Date Of Execution: 4 Apr 1764
Execution Place: unknown
An American, executed at Tyburn, 4th of April, 1764, for the Murder of his Landlord and his Family
THIS man of blood was born in Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, and bred a shipwright. His mother dying when he was very young, he ran away to Connecticut, in New England, where he entered on board a sloop, and made two or three voyages; but not living so well as he expected on board the ship, he deserted. When he came to Boston he contracted himself with a gentleman who dealt in lumber, which he sent in vessels to the West Indies; and Corbett made several voyages in his service, but was so addicted to drinking and theft that he received frequent correction for those vices.
At length he sailed to Newfoundland with one Captain Warton, and as he was a good ship-carpenter he might have been happy in his situation, but his irregularities obliged the Captain to dismiss him. Then he procured employment in repairing fishing-boats and other craft; but, spending his earnings in great extravagance, he involved himself in debt, which obliged him to embark on board a ship for Barbados, to avoid prison.
Then he sailed to several parts of North America, and at length settled at Halifax, in Nova Scotia; after which he sailed to England, and associated with the worst of company in Wapping and Rotherhithe, which tended still further to debauch a mind already much depraved.
A few weeks before Corbett committed the crime for which he suffered he took lodgings at the house of Mr Knight, a publican at Rotherhithe. He had not been long in the family, which consisted only of the man, his wife and the maid-servant, before he resolved on the murder of them all; but the maid-servant escaped his fury.
At the Surrey Assizes in 1764 William Corbett was indicted for the murder of Henry Knight and Anne, his wife, by cutting their throats; and was again indicted, on the coroner's inquest, for the said murder; and a third time, for robbing the house. He was found guilty on his own confession and a variety of collateral evidence.
After having committed the murder he rifled the house of money, and even put on some of Mr Knight's linen and other clothes. He then went to Billingsgate, where he was apprehended. After conviction he acknowledged that he endeavoured to set fire to Mr Knight's house.
On the day of execution he was conveyed to Kennington Common, where he again acknowledged his guilt, and, having spent about a quarter of an hour in devotion, underwent the sentence of the law, and was hung in chains on the road between Rotherhithe and Deptford.