Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: James Booty


a Ravisher

Such is the present depravity of human nature that we have sometimes instances of infant criminals and children meriting death by their crimes, before they know or can be expected to know how to do anything to live. Perhaps there was never a stronger instance of this than in James Booty, of whom we are now speaking. He was a boy rather without capacity than obstinate, whose inclinations, one would have expected, could hardly have attained to that pitch of wickedness in thought, which it appeared both by evidence and his own confessions, he had actually practised. His father was a peruke-maker in Holborn, and not in so bad circumstances but that he could have afforded him a tolerable education, if he had not been snatched away by death. Thus his son was left to the care of his mother, who put him to a cabinet-maker, where he might have been bound apprentice if the unhappy accident (for so indeed I think it may be called) had not intervened. It seemed his master had taken a cousin of his, a girl of about fifteen or somewhat more, for a servant. This girl went into the workshop where the boy lay, under pretence of mending his coat, which he had torn by falling upon a hook as he stumbled over the well of the stairs; but instead of darning the hole, she went to bed to the boy, put out the candle, and gave him the foul distemper.

Not knowing what was the matter with him, but finding continual pains in his body, he made a shift at last to learn the cause from some of the workmen. Not daring to trust even his mother with what was the matter with him, instead of applying to a proper person to be cured, he listened as attentively as he could to all discourses about that distemper, which happened frequently enough amongst his master's journeymen. There he heard some of the foolish fellows say that lying with any person who was sound would cure those who were in such a condition. The extreme anguish of body he was in excited him to try the experiment, and he injured no less than four or five children, between four years old and six, before he committed that act for which he was executed.

He one day carried his master's daughter, Anne Milton, a girl of but five years and two months old, to the top of the house, and there with great violence abused her and gave her the foul disease. The parents were not long before they made the discovery of it, and the child telling them what Booty had done to her, they sent for a surgeon who examined him, and found him in a very sad condition with venereal disease. Upon this he was taken up and committed to Newgate, and upon very full evidence was convicted at the next sessions, and received sentence of death; from which time to the day before he was executed, he was afflicted with so violent a fever as to have little or no sense. But then coming to himself, he expressed a confused sense of religion and penitence, desired to be instructed how to go to Heaven, and showed evident marks of his inclination to do anything which might be for the good of his soul.

At the place of execution he wept and looked dejected, said his mother had sought diligently for the wench who did him the injury, and was the cause of his doing it to so many others; but that although the girl was known to live in Westminster after she left his master, yet his mother was never able to find her. Thus was this young creature removed from the world by an ignominious death at Tyburn, on the 21st May, 1722, being then somewhat above fifteen years old.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals