Home Site Map Back
Genealogy, Local & Family History in London, England
London London Ancestor Ancestor

It is our painful duty to record the most horrible and determined murder that was ever committed in this country. The unfortunate victim in this case is a poor old pensioner, in Greenwich Hospital, of the name of Bailey, who has been about eight years in that institution. The murderer is, likewise, a pensioner of the name of James Ward, who has been in the Hospital nearly two years. Bailey was an inoffensive man; and Ward, up to the fatal deed, borne an excellent character. He was a regular attendant at George street Chapel, in Greenwich, and was distinguished for his steady habits and general good conduct. On Saturday morning January 25, 1833, he became a patient in the Physician's Ward, in consequence of symptoms of fever. He was seen by Sir Win. Beattie, who found it to be an ordinary febrile case, and prescribed accordingly. About an hour afterwards, Bailey was entered a patient in the same room, No.13, and the nurse who attended them during the day did not observe any unusual circumstance in the behavior of either. Ward, indeed was so rational and collected, that he observed to her, whilst applying leeches to him, that she was as kind as a mother, and he would remember her when he got well. There was a third patient in the room, a bed-ridden old man, eighty years of age. A little after five in the afternoon of Saturday, as the Ward Boatswain Connor was passing along the hall in which the room, No.13, is situated, he heard the exclamation "Oh, oh!" twice loudly repeated, and he and another boatswain, Prowse, entered the room. The old man and Ward were in their respective beds; but Bailey lay upon the floor, with his head towards the fire-place. Prowse attempted to remove him, and by the light of the fire saw that he was lying in a pool of blood. He breathed three or four times and expired. The two boatswains thought the poor fellow had broken a blood vessel, and instantly sent word to that effect to the medical officers, all of whom were speedily in attendance. In the meantime Prowse, observing some spots of blood on the shirt of Ward, who was sitting up in bed, began to suspect murder had been committed, and said to him, "Ward, was it you did this?" Ward immediately said, "Yes; it was I that killed him, and you may now take him to the burying ground;" and, jumping out of bed, took up his shoes, and flung them through the window. He was then secured and taken to the strong room - a place of confinement for those who exhibit symptoms of insanity.

It should be stated, that prior to his jumping out of bed, a candle had been brought, and a man who was in the room also observed the spots of blood on his clothes, and remarked on the circumstance to another female who was present - the latter said, "Yes, I applied some leeches to him this morning." Ward, hearing this conversation, said to the nurse, "you be off, you do not belong to this division." Sir Richard Dobson, upon his arrival with the other medical officers in the strong room, after they had seen the body of the deceased, asked a question of Ward, who answered, "What are you looking at, you cannot see through me with your glass eyes?" Sir Richard said, "Well my man, have you been about?" "Why, I killed him." "How did you kill him?" "Why, like a d---d------sailor, and I'd kill you too if i could get at you." "What did you kill him for?" "Because he was plaguing me - mocking me when i coughed." He had been previously been asked by a nurse how he did it, and answered "With a knife; the knife is on a stool by the side of the bed." The woman to whom this was said remembered that she had stood by the stool whilst conversing with Ward in bed in the other room, and became much agitated at the thought of the narrow escape which she herself might have had. The poor helpless old man who lay in the third crib, when questioned relative to the transaction, said Bailey was out of bed sitting in a chair, when he saw Ward get out of bed, and make a push at him; he heard no words; nothing was said, nor did he, from his own infirm state, take much notice of the circumstance. Bailey fell toward the fire-place, and the floor from the chair to that spot was covered in a stream of blood; the quantity of blood on the floor is described by Prowse to have been nearly two gallons. Death must have been instantaneous, as there were five wounds in the shape of a five diamonds; all of them might be covered with the hand, and each of them had penetrated to the heart. The centre one appeared to have a cross cut, as if a second incision had been made, or the knife had been turned about in the wound. There was also a wound in the face. No resistance seems to have been offered, nor could it well have been made, as the poor murdered man had lost his right arm. After the medical officers had left Ward on Saturday night, Lieut. Rivers visited him, and Farmer the Constable. Ward asked one of the nurses to give him a pinch of snuff; upon which Farmer took the nurse's box off the table. "Let it alone." said Ward, "don' touch what does not belong to you." The nurse applied a pinch of snuff as he lay strapped down on the bed. "Now," said he, "put a little up the other nose. Farmer asked if he knew him? "Yes," said Ward laughingly, "I know you very well; you live in Straight's Mouth, and you've got two daughters; I'd some idea of marrying one of them, but i suppose you would not let her have and old College-man." Foster said, "What made you do it ?" He answered. "What's that to you; I'd serve you the same; you come to murder me, but you must not do it here."

It had been considered remarkable that the knife (a long clasp-handled one, with its point in the shape of a double blade) was perfectly free from any appearance of blood. Lieutenant Rivers asked him how it was the knife was so clean. He said, "Why, I licked it clean with my tongue." He had before given a similar answer to the same question put to him by the Boatswain Connor. He was asked what ship he had served on board of, and named one in which he said he had broken his skull by a fall from the mast rigging; he said he had also killed a man before in a merchant ship. Yesterday morning he appeared quite rational, and said he was very sorry for what he had done; that he had had a horrid night, and could get no rest. During the whole day he scarcely moved at his own accord. He was taken out whilst the bed was being made and behaved very quietly. He took a little gruel at intervals during the day, and in the evening became very drowsy; once or twice when he opened his eyes, he said to himself, in a low tone, "Mercy, mercy, mercy," and "Do, do, do." He would however, give no reply to the nurse who question him how he felt. There were still strong symptoms of fever upon him and his face looked flushed.

The deceased, who was 60 years of age, belonged to the second Duke Ward in the Hospital, and was familiarly known as the "Mole Cateher." Ward is 54 years of age and has a snug little cabin in the Victory Ward. Upon a table in this cabin, the following copy of a will, written upon half a sheet of paper, was found the morning after the murder. It is dated August the 5th, at which period in last year, he was a patient in the Infirmary, under an attack of cholera:

THE WILL "August the 5.

"At the Infermery of the Royal Hospital This is to Certify that I wish Morggon Brion to have Every One Of My Litel Effects at My Desece I all so Wish of him to Wright a Letter Directed William Ward No 13 William Street Cannon Street Road St Georgies in the East Except My Mitans Cary them To My farther your sellf When I Am Gone to A pleasant Shore.

" Last Will and Test."

Between twelve and one o'clock this morning, he complained of being hungry, and some bread and butter was brought to him, of which he ate nearly half a pound. He conversed very calmly and rationally with his attendant - asked what he thought would be done with him ? The man said he did not know, but recommended him to pray to God. He said he could not pray; HE DID NOT KNOW HOW TO PRAY!! and burst into tears. It is said that this is the third murder committed in the same room.

[Extracted from that popular Journal, The Greenwich Gazette, Monday, January 27, 1834]

The Coroner's Inquest on the body of the deceased, was held at Greenwich Hospital, on Tuesday, Jan 28, when after examining a number of witnesses, the Jury returned a Verdict of 

Wilful Murder against Ward.

And he will be conveyed to Maidstone Goal as soon as he can be removed.

London: printed by G. Smeeton, 74 Tooley Street, Southwark; where are constantly on Sale, a great variety of SLIP SONGS, BALLADS, &c, carefully and correctly printed on fine yellow wove paper, -- PRIMERS, LOTTERIES, &c. PATTERS, detailing AUTHENTIC Narratives of Remarkable SHIPWRECKS, ACCIDENTS, MURDERS, EXECUTIONS, &c. *** Shopkeepers supplied