Perp: John Price
Alias: Jack ketch
Date: April, 1718
The Crime : Murder
Victim: Elizabeth White
Motive : Rape. A drunk Mr Price bashed Mrs
White during an attempted rape.
Location : Bunhill-row, and was afterwards hung
in chains at Halloway.
The Story : Although the circumstances attending the
crime of this malefactor do not present any features of general interest, the fact of the offender having filled
the office of public executioner, and of his being deprived of life on that very scaffold on which he had exercised
the functions of his revolting office, render the case not a little remarkable.
It would appear that the prisoner was born of decent parents, in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the
Fields, London ; and that his father, who was in the service of his country having been blown up at the demolition
of Tangiers, he was put apprentice to a rag merchant. His master dying, he ran away and went to sea, and served
with credit on board different ships in the navy, for the space of 18 years ; but at length was paid off and
discharged from further service.
The office of public executioner becoming vacant, it was given to him, and but for his
extravagance, he might have long continued in it, and subsisted on its dreadfully-earned wages.
On returning from an execution, however, he was arrested in Holborn for debt, which he discharged,
in part, with the wages he had that day earned, and the remainder with the produce of three suits of clothes, which
he had taken from the bodies of the executed men ; but soon afterwards he was lodged in the Marshalsea prison for
other debts, and there he remained for want of bail ; in consequence of which one William Marvel was appointed in
his stead. He continued some time longer in the Marshalsea, when he and a fellow-prisoner broke a hole in the wall,
through which they made their escape. It was not long after this that Price committed the offence for which he was
executed. He was indicted on the 20th April, 1718, for the murder of Elizabeth, the wife of William White, on the
13th of the preceding month.
In the course of the evidence it appeared that Price met the deceased near ten at night in
Moorfields, and attempted to ravish her ; but the poor woman (who was the wife of a watchman, and sold gingerbread
in the streets) doing all in her power to resist his villanous attacks, he beat her so cruelly that streams of
blood issued from her eyes and mouth, one of her arms was broken, some of her teeth were knocked out, her head was
bruised in a most dreadful manner, and one of her eyes was forced from the socket. Some persons, hearing the cries
of the unhappy creature, repaired to the spot, took Price into custody, and lodged him in the watch-house; and the
woman, being attended by a surgeon and a nurse, was unable to speak, but she answered the nurse's questions by
signs, and in that manner described what had happened to her. She died, after having languished four days.
The prisoner, on his trial, denied that he was guilty of the murder ; but he was found guilty and
sentenced to death. He then gave himself up to the use of intoxicating liquors, and continued obstinately to deny
his guilt until the day of execution. He then, however, admitted the justice of his punishment, but said that he
was in a state of intoxication when he committed the crime for which he suffered. He was executed on tin 21st May,
1718 at Bunhill-row, and was afterwards hung in chains at Halloway.
It maybe remarked, that this case affords a striking instance of the absence of the effect of
example : for, however much the miserable calling of the unhappy man may have hardened his mind, and rendered him
callous to those feelings of degradation which would arise in the heart of any ordinary person, placed in a similar
situation, it cannot be supposed that his fear of the dreadful punishment of death could have been in any degree
abated by his having so frequently witnessed its execution in all its horrors.