John Thurtell

(1794—1824) murderer

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Born into a respectable merchant family, Thurtell's own business ventures—as a bombazine manufacturer in Norwich and a publican in Long Acre, London—ended in failure and he was also a heavy and unsuccessful gambler. In 1823, resentful and in dire financial straits, he decided to murder William Weare, whom he believed to have cheated him of £300 at cards. On 24 October Weare left London in Thurtell's company. Their gig was followed by Thurtell's two accomplices, Joseph Hunt and William Probert. When they reached the lane to Probert's cottage near Radlett, in Hertfordshire, Thurtell shot Weare with a pistol, cut his throat, and rammed the pistol into his skull. The three men were soon arrested and the subsequent trial proved the most notorious of the 1820s. Probert turned King's evidence to avoid trial and punishment (he was executed for horse theft in 1825); Thurtell and Hunt were both convicted. Thurtell was hanged outside Hertford gaol on 9 January 1824 and his corpse was publicly dissected at St Bartholomew's Hospital. Hunt's sentence was commuted to transportation to Botany Bay in return for his disclosure of the location of Weare's body.


From The New Oxford Companion to Law in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Law.

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