1786 : Thomas Pluck, a Seaman, is a Witness at the Trial of Hannah Mullens

Title: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey : Ref Number: t17860426-10
Date: 26 April 1786
Place: London

HANNAH otherwise HANNAH MULLENS, was indicted, for that she, well knowing that one Peter Roach had served our Lord the King, as a seaman, on board the Burford, and that certain wages and pay were due to him for such service, on the 11th of November last, she did appear in her proper person before the Worshipful George Harris, and did produce and exhibit a certain paper, partly printed, and partly written, with a certain mark thereunto set, which purported to be the last will and testament of the said Peter Roach, and did then and there unlawfully, wilfully, and knowingly, take a false oath that that paper did contain the last will and testament of him the said Peter Roach; and that she was the executrix therein named, with intent to obtain probate, in order to receive the wages and pay so due to him the said Peter Roach, for and on account of his said service, against the statute .
A second count, for that she, supposing certain wages and pay was due, &c.

THOMAS FLETCHER sworn.  I am a clerk in the Prerogative-office. This is a will of Peter Roach; I bring this from the place where the original wills are deposited.

JOHN SEALY sworn.   I am clerk to Mr. John Crickett, Proctor, in Doctors Commons. I know the prisoner; I saw her, and received this will from her; I wrote this jurata upon it. I went with her to be sworn; I saw her sworn; I saw Doctor Harris sign it.

What was the oath? - She swore that paper contained the last will and testament of Peter Roach; that she was the executrix therein named.

Court.   To what purpose was this oath administered to her? - For her to receive the effects.

What was to be done in consequence of that oath? - To obtain probate.

What was the purpose for which she applied to you? - To prove the will, to obtain probate.

Did she come alone? - No person with her, to the best of my knowledge; I do not know where she lived; I did not see her husband; she sent some person after it the next time; it was some man.

(The Will read, witnessed by Philip Riley and John Penny .)

HENRY WILLIAMS sworn.   There is no other man of the same name; this man, Peter Roach, appeared to have served on board the Coventry, from the 16th of July, 1781, till the 2d of September, in the same year; when he was discharged into the Burford, on the 14th of August, the Coventry was at sea at some part of the East Indies, latitude 18.

Turn to the Burford book, how and when does he appear to have been on board? - He arrived in the Burford the 3d of September from the Coventry, and served to the 19th of April, 1783, when he died in Madrass road.

Were there any wages due to him? - There were.

Are there now? - Yes.

Look for John Penny and Philip Riley ? - John Penny appears to have died on the 8th of August, 1779, at the hospital at Symons Town, I believe, in the East Indies; and Philip Riley did not die till the 6th of June, 1782.

Then he was borne on the ship's books at this time? - Till the 6th of June, 1782, they both belonged to the Burford.

Court.   Supposing a person had come to have enquired at the office for the name of Peter Roach, what information would you have given? - I should have given the original entry in the Coventry, carrying it back to July.

HENRY PENTON sworn.   I was quarter-master on board the Burford in 1781; I knew Peter Roach for a good while; I have seen him write, he wrote pretty middling, that a man might read, and he could write both in pen and chalk, for he was in my watch; he was blown up in the East-India man, called the Duke of Arthur, the 19th of April, 1783; I never saw him write any will or power, or any such thing as that; I have seen him write, he has written with my pen a twelvemonth before his death; he came to the Burford in 1781 from the Coventry.

THOMAS PLUCK sworn.    I was a foremast-man on board the Magnanime.

Did you know Philip Riley of the Burford? - Yes.

Have you seen him write often? - Yes.

Look at this? - That was never his hand writing in the world; I knew him extremely well, he wrote a very heavy and a very ordinary hand, indeed; he was very little used in writing.

Court.   Do you remember Riley in the Burford in the year 1781? - I knew him in the year 1782, after the 12th of April; I knew nothing of him before that time.

Court to Williams.   When did Riley first come into the Burford? - On the 13th of December, 1778, and died the 6th of January, 1782.

To Pluck.   Did you know of his death? - No. How long had you known him? - Between two and three months.

ELIZABETH RYDER sworn.   What relation were you to John Penny ? - I was his mother's own sister, and his own sister is in the next room; he was a mariner on board the Burford; he could not write, nor read writing.

What became of him? - He died abroad, I forget the name of the place.

SARAH HALL sworn.   Had you a brother of the name of John Penny ? - Yes; he was a mariner on board the Bedford, or some such name.

Was it the Burford? - Yes.

Where did he die? - At the Cape of Good Hope.

What age was he when you last saw him? - I do not know; he might be upwards of forty. Did you see him a little time before he left this kingdom to go abroad? - He could not write when he went from this kingdom, unless he was learned abroad; he could neither read nor write.

Does it appear from the ship's books where this young man represented himself as coming from? - From Folkstone.

How old was your brother when he died? - He might be about forty-five or forty-six.

What year was he born in? - I do not know; he was younger than myself; I am forty-eight; he has been gone eight years this April, to the best of my memory.

How much younger was he than you? - Two or three years.

To Williams.   You say he had entered his forty-ninth year? - Yes.

JOHN ABEL , alias PATERSON sworn.   I know the prisoner, she asked me some questions once.

What? - She asked me if I knew such a ship as the Burford, from India; it was about ten days or a fortnight before I was taken; she asked me if I knew any of the people belonging to the Burford, for she had got a person that did belong to that ship, that brought her from Ireland, and she had his will and power; and she asked me to go to the Pay-office to receive the wages, and if I should be asked whether I brought the will over, to say, yes; that was all.

Did you go with her? - Yes.

Did you say so? - They did not ask me.

Court.   How long have you known this woman? - I never saw her, to know her, but once or twice.

Where did she live? - I saw her at a public house; I do not know where she lived.

How much was you to take for your trouble? - She did not promise me any thing particular; she said I should be satisfied.

Did you know Roach, Penny, or Riley? - No.

You went along with this woman? - Yes.

What did you tell the gentlemen at the Pay-office? - I do not know that they asked me any questions; I did not speak, that I know of.

So the woman was a stranger to you? - Yes; I had seen her once or twice before.

Did you know where she lodged, or was to be met with? - No.

Do you think it was a proper thing for you to lie for this woman, though you did not swear for her? - I did not think of the consequence; she told me she could not find the man.

Court.   Take care of yourself in future; if you had come here as a party, it would have gone very hard with you.

- SLADE sworn.   On the 27th of February, the prisoner, in company with this man, who went by the name of Patterson, brought this administration belonging to Peter Roach ; upon looking who were witnesses to the will, I found that one of the witnesses was dead two years before the will was made; I asked her who brought it over; she said the man that was with her; she said his name was Abel; she brought this paper with her. (The paper read.)

"Burford, Peter Roach , No. 1648, Madrass, R. D. 5. 8. J. P." It belongs to the office of a Mr. Willcotes.

(The paper shewn to the Jury.)

Do you know any thing of that ticket? - Yes, it is wrote by a person in our office, whose name is Stephen.

Is it his business to make out these sort of tickets? - By the authority being produced.

Has Mr. Stephen been applied to, to know whether he can give any account of it? - I believe not.

The Navy-office is down at Crutched Friars? - Yes; I dare say he can give no account of it.

PRISONER's DEFENCE.    My Lord, a young man that belonged to the Burford, Patrick Croghill, delivered me this will at Mrs. Mould's, the Cock, in High-street, St. Giles's, about eleven months ago.

Have you got the letter in which it was brought to you? - No, Sir, I have not, I have lost it; I could neither read nor write myself, I got a young man to write a letter for me.

Had you any reason to expect that you should be made executrix to this man, and that he would leave you this money? - I had not seen him these ten years.

Was he a relation to you? - No; he lived with me half a year; he never sent to me; I never heard from him from the time he went away; this is the man that wrote the letter, whom I called from the next box.

How came you to keep it so long by you? I was big with child, and I did not like to go till I was well.

Is there any body here that knows that this man lived with you? - I do not know.

How old are you now? - I am going of twenty-six.

And you say this was ten years ago; you must have been very young indeed? - Yes.

Where did you come from? - From Ireland.

How long have you been in London? - I have been in London about ten years.

Where have you lived, what part of London? - I lived at St. Giles's, and in a good many parts.

In what way? - As a servant; I have been a servant these four or five years; I have lived with this child's father these two years; his name is Edward Mullins .

What is he? - He porters.

Who is he that you call to give an account of your receiving this letter? - That man there.

EDWARD EDWIN sworn.   What countryman are you? - An Irishman.

How long have you known this woman? - About two years.

Do you know Edward Mullins ? - No.

Do you know where the prisoner has lived these last two years? - I know she lived in St. Giles's; I live in Drury-lane, I am a labourer.

Have you got any of your writing here? - Yes; I went before my Lord Mayor, when I was stopped.

Who stopped you? - The Lord Mayor.

How came you to be stopped? - When I appeared as evidence for the woman.

Tell me what you know about this matter? - I saw a will inclosed in a letter, delivered to Hannah Mullins about a twelvemonth ago.

Who was it delivered to her by? - A sailor.

Did you know the sailor? - No.

Do you know how the sailor found her out? - Yes, he enquired of Mrs. Moulds for her.

How came he to find out Mrs. Moulds? - The direction was on the letter.

So then it was in consequence of the direction being on the letter, at Mrs. Moulds, that this woman was found out? - Yes.

You read the direction? - Yes.

Was she in the room at Mrs. Mould's at the time that the man came there? - Not that I know of; he enquired for her when he came in, and Mrs. Moulds sent for her.

When she came, what happened then? - I do not know, I took no further notice, till she handed me the letter; I saw him give her the letter.

Was the letter sealed, or unsealed? - Sealed.

Did he tell her who it came from? - I cannot say.

Did she read the letter? - I read it, she could not read.

What was in the letter? - I cannot tell.

What was there besides the letter? - There was a will in it.

Whose will was it? - I cannot tell you.

How do you know it was a will? - When I read it, every body in the house said it was a will; I did not know it was a will till I was told it.

You do not remember whose it was? - No.

Look at that writing and tell me whether it is your hand, did you write that before my Lord Mayor? - Yes.

How happens it that you, who have known this woman so long, should not know Mr. Mullens? - She has had two or three husbands while I knew her.

You are not one of them, are you? - No.

Court to Abel.   Did you never receive a letter from her desiring you to come? - No.

Court to Edwin.   Do you know who it was that brought the letter? - I cannot say.

Look at Mr. Patterson, and say whether that was him or not? - I cannot say it was.

Can you say it was not? - It is so long ago I cannot say.

Where was this woman's husband when the letter was delivered? - I cannot say.

Have you never said it was Patterson that wrote the letter? - I never did.

Did you happen to know how long Mrs. Moulds has kept that house? - While I was in London.

How long is that? - About six or seven years.

Court to Patterson.   Was not you the person that brought this letter? - I was persuaded to say so at first.

The question is, whether you did not deliver this letter to this woman at Moulds'? now take care before you answer it. - No, Sir, I did not.

You did not? - No. Is Mrs. Moulds here? I will read to you what the minutes are of your examination, and then I wish you to consider what answer you will give to me; you said you was born at Hippersley in Worcestershire; that you was on board the Eleanor brigg five years ago, is that true? - Yes.

That you never knew Peter Roach ; that you had the letter on board the Burford, in 1783; that that letter was given you; that you sat down in the box, that there were two or three men in the same room, that you sat down in the middle box? - I did not say that before my Lord Mayor.

What part of it did you say, did not you say before my Lord Mayor, that you delivered this letter to this woman? - Yes, the day I was taken up; then, when my Lord asked the truth, I told him, and he told me it was better to tell the truth, and I did tell him all the truth about it.

So first of all you did say so, and it was not true? - Yes, then I told him as I have told you.

THOMAS WELCH sworn.   I am a labourer and porter. Are you acquainted with that man, Daniel Patterson ? - No, I never saw him till I saw him at the prison.

Did not you see him at the Cock? - No, I could not swear that I saw him.

Where do you live? - I lodge in Dyot-street.

Was you drinking with him at the Cock? - No, I was drinking with Edwin at the Cock.

Do you remember the circumstance of a man coming in and enquiring for Mrs. Mullens? - Yes, I heard that circumstance particularly, I happened to be sitting in the middle box, and some time after they came in, she turned about and called Edwin out of the box from me, as I sat alone, I turned about and I saw both their heads together, and he was reading in a slow voice.

Who was the man that brought that letter? - I do not know.

Look at Mr. Patterson? - I have seen him often since, I never said he was the man.

Did not you say that Patterson came to enquire for Mullens, and that Patterson gave her a letter? - I could not swear that he was the man, or that he was not the man, I never said he was the man before my Lord Mayor.

Then observe, before my Lord Mayor you did not say that Patterson was the man? - No, I did not.

Court to Prisoner.   Can you satisfy the Jury what name you go by now? - Yes, by the name of Mullens.

Why the man's name that you live with is Mullens? - But my father's name was Jack Mullens .

GUILTY, Death.   Tried by the London Jury before Mr. Baron EYRE . She was humbly recommended to mercy by the Jury, because they supposed she had been drawn in.

Court. It is just now suggested to me, that this is not the first or second of these wills, that she has been concerned in; and if so, you would wish to withdraw your recommendation; but if she is really an innocent person, we will listen to it; I shall desire my Lord Mayor, who has had this affair before him to make enquiry into it.

There are no clues to the identity of this Thomas Pluck. He was a seaman, slightly unusual for the Plucks and Pluckroses, so he might be an Irish Pluck.


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