HORRIFYING CONFESSIONS OF A MURDERER
Saturday last at the Moot Hall, Wigan, Thomas GRIME, the Dartmoor convict, was brought up for further examination for the murder of James BARTON, fireman at the Button Pit, Haigh on the night of 2nd January, 1863. The charge against GRIME arose from his father and brother having given up to the police the watch of the murdered man, which they proved had been brought home by the prisoner soon after the murder, the description of the watch having recently appeared in the newspapers. In consequence of this Thomas GRIME was brought from Dartmoor, for examination to Wigan, where a man named THOMPSON was already in custody charged with the murder
The charge against Thomas GRIME only was proceeded with. After the fact of the murder and the identity of the watch had been proved , Inspector PETERS gave evidence of him charging GRIME with the murder at Dartmoor and to him GRIME made a confession.
He said that a fortnight before the murder William THOMPSON had asked him to join in it. On the night of the murder, THOMPSON, Joseph SEDDON, and GRIME met to go out poaching. [SEDDON has since died]. They met at 9.30 pm and went to the pit. On getting there THOMPSON said he would do the old ________ . BARTON had denied him from taking game. He saw THOMPSON go into the cabin. He was on the pit brow and saw BARTON lying on the seat in the cabin, SEDDON was a few yards further away. THOMPSON took a crowbar and holding it in both hands he raised it up to his shoulders, saying, Now you old __________, I will do you, and at the same time struck him on the forehead with the crowbar, he heard BARTON groan. THOMPSON said he was not dead and gave him another blow with the crowbar, after the second blow BARTON never moved. THOMPSON then got hold of his legs and dragged him out of the cabin and chucked him down the slack hole.
GRIME moved six yards further back and THOMPSON shouted was there anyone coming and asking SEDDON what shall we do with him, SEDDON made no reply. THOMPSON then said we will put him in the fire hole, which THOMPSON and SEDDON did. THOMPSON said he will never be seen anymore, he will just chuck ten shovels of slack on him. He did so and shut the fire hole.
THOMPSON took the deceased watch and chain, he kept it for a week, he then gave it to SEDDON to pawn and got a sovereign on it. THOMPSON got 10s GRIME and SEDDON 5s each. SEDDON said the murderer will be found before long, THOMPSON replied that it never would be found except some of them split.
PETERS said that on the 27th March GRIME asked him where was STEPPER [The prisoner WALTON now in Kirkdale gaol on the charge is thus known] because he was with them when the murder was committed, he was in the cabin when THOMPSON knocked BARTON down and helped to drag him across the pit brow to the fire hole.
When the evidence was closed GRIME was asked what he had to say and repeated the confession he had made to PETERS, he also added that THOMPSON had proposed to him to shoot COWLING a policeman.
He was committed for trial and as he was leaving the dock, he said that he must have STEPPER in the case, he must give evidence to clear him. THOMPSON through his attorney entirely denied the story of GRIME. THOMPSON is a young man of forbidding appearance and he gazed unflinchingly at GRIME with a flushed face. He was remanded for one week.
AT the Northern Circuit, Liverpool, on the 13th of August, before Mr. Baron Martin Thomas Grime was placed at the bar, charged with the wilful murder of James Barton, at Haigh, on the 2nd of January, 1863.
Mr. Aspinall, Q.C., and Mr. Fitz Adam were counsel for the prosecution, and Mr. Pope defended the prisoner. This was the case of the " Wigan murder," which has created very great interest throughout the district, in consequence of the peculiar atrocity of the crime and the mystery in which it continued to be so long enveloped. James Barton, with his sons, was an engine-tenter at the Birwik House Colliery, between Wigan and Chorley, and working the night shift alone on the night of the 2nd January, 1863, the pumping engine only being at work. He went to his work at 6 o'clock in the evening, being met on his way by his son John, who was then leaving work, and he was never seen alive again. At half-past 3 in the morning, when James Watman went to relieve the deceased, he was unable to find him anywhere about. He found the furnaces low, the cabin adjoining empty and in darkness, and the fire there nearly out. He was not immediately alarmed, but on knocking up the fire in the cabin his attention was attracted by a part of a burnt muffler on the floor, and on looking further, he found a crow-bar with blood upon it, and splashes and finger-marks of blood upon the floor and walls. He then went to seek the assistance of the deceased's son James, and together they made a further search. In the first furnace they found the ashes very white, as if a quantity of wood had been burnt in it, and among them a thigh bone, arm bone, and a part of a skull, and the ashes themselves were greasy and glued together by some substance which an analytical chemist afterwards pronounced to be blood. There were also found some burnt buttons, shoe nails, a waistband-buckle, such as the deceased was in the habit of wearing, and two brace buckles. There was also blood upon the dead plate of the furnace. It was proved that Barton was wearing a watch that night at his work.
These discoveries being made, it was clear that Barton had been murdered, but, although a reward and free pardon to any accomplice (not the actual murderer) were offered by Government for a very long time, no clue to the guilty persons was obtained. After the lapse of a year, however, in consequence of a statement made by a person named Walton (called also " Stepper") that if the canal were dragged the watch would be found there, further notice was drawn to the case, and, after that had been fruitlessly performed, a minute description of the watch, with the number and name of the maker, was published in the newspapers. Upon reading this a brother of the prisoner, James Grime, at once recognized it as a watch which had come into his possession and been dealt with in the following way, and he at once took steps to recover possession of it and deliver it to the police. It appeared that Grime, the father, James, and the prisoner lived together at Chorley, and worked in a factory there. A few weeks after the time of the murder the prisoner produced to his brother James a watch wrapped in a handkerchief, and, saying it was one for which he had suffered twelve months at Liverpool, asked him to pledge it for him. The maker's name was " Robert Crosskill, Liverpool," and the number" 17844." The watch was pledged by him in the name of " John Walworth," on the 7th of April, and some time after the prisoner asked his brother to apply for a " stop ticket," he having lost the original ticket. This ticket being also lost by the prisoner he told his brother that he might get the watch out if he could, and keep it, and James Grime got it and sold it to a man named Ackers. Upon reading the published description of Barton's watch he at once recognised it as one he had sold, and, getting it back from Ackers, delivered it to the police. It was proved beyond question to be the deceased's watch by the watchmaker who had repaired it for him, and who had the name and number in his book. The father of the prisoner was also able to say that on the night of the murder the prisoner returned home to Chorley between 5 and 6 in the morning.
Upon obtaining these clues an officer of the Lancashire police named Peters presented himself at the Dartmoor prison, where the prisoner was then serving a sentence for another felony, and charged him with the murder at the pit. The prisoner said nothing then, but on being brought back in the railway he made the following statement :-
" 1 met William Thompson about a fortnight before the murder of Barton, near my parent's house at Eaves Lane. Chorley, He said, ' Wilt thou come with me to murder Barton? ' We had some ale together in the day, and during the day he asked me if I would go out a-poaching with him. We met Joseph Seddon the same night near the Castle Inn Chorley. Seddon and me refused to go with Thompson that night to Bawkhouse pit in Haigh. Seddon, Thompson, and me met together again about half-past 9 at night near Richard Hammill's factory Chorley. We then came forward to Chorley lane and then up the canal bank to Red Rockbridge. We then went over Red Rock bridge through one of the Lord's farmyards, and came up to the tram road which goes to the Bawkhouse pit. On getting to the pit Thompson said he would do the old ---------. Barton had denied him of taking game and ordered him off the premises, and told him if ever he came again he would do him. Thompson went in the cabin, and at this time the engine was running, pumping water. I was on the pit brow, close to the cabin, and Seddon a few yards further off. Barton was laid down on the form in the cabin. Thompson took a crowbar, held it with both hands, and raised it to his shoulders, and said, “ Now, you old ---------. I'll do you.' At the same time he struck him on the forehead with the crowbar and I heard Barton groan. Thompson said, ' He is not dead.' He then gave him another blow with the bar. After he struck the second blow he never moved. Thompson then got hold of him by the legs and dragged him out of the cabin and chucked him down the slack hole. I moved about six yards further back. Thompson shouted, ' Is there anybody coming?' Thompson said to Seddon, ' What should I do with him ? ' Seddon never spoke. Thompson then said, ' We will put him in the fire hole.' Thompson then said to me, ' He will never be seen no more.' Thompson said, ' I'll chuck about ten shovels of slack on him.' He threw the slack in and closed the doors. I was all of a tremble. We all three, Thompson, Seddon, and me, crossed the field and went on the high road that goes up to Tupper's-hill, and goes on Blackrod road. Then we came into the turnpike road and through Adlington to Chorley, and got there about 5 o'clock in the morning.
My father asked me where I had been. I did not tell him. My father said to me at night when he came home (Saturday), ' Keep out of that Thompson's company.' He said Thompson was a blackguard. Thompson had several times been in our house, and my father ordered him out. After Thompson had killed Barton he took Barton's watch and chain and put it in his pocket. I had a verge watch of my own. Thompson said if I would give him my watch and 10s. we could divide Barton's watch between Seddon and me. I refused to do so then.
Thompson kept Barton's watch a week. He then gave it to Joseph Seddon to pawn. Seddon pawned Barton's watch in the name of ' John Walworth,' and got a sovereign on it. Thompson got 10s. of the money, and myself and Seddon got 5s. each. We then all three went and had a quart or two of ale apiece. Seddon said to me, ' The murder will be found out before long.' Thompson then said, 'It will never be found out except some of us splits. "
Two days later the prisoner again applied to Peters, and said, " I want to speak to you Mr. Peters. Where is Stepper, because he was with us when the murder was committed? Thompson and me about three or four days before the murder was committed was poaching beside the paper mill. Stepper, sometimes called Hopper, was with us. Some calls him Patten. He has an iron pattern under his foot. Stepper was in the cabin when Thompson knocked him down. Stepper helped to drag him across the pit brow to the fire-hole. Seddon said, 'What must we do with him?' and Stepper and Thompson shoved him in the fire-hole.
" When before the magistrate the prisoner made a statement for the most part repeating the above, and saying, "Thompson was the very first man that ever mentioned murdering anybody. Well, I was present when he murdered Mr. Barton, and no other person murdered him but him."
Walton, or " Stepper," implicated in this statement, was charged with this murder jointly with the prisoner, but in accordance with a suggestion made by his Lordship, it was determined that he should take his trial separately to-morrow, in order that he should not be prejudiced by the reading of these statements, which are not, of course, legal evidence against him. Seddon was in custody, but died in gaol, and Thompson, against whom no corroboration of those charges could be found, is at large.
For the defence, Mr. Pope said it was impossible to fathom the motives of the human mind leading to the confession of crimes which, in some instances, had never even been committed. Possibly there might have been some motive of this description (such as a desire to be a criminal of a very notorious kind) working upon the mind of the prisoner, and that his statement in this case was altogether false. It was a curious fact that three men had made confessions, and the prisoner's was the only one which had been acted upon, the others being obviously false. It might be, therefore, that the prisoner's story was also false, especially remembering the offer of the reward and pardon. But even if taken to be true, it did not implicate him to the extent of making him an accomplice ; and if he took no part in the deed, but merely stood by, dastard though they might think him not to have interfered to protect the deceased, and criminal not to give information, it did not amount to making him an accomplice. If the jury were not satisfied by the confession that the prisoner was actually a partaker in the murder, they would not, in acquitting, be delivering a weak verdict for the purpose of saving him, but they would b maintaining those principles of law which are so valuable to the Constitution.
His Lordship, in summing up, said that he had heard, in the last day of the assizes, some very startling statements with respect to the regaid to be paid to confessions. There might have been one or two extraordinary cases, but they were exceptional. Supposing the jury believed the prisoner's statement, although it was true that a person merely standing by and taking no part was not an accomplice if the statement led them to believe that he went out with the actual perpetrators with a common design, and afterwards shared the spoil, he was just as guilty as the others.
The jury almost immediately turned round with a verdict of guilty, and his Lordship pronounced sentence of death, with but little preface, saying that he had no desire to inflict unnecessary pain on the prisoner or on himself by dwelling on the details of the crime. It was as satisfactorily proved to his mind as if he had seen it committed by the prisoner with his own eyes, and if punishment of death was ever to be inflicted never had there occurred a case more worthy of it than the present. He, therefore, held out no hope of a respite, and warned the prisoner to do his best to make his peace speedily with God.
8th September 1866
EXECUTION OF THOMAS GRIME,
On Saturday, shortly after midday, Thomas Grime was hung at Kirkdale Gaol, for the murder of James Barton, at Bawkhouse Colliery, near Wigan, in January, 1863. It will be remembered that the deceased Barton was thrust into a colliery furnace and burnt to cinders, and that the prisoner, to whom the crime had been traced, was about two years afterwards in a convict prison at Dartmoor, when he made a confession of his guilt, implicating several other persons. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to death at the last Liverpool Assizes, and shortly after his condemnation he made another confession, stating that he alone committed the crime, but this confession as will be seen below, he subsequently modified. The weather on Saturday was for several hours very wet and stormy, but in spite of this upwards of 50,000 persons assembled in front of the gallows. The crowd was exceptionably quiet and orderly, and but few women were present. About ten minutes past twelve Grime appeared on the scaffold, attended by the Rev. Mr. Gibson, the Roman Catholic chaplain of the gaol, who had been in constant attendance on him since his condemnation, Calcraft, the executioner, and the chief warder of the gaol. The customary preliminary arrangements were soon made by the experienced hands of Calcraft, and while the chaplain was reciting an appropriate prayer commending the murderer's soul to the merciful care of his Maker, the drop suddenly fell and the body was hid from public view by the black screen erected in front of the scaffold. In the course of the afternoon his body was cut down and buried within the precincts of the prison, and, as usual, some hundreds of persons lingered about the scene of the execution for many hours after the corpse was removed from public view. Up to the last hour Grime was wonderfully cool and contented in mind, and fond of conversing with the officials of the prison, and more especially with an old friend named Satterthwaite, who was allowed to visit him daily. He had many conversations with Satterthwaite about the murder, and to him, during the last few days of his existence, he repeatedly asserted tha.t he never laid hands on Barton, and that the murder was really committed by the persons whom he originally accused of the crime, and who had, after several examinations, been discharged.