Phillip Roach

Perp: Phillip Roach

Date: August. 1723

The Crime : Piracy and Murder

Victims: Several unfortunate crew members and an English gentleman, named Annesley.

Motive : Money. ... by sinking ships to defraud the insurers

Punishment: Hanged

Location : Execution Dock

The Story : This fellow was a native of Ireland, and having, during his youth, followed a seafaring life, he was advanced to the position of first mate, on board a West-Indianian, which sailed to and from Barbadoes: Having, however, become acquainted with a fisherman named Neale, who hinted to him that large sums of money might be acquired by insuring ships, and then causing them to be sunk, to defraud the insurers, he was wicked enough to listen to this horrid idea ; and, being recommended to a gentleman who had a ship bound to Cape Breton, he got a station on board, next in command to the captain, by whom he was entrusted with the' management of the vessel.

On the voyage, it would appear that he would have abstained from carrying out his diabolical plan; but having brought some Irishmen on board with him, they persisted in pursuing their original design, or in demanding that the vessel should be seized.

Accordingly, one night, when the captain and most of the crew were asleep, Roach gave orders to two of the seamen to furl the sails ; which being immediately done, the poor fellows no sooner descended on the deck, than Roach and his associates murdered them, and threw them overboard. At this instant a man and a boy at the yard-arm, observing what passed, and dreading a similar fate hurried towards the topmast-head, when one of the Irishmen, named Cullen, followed them, and, seizing the boy, threw him into the sea.

The man,thinking to effect at least a present escape, descended to the main-deck ; but he was instantly butchered, and committed to the deep. The noise occasioned by these transactions had alarmed the sailors below, and they hurried up with all possible expedition ; but were severally seized and murdered as fast as they came on deck, and were thrown into the sea. At length the master and mate came on the quarter-deck ; but they were doomed to share the same fate as. their unhappy shipmates.

These execrable murders being perpetrated, the murderers determined to commence pirates, and that Roach should be the captain, as the reward of his superior villany.

They had intended to sail up the Gulf of St. Lawrence ; but as they were within a few days' voyage of the Bristol Channel, when the bloody tragedy was acted, and found themselves short of provisions, they put into Portsmouth ; and, giving the vessel a fictitious name, they painted her afresh, and then sailed for Rotterdam.

At this city they disposed of their cargo, and took in a fresh one ; and being unknown, an English gentleman, named Annesley, shipped considerable property on board, and took his passage with them for the port of London ; but the villains threw this unfortunate gentleman overboard, after they had been only one day at sea. When the ship arrived in the river Thames, Mr. Annesley's friends made inquiry after him, in consequence of his having sent letters to England, describing the ship in which he proposed to embark ; but Roach denied any knowledge of the gentleman, and even disclaimed his own name. Notwithstanding his confident assertions, it was rightly presumed who he was, and a letter which he sent to his wife being stopped, he was taken into custody, and carried before the secretary of state for examination. While there, having denied that he was the person he was taken to be, his intercepted letter was shown to him ; on which he instantly confessed his crimes, and was committed to take his trial.

He was subsequently hanged at Execution Dock, on the 5th of August, 1723.