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2-284 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Broadside,un
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Newspapers & Broadsides
Ingleton, 1988
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A Memoir of Knatchbull, The Murderer of Mrs. Jamieson, COMPRISING AN ACCOUNT OF His English and Colonial History
SYDNEY, Wednesday, February 14, 1844.
The above named individual terminated his career, begun with honour and with every prospect of earthly advancement and happiness, in infamy on the scaffold, yesterday morning.
At the early hour of six, swarms of human beings - men, women, and children - might be seen pressing across the Race-course from all parts of the town, to the vicinity of Darlinghurst Gaol. One intense desire to witness the awful tragedy was depicted on the countenances of nearly all; here and there might be heard the heartless levity and unfeeling laugh of the unthinking, or the callous and reckless jeers of the hardened, but the majority appeared deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion; and as group after group swelled the thousands of spectators, many there were whose minds appeared thoroughly imbued with the respect, awe, and reverence due to the melancholy scene before them.
Within the walls of the gaol, at an early hour of six, might be heard the clank of the gaoler's hammer, unriveting the irons from the body of the prisoner, while at intervals the deep and solemn voice of the unhappy culprit would swell upon the ear in the most piteous accents of earnest prayer. From that hour until nine o'clock (the hour appointed for the execution), the prisoner was in continued intercourse with those religious advisers who had so faithfully performed their duty since his condemnation.
To them he unfolded his heart in frank and open confession. He denied that the murder was premeditated; "The devil instigated me to do this deed, and I DID IT !" - such were his words.
The following addressed to Mr Keck, is the only confession of his guilt, which has yet appeared.
"Condemned Cell, "Woolloomooloo Gaol, "10th February, 1844.
"In the presence of Almighty God, Amen.
"I am guilty of the horrid deed for which I am to suffer death; and may the Lord have mercy on my soul. Amen.
He was brought out from that cell to the scaffold, which had been erected outside the gaol wall. On either side of him were the Rev Mr Elder, and the Rev Mr Sharp; and following him the Rev Dr Ross and other religious friends, who had attended him in his last days. He walked steadily, apparently in-sensible to all around him, and engaged in ejaculating prayer. At the foot of the scaffold he knelt with the clergymen, and prayers were offered up. He ascended the steep ladder without failing; and to the last moment - after all the fatal arrangements had been completed, and after the clergymen had left him - his ejaculations were still heard by all those in the immediate neighbourhood.
The drop fell, and the struggle was but brief - death being probably hastened by the extent of the drop. The body was taken down after the usual lapse of time, and removed to within the walls of the gaol.
John Knatchbull was the second son of Sir Edward Knatchbull, of Meersham, the offspring of a second marriage. At an early period of his life, whilst indeed, a youth at school, John evinced symptoms of those vicious inclinations which have been his bane through life; a selfish gratification of his appetites, an impatience of restraint, and a treacherous disposition, distinguished him among his schoolfellows. 
On his removal from school he was entered as a midshipman in the Navy, and remained in the service up to the time of his transportation to this Colony, and he obtained the rank of Post Captain in it. Whether this was the result of his own merits or of family influence we are unable to state; but we are bound in candour to admit, that in the affairs of actual service we have heard nothing to his disadvantage. We believed he served under Lord Cockrane and received severe wounds.
On obtaining the rank as a commander, Knatchbull was appointed to the command of a small 10 gun brig, called the LINNET, and unenviable indeed, was the reputation, which attended to his name throughout the Navy, whilst in that situation. Woe to the unfortunate "Middy" who, supplied by the liberality of friends, chanced to have a purse of his own. The hawk stoops not on the dove with surer eye, than did the rapacious Knatchbull on his pigeon. We shall now record the circumstances which led to his transportation to the Colony of New South Wales. In the year 1824, a person of some note was surrounded in the Vauxhall Gardens by three men, who jostled him and picked his pocket. He was not sensible of his loss until some moments afterwards, when the persons disappeared. Late the same evening, while perambulating the street in a disconsolate mood, his attention was attracted by a street-quarrel.
Among the bystanders he observed one of the men who had picked his pocket, and gave him in charge. The person appeared indignant, and almost speechless with passion; he declared himself to be the brother of Sir Edward Knatchbull, and a Post Captain in the Navy. Of course, his story was not believed, and he was taken into custody.
But some gentleman of respectability having informed his accuser that the prisoner was in reality the person he described himself to be, he waited upon Sir Edward Knatchbull to apologise for having given his brother into custody; and he even offered to withdraw his accusation, as he could not think it was anything else than a drunken frolic.
Sir Edward thanked him for his attention, and informed him there was no mistake, but, on the contrary, there was no crime his brother would not perpetrate, and that the only favour he could show his family would be to bring the charge home to him, that he might be convicted, and meet the disgraceful fate which was certain to overtake him sooner or later. He was tried, accordingly, at the Surrey Assizes, under the name of FITCH or FETCH, and having been found guilty, was transported for fourteen years.
Put on board the convict ship ASIA, the name and station of Knatchbull again asserted its influence; instead of being confined, and classed among his fellow criminals, he had a small apartment assigned to him between decks, immediately under the Captain's cabin. The ASIA was detained four months in Portsmouth Harbour. There was a convict on board named Lovett, in a very sickly state, was placed at Knatchbull's disposal as a servant to him. To the poor fellow he behaved with the most wanton cruelty, often beating him, until the man died. As his death was attributed to Knatchbull's treatment, a great excitement prevailed amongst the crew with a general feeling of repugnance to the bully.
Knatchbull arrived in Sydney in April 1825. He was assigned to Mills, a publican at Penrith, where he remained for some time. He alluded to his state at that period as formerly he was a "Captain in the Navy - now a slave". After several changes, he was assigned to Mr Kinghorne, at Emu Plains, who behaved with great kindness to Knatchbull. He then took a situation as postman, to carry the mail between Bathurst and Mt. York. He received two shillings and ninepence a day for his service, filling the situation two years. He stated that he was comparatively happy during that time.
In the latter end of 1831, Knatchbull was apprehended on the charge of forgery on a party at Bathurst, and the evidence being clear, on the 25th of February 1832 he was convicted in the Supreme Court and sentenced to death, which sentence, was afterwards commuted to 7 year's transportation to Norfolk Island.
On his way down to Norfolk Island, an attempt under Knatchbull's instigation was made to murder the soldiers and crew of the GOVERNOR PHILLIP, by poisoning the coppers by means of arsenic. When, however, the plot amongst the prisoners was complete, the poison actually mingled with the food, Knatchbull discovered the scheme to the Captain to gain the informer's favour.
Having served his sentence in Norfolk Island, he again returned to Sydney, and was sent thence to Port Macquarie. Here we believe he behaved with considerable decency, and on the recommendation of several gentlemen and magistrates, in July 1842, he was allowed ticket of leave for that district. 
In July last, he again paid a visit to Sydney, when he applied in person, direct to His Excellency, Sir George Gipps, for an alteration of his ticket to Sydney, stating he could obtain employment in Sydney, by a Mr Lewis, residing in Sussex-street, who would give him charge of a small coasting craft. Sir George sent for Mr Ryan, of Hyde Park Barracks, and directed him to interview Mr Lewis, which he did, with the consequence that Sir George granted Knatchbull a ticket of leave passport to trade on the coast in the cutter THOMAS AND HARRIET, or the schooner WATERWITCH. At the beginning of January 1844, Mr Lewis became insolvent, and returned the passport to Mr Ryan, stating, that it was only on account of his insolvency that he discontinued to employ Knatchbull. 
Knatchbull did not report to Mr Ryan and was sought for. During that time Knatchbull was lurking about Sydney, and there is abundant reason to believe that he was on the watch to obtain money, either by fraud, forgery or robbery. He took lodgings at a house of a man named Holliwell in Clarence-lane, and on the night of the 6th of January commited his diabolical act. On Thursday, the 18th, Mrs Jamieson died, and on the 24th, JOHN FITCH alias JOHN KNATCHBULL came up for his trial before His Honour Mr Justice Burton at the Supreme Court, Sydney, on the charge of wilful murder upon Ellen Jamieson.
The circumstances of the atrocious murder disclosed at the trial were as follows. Mrs Jamieson, - an industrious widow - kept a small shop in Margaret-place and was reputed to be possessed of money which she was saving for the education of her two small children. Knatchbull in some way found this out.
On the evening of the 6th of January 1844 Knatchbull was observed to be lurking near Mrs Jamieson's shop, and Mr Shallis, who knew him, decided to watch his movements with the suspicion that he was loitering there for no good purpose. Observing Knatchbull enter the shop he ran to the door and listened. He soon heard a noise, which he described to be "like that of breaking a cocoanut with a hammer".
The house, the door of which Knatchbull had fastened inside, was forcibly entered soon afterwards by the police-officers. The poor widow was found insensible, her head dreadfully cut, and blood copiously flowing. Knatchbull was apprehended inside the house, and numerous circumstances combined to leave no shadow of doubt of his guilt.
The demeanour of the prisoner throughout the trial, while it evinced a strong inward struggle on his part, to combat the painful and harrowing feelings he must have experienced upon such an awful occasion, was highly decorous and respectful. The court was densely crowded throughout the trial, and exhibited a pretty large sprinkling of ladies, whom we think would have shown better taste in absenting themselves from such a trial.