William Spiggot

Perp: William Spiggot

Accomplice: Thomas Phillips

Date: 1721

The Crime : Highway Robbery

Victim: Unknown

Motive : Money

Punishment: Tortured to gain confession, then executed.

Location : Tyburn

The Story : This case is rendered worthy of notice, by the fact that, the prisoners refusing to plead, they were placed under the torture. They were indicted for a robbery upon the king's highway; but refused to plead until some of their property, which had been taken from them, was returned. This was denied them by the Court, under the provisions of the statute of the 4th & 5th William and Mary ; and as, in spite of all entreaties, they persisted in their refusal, to deny or confess the charge against them, the Court ordered that the judgment ordained by law should be read to them.

This was, " That the prisoner shall be sent to the prison from whence he came, and put into a mean room, stopped from the light, and shall there be laid on the bare ground, without any litter, straw, or other covering, and without any garment about him, except something to hide his privy members. He shall lie upon his back, his head shall be covered, and his feet shall be bare. One of his arms shall he drawn with a cord to one side of the room, and the other arm to the other side ; and his legs- shall be served in the like manner. Then there shall be laid upon his body as much iron or stone as he can bear, and more. And the first day after he shall have three morsels of barley bread, without any drink ; and the second day he shall be allowed to drink as much as he can, at three times, of the water that is next the prison-door, except running water, without any bread ; and this shall be his diet till he dies ; and he against whom this judgment shall be given, forfeits his goods to the king."

The reading of this sentence producing no effect; they were ordered back to Newgate, there to be pressed to death; but when they came into the press-room, Phillips begged to be taken back to plead. The favour was granted, though it might have been denied to him ; but Spiggot was put under the press, and he continued half an hour, with three hundred and fifty pounds weight on his body; but, on the addition of fifty pounds more, he also begged to plead.

They were in consequence brought back, and again arraigned ; when, the evidence being clear and positive against them, they were convicted, and received sentence of death ; in consequence of which they were executed at Tyburn on the 8th of February, 1721.

The prisoner Phillips, after sentence, behaved in a manner which exhibited that he was a person of the most abandoned character. His companion was more attentive to his devotions ; but Phillips declared that he did not fear to die, for that he was sure of going to heaven. It appeared, from the declarations of the prisoners, that they had been very successful in their depredations; in the commission of which they were accompanied by a clergyman named Joseph Lindsay, and a lunatic, who had escaped from Bedlam, named Burroughs. The mad prattling of the latter caused the apprehension of his companions, while the evidence of the former tended materially to secure their conviction.

It is almost needless to add, that that remnant of barbarity, the torture, has long since been abolished.