Saturday, 18 March 2017

18th March 1817: The trial of the Luddite Daniel Diggle, for shooting George Kerry, at Nottingham Assizes


Tuesday, March 18.

This morning, DANIEL DIGGLE, a fine stout-looking young man, only 20 years of age, was put to the bar, and arraigned on a charge of having on the night of Sunday, the 22d of December last, entered the dwelling-house of George Kerry, situate in the parish of Radford, armed and disguised, and then and there, wilfully, maliciously, and unlawfully shot at the said George Kerry, with intent to kill and murder him!

To this indictment the prisoner pleaded guilty, but Sir Richard Richards, having humanely pointed out to him the consequences of such a plea, and recommended him to consider the matter, and by pleading not guilty, take the chance of a trial, with some reluctance he consented, and pleaded not guilty.

Serjeant Vaughn shortly stated the case to the Jury. Four men were concerned in the perpetration of this atrocious act. One of them stood at the bar; another would be brought to give evidence, and the other two, Woolley and Henfrey had absconded.

Mr. Denman called William Burton the accomplice, but his Lordship wishing to have Kerry's evidence first, he was called, and Burton was ordered out of Court.

George Kerry (examined by Mr. Denman) was a framework-knitter, and lived at Radford. On the Sunday before Christmas Day, about eight o'clock in the evening, himself, his wife, his mother, Hannah Morley, and his niece (Ann Kerry) were at home. The door was closed and latched, but not locked. Two men lifted up the latch, opened the door, and came in; they had dark coloured long great coats on, with handkerchiefs over their faces, tied up to their eyes; one was a dark checked handkerchief, the other a light faded one; their hats were slouched down; one was a taller man, the other not so tall; at such a time one cannot tell to one, two, or three inches; they said "Advance into the parlour;" but the women were so frightened, instead of obeying the order, they all went into a corner; we were sitting in the house-place—the house-place is on one side of the door, and the parlour on the other. The men had pistols in their hands, which they presented at me and my family; I rose up from my chair, and seized the first man’s pistol by the barrel; he was the shorter man of the two; some struggling ensued; he appeared wishful to discharge the pistol into my body; I turned it aside, and when he pulled the trigger, the contents went into the fire, and knocked out some coals; the candle stood about a yard and a half off, and it was blown out by the firing of the pistol. I gave the pistol a twitch, but did not get it from him, I only drew out the ramrod.— (The ramrod was produced in Court.) I saw the other man with his pistol ready to discharge it at my head, he stood within nine inches of me, and perceiving he was going to fire, I stooped down, and when he fired, part of the contents catched my head, and the other part went into the wall in a triangular form; it was loaded with shot and slugs, and hit a tea tray fixed against the wall, and knocked it down. Two shot-corns entered my head, Mr. Attenburrow (surgeon), extracted one that might, and another the Saturday following. I have reason to believe there is another yet in my head, for it hurts me when I press on the place. I fell down, crying out, "I'm shot, I’m a dead man." They turned round and ran out of the house immediately. Hannah Morley, my wife's sister, locked the door. I got up soon after, and would have followed the men, but the women would not let me. The whole transaction, from the time of their coming into the house, to the time of their going out, might be a minute and a half; there was not above a few seconds between the firing of the two pistols. I saw Daniel Diggle afterwards in the gaol at Nottingham; it was on the 15th of Feb. Hannah Morley and John Kerry were with me. By order of Mr. Rollestone, one of the Magistrates, the turnkey’s lodge was cleared, and Diggle was brought up to me. When he came up, he shook me by the hand, sat down by my side, and asked me how I did; I replied not so bad as you meant me to be, and he made no answer, but his colour changed. I told him I was come to see him in a different form to what he came to see me, the Sunday night before last Christmas day; he made no answer. I asked him what induced him to do so. (Here the learned Judge made particularly enquiries whether any promise had been made to the prisoner, to induce him to confess. The witness maintained that no inducement was held out to Diggle either by himself, or any other person, in his hearing. Hannah Morley was present all the time, and some of the turnkeys occasionally came into the room.)—He made no answer. I asked the question several times, but still he was silent; at last he said, he'd be damn’d if he knew what made him come. I said to him, I reckon you left me for dead, when you left our house; he said he did. I asked him what he thought of me when I seized Woolley’s pistol; he replied, I’ll be damn’d if I know what to think of you. I said, you see I know, do you know who has told? Prisoner said no. I said, then I'll tell you, it is Burton: he replied, I know’d somebody had told, by what Mr. Rollestone said to me last Saturday.—He asked me where Burton was; I told him in Leicester gaol, he said he had never seen him since he was taken. I asked him if he knew what he said when he was coming down Pearson’s close, (Pearson’s close is about 120 yards from Kerry's) he said he did not know. I asked him if he did not say, damn his eyes, we’ll blow his brains out at the first go off; his answer was, I believe I did. I asked if Woolley did not come into the house first. He replied yes. I knew the persons both of the prisoner and Woolley very well, though I did not know them at the time. The prisoner’s father lived next door to me for several years, and is a very honest, industrious man.—(Here the witness’s feelings seemed almost to overcome him.)—Diggle said Shaw loaded the pistols in his room, as he and his wife were sitting at the fire. He said he expected at the time that Woolley, Shaw, Burton, and Henfrey were to come to my house, but when they had loaded the pistols, they put a pistol in his hand, and forced him to go; they were all in his room. I asked him where the hammer came from, that Burton had; he said from Bobber’s mill. The prisoner said Henfrey got the powder at Pogson’s. Hannah Morley asked him if he recollected what he said when he went out of the house; he replied he did not know, for he ran all the way home, quarrelling with Henfrey all the way for loading the pistols with any thing but powder. Hannah Morley repeated her question, adding did you not say, "damn his eyes, he’s is as dead as a nit;" the answer was, I believe I did. The prisoner said he had done that by me for which he should be hanged, and hoped I'd be as favourable as I could. He said Burton wanted them to come back again and break the frames, after they had left me for dead.

William Burton, the accomplice, (examined by Mr. Clarke) lived at Nottingham. On the Sunday before Christmas day, himself, Diggle, Henfrey, and Woolley, set off to break a frame at Kerry’s, it was about eight o'clock, they took three pistols and a hammer with them; witness carried the hammer; Henfrey fetched it from Constable’s house or garden, he did not know which, at Basford plat. Henfrey brought one of the pistols into the room loaded: the other two were loaded with powder from Pogson’s. at twenty minutes past eight, the prisoner and Woolley entered Kerry’s house, with pistols in their hands; witness staid at the door. When Diggle flung the door open, Kerry said, "halloo." The prisoner had a great coat on, with a light coloured handkerchief tied on his face, and an apron round his shoulders.—Diggle said to those in the house, "go in," meaning go into the parlour. The women screeted and a little girl (Ann Kerry) came to the door, but on seeing him with the hammer, she ran back again, and directly after the pistol was fired. Witness both heard and saw it; saw Kerry lay hold of Woolley’s pistol, and heard it go off. When the other pistol went off, Diggle and Woolley ran out of the house directly. He asked Diggle what he could think of firing? Diggle said because Kerry had seized hold of Woolley. Witness told him he had no occasion to fire, and he replied he was damn’d mad at himself for it. Witness then said, you're always such a damn’d fool when you’ve got a bit of powder; O says Diggle, damn him, he's as dead as a nit.—Witness and the prisoner went down some closes home; Henfrey and Woolley took another road.

Hannah Morley the sister-in-law to Kerry, was examined by Mr. Denman, but as her evidence was only confirmatory of that of Kerry’s it is not necessary to repeat it.

Ann Kerry, the niece, the girl who went to the door, and ran back when she saw Burton, was placed in the witness box, merely for the purpose of giving the prisoner an opportunity of asking her any questions he might think proper, but he declined doing so.

Thomas Pogson remembers that on Sunday before Christmas, about six o'clock, Henfrey came to borrow some powder of him. He lent in some in a horn.

The witness received an admonition from the Judge, and was desired to be more guarded in future.

The prisoner was called upon for his defence.—He said he did not know that the pistol was loaded with any thing but powder; he did not load it himself; and he only fired it to frighten them.

On being asked whether he had any witnesses to call, he mentioned several names, which were called in Court, but none of them appeared. After a considerable pause, the Learned Judge began his charge to the Jury; but before he had proceeded far, it was announced that one of the prisoner’s witnesses had made his appearance, and his Lordship, with that humanity, which we had frequent opportunities of admiring while he presided in the criminal court, and which we cannot sufficiently applaud, immediately paused, and ordered the witness to be sworn. It proved to be

Wm. Hemmett, who had known the prisoner twelve years, and gave him a good character.

It being stated that others were expected, his Lordship waited, and the next who appeared was

Robert Willis, a framework-knitter, of Arnold, who knew the prisoner, for he had worked for witness from July 1815, to July 1816, and always conducted himself well.

Elizabeth Hemmett had known him seven or eight years; he worked with her husband, and bore a good character as far as she knew.

After impartial and clear summing up of the evidence by the learner judge, the jury were desire to consider their verdict; which they returned obstinately, "guilty, my Lord."

His Lordship proceeded to pass sentence of death upon the prisoner, which he did in so impressive a manner, as to draw tears from most persons in the Court. It was nearly in the following words:—

"Daniel Diggle—You have been tried by a patient and attentive Jury, and been convicted on the clearest evidence, of an offence, which the law has made capital. In consequence thereof, your life has become forfeited, and you must lose it in the prime of your days, and in the full vigour of your mental and corporeal faculties. You went to the house of your neighbour and friend, a man who even now speaks of your father in terms of commendation; you went along with the other assassins, with deadly arms, forgetful of your duty to your God, forgetful of your duty to society, and forgetful of your duty to your father; you went, without provocation, in the calm and tranquillity of the evening, and you did all that you could, to murder your neighbour in cold blood. I thank God that you failed in your diabolical purpose. Your crime is of that magnitude, that you must not expect any mercy to be shewn you here; I should think myself accessary to the crime were I to suffer you to live, and depend upon it, I shall not disgrace myself, by soliciting mercy on your behalf. I therefore most earnestly intreat you to prepare yourself for that world, for an entrance into which I am afraid, you are quite unprepared. I have now only to pass the sentence of the law, which is, that you shall be taken to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, there to be hung by the neck till you are dead, and may the Lord God of all mercies, have compassion on your soul."

These words were pronounced with so much solemnity, that they appeared to make a deep impression both on the prisoner and the Court: almost every eye was suffused with tears, and his Lordship himself was evidently much affected.

This is from the Nottingham Review of 28th March 1817.

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