SARAH METYARD AND SARAH MORGAN METYARD, HER DAUGHTER
Executed at Tyburn, 19th of July, 1768, for the Cruel Murders of Parish Apprentices
SARAH METYARD was a milliner, and the daughter her assistant, in Bruton Street, Hanover Square, London. In the year 1758 the mother had five apprentice girls bound to her from different parish workhouses, among whom were Anne Naylor and her sister. Anne Naylor, being of a sickly constitution, was not able to do so much work as the other apprentices about the same age, and therefore she became the more immediate object of the fury of the barbarous women, whose repeated acts of cruelty at length occasioned the unhappy girl to abscond. Being brought back, she was confined in an upper apartment, and allowed each day no other sustenance than a small piece of bread and a little water.
Seizing an opportunity of escaping from her confinement, unperceived she got into the street, and ran to a milk-carrier, whom she begged to protect her, saying that if she returned she must certainly perish, through the want of food and severe treatment she daily received. Being soon missed, she was followed by the younger Metyard, who seized her by the neck, forced her into the house, and threw her upon the bed in the room where she had been confined, and she was then seized by the old woman, who held her down while the daughter beat her with the handle of a broom in a most cruel manner.
They afterwards put her into a back room on the second storey, tied a cord round her waist, and her hands behind her, and fastened her to the door in such a manner that it was impossible for her either to sit or lie down. She was compelled to remain in this situation for three successive days; but they permitted her to go to bed at the usual hours at night. Having received no kind of nutriment for three days and two nights, her strength was so exhausted that, being unable to walk upstairs, she crept to the garret, where she lay on her hands and feet.
While she remained tied up on the second floor the other apprentices were ordered to work in an adjoining apartment, that they might be deterred from disobedience by being witnesses to the unhappy girl's sufferings; but they were enjoined, on the penalty of being subjected to equal severity, against affording her any kind of relief.
On the fourth day she faltered in speech, and presently afterwards expired. The other girls, seeing the whole weight of her body supported by the strings which confined her to the door, were greatly alarmed, and called out: "Miss Sally! Miss Sally! Nanny does not move." The daughter then came upstairs, saying: "If she does not move, I will make her move"; and then beat the deceased on the head with the heel of a shoe.
Perceiving no signs of life, she called to her mother, who came upstairs and ordered the strings that confined the deceased to be cut; she then laid the body across her lap and directed one of the apprentices where to find a bottle with some hartshorn drops.
When the child had brought the drops, she and the other girls were ordered to go downstairs; and the mother and daughter, being convinced that the object of their barbarity was dead, conveyed the body into the garret . They related to the other apprentices that Nanny had been in a fit, but was perfectly recovered, adding that she was locked into the garret lest she should again run away; and, in order to give an air of plausibililty to their tale, at noon the daughter carried a plate of meat upstairs, saying it was for Nanny's dinner.
They locked the body of the deceased in a box on the fourth day after the murder, and, having left the garret door open and the street door on the jar, one of the apprentices was told to call Nanny down to dinner, and to tell her that, if she promised to behave well in future, she would be no longer confined. Upon the return of the child, she said Nanny was not above-stairs; and after a great parade of searching every part of the house they reflected upon her as being of an intractable disposition and pretended she had run away.
The sister of the deceased, who was apprenticed to the same inhuman mistress, mentioned to a lodger in the house that she was persuaded her sister was dead; observing that it was not probable she had gone away, since parts of her apparel still remained in the garret. The suspicions of this girl coming to the knowledge of the inhuman wretches, they, with a view of preventing a discovery, cruelly murdered her, and secreted the body.
The body of Anne remained in the box two months, during which time the garret door was kept locked, lest the offensive smell shouild lead to a discovery. The stench became so powerful that they judged it prudent to remove the remains of the unhappy victim of their barbarity; and therefore, on the evening of the 25th of December, they cut the body in pieces, and tied the head and trunk up in one cloth and the limbs in another, excepting one hand, a finger belonging to which had been amputated before death, and that they resolved to burn.
When the apprentices had gone to bed, the old woman put the hand into the fire, saying: "The fire tells no tales." She intended to consume the entire remains of the unfortunate girl by fire but, afraid that the smell would give rise to suspicion, changed that design, and took the bundles to the gully-hole in Chick Lane and endeavoured to throw the parts of the mangled corpse over the wall into the common sewer; but being unable to effect that, she left them among the mud and water that was collected before the grate of the sewer.
Some pieces of the body were discovered about twelve o'clock by the watchman, and he mentioned the circumstance to the constable of the night. The constable applied to one of the overseers of the parish, by whose direction the parts of the body were collected and taken to the watchhouse. On the following day the matter was communicated to Mr Umfreville, the coroner, who examined the pieces found by the watchman; but he supposed them to be parts of a corpse taken from a churchyard for the use of some surgeon, and declined to summon a jury.
Four years elapsed before the discovery of these horrid murders, which at length happened in the following manner. Continual disagreements prevailed between the mother and daughter; and, though the latter had now arrived at the age of maturity, she was often beaten, and otherwise treated with severity. Thus provoked, she sometimes threatened to destroy herself, and at others to give information against her mother as a murderer.
At last information concerning the affair was given to the overseers of Tottenham parish, and mother and daughter were committed to the Gatehouse. At the ensuing Old Bailey sessions they were both sentenced to be executed on the following Monday, and then to be conveyed to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.
The mother, being in a fit when she was put into the cart, lay at her length till she came to the place of execution, when she was raised up, and means were used for her recovery, but without effect, so that she departed this life in a state of insensibility. From the time of leaving Newgate to the moment of her death the daughter wept incessantly.
After hanging the usual time the bodies were conveyed in a hearse to Surgeons' Hall, where they were exposed to the curiosity of the public, and then dissected.