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