Monday, October 24, 2011

Gill's Hill Lane

The Radlett Murder, which was posted about on July 16th, occurred this day, October 24th, in 1823.  The murderer, John Thurtell, set up his victim, William Weare, by inviting him to a gambling weekend, with a well-known fellow gambler.  Thurtell owed Weare a substantial sum at this time. Along the way, Thurtell and Weare passed a lane known for murders in its day - Gill's Hill Lane.

This version of the events of that night come from the “Dictionary of National Biography”, and a comment related to Walter Scott is included.  ‘Thurtell was especially exasperated against "Weare, whom he charged with cheating him of £300, by means of false cards, at blind hookey. A reconcilation was, however, patched up, and on Friday, 24 Oct. 1823, Weare consented to accompany Thurtell to the house of a friend named Probert, near Elstree, for a few days' shooting. Picking up Weare near Tyburn, Thurtell drove rapidly in his gig along the St. Albans road towards Elstree. When close to Probert's house in Gill's Hill Lane, Radlett, Thurtell produced a pistol and shot his companion. The latter managed to jump out of the gig, but Thurtell stunned him with the butt of the pistol, and finally cut his throat. The body was taken to Probert's the same evening, but was eventually thrown into a 'green swamp' some two miles distant. Suspicion was promptly aroused by the discovery of the pistol and other evidence of a recent struggle in Gill's Hill Lane, and the murderer's associates, Probert and Hunt, turned king's evidence upon Thurtell being arrested by George Ruthven of Bow Street at the Coach and Horses, Conduit Street, on 28 Oct…

The Gill's Hill tragedy, in spite of the vulgar brutality of its details, laid a powerful hold upon the popular imagination. Thurtell was a sporting man, who was thought to have been hardly used by fortune, was for the time almost a popular hero. Hazlitt spoke of the gigantic energy with which he impressed those who heard his rhetoric at the trial. Sir Walter Scott made a 'variorum ' out of the numberless newspaper and chapbook accounts of the tragedy…’

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