her former assertion, that she was not guilty of actually committing the fact, and therefore begged of the Court that she might at least have so much mercy shown her as not to be burnt alive. The judges then proceeded in the manner prescribed by Law, that is, they sentenced the two men, with the other malefactors, to be hanged, and Mrs. Hayes, as in all cases of petty treason, to die by fire at a stake; at which she screamed, and being carried back to Newgate, fell into violent agonies. When the other criminals were brought thither after sentence passed, the men were confined in the same place with the rest in their condition, but Mrs. Hayes was put into a place by herself, which was at that time the apartment allotted to women under condemnation.

Perhaps nobody ever kept their thoughts so long and so closely united to the world, as appeared by the frequent messages she sent to Wood and Billings in the place where they were confined, and that tenderness which she expressed for both of them seemed preferable to any concern she showed for her own misfortunes, lamenting in the softest terms of having involved those two poor men in the commission of a fact for which they were now to lose their lives. In which, indeed, they deserved pity, since, as I shall show hereafter, they were persons of unblemished characters, and of virtuous inclinations, until misled by her.

As to the sense she had of her own circumstances, there has been scarce any in her state known to behave with so much indifference. She said often that death was neither grievous nor terrible to her in itself, but was in some degree shocking from the manner in which she was to die. Her fondness for Billings hurried her into indecencies of a very extraordinary nature, such as sitting with her hand in his at chapel, leaning upon his shoulder, and refusing upon being reprimanded (for giving offence to the congregation) to make any amendment in respect of these shocking passages between her and the murderers of her husband, but on the contrary, she persisted in them to the very minute of her death. One of her last expressions was to enquire of the executioner whether he had hanged her dear child, and this, as she was going from the sledge to the stake, so strong and lasting were the passions of this woman.

The Friday night before her execution (being assured she should die on the Monday following) she attempted to make away with herself; to which purpose she had procured a bottle of strong poison, designing to have taken the same. But a woman who was in the place with her, touching it with her lips, found that it burnt them to an extraordinary degree, and spilling a little on her handkerchief, perceived it burnt that also; upon which suspecting her intentions, she broke the phial, whereby her design was frustrated.

On the day of her execution she was at prayers, and received the Sacrament in the chapel, where she still showed her tenderness to Billings. About twelve, the prisoners were severally carried away for execution; Billings with eight others for various crimes were put into three carts, and Catherine Hayes was drawn upon a sledge to the place of execution; where being arrived, Billings with eight others, after having had some time for their private devotions, were turned off.

After which Catherine Hayes being brought to the stake, was chained thereto with an iron chain running round her waist and under her arms and a rope about her neck, which was drawn through a hole in the post; then the faggots, intermixed with light brush wood and straw, being piled all round her, the executioner put fire thereto in several places, which immediately blazing out, as soon as the same reached her, with her arms she pushed down those which were before her. When she appeared in the middle of the flames as low as her waist, the executioner got hold of the end of the cord which was round her neck, and pulled tight, in order to strangle her, but the fire soon reached his hand and burnt it, so that he was obliged to let it go again. More faggots were immediately thrown upon her, and in about three or four hours she was reduced to ashes.

In the meantime, Billings's irons were put upon him as he was hanging on the gallows; after which being cut down, he was carried to the gibbet, about one hundred yards distance, and there hung up in chains.


[1] The old name for Oxford Street.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals