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


Thieves and Footpads

James Cammel was born of parents in very low circumstances, and the misfortunes arising therefrom were much increased by his father dying while he was an infant, and leaving him to the care of a widow in the lowest circumstances of life. The consequence was what might be easily foreseen, for he forgot what little he had learned in his youngest days, loitering away his time about Islington, Hoxton, Moorfield, and such places, being continually drinking there, and playing at cudgels, skittles, and such like. He never applied himself to labour or honest working for his bread, but either got it from his mother or a few other friends, or by methods of a more scandalous nature--I mean pilfering and stealing from others, for which after he had long practised it, he came at last to an untimely death.

He was a fellow of a froward disposition, hasty and yet revengeful, and made up of almost all the vices that go to forming a debauchee in low life. He had had a long acquaintance with the person that suffered with him for their offences, but what made him appear in the worst light was that he had endeavoured to commit acts of cruelty at the time he did the robbery. Notwithstanding he insisted not only that he was innocent of the latter part of the offence but that he never committed the robbery at all, though Marshal his associate did not deny it.

They had been together in these exploits for some time, and once particularly coming from Sadlers Wells, they took from a gentlewoman a basket full of bed-child linen to a very great value, which offering to sell to a woman in Monmouth Street, she privately sent for a constable to apprehend them. One of their companions who went with them observing this, he tipped them the wink to be gone, which the old woman of the house perceiving, caught hold of Marshal by the coat; and while they struggled, the third man whipped off a gold watch, a silver collar and bells, and a silver plate for holding snuffers, and pretending to interpose in the quarrel slipped through them, and out at the door, as Cammel and Marshal did immediately after him.

Once upon a time it happened that Marshal had no money, and his credit being at a par, and a warrant out to take him for a great debt, and another to take him for picking of pockets, he was in a great quandary how to escape both. He strolled into St. James's Park, and walking there pretty late behind the trees, a woman came up to the seat directly before him, when she fell to roaring and crying. Marshal being unseen, clapped himself down behind the seat, and listened with great attention. He perceived the woman had her pocket in her hand, and heard her distinctly say that a rogue not to be contented with cutting one pocket and taking it away, but he must cut the other and let it drop at her foot. Then she wiped her eyes and laying down her pocket by her, began to shake her petticoats to see if the other pocket had not lodged between them as the former had done. So Marshal took the opportunity and secretly conveyed that away, thinking one lamentation might serve for both. Upon turning the pocket out, he found only a thread paper, a housewife and a crown piece. Upon this crown piece he lived a fortnight at a milk-house, coming twice a day for milk, and hiding himself at nights in some of the grass plots, it being summer.

But his creditor dying, and the person whose pocket he had picked going to Denmark, he came abroad again, and soon after engaged with Cammel in the fact for which they were both hanged. It was committed upon a man and a woman coming through the fields from Islington, and the things they took did not amount to above 30 shillings. After they were convicted and had received sentence of death, Cammel sent for "The Practice of Piety, The Whole Duty of Man", and such other good books as he thought might assist him in the performance of their duty. Yet notwithstanding all the outward appearance of resignation to the Divine Will, the Sunday before his execution, upon the coming in to the chapel of a person whom he took to be his prosecutor, he flew into a very great passion, and expressed his uneasiness that he had no instrument there to murder him with; and notwithstanding all that could be said to him to abate his passion, he continued restless and uneasy until the person was obliged to withdraw, and then with great attention applied himself to hear the prayers, and discourse that was made proper for that occasion.

Marshal in the meanwhile continued very sick, but though he could not attend the chapel, did all that could be expected from a true penitent. In this condition they both continued until the time of their death, when Marshal truly acknowledged the fact, but Cammel prevaricated about it, and at last peremptorily denied it. They suffered on the 30th of April, 1725, Cammel appearing with an extraordinary carelessness and unconcern, desired them to put him out of the world quickly, and was very angry that they did not do it in less time.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals