Murdered a Constable during a Riot in Mayfair, and was executed on 11th of August, 1703
How frequently do we find that the guilty, in the interval of time between the commission and discovery of a murder, are compelled by an irresistible infatuation to introduce the subject of their crime into conversation with strangers. Many years ago a mail robber was apprehended in a remote part of Cornwall, on suspicion, from his frequently speaking upon the nature and danger of plundering the public mail, and executed for that offence. The subject of the present memoir was taken into custody at Chester for a crime committed in London, merely from his constant relation of the riot in which lie had committed the murder. Thus, by a kind of mentalignis fatuus, the murderer was led on to his own detection. These are the workings of conscience, that earthly hell which torments those who with intentional malice have spilt the blood of their fellow-creatures How strongly did this mental agony appear in the conduct of Governor Wall; whose life shall hereafter be given. After 20 years had elapsed from the commission of the murder, and while he lived in personal security in a foreign country, his conscience afforded him no peace of mind. He voluntarily returned to London, sought his own apprehension, was convicted, and executed.
Thomas Cook was the son of a butcher, a man of reputation, at Gloucester. When he was about fifteen years of age his father put him apprentice to a barber surgeon in London, with whom he lived two years, and then, running away, engaged himself in the service of -- Needham, Esq., who was page-of-honour to King William III.; but his mother writing to him, and intimating in the vulgar phrase that "a gentleman's service was no inheritance," he quitted his place, and going to Gloucester engaged in the business of a butcher, being the profession of several of his ancestors.
He followed this trade for some time, and served as master of the company of butchers in his native city; after which he abandoned that business and took an inn; but it does not appear that he was successful in it, since he soon afterwards turned grazier. Restless, however, in every station of life, he repaired to London, where he commenced as prize-fighter, at Mayfair.
At this time Mayfair was a place greatly frequented by prize-fighters, thieves and women of bad character. Here puppet shows were exhibited, and it was the favourite resort of all the profligate and abandoned. At length the nuisance increased to such a degree that Queen Anne issued her proclamation for the suppression of vice and immorality, with a particular view to this fair; in consequence of which the justices of Peace issued their warrant to the High Constable, who summoned all the inferior constables to his assistance.
When the constables came to suppress the fair, Cook, with a mob of about thirty soldiers and other persons, stood in defiance of the peace officers, at whom they threw brick bats, by which some of the latter were wounded. Cooper, the constable, being the most active Cook drew his sword and stabbed him in the belly, and he died of the wound at the expiration of four days.
Thereupon Cook fled to Ireland, and (as it was deposed upon his trial) while he was in a public house there he swore in a profane manner, for which the landlord censured him, and told him there were persons in the house who would take him into custody for it; to which he answered:
"Are there any of the informing dogs in Ireland? We in London drive them; for at a fair called Mayfair there was a noise which I went out to see six soldiers and myself the constables played their parts with their staves, and I played mine; and when the man dropped I wiped my sword, put it up, and went away."
Cook, having repeatedly talked in this boasting and insolent manner, was at length taken into custody and sent to Chester, whence he was removed by writ of habeas corpus to London; and being tried at the Old Bailey was convicted, and received sentence of death. Having received the sacrament on the 21st Of July, 1703, he was taken from Newgate to be carried to Tyburn, but when he got to High Holborn, opposite Bloomsbury, a reprieve arrived for him till the following Friday. On his return to Newgate he was visited by numbers of his acquaintance, who rejoiced on his narrow escape, except those who would assist him in his devotions. On Friday he received another respite till the 11th of August, when he was executed.