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Life, Trial, and Execution of
William G. Youngman,
the Walworth Murderer.

On Tuesday, August 16th, William Godfrey Youngman was placed at the bar of the Central Criminal Court to take his trial for the murder of his murder of his mother, two brothers, and his sweetheart.—Shortly after ten o'clock the learned judge, Mr. Justice Wilhams, took his seat on the bench. The prisoner, who was described as a tailor, and 25 years of age, was then placed at the bar. He exhibited perfect coolness and self-possession, and did not seem in the slightest degree affected at his awful position. The indictment that was proceeded with was the one charging him with the wilful murder of his sweetheart, Mary Wells Streeter.—Mr. James Bevan said: I reside at 16, Manor place, Walworth. The prisoner's father occupied the top floor of the house. On the 31st of July his family consisted of his wife, two little boys, the prisoner, and the deceased. I understand the prisoner had come to see his father on a holiday, and he would sleep there. About ten minutes to 6 in the morning I was in bed, and heard a noise and a heavy fall on the top floor of the house. I got up to see what was the matter, and before I could get to the door Mr. Beard knocked on it and said, "for God sake come here — here is murder." I went upstairs directly, and when I got to the top of the stairs I saw the elder boy lying dead upon the landing. I did not see anything more than, but went down and dressed myself, and I then saw the prisoner standing in his nightshirt on the staircase. He said to me "My mother has done all this—she murdered my two brothers and my sweetheart, and I, in self-defence, believe I have murdered her." I went out and fetched the police.—Susannah Beard said: Me and my husband occupied the back room as a sleeping room. About one o'clock in the morning of the 31st of July, I heard a noise overhead like something very heavy falling on the boards of the bedroom above ours. My husband went out to see what was the matter, and he called out "Murder!"and came downstairs. He afterwards went up again with the landlord. I went to the door of our room and saw the prisoner standing on the staircase. He said, Mrs Beard, my mother has done all this. She has murdered my sweetheart and my two little brothers, and I believe in self-defence I have murdered her."

Philip Beard, the husband of the last witness, said, I had seen the prisoner in our house a few days. I remember being awoke by my wife, and I heard a rambling on the landing. The noise was like that of children running about. I went out of my room, and I heard a slight screen. When I got to the outside of my room, I saw some blood on the stairs, and on the top of the staircase I saw the little boy lying on the landing. His throat was cut and he was dead. I then saw the body of the deceased lying a little beyond that of the boy. I did not observe any other bodies at the time, as I was very much alarmed, and I went down and called the landlord, and he went upstairs together; and I went to dress. I then fetched a policeman and a surgeon. I saw the prisoner upon the stairs, and he told me that his mother had done it all, and that he had murdered her in self-defence.

After the further examination of a number of witnesses, who corroborated the evidence already given, Mr. Best, in a powerful and touching speech, addressed the jury for the prisoner.

The jury retired, and in about 25 minutes returned into court, and amid breathless suspense gave a verdict of Guilty.

The judge then put on the black cap, and delivered the following sentence: Prisoner at the bar, you have been convicted of the crime of murder, and one of the most heinous ever committed, but it is no part of my office to dwell on the enormity of your guilt. It is my only duty to pass upon the sentence of the law, and that sentence is—That you be taken to the prison from whence you came, and then to the place of execution, and there be hanged by the neck until you are dead. May the Lord have mercy on your miserable soul!


Tuesday, September 4th, was the day appointed for the execution of Youngman, the perpetrator of four murders at Walworth. At an early hour people of the lowest order began to assemble in the neighbourhood of the prison, and by five o'clock every available space was occupied. At seven o'clock the chaplain entered the condemned cell to administer religious consolation to the criminal, and remained with him until the time of his execution. In reply to exhortation addressed to him by the chaplain, he repeated substantially the story he had always told as to his share in the crime. The chaplain urged him not to leave the world with a lie in his mouth. "Well, if I wanted to tell a lie it would be to say that I did it. "He, nevertheless, conducted himself towards the chaplain with respect, listened to him with attention, and joined in prayer; but, beyond those mechanical observances, he showed no evidence whatever of feeling.

The minutes which remained to him to live might now be numbered. He was then conducted to a gateway; in which a corridor he had to traverse terminated, and there, a few minutes before nine, he was pinioned. The procession then formed, the gates were opened, the chaplain commenced reading the burial service, and, so escorted, the convict proceeded to the beam. On arriving at the drop and confronting the mass of human beings he looked wild and startled, but, recovering his composure he allowed himself to be placed on the drop, and, with evident fervency and an audible voice, he followed the chaplain in a prayer, clasping his hands in unmistakable devotion. For a moment he paused to request the executioner, who was adjusting the noose, to pinion his legs, which was done; and his parting words addressed to the chaplain—were, "Thank you, Mr Jessop, for your great kindness; see my brother, and take my love to him and all at home."

The drop fell, and he died in a few minutes.

H. Disley, Printer, 57, High Street, New Oxford Street.

SOURCE: Curiosities of Street Literature, London, Reeves and Turner, 196, Strand, 1871.