EXECUTION OF THE PIRATES

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Historic Crime
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On Monday morning five of the seven pirates recently convicted at the Central Criminal Court of the murder of the captain of the ship Flowery Land, On the high seas, within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty of England, on the 11th of September last, were hanged in front of the prison of Newgate, in the presence of an immense concourse of people. The five were John Leone, or Lyons, 22 years, Francisco Blanco, 23 years; Ambrosio or Mauricio Durranno, 25 years; Marcus Varios, 23 years; and Miguel Lopez, 25 years, who had been convicted with them, were reprieved, on Friday evening. The whole of the convicts were natives of Manilla. From the circumstance that so many as five men at one time had not before been executed at the Old Bailey for 36 years (March, 1828) it was apprehended that an enormous crowd would assemble, and I the Sheriff, with Col. Eraser, the City Commissioner of Police, made such arrangements as appeared commensurate with the occasion for the maintenance of order and the protection of life. Happily in the result these were most effective, and well suited to the emergency. About 7 o’clock the Sheriffs and Under-Sheriffs arrived at Newgate, and were admitted by a private entrance. From an early hour in the morning the priests who had been in attendance on the doomed men since their conviction were again with them, and remained until the last. They were all confined separately, and each was brought out of his cell alone to be pinioned. Varios did not betray the slightest emotion, but held up his arm in the most convenient form for the executioner to pinion him, and he smiled while that ceremony was being performed. He then wished to speak to Thomas, one of the warders, who had been in charge of him, and he expressed a desire to kiss him, but on being informed that this was contrary to English custom he shook him cordially by the hand. This prisoner was then taken back to his cell. The next prisoner that was brought out to be pinioned was Lopez. He was asked if he had anything to say, and he replied “no” When the handkerchief was taken from his neck, he laid hold of it, and on being asked what he wished done with it, he requested that it might be put into his pocket, and this was done. The third prisoner was Durranno he submitted to the ceremony of pinioning without making any observation. He had a small crucifix attached to his neck by a chain, and he took it in his hand, and wished it might be allowed to remain. Francisco Blanco did not make any remark while he was being pinioned. The fifth and last prisoner was John Lyons. He had been suffering from rheumatism, but he had very much improved in health since he had been in prison. After he had been pinioned, the same question was put to him that had been put to the others, whether he wished to say anything and he replied that It was true he had been guilty of what he was charged with, but he did not think he had done enough to lose his own life. These were the only words uttered by any of the prisoners; and after the pinioning had been completed, they remained in their cells until close to the fatal hour. At ten minutes to eight o’clock the death bell tolled, and at eight o’clock punctually the funeral procession was marshalled in the prison yard. Prior to this some brandy had been given to each of the convicts. One of them had asked the priest to get him some, but the priest being doubtful probably of the propriety of such a thing hesitated, when Sheriff Nissen inquired what the request was. On being told he instantly ordered a small quantity to be brought, and while the man who had asked for it was drinking, Lyons said, Oh, I should like some of that.” Lopez joined in the request, and the sheriff complied with the last favour they asked from man on earth. Varios went first to the scaffold. Blanco fainted on the way, and even on the scaffold was lifted in a chair while Calcraft put the rope round his neck. Duranno, went third with a firm, unfaltering step. Lyons and Lopez, from prudential reasons were held back to the last, but neither of them offered the slightest resistance. There was deep silence now within and outside the gaol, for the old hangman had left the men standing in a row and was busy beneath the scaffold. In another instant there was a heavy sound, and all turned away, while the gibbet creaked audibly, for the five murderers hung dying side by side. There was a dreadful pause inside for a minute or two, during which all spoke in whispers as if in a sick chamber. Then the creaking ceased, and the hangman, after a few anxious looks behind, came slouching in, and his return was taken as a sign that all was quiet now, and that the last and most solemn effort which man can make for self-preservation had been exercised against five as determined murderers as ever hung in front of Newgate. At 9 o’clock the Sheriffs were again summoned to witness the cutting down of the bodies and to be present at the certification of the surgeon that the condemned could never slay or sin again. The cutting down of the corpses was almost more repulsive than the hanging. The noises from the crowd which accompanied the severance of each rope, the heavy lump with which the corpse fell into its shell, the speed with which it was borne in, un-pinioned, cast loose from its halter, and pronounced dead, made this a painful though, fortunately, a very quick business. The countenance only of Blanco was slightly changed; the rest lay tumbled in their shells as the hangman had left them, precisely as though they slept. At 2 o’clock their clothes were cut off them to the last fragment, and burnt. The shells were then tilled up with quicklime, and at 3 o’clock they were placed beneath the stone at the end of the gloomy burying-place in the prison, without form or ceremony of any kind.

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