Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: John Guy

The Life of JOHN GUY

a Deer-stealer

One would have thought that the numerous executions which had happened upon the appearance of those called the Waltham Blacks and the severity of that Act of Parliament which their folly had occasioned, would effectually have prevented any outrages for the future upon either the forests belonging to the Crown, or the parks of private gentlemen; but it seems there were still fools capable of undertaking such mad exploits.

It is said that Guy being at a public house with a young woman whom, as the country people phrase it, was his sweetheart, a discourse arose at supper concerning the expeditions of the deer-stealers, which Guy's mistress took occasion to express great admiration of, and to regard them as so many heroes, who had behaved with courage enough to win the most obdurate heart, adding that she was very fond of venison, and she wished she had known some of them. This silly accident proved fatal to the poor fellow, who engaging with one Biddisford, an old deer-stealer, they broke into such forests and parks and carried off abundance of deer with impunity. But the keepers at last getting a number of stout young fellows to their assistance, waylaid them one night, when they were informed by the keeper of an alehouse that Guy and Biddisford intended to come for deer.

I must inform my reader that the method these young men took in deer-stealing was this. They went into the park on foot, sometimes with a crossbow, and sometimes with a couple of dogs, being armed always, however, with pistols for their own defence. When they had killed a buck, they trussed him up and put him upon their backs and so walked off, neither of them being able to procure horses for such service.

On the night that the keepers were acquainted with their coming, they sent to a neighbouring gentleman for the assistance of two of his grooms; the fellows came about 11 o'clock at night, and tying their horses in a little copse went to the place where the keepers had appointed to keep guard. This was on a little rising ground, planted with a star grove, through the avenues of which they could see all round them without being discerned themselves. No sooner, therefore, had Guy and his companion passed into the forest, but suffering them to pass by one of the entries of the grove where they were, they immediately issued out upon them, and pursued them so closely that they were within a few yards of them when they entered the coppice, where the two grooms had left their horses. They did not stay so much as to untie them, but cutting the bridles, mounted them and rode off as hard as they could, turning them loose as soon as they were in safety, and got home secure, because the keepers could not say they had done anything but walk across the forest.

This escape of theirs and some others of the same nature, made them so bold that not contented with the deer in chases and such places, they broke into the paddock of Anthony Duncombe, Esq., and there killed certain fallow deer. One Charles George who was the keeper, and some of his assistants hearing the noise they made, issued out, and a sharp fight beginning, the deer-stealers at last began to fly. But a blunderbuss being fired after them, two of the balls ripped the belly of Biddisford, who died on the spot; and soon after the keepers coming up, John Guy was taken. And being tried for this offence at the ensuing sessions of the Old Bailey, he was convicted and received sentence of death, though it was some days after before he could be persuaded that he should really suffer.

When he found himself included in the death warrant, he applied himself heartily to prayer and other religious duties, seeming to be thoroughly penitent for the crimes he had committed, and with great earnestness endeavoured to make amends for his follies, by sending the most tender letters to his companions who had been guilty of the same faults, to induce them to forsake such undertakings, which would surely bring them to the same fate which he suffered, for so inconsiderable a thing perhaps as a haunch of venison. Whether these epistles had the effect for which they were designed, I am not able to say, but the papers I have by me inform me that the prisoner Guy died with very cheerful resolution, not above twenty-five years of age, the same day with the malefactors before mentioned.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals