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Crime & Punishment Story Of London

Crime and Punishment: John Chapel

Crime and Punishment: John Chapel
by Bill McCann

London’s streets have always been crime-ridden. This series presents the tales of some of the individuals convicted of crimes, small and great, at the Middlesex and London assizes, Star Chamber, Court of Aldermen, etc. and their subsequent fate. Tyburn and Newgate are words that are resonant with the extremes of punishment in the 18th and 19th centuries and, naturally, both loom large in the series. However, there will also be articles on some of the more famous crimes in London’s more recent history. 


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Crime and Punishment: John Chapel

by Bill McCann

Pleaded guilty to murdering one Mary Martin who was found dead in a field near Hoxton; with a piece of Knife sticking in her head, and a Knife under her left Ear. He was found guilty at Newgate on February 25th 1731 and ordered to be hanged in chains.

Chapel, aged 41 at the time, was born in London. After a common education, he was put Apprentice to a Barber, afterwards married, but his Wife being of a crazy Constitution, occasioned him much Trouble and Charge. She died, as reported, by poison which he gave her; but this with the story of his ravishing a Girl of 6 or 7 Years old, and of is forcing a near Relation against her Will, he absolutely denied.

As to the Crime for which he suffered, he gave the following Account, viz. That coming acquainted with Sarah Martin, a Washerwoman, he often committed Uncleanness with her, and being wit Child by him, she continually teazed him to marry her, which he could not comply with, because his Place in the Workhouse required his being a single Person, and that she loved drinking, and was of a base wicked Temper; and therefore he resolved to leave her, but could not, she haunting him continually:

This he said was the occasion of his conceiving a Design of her Murder, which he thus accomplished. They made an appointment to take a Walk one Evening. Going towards Hoxton, they called at a Public-house and drank together. When they came thence, Chapel desired her to return to Town and leave him for he would never bear her Company. But she cursing and threatening him in an outrageous Manner, he, with and Oaken-stick knocked her down suddenly, and repeated his blows with violence.

She cried out O! John, John, have mercy, save my life, but he redoubled his Strokes, and took out his two knives, and gave her several Wounds, and stuck one of the Knives in her Scull. When she was quite dead, he left her and his murdering Tools, and returned to town; but was soon apprehended. He confessed the Fact, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey, and had such strong Impressions of his Guilt, that he formed a Prayer for his own use, and was very penitent to the Moment of his death.

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