Murder of William Powell

Carmarthenshire, 1770

Extracts from a contemporary pamphlet account of the trial
(original pagination in square brackets)


[ii] As the murder committed on the late Mr Powell... (not to be paralelled in the history of Britain), has created an universal desire in the public, of being acquainted with the particular transactions of that horrid affair, no pains have been spared by us to obtain a circumstantial account of the means made use of for apprehending and bringing the perpetrators thereof to punishment; as well as a true narrative of the whole proceedings before, at, and after their trials; which with the genuine examinations and confessions herein inserted, will give a stronger light towards elucidating this complicated scene of villainy, than any thing that has yet been made public. ...

[iii] On Monday, the 8th day of January, 1770, immediately after the barbarous murder of Mr William Powell was committed, a messenger was sent to Llandilo-vawr for Mr Protheroe, a surgeon, who at his arrival at Glanareth, found Mr Powell supported, in a sitting-posture, behind the door in the parlour, without any signs of life. Upon examination of the body there appeared to be twelve wounds, seven of which, were mortal; his nose cut off; and the fore-finger of his left hand cut through to the bone: On the morrow, Mr Pogson, and several other neighbours came to Glanareth, and saw many footsteps in the snow, leading to and from Mr Powell's house; upon which, some of the company were desired to be particular in measuring those that were most visible, which being done, and the demensions of each entered down, they saw one very remarkable print, which had exactly five broad nails in the out-side of each heel: they likewise saw blood in several places, and traced the blood and tracks almost to Charles David Morgan's house. Next day the coroner held an inquest at Glanareth, which lasted two days; on the first day Charles David Morgan was sent for, by the coroner's subpoena, to be examined whether he knew any thing of the murder, as the blood was seen so near to his house, he denied the fact, was dismissed at that time, and ordered to attend there on the morrow, with his wife and daughter; they did attend accordingly, but were not examined, the inquest being adjourned to Landilo-vawr, and was held there two days. On the Friday, they were again subpoenaed, and examined by the coroner, still denying the fact; but upon the evidence of his shoes, corresponding with the tracks in the snow, Charles David Morgan was committed by the coroner to Carmarthen gaol. The inquest was adjourned from Landilo to Langadock, and held there for one day, when the jury brought in their verdict 'Wilful murder, against some person or persons unknown.' During Charles David Morgan's confinement, George Phillips, esq. of Coedgain, took his first confession... wherein he accused several of his accomplices; and upon that accusation many gentlemen of the Blue-Coat-Hunt, at Carmarthen, to their great honour and credit, were very active in securing the persons accused...

[4] [The Trial: opening the prosecution] ... I cannot think it at all improper, in this place, to state to you that there has been a misunderstanding between Williams and Powell for two or three years before the fact was committed; notwithstanding which, I am confident when you shall hear our case, you will believe with me, that a more daring, and inhuman murder was never committed in this, or any other county. Two or three weeks, or thereabouts... before the fact was committed, Mr Williams first applied to Walter Evan, in Landovery, where he was met by John Williams, and, by him, invited to the New-Bear, where he found William Williams, David Morgan, and others. William Williams asked 'what sort of a man he was, and whether he could take a man, if he would give him five guineas,' Watt Evan answered, 'That he was afraid of no man, and that he would take any man for five guineas, if he had legal authority.' Upon which, Williams produced a writ against Mr Powell, and told him, 'If he would execute it, he would satisfy [5] him.' Williams then told William Spiggot, David Llewellin, and William Walter Evan, 'That they must stay at Llandovery, and he would find them employment:' they had several other meetings afterwards at the New Bear; at all which, Williams still continued his solicitations, till Saturday, the 6th day of January last, when Williams told David Morgan and John Williams, 'That he had the precaution to send some of the persons to Mrs Powell's brother, Captain Bowen, in order that they might not be suspected.' That Watt Evan went there, and staid all night, until Sunday, the 7th day of January, when he returned to Landovery, and there met William Williams, and several others; at that meeting some person came in and told them that Mr Powell was at home; that upon this, four or five of them went to the house of Charles David Morgan, where they staid all night and part of the next day. William Williams, many times, declared that he was determined to murder Powell, in the presence of all the prisoners, excepting John Spiggot and William Charles. That about six or seven o'clock that evening they set out for Powell's; that they blacked their faces; and some of them took carters-frocks, and armed themselves with pistols, guns, swords, hangers, and tucks [type of fine sword or rapier]; that upon the road, they met John Spiggot pretty near Mr Powell's house; William Williams and William Spiggot then put on the frocks, and all went to the back-door; and William Williams, William Spiggot, David Llewellin, and William Morris rushed into the parlour; some were in the passage; and Walter Evan was placed at the kitchen-door to prevent any person escaping; seven or eight were in the house. David Llewellin seized Mr Powell by the breast, while William Williams, William Spiggot, and David Morgan stabbed him in several parts of his body. That while they were there, Mr Powell's servant took a shovel and endeavoured to strike Walter Evan, who was at the kitchen-door, who thereupon called out to one of them to fire, and immediately a pistol was fired; that they all came out of the house. Some of them on the way to Charles David Morgan's house said, 'That Powell was not dead.' Upon which, William Williams declared, 'That he would defy all the doctors': severall of them bragged that they had stabbed him. William Spiggot left his hat and wig behind him, which proves his being one of the accomplices; and, if there are no other persons that are sufficient evidences to prove his being in the house, it will be necessary, in order to bring these persons to justice, to allow of such kind of evidence, and where you shall find it concur with the testimony of other witnesses, you will certainly credit them. An unimpeached witness, daughter to Charles David Morgan, will prove to you that all except John Spiggot, were at Charles David Morgan's house on Sunday; that they staid there all night, and part of the next day on Monday; will prove to you their being armed; that they had blacked their faces; all which is a concurrent evidence of their design. A servant of Mr Powell's will prove to you that William Walter Evan did fire of the pistol in Mr Powell's house; those persons who were in the room with Mr Powell, will prove that several came into the house disguised; that they rushed into the parlour; that Mr Powell cried out, 'O! God.' That they then escaped out of the room, but cannot say what passed there afterwards. That the servants went into the parlour, and found Mr Powell lying on his back, in the last agonies; they there found William Spiggot's hat and wig, and, also David Morgan's tuck. That being a very snowy night, the next morning they found the footsteps of these men near the house; that they followed these tracks from thence to Charles David Morgan's house; that they found many drops of blood on the snow; that one of the tracks being remarkable, it was compared, and found to answer exactly with the shoe of one of the prisoners, having five large broad nails on the out-side of each heel. This, Gentlemen, is the nature of our case; and as this prosecution is carried on by the Gentlemen of the county of Carmarthen, at a very great expence, and, therefore, Gentlemen, we will call our witnesses, and I hope, if they shall prove these facts, you will, no doubt, be convinced that the prisoners at the barr are guilty of this inhuman murder, and give your verdict accordingly. ...

[Planning the murder: testimony of Walter Evan, apprentice to David Morgan, tinker, of Landovery; questioned by Mr Bearcroft, through an interpreter]

[6] Mr Bear. Tell him to recollect when he met the prisoners first, and whether they had any conversation with him about Mr Powell?

Judge. Interpreter, tell him to be careful to tell nothing but plain matter of fact, and the truth.

Interp. He says, my Lord, he will speak nothing but the truth. That about a fortnight before the fact, he went with John Williams and the tinker [David Morgan] to the New-Bear. ...

Mr Bear. At what time of the day did they go to the New-Bear?

Interp. In the evening, about the dusk of night.

Mr Bear. What conversation had they then about Mr Powell?

Interp. He says, None then, my Lord, till he went up stairs, when William Williams asked him, 'What sort of man he was.' ...

Mr Bear. When he went up stairs, Who did he find in the room?

Interp. William Williams, Thomas William Thomas, and one Tom, of Drayn-fun-ddu, an, he believes, that William Thomas, the prisoner, was in the room, but he is not certain. John Williams, David Morgan, the prisoner William Thomas and himself, went up together; and Will Watt Evan, was in the room then.

Mr Bear. Was any other of the prisoners in the room besides those he has named?

Interp. William Spiggot and John Isaac, William Spiggot was not in the room at first, but, he believes, he came in afterwards.

Mr Bear. What conversation had you with any of the prisoners about Mr Powell? or were any more of the prisoners there?

Interp. He says, he cannot recollect any more there.

Mr Bear. Well. Then, ask him what conversation they had about Powell. Interp. He says, my Lord, they talked of taking him with a writ, and that William Williams read the writ.

[7] Mr Bear. Did you hear any of the prisoners talk any thing about Mr Powell, besides William Williams?

Interp. He says, He did not at that time.

Mr Bear. Did William Williams say any thing more to him at that time?

Interp. He says he did, he asked him 'If he could kill a man?' and he said 'He could not:' that Williams then asked him 'If he could kill a man if the other attempted to kill him first?' And he said 'He could.'

Mr Bear. Did Williams ask him those questions privately or aloud, that the rest of the persons could hear it?

Interp. He says, He spoke loud, that all might hear that would hear. ...

Mr Bear. Does he remember the prisoner, William Walter Evan, say where he had been, or say any thing more about Mr Powell?

Interp. He says, That William Walter Evan told them that he had been at Mr Powell's to look for him, but he was not at home. ...

Judge. What led William Walter Evan to say so?

Interp. He says, William Williams asked Will Wat Evan 'Whether Powell was at home; or if he knew where he was.' ...

Mr Bear. What time did the prisoners part that night?

Interp. He says, He does not know, that he was much in liquor. ...

Mr Bear. Did Williams say any thing about their discovering what past [passed]?

Interp. He says, Williams told him 'That he discovered [ie, revealed] any thing that happened that night, he would run him through.' ...

Judge. Did any thing more happen that night? or any thing said more then about taking a man?

Interp. He says, He told Williams, 'That he could take a man, or kill a man.'

Mr Bear. Did he meet Williams and any more of the prisoners any time afterwards?

Interp. He says, Himself, David Morgan, John Isaac, Tom, of Drayn-fun ddu, and William Williams, and cannot recollect any body else being there.

Mr Bear. What conversation happened there then?

Interp. He says, They talked plainly about killing him; and that William Williams said, 'The Gentleman (meaning Mr Powell) must be killed, and that whoever would do it should never want, nor should be hurt.'

Mr Bear. What further conversation passed at that time?

Interp. He says, That whenever they met they always talked about murdering Mr Powell; they seldom met altogether but when Williams was with them. ...

[9] Mr Bear. [At a final meeting at the New Bear, the day before the murder] Does he remember Charles David Morgan, or William Watt Evan telling anything about Mr Powell?

Interp. He says, He does; that Charles David Morgan and William Watt Evan came in together, and told them, that Mr Powell was come home from Swansea. ...

Mr Bear. What did William Williams say when he heard it?

Interp. He says, He seemed greatly rejoiced; that he rubbed his hands, and said, they would go immediately and kill him.

Mr Bear. Did Williams say it publickly and in presence of the prisoners?

Interp. He did. ...

[10] [They went to Charles David Morgan's house and stayed there the following day, making plans for the murder]

Mr Bear. What time of the day did they quit Charles David Morgan's house?

Interp. He says, It was in the dusk of the evening.

Mr Bear. Was there any thing preparing or done while they were there?

Interp. He says, They were handling the waggoners frocks, and blacking their faces.

Mr Bear. What did they talk about while that was doing?

Interp. He says, They all talked about killing him, one as well as the other.

Judge. Who proposed having waggoners frocks?

Interp. He says, Williams proposed the frocks, my Lord, and to the best of his knowledge Morgan James first proposed blacking their faces.

Mr Bear. Did any of them black their faces?

Interp. William Williams, William Spiggot, David Llewellin, and he believes they all did except Charles David Morgan, his son, and himself; that his own forehead was blacked a little to hid the scars. ...

Mr Bear. What time did they go out of the house?

Interp. He says, About the beginning of the night in the dusk.

Mr Bear. Did they take any arms with them? ...

[11] Interp. Two pistols, two guns, he believes, but is sure they had one, two like canes with swords in them. ...

Mr Bear. Had they any other weapons?

Interp. He says, They had; that he himself had a sword, and William Williams had a sword or hanger, David Morgan, tinker, had a sword, and John Isaac brought a cane with a sword in it from Charles David Morgan's house...

Mr Bear. Does he remember what Williams directed them to do?

Interp. He says, Williams told them that was the night to do it, or it was in vain to attempt it again.

Mr Bear. Did Williams say what he would give them?

Interp. He says, Williams told him he should have one hundred guineas; and that he would make no distinction between the one and the other. ...

Mr Bear. At the time it was talked of about killing John Powell, did he the witness say any thing to Williams about it?

Interp. He says, He did; he asked Williams why he would kill such a man as Mr Powell; that Williams replied, he was a very bad man; that he had no relations; that he had starved his wife and children, and that it was no harm to kill him; that he the witness said to Williams, suppose his wife should prosecute us? that he pulled a piece of gold out his pocket about the size of a crown piece, and said, that that was a piece that she had had; and he was sure she would not prosecute any body.

Mr Bear. Did they all go together from Charles David Morgan's house?

Interp. He says, They did every one, except John Spiggot. ... [John joined them on the road]

Mr Bear. Ask him, if he said he was unwilling to go with them? Interp. He says, He was; that he stayed behind to ease himself; that William Williams [12] came back to him and stood by him with a drawn hanger, and said, that the first who did offer to turn back he would run him through. ...

All pleaded not guilty (in Welsh through interpreters, except for William Spiggot). All were found guilty, of murder, except John Spiggot. They were executed two days later (30th); the bodies of William Spiggot and Walter Evan were hung in chains near Hay, the rest were delivered to the surgeons for dissection.