Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Katherine Fitzpatrick


a notorious Shoplift

After once the mercers had got Burton, who was the evidence, into their hands, she quickly detected numbers of her confederates, several of whom were apprehended, and chiefly on her evidence, convicted. Amongst the rest was this Katherine Fitzpatrick, who was born in Lincolnshire, of parents far from being in low circumstances, and who were careful in bestowing on her a very tolerable education. In the country she discovered a little too much forwardness, and though London was a very improper place in which to hope for her amendment, yet hither her friends sent her, where she quickly fell into such company as deprived her of all sentiments, either of virtue or honesty. What practices she might pursue before she fell into shoplifting I have not been able to learn, and will not therefore impose upon my readers at the expense of a poor creature, who is so long ago gone to answer for her offences, which, as they were doubtless many of themselves, so they shall never be increased by me.

Being a woman of a tolerable person, notwithstanding her not having the best of characters, she got a man in the mind to marry her, to whom she made an indifferent good wife; and though he was not altogether clear from knowing of her being concerned with shoplifters, yet he was so far from giving her the least encouragement therein that they were on the contrary continually quarrelling upon this subject; and whenever, from any circumstances, he guessed she had been thieving, he beat her severely. Yet all this was to no purpose, she still continued to treat in the old path and associated herself with a large number of women, who were at this time busy in stealing silks out of the shops, either in the absence of the master, or under the pretence of seeing others. It is observable not only of Katherine Fitzpatrick, of whom we are now speaking, but also of all the persons who died for this offence, that they were extremely shy of making detailed confessions, though ready enough to confess in general that they had been grievous sinners, and that the punishment they were to undergo was very just from the hand of God. Fitzpatrick, as well as the former criminal Holmes, charged Burton the evidence with disingenuity in what she delivered on her oath against them, and yet Fitzpatrick could not absolutely deny having been guilty of a multitude of offences as to shoplifting, so that it is highly probable, even if the evidence erred a little in immaterial circumstances, that in the main she swore truth.

The particular facts on which Fitzpatrick was convicted, were: (1) stealing 19 yards of green damask valued at L9, the goods of Joseph Giffard and John Ravenal, on July the 29th, 1724; (2) Taking 10 yards of green satin out of the shop of John Moon and Richard Stone, value L3, on the 10th February, 1724/25; (3) Stealing, in company with another person, 50 yards of green mantua, value L10, the goods of John Autt, May the 5th, 1725; (4) Stealing 63 yards of modena and pink italian mantua, the goods of Joshua Fairy, February 24, 1724/25. These dates were all of them somewhat more than a twelvemonth before the time of her apprehension, and she insisted on it that she had left off committing any such thing for a considerable space, which made the evidence envy her, and so brought on the prosecution.

As she was a woman of good natural parts, and had not utterly lost that education which had been bestowed upon her, she was not near so much confuted at the apprehensions of death as people in her circumstances usually are. She said she was glad she had some reformation in her life before this great evil came upon her, because she hoped her repentance was the more sincere as it had not proceeded from force; yet she was very desirous of life when first condemned, and, like Mrs. Holmes, pleaded her belly, in hopes her pregnancy might have prevented her execution. But a jury of matrons found neither of them to be quick with child; yet both to the time of their death averred they were so, and seemed exceedingly uneasy that their children should die violent deaths within them.

When the time of her execution drew very near, she called her thoughts totally off from worldly affairs, and seemed to apply herself to the great business which lay before her, with an earnestness and assiduity seldom to be seen in such people. The assistance she had from her friends abroad were not large, but she contented herself with a very spare diet, being unwilling that anything should call her off from penitence and religious duties. She seemed to have entirely weaned her affections from the desire of life, and never showed any extraordinary emotions, except on the visit of her youngest child, in the nurse's arms, at the first sight of which she fell into strong convulsion fits, from which she was not brought to herself without great difficulty. She sometimes expressed a little uneasiness at the misfortunes which had befallen her after she had left off that way of living, but upon her being spoken to by several reverend persons, who explained and vindicated the wisdom and justice of Providence, she acquiesced under its decrees, and without murmuring submitted to her fate.

A little before she died, she, with the rest of the shoplifters, was asked some questions concerning one Mrs. Susanna, who was suspected of having been in some degree concerned with her. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Holmes each of them declared that they knew nothing evil about her. Mrs. Fitzpatrick did indeed say that she had some little acquaintance with the woman, and knew that she got her living by selling coffee, tea, and some other little things, yet never was concerned in any ill practices in relation to them, or anybody else she knew of. After having done this public justice, she, with great meekness, yielded up her breath at Tyburn, the 6th of September, 1726, being then about thirty-eight years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals