Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Stephen Dowdale


a Thief

This unfortunate man was the son of parents in good circumstances in the Kingdom of Ireland, who were very careful of giving him the best education they were capable of, both as to letters and as to the principles of the Christian religion. Yet from some hope they had of his succeeding in a military way, they chose rather to let him serve in the army than breed him to any particular trade. It seems he behaved so well in the regiment of dragoons in which he served, that his officers advanced him to the post of sergeant, and just as the Peace was concluded, he had hopes of being made a quartermaster. But the regiment then being broke, his hopes were all dissipated, and he thrown into the world to shift for himself as well as he could.

In Ireland he remained with his friends some years, but finding by degrees that their kindness cooled, and that it would be impossible for him to subsist much longer upon the bounty of his relations, he thereupon resolved to come over at once to England and endeavour to live here by his wits. The gaming tables were the places where he chiefly resorted, but finding that fortune was a mistress not to be depended upon he resolved to take some more certain method of living, and for that purpose associated himself with ten or a dozen knights of the road. He continued his practices without the least suspicion for a very considerable time, in all which he appeared one of the greatest beaux at the other end of the town.

But growing uneasy in the midst of that seeming gaiety in which he lived, and being under some apprehensions that one or more of his companions was meditating means of making peace with the government at the expense of his life, he resolved to prevent them; and thereupon surrendered himself of his own accord into the hands of a constable, and gave the best information he was able against all his confederates. But however it was, most of them had previous knowledge of the warrants issued against them, and thereby made their escapes. Others who were apprehended were acquitted by the jury, notwithstanding this evidence against them, so that the public not being likely to reap any benefit by his discovery, some people thought proper to turn his own confession upon himself. Accordingly, at the next Sessions at the Old Bailey, he was indicted for feloniously stealing a gold watch value twenty pounds, out of the house of Thomas Martin, on the 30th of August preceding the indictment. He was also indicted a second time for feloniously stealing a diamond ring out of the shop of John Trible, on the 25th of August. Both these facts were in the information he had made, and therefore the proof was dear and direct against him, and beyond his power to avoid by any defence.

Under sentence of death be behaved himself with great resignation, seemed to be very penitent for those numerous offences he had committed, though now and then he let fell expressions which showed that he thought himself hardly dealt with by those who had received his confession. However, what with fear and concern, and what with the moistness of the place wherein he was confined, he fell into a grievous distemper, which quickly increased into a high fever, which affected his senses, and shortly after took away his life, just as a very worthy gentleman in the commission for the peace for Middlesex had procured his life, which was thus ended by the course of Nature though in the cells of Newgate, he being then in the forty-fourth year of his age. He died on the 5th of April, 1730.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals