Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Lives of Remarkable Criminals: William Newcomb


a housebreaker

Though the many instances we have, of late years, had of amazing wickednesses committed by lads one would scarce believe were capable of executing, much less of contriving schemes so full of ginning and of guilt, ought in a great measure to prevent our being surprised at anything of the same kind, let it be committed by ever such a stripling, yet I confess it was not without wonder that I perused the papers relating to this unfortunate young man--so strong an instance of a great capacity for mischief at the same time that he never once evidenced either care or ability in succeeding in an honest way. On the contrary, he was assidious only to attain as much money as might put him on the road of debauchery, and then stupidly gave himself up to squandering it in the gratification of his lusts, until indigence brought to rack his inventions again, and his second attempt proving abortive, brought him to the gallows.

He was born of honest parents, who took care enough in his education to qualify him for the business of a shoemaker, for which they designed him, and to which they put him apprentice. He had not served above three years of his time, before he robbed his master of a very considerable sum of money. The man having a respect for his family, put him away without prosecuting him. His father took him home, but, however, reproaching him very often for the villainous facts he had committed, he went away from him and lay about the town, intending to take the first opportunity that offered of stealing a good booty, and march off into the country.

At last, after consulting with himself for some time, he fixed upon a banker's shop in Lombard Street, within two doors of the church of St. Edmund the King, thinking with himself that if once he could get into that shop, be should make himself at a blow. In order to it he got into the church overnight and stayed there until morning, when, just as it began to grow light, he steered downstairs into the shop, having got over the top of Mr. Jenkin's house, and watching his opportunity, laid hold of a single bag and slipped out of doors with it. The booty was indeed a large one, for it happened that what he took was all gold, which was upwards of eight hundred guineas. This put it in his power to show himself in that state of life which he most admired, for sending for a tailor be had two or three suits of fine clothes made, bought a couple of geldings, hired a footman in livery to attend him, and thus equipped set out for the horse races at Newmarket.

Women and gaming very soon reduced the bulk of his gold and in six or seven months, finding his pockets very low, he returned to London to replenish himself. The good success he before had in robbing a banker, and his knowing nobody was so likely to furnish him with ready money, put him upon making the like attempt at Mr. Hoare's, into whose house he got and endeavoured to conceal himself as conveniently as he could for that purpose. But being detected and apprehended on the roof of the house, whither he had fled to avoid pursuit, he was committed to Newgate, and at the next sessions at the Old Bailey, was tried for burglary, and convicted.

Under sentence of death he behaved with great mildness and civility. He confessed his having been as great a sinner as his years would give him leave, addicted to whoring, drunkenness, gaming and having quite obliterated all the religious principles which his former education had instilled into him. However, he endeavoured to retrieve as much as possible the knowledge of his duty, and to fulfil it by praying to Almighty God for the forgiveness of his many offences; and in this disposition of mind he departed this life, on the 17th of February, 1730, being about nineteen years of age.

Source: Hayward, Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals