MICHAEL VAN BERGHEN, CATHERINE VAN BERGHEN AND DROMELIUS, THEIR SERVANT, PUBLICANS
Executed 10th of July, 1700, for the Murder of their Guest, Mr Oliver Norris
THESE criminals were natives of Holland, who, having settled in England, kept a public-house in East Smithfield in 1700, and where Geraldius Dromelius acted as their servant. Mr Oliver Norris was a country gentleman who lodged at an inn near Aldgate, and who went into the house of Van Berghen about eight o'clock in the evening, and continued to drink there till about eleven. Finding himself rather intoxicated, he desired the maidservant to call a coach to carry him home.
As she was going to do so her mistress whispered to her, and bade her return in a little time and say that a coach was not to be procured. These directions being observed, Norris, on the maid's return, resolved to go without a coach, and accordingly took his leave of the family; but he had not gone far before he discovered that he had been robbed of a purse containing a sum of money; whereupon he returned and charged Van Berghen and his wife with having been guilty of the robbery. This they positively denied, and threatened to turn him out of the house; but he refused to go, and resolutely went into a room where the cloth was laid for supper.
At this time Dromelius entered the room, and threatening Mr Norris in a cavalier manner, the latter resented the insult, and at length a quarrel ensued. At this juncture, Van Berghen seized a poker, with which he fractured Mr Norris's skull, and in the meantime Dromelius stabbed him in different parts of the body, Mrs Van Berghen being present during the perpetration of the horrid act. When Mr Norris was dead they stripped him of his coat, waistcoat, hat, wig, etc., and then Van Berghen and Dromelius carried the body and threw it into a ditch which communicated with the Thames; and in the meantime Mrs Van Berghen washed the blood of the deceased from the floor of the room.
The clothes which had been stripped from the deceased were put up in a hamper and committed to the care of Dromelius, who took a boat and carried them over to Rotherhithe, where he employed the waterman to carry the hamper to lodgings which he had taken, and in which he proposed to remain until he could find a favourable opportunity of embarking for Holland.
The next morning, at low water, the body of a man was found, and several of the neighbours went to take a view of it, and endeavoured to try if they could trace any blood to the place where the murder might have been committed; but not succeeding in this, some of them who were up at a very early hour recollected that they had seen Van Berghen and Dromelius coming almost from the spot where the body was found, and remarked that a light had been carried backwards and forwards in Van Berghen's house.
Upon this the house was searched; but no discovery was made, except that a little blood was found behind the door of a room which appeared to have been lately mopped. Inquiry was made after Dromelius, but Van Berghen and his wife would give no other account than that he had left their service. On which they were taken into custody, with the servant-maid, who was the principal evidence against them. At this time the waterman who had carried Dromelius to Rotherhithe, and who knew him very well, appeared, and he was likewise taken into custody.
The prisoners were tried by a jury of half Englishmen and half foreigners, to circumstances above mentioned appeared so striking that they did not hesitate to find the prisoners guilty, and accordingly they received sentence of death. They were executed near the Hartshorn brewhouse, East Smithfield, being the nearest convenient spot to the place where the murder was committed, on the 10th of July, in the year 1700. The bodies of the men were hung in chains between Bow and Mile End, but the woman was buried.