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EXECUTION OF WOODGATE.

Ist our last issue we had to report a state of things which, so far as we are aware, never before occurred, namely the extraordinaryfailure of justice m regard to the execution of Woodgate, and we now proceed ta place On record hdw the difficulty was got over, and as we can readily believe that the account will be distasteful to some of our readers, we shall have to request them m that case to pass on to the next article, and leave the following authentic statement to those who really wish to know how the law was Vindicated." We shall riot say how or by what means a person was discovered who was willing to take the place vacated by one who undoubtedly undertook to do the duty. Suffice it to say that the police or somebody did discover si-<ih a person, and that m the early morning t l ie Sheriff, accompanied by the Inspector cf Police, drove through again to Picton. There they called on the Rev. Mr Ronaldaon, who went to the gaol and informed the condemned prisoner of the imminence of his fate at about 4 a.m., and remained v/ith him to the last. At about 620 a.m., a procession was formed from the condemned cell, where the prisoner had already bee: 1 , pinioned, to the scaffold. The' Minister came first, reading the service for the dead, Woodgate came next, followed by the hangman, gaoler, wardens, &c. The other persons present, were the Sheriff, Mr Allen, R. M., Dr Tripe, Mr Caute, Gaoler, the wardens, and the police. The moment the Minister ceased speaking, he turned to Woodgate, and appeared to say something-, as it might be, " Now is your time if you want to speak." Woodgate then turned round and addressed the gaol officials, giving them his best thanks for their kindness to him during his stay m gaol, adding " and I thank you, gentlemen, for using your

utmost endeavors to get my life. spared' by trying to get a reprieve. I thank you all very much indeed, and I die m peace with all men. I have nothing more to aay. " He seemed a little affected as he spoke, but he ascended the scaffold with a firm step. Now comes the most disgusting feature of the whole business. The hangman, while adjusting the cap said to the prisoner, " Good bye, old fellow, I wish you a pleasant journey. You're only going a few days before us, perhaps I might follow you to-morrow, or next day myself." He then adjusted the rope, and again said, "Well, how do you feel ; is it comfortable, or is it too tight V Woodgate replied, " No." He was still looking upwards, The hangman again said, "Well, good-bye. I wish you a pleasant journey," at the same moment kicking the bolt with his foot, and the drop fell, Woodgate dying without a struggle,, his legs below the knee and i?is hands just twitching twice at an interval of a few seconds. The hangman then faced round, , and addressing the spectators, said, "Well, gentlemen, are you satisfied?' There was no reply, and he again asked, " Are you satisfied that I have done my duty." Dr Tripe said there was no doubt that no man could have done it more efficiently, as the neck was quite dislocated. He further added that Woodgate felt no pain beyond a momentary one. The fall was about five feet. The drop fell at 6*30 exactly, and the body was left hanging for" an hour. Just when they were about taking it down Detective Farrell, of Wellington, came on the scene, with note to the Sheriff, intrbd ucing a man who had arrived by the Hinemoa from Wellington, who was willing to undertake the duty. The Sheriff, however, informed the gentleman that his services were not required, and we believe declined to have anything to say to him. At 11 a.m. an inquest was held before John Allen, Esq., KM., Coroner, and a jury, ox which MrW. Jameson was foreman. The Sheriff and Dr Tripe gave evidence. The former produced his warrant or precept authorising the execution, and the latter testified as to the prisoner's death. The verdict was as follows -.—That William Henry Woodgate was on the morning of the 25th day of January, 1877, within the common gaol of Picton m the said Colony m due course of law hanged by the neck till he died, m execution of the sentence passed npon him by Chief- Justice Prendergast, a Judge of the Snpreme Court of New Zealand at a sitting of the Circuit Court of the Supreme Court, holden at Blenheim m the same Colony on the sth day of December 1876. The body was buried on the Thursday evening within the precincts of the gaol. On Wednesday, during an interview with the Rev. Mr Ronaldson and one of the warders the prisoner said that he was not at all guilty of the murder, but of everything else attributed to him he was guilty, and deserved the punishment accorded to him. Little more remains to be told. At 7.15 a.m. the Hinemoa arrived from Wellington being manned with Armed Constabulary, and bringing Detective Farrell and the man alluded to. But we are given to understand that the Captain ranks as Inspector the Chief mate as Sub-Inspector, and all the men as privates m the Armed Constabulary force. These escorted the Detective and his travelling companion to the gaol, and back again. There was considerable speculation m Picton as to who the gentleman was who performed the loathsome duty, and it was confidently asserted that he had come from Nelson, but we have reason to believe that he was a swagsman, who came into Blenheim on Wednesday from the southward, and offered his services, which were accepted as before recorded. He stated that he had been m the navy as a seaman, and boasted of having served as an artilleryman at the time of the Indian Mutiny, when he "slung them up m dozens." Soon after 10 a.m., the gaoler let him out at the back of the gaol, and ha succeeded by making his way quietly and quite unobserved along the line, m getting down to the Hinemoa at the wharf, which steamed away at once as soon as he came aboard, arid before the Pictonians were aware of the circumstance. . We have just a few words to add respecting the extraordinary assumed by some of the Picton people, who we regret to learn put every hindrance m the way of the sentence being . carried out, independently of the efforts made by a large number who signed a petition praying for a commutation of the sentence. We touch on this subject with the greatest reluctance, but the fact remains, and to such an extent was this f eeling carried out that even the rope had be procured from Blenheim by the police. Although it may be thought invidious to mention any names, rather than all should be included m the censure which will surely be meted out by the press of the Colony, we j learn that Messrs Allen, Conolly and Sey- j mour, spoke strongly m condemnation of the maudlin sympathy exhibited, and defended the action of the law, notwithstanding some, if not all, had signed the petition before referred to. We may add that no representative of the press was present on the above ! occasion, nor was any intimation given ! that the event was imminent. Further we are at a loss to know upon what understanding or supposition the Hinemoa and a force of Constabulary was sent, as it is quite evident that the services of the local police force were not called uponand therefore could not be insufficient for all necessary purposes. We shall look with interest for our next ex-

changes to see what impression had. got. abroad about this matter.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/MEX18770127.2.13

Bibliographic details

EXECUTION OF WOODGATE., Marlborough Express, Volume XII, Issue 888, 27 January 1877

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EXECUTION OF WOODGATE. Marlborough Express, Volume XII, Issue 888, 27 January 1877

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