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The execution of Catherine Foster – The Norfolk News – Saturday 24th April 1847


 

BURY ST. EDMUND’S. The execution of Catherine Foster, condemned to death by Chief Baron Pollock, the late Suffolk assizes, for poisoning her husband, took place in this town on Saturday. Those persons who have perused the evidence adduced the trial, have doubtless been loss to conceive the motive that could have induced her to destroy her husband, whom she had apparently loved from a child; and now that her life has been forfeited to the law, and her confession published to the world, it will found that it contains nothing that can be construed into motive. Although she made a frank avowal of her guilt, she studiously avoided alluding to any circumstance which might explain why she perpetrated the horrid deed. The following copy of her confession:-

Bury Gaol, April 12th. – To the Governor. First of all I must confess that I am guilty, and very guilty of awful crime, and well deserve the death I am condemned to die; and as I am soon to stand before my heavenly judge, I wish to speak the truth. I am sorry to say that I bought the poison at the shop of Mr. H. Ely, chemist, Sudbury, three days before I mixed it in the dumpling which gave to husband. It was served to me by a young man in the shop. Mr. Ely was not present; had he been present ho would have known me, as I had been frequently at his shop on errands for my mistress when was at service. The act was entirely my own. No person persuaded me to it, and my mother had no knowledge or suspicion of it. I had cause for complaint against my husband He was always good and kind to me, but I never had any affection for him, and wished to go back to service. I do not wish to live, for I never could be happy this world, and I hope, through the merits and blood of my Saviour, and sincere repentance this and all my sins, to obtain forgiveness of God, and to be received into Heaven. I die at peace with all, having complaint to make of any witness that appeared against on my trial, and full for the crime which brings me to this premature death. I wish to express my grateful thanks to the Rev. Mr. W. West, the chaplain of the gaol; the Ken Mr. Ottley, my parish minister; and the Rev. Mr. Eyre, for their great attention to my eternal interest, and for the spiritual hope and consolation I have received from their instructions and admonitions. I should wish Mr. Eyre to attend me my last moments, and earnestly request that he will so. – (Signed) Catherine Foster. – Witnessed by McIntyre, governor; Thomas West.

On Thursday she took her final leave of her aged mother, and Friday the condemned sermon was preached by Rev. Mr. Eyre, from the 32nd chapter of Numbers 23rd verse. On Saturday morning the crowd assembled to witness the execution was very great; at nine o’clock the number of persons could not have been less than 10,000, most of whom were decently clad women, and many had children their arms. On the arrival of the sheriffs they were informed that the convict had passed a restless night, A few minutes before nine, the officials proceeded to the cell which she was confined. On being pinioned, she made a slight shudder, but soon recovered herself. The procession was then formed to the drop, the unhappy female walking with a firm step, and unsupported. On reaching the steps at the foot of the gallows, one the turnkeys made an attempt to assist her ascending. She passed him, however, unheeded, and walked up to the drop with the most extraordinary deliberation. Her youthful appearance created great sensation among the multitude. The sun shone brilliantly during this horrible period, and the wretched woman stood unmoved. She scanned the mass of human beings with a firmness most astonishing. The governor inquired of her she had any thing to say, she appearing from her manner to be desirous of speaking, and in choking tone she replied, “No, I can’t speak.” The executioner having completed the preliminary arrangements, the signal was given, and the drop fell. Her struggles were painful in the extreme, and a thrill of horror ran through the crowd, voices being heard many places to exclaim, “Shame, shame! murder, murder!” It must have been a couple of minutes ere life had ceased. The drop was not erected, as other county gaols, on the summits, but a large meadow on the London side of the prison, access being obtained by a door in the boundary wall of the gaol, which was made on the last execution for murder at that gaol that of the notorious Corder, for the murder of Maria Martin. The last execution of a female in the town was 47 years ago, for setting fire to her master’s house.

With reference to the above melancholy exhibition, the following advertisement appeared one of the London newspapers of Saturday last.

“Grand Moral Spectacle. – This day, Saturday, April 17,1847, a Young Girl, 17 years of age, is to be publicly Strangled, front of the County Gaol, Bury St. Edmunds. She will appear, attended a Minister of the Church of England, clad his robes canonical – also by the Hangman, the great moral teacher, who, after fastening her arms to her sides, and putting a rope round her neck, will strike the scaffold from under her, and if the neck of the wretched victim be not by this shock broken, the said moral teacher pull the legs of the miserable girl, until, his weight and strength united, he strangles her. This exhibition (the admission to which free) is provided by “Christian Legislature,” for the instruction of a “Christian People;” and is intended to impress upon the minds of the multitude, an abhorrence of all cruelty, a love of mercy and kindness, and a reverence for human life.”

 

The Norfolk News – Saturday 24th April 1847

October 11, 2020 - Posted by | Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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