British Executions

William Johnson

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 7 Jan 1833

Crime Location:

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown



Executed at Newgate, 7th of January, 1833, for murdering a Wig Maker's Son, whose Body was found in a Ditch

   THE victim of this foul deed was a young man named Benjamin Danby, the son of a respectable tradesman, a forensic-wig maker, in the Temple. Young Danby, at an early age, expressed a passion for a maritime life, and he accordingly went to sea. After making several voyages he returned and found that his father was dead, that the bulk of his property was settled on his sisters, but that an allowance of a guinea per week had been secured to him during his life. Towards the close of the year 1832 he took up his residence at the house of his cousin, a Mr Addington, a baker, who lived at Chase Side, Enfield Chase. On Wednesday afternoon, the 19th of December, 1832, at about four o'clock, he quitted Mr Addington's house for the last time. He took his gun with him, saying he was going shooting, but promised to return at ten o'clock. He was carried back next day a corpse. He had gone to the Three Horse Shoes, where he had met some of his companions. Four persons, named William Johnson, the son of a gardener in the vicinity; Richard Wagstaff, a baker; Samuel Cooper, a carter, who was quite a lad, and the son of a labouring man and Samuel Sleath, or Fare, a person who appeared to have no occupation, were seen in his company. They had been playing at dominoes and drinking together, apparently upon excellent terms. At about a quarter past ten o'clock young Danby declared that he would have to go home; but he had now become somewhat intoxicated, and when he got into the open air he was observed by Mrs Perry, the landlady of the public-house, to stagger. Johnson and Fare said they would see him home; but their manner induced a suspicion in the mind of Wagstaff that they were going to rob him, and he therefore called to young Cooper to come away. Cooper's answer was that he had been with them all the evening, and he meant to "go up there" with them now. Wagstaff then went away in a direction contrary to that taken by Danby and the others.

   On the following morning, at half-past five o'clock, a man named Wheeler, a labourer, was passing through a place called Holt White's Lane, about half-a-mile from the Three Horse Shoes, when he observed a dead body in the ditch. He called to a man named Ashley, and they discovered that it was the body of young Danby. His legs were towards the road and his head in the ditch, face downwards; when they turned it over it presented a horrible and ghastly spectacle. The face was cut and slashed in a most dreadful manner; the flesh was scored out, as it were, in five places; and the right whisker was completely cut away, and hung suspended to the jaw by a small piece of skin. In the throat of the murdered man they observed a deep stab, inflicted in the manner practised by a butcher in killing a sheep, the knife having been turned in the wound. They at once communicated the particulars of this horrible discovery to the police of the town, who lost no time in procuring the removal of the body to a neighbouring public-house -- the Old Sergeant -- and in conveying the dreadful intelligence to Mr Addington.

   Inquiries were instantly set on foot, and the circumstances above detailed having been ascertained, Johnson, Fare and Cooper were taken into custody. Cooper afterwards sent for one of the constables, and declared that he would tell him all. He then proceeded to detail to him the circumstances which attended the murder, which he said was committed by Johnson.

   The coroner's jury returned a verdict that the deceased had been wilfully murdered by Johnson and Cooper, and that Fare had been accessory before the fact.

   The prisoners were then committed to Newgate to await their trial. Cooper was also detained in custody to give evidence.

   On Friday, the 4th of January, 1833, the prisoners Johnson and Fare were put upon their trial at the Old Bailey. As no further evidence than there had been before the coroner was produced to implicate Fare in the actual murder he was acquitted, and removed from the bar; and Johnson was then called on for his defence. He put in a written statement, commenting upon the prejudice which had been excited against him, and declared that Cooper's hand must have been the one by which the deed was done, for that he and Fare had left the deceased with him at the end of Holt White's Lane on the night of the murder, and had seen no more of either of them afterwards.

   The jury retired to deliberate upon their verdict; but after an absence of two hours they declared the prisoner to be guilty. Sentence of death was instantly passed, and the prisoner was executed on the following Monday.

   Fare was on a subsequent day put upon his trial for stealing from the deceased the money of which he was known to have been possessed, and a portion of which had been found in the prisoner's pockets on his apprehension. A verdict of guilty was returned, and Fare was sentenced to be transported for fourteen years.

   Cooper, the companion in guilt of the two convicts, who had been detained in custody until the end of the sessions, was then discharged.