Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: Thomas Wood


a Murderer

This malefactor, Thomas Wood, was born at a place called Ombersley, between Ludlow and Worcester, of parents in very indifferent circumstances, who were therefore able to give him but little education. He was bred up to no settled business, but laboured in all such country employments as require only a robust body for their performance. When the summer's work was over, he used to assist as a tapster at inns and alehouses in the neighbourhood of the village where he was born, and by the industry, care, and regularity which he observed in all things, gained a very great reputation as an honest and faithful servant with all that knew him.

His mother having been left in a needy condition, with several small children, she set up a little alehouse in order to get bread for them. Thomas was very dutiful, and as his diligence enabled him to save a little money, so he was by no means backwards in giving her all the assistance that was in his power. Some few months before his death, he grew desirous of coming to London, which he did accordingly, and worked at whatsoever employment he could get both with fidelity and diligence; but a fleet being then setting out for the Mediterranean, press-warrants were granted for the manning thereof, and the diligence that was used in putting them in execution gave great uneasiness to Wood, who, having no settled business, was afraid of falling into their hands. Whereupon he bethought himself of his countryman, Mr. Hayes, to whom he applied for his advice and assistance. Mr. Hayes kindly invited him to live with them in order to avoid that danger, and he accordingly lay with Mr. Billings, as has been before related. Mr. Hayes was moreover so desirous of doing him service that he applied himself to finding out such persons as wanted labourers in order to get him into business, while Mrs. Hayes, in the meantime, made use of every blandishment to seduce the fellow into following her wicked inclinations. Perceiving that both Billings and he had religious principles then in common with ordinary persons, she artfully made even those persons' dispositions subservient to her brutal and inhuman purpose.

It seems that Mr. Hayes had fallen, within a few years of his death, into the company of some who called themselves Free-thinkers and fancy an excellency in their own understandings because they are able to ridicule those things which the rest of the world think sacred. Though it is no great conquest to obtrude the belief of anything whatsoever on persons of small parts and little education, yet they triumph greatly therein and communicate the same honour of boasting in their pupils. Mr. Hayes now and then let fall some rather rash expression, as to his disbelief of the immortality of the soul, and talked in such a manner on religious topics that Mrs. Hayes persuaded Billings and Wood that he was an Atheist, and as he believed his own soul of no greater value than that of a brute beast, there could be no difference between killing him and them. It must be indeed acknowledged that there was no less oddity in such propositions than in those of her husband; however, it prevailed, it seems, with these unfortunate men; and as she had already persuaded them it was no sin, so when they were intoxicated with liquor she found it less difficult than at any other time, to deprive them also of the humanity, and engage them in perpetrating a fact so opposite not only to religion but to the natural tenderness of the human species. Wood, as he yielded to her persuasions with reluctance, so he was the first who showed any true remorse of conscience for that cruel act of which he had been guilty; his confession of it being free and voluntary, and at the same time full and ingenious. Two days after receiving sentence, his constitution began to give way to the violence of a feverish distemper, which by a natural death prevented his execution, he dying in Newgate, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, much more pitied than either Billings or Mrs. Hayes who suffered at Tyburn. And thus with Wood we put a period to the relation of a tragedy which surprised the world exceedingly at the same time it happened, and will doubtless be read with horror in succeeding generations.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals