The Life of THOMAS BILLINGS
We have said so much of this malefactor in the foregoing life, yet it was necessary, in order to preserve the connection of that barbarous story, to leave the particular consideration of these two assistants in the murder of Mr. Hayes to particular chapters, and therefore we will begin with Billings. Mrs. Hayes, some time before her execution, confidently averred that he was the son both of Mr. Hayes and of herself, that his father not liking him, he was put out to relations of hers and took the name of Billings from his godfather. But Mr. Hayes's relations confidently denying all this, and he himself saying he knew nothing more than that he called his father a shoemaker in the country, who some time since was dead. He was put apprentice to a tailor with whom he served his time, and then came up to London to work journey-work, which he did in Monmouth Street, lodging at Mr. Hayes's and believed himself nearly related to his wife, who from the influence she always maintained over him, drew him to the commission of that horrid fact.
But the most certain opinion is that he was found in a basket upon the common, near the place where Mrs. Hayes lived before she married Mr. Hayes, that he was at that time of his death about twenty-two or twenty-three years old; whereas it evidently appeared by her own confession, that she had been married to Mr. Hayes but twenty years and eight months. He was put out to nurse by the charge of the parish, to people whose names were Billings, and when he was big enough to go apprentice, was bound to one Mr. Wetherland, a tailor, to whom the parish gave forty shillings with him. It is very probable he might be a natural son of Mrs. Hayes's, born in her rambles (of which we have hinted) before her marriage, and dropped by her in the place where he was found.
As to the character of Billings in the country he was always reputed a sober, honest, industrious young man. During the time he had worked in town, he had done nothing to impeach that reputation which he brought up with him, and might possibly have lived very happily, if he had not fallen into the temptation of this unfortunate woman, who seems to have been born for her own undoing and for the destruction of others. Whatever knowledge he might have of that relation in which he stood to Mrs. Hayes, certain it is that she always preserved such an authority over him that in her presence he would never answer any questions but constantly referred himself to her, or kept an obstinate silence; he affected, also, a strange fondness for her, kissing her cheek when she fainted in the chapel at Newgate, and behaving himself when near her, in such a manner as gave great offence to the spectators. As to the remorse he had for the horrid crime he had committed, those who had occasion to know him while under confinement thought him sincere therein; but the Ordinary, whose place it is to be supreme judge in these matters, told the world in his account of the behaviour and confession of the malefactors, that he was a confused, hard-hearted fellow, and had few external signs of penitence; and a little farther, when possibly he was in a better humour, he says that in all appearance he was very penitent for his sins, and died in the Communion of the Church of England, of which he owned himself an unworthy member.
Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals