The Last Man In England To Be Gibbeted, James Cook.


James Cook stands trial.

On July 28th James Cook made a full confession.

The crime had been carefully premeditated, for he expected Paas to be carrying a large sum of money. His hope was disappointed, for he subsequently stole only £55.

As Paas bent over some fine bindings, Cook struck him with an iron pin from his binders’ press. Paas cried  “Murder” and grabbed a hammer to defend himself, but a few more blows quickly deprived him of his life.

Cook stoked up the fire and went home, informing a woman in the yard that he was coming back to work later on.

All night he cut up the body and burned the fragments, and in the morning borrowed a mop and washed the floor. Next day he continued his task with short interludes of watching the neighbours playing bowls and drinking at the public house, The Flying Horse.

At 4 p.m. the task was nearly complete, but he was becoming sick in body and mind and he gratefully accepted an invitation from his neighbour, Mr Sawbridge (the man who owned the cowshed below Cook’s workshop), to accompany him milking in the fields nearby.

Cook’s nerve was beginning to fail, and after further drinks, he stoked up the fire, boarded up the window to hide the blaze, flung on the last remains and went home to bed. But a spark caught a pile of shavings, which flared up the chimney, with what result we have already narrated.

“Had he not got drinking,” he confessed later, he would never have been detected.

At first, Cook treated the matter with levity, but later his conscience asserted itself and he realised that he deserved his fate. On August 8th a packed Court must have heard the full story which had already been published in a pamphlet.

Throughout the trial, which lasted barely a quarter of an hour, the prisoner, who pleaded guilty, seemed oblivious of the proceedings, and read the New Testament while the judge pronounced the sentence of death by hanging, adding the still more barbarous order that the body should then be suspended in irons in a public place.

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