1856 Murder of James Wellerd

From Historical Hastings

On the 10th of March 1856, it was reported that in seeking to escape from the Borough Prison that two of the prisoners had murdered James Wellerd (62), the keeper of the prison.[1]

John Murdock (21) (also known as 'Joseph William'[2]), a tailor from London and George Wright(12) had been committed to prison to face trial at the Quarter Sessions for the charge of picking pockets. At 7 AM, the jailer released the prisoners from their cells and as they were following him into the yard where the prisoners normally washed, Murdock seized Mr Wellerd by his neckerchief, threw him on the ground and strangled him. Murdock then made his escape by climbing the 12 foot high prison wall using the lean-to coal shed to assist.[1]The younger prisoner attempted to escape by the same route, but failed.

Wright then cried out 'Oh dear, we have killed him!'. This was heard by the prison-keeper's son's wife who acted as the matron[2], who had also heard the scuffling and death-throes of her father. She immediately raised an alarm. Both police and others set off in pursuit of the murderer but did not manage to find him in spite of searching for a number of hours.

Later at 2 PM, first a little girl, then two boys found the escapee hiding in a ditch between a field owned by Mr. Thwaites and Mr. Golding's garden[2][a] on the West Hill about half a mile away. After threatening the children, Murdock realised that if the children had found him, surely others too would, so he ran over the hill and down Wallinger's Walk, throwing his shoes into a garden en-route. The boys, however, had pursued him and were soon joined by others, resulting in his eventual capture by Mr. Henry Barton and Mr. Thomas Tutt[2] and he was taken back into custody. Murdock attempted a further escape when he tripped the police officer up whilst at the station en-route to Lewes for trial[2]

==References & Notes==

  1. This Mr. Golding is the one upon whose land St. Clements Caves were first opened