by Daniel Munn at Studham 1815
Transcripts from numerous newspapers. Nik Pringle
The Murder of Mary Hall
The Morning Post 10th of February 1815
On Tuesday most daring and barbarous murder and robbery was committed at Dagnall in Buckinghamshire upon the body of Mrs Mary Hall, who was found murdered in our home, about 12 o’clock on the above day. There is every reason to believe that the horrid deed was perpetrated between the time of a body being found and 9 o’clock of the same morning, as she was seen for the last time by her neighbours about that time. The wounds appear to have been inflicted by Bill Hook, as one was found close to the body in a very bloody state.
A chest was found broken open and cash and notes to the amount of almost 350 shillings stolen, and a variety of other articles or property were discovered to have been carried off. On the discovery of the murder and robbery, which must have taken place about noon, a general alarm took place in the neighbourhood and which spread throughout that part of the county and a number of persons went in pursuit of the perpetrators of the horrid deed, and two suspicious characters were in consequence apprehended and taken before the sitting magistrates at Great Berkhamsted, and underwent an examination between them charged on suspicion of being the murderers of Mrs Hall, when it appeared that the prisoners calling themselves Thomas Young and James Worth, and stated that they had been in Dunstable in Bedfordshire which is about 3 miles from Dagnall. It was proved that they were seen begging at Dagnall and near misses Hall’s house, on the morning of the murder. The accounts they gave themselves was by no means satisfactory. They have been wondering about the country from place to place under a pretence of getting work. They met at a public house at Dunstable resorted to by persons of their description, on Saturday last for the first time, and they agreed although strangers until that time, according to their own account of themselves, to go a begging together around the country.
The ground of suspicion against them is principally on account of their having been seen near the spot at the time the murder is calculated to have been committed and that they are giving contradictory accounts of themselves on them being examined separately as to their being seen begging near the house of the deceased at the time the Murder must’ve been committed. Nothing was found upon them to strengthen the suspicion they were committed for further examination this day.
Murder of John Payne
The Morning Chronicle 12th of May 1817
Murder – a shocking murder was committed about 8:30 o’clock on the evening of Thursday night upon the body of John Payne, a carrier of Billington in Bedfordshire, who attends Hemel Hempstead, and other markets. His cart stopped at the door of the red Lion public house, at ability called Dagnall, at the above time, where he was in the habit of stopping on his way home from market. Payne not going into the house as usual, the landlord went out; and on looking into the cart, Payne was found with his throat cut, and which had evidence but very recently been perpetrated, a discharge of blood was traced from the cart to about a quarter of a mile on the road, where there was no doubt Payne had been robbed of his pocketbook and inhumanely murdered.
On the morning after the murder and labouring man of the name of Gurney who happened to be at the red Lion public house when the discovery was made was at his work on Daniel Munn’s farm, in whose employee he was, and soon after 5 o’clock Mr Munn opened his bedroom window, and directed Gurney what work to do. Gurney began telling him that the shocking circumstance had happened to which modern replied, by saying who instead of asking for the particulars of what had happened, after mine came down into the farmyard, Gurney observed him fastening the barn door.
Sometime after Gurney had occasion to go into the barn, when on putting his fork among some straw, he thought he struck a rat, or on trying it again he found it was a hard substance and on searching some depth into the straw he found a pocketbook which proved to be the deceased’s, with part of his coat attached from the force that had been used in wrestling it from him. Gurney mentioned what he had found to his master, but took no particular notice of it. Gurney, however made it known over the neighbourhood, and Munn’s conduct was such that he was suspected; he was interrogated by the Rev Mr Horsman, a magistrate,-he asserted that he was at home at the time of the murder, where he expected the deceased to call upon some business; he also stated that he had been at home for sometime previous.
In these particulars he was contradicted by three witnesses who saw it out, one of them spoke to and he was seen near a wood in a loitering state, and by which the deceased was to pass. He was also seen running home about the time of the murder, with his hands wrapped up in his smock frock as if he was carrying something. Blood was discovered on the knees of his breeches, the costs of the sleeve of his coat, and other parts of his clothes. On being taken to the Red Lion public house on his passing through the room where the body had laid he stooped down and although he was handcuffed, he took up a hand of the corpse and shook it. He has been fully committed to Aylesbury prison to take his trial for the offence at the next Assizes for Bucks.
Bury and Norwich post 14th of May 1817
On Thursday the first instant, as Mr John Payne sack carrier of Billington, was returning in his cot from Hemel Hempstead market Herts, he was robbed and barborously murdered between Water End and Dagnall. The horse, stopped near the public house at the latter place, where his master usually took refreshment and the people in the house not seeing Mr Payne, went outside and discovered him lying dead in the cart, with his throat cut and the body scarcely cold, on searching the pockets his pocketbook and money were ascertained to be missing; the latter it is conjectured amounted to near 70 shillings; but 40 shillings concealed in the watch fob, had been passed over undiscovered.
The Earl of Bridgwater, and the respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, most laudably exerted themselves to bring to exemplary justice the perpetrators of this horrid deed. Two or three persons have been apprehended on suspicion.
The Ipswich Journal 17th of May 1817
On Thursday evening about 8 o’clock, a barbarous murder was committed near Dagnall, Bucks, on a man of the name of Payne, 53 years of age, an inhabitant of Billington, a sack carrier, well known in the neighbourhood. On the arrival of his cart at a public house, where he usually stopped, some astonishment was excited that his not coming in, and a person got up to see after, and found him weltering in his blood: a violent blow appeared to have been given him on his forehead, and his throat was cut.
A pocketbook belonging to the deceased was afterwards found concealed in a barn belonging to a man of the name of Munn near Dagnall who is, from other circumstances, suspected of the murder. Munn, who is fully committed to Aylesbury Gaol, to take his trial at the next Assizes, is a stout man, about 40 years of age, and a small farmer.
Bury and Norwich post 30th of July 1817
Murder – at Hertford Assizes on Friday last, D. Munn, the small farmer, was indicted for the wilful murder of John Payne, a sack carrier to and from Hemel Hempstead market, on 1 May last, at Studham. The trial excited deep interest, the evidence against the prisoner being almost all circumstantial – the deceased, it appeared, had been accustomed to carry the corn of farmers to Hemel Hempstead market, and return with the empty sacks. The market was held on Thursday, and for 30 years he had never missed attending it. On these occasions he usually had a large sum of money about him.
On the Saturday preceding Thursday, 1 May, when the murder was committed, the prisoner made an appointment to meet the deceased on the Thursday evening at the Red Lion at Dagnall. When the cot stopped there, the deceased was found lifeless, his throat having been cut from ear to ear. His side pocket with his pocketbook was gone; but 43 shillings was found in his breeches pocket. One Gurney, a labourer in the prisoners employ, on the same day observed his master fasten the barn door, though it contained nothing.
Having occasion to go in there he thought he heard a rustling among the straw; imagining it to be a rat, he got a pitchfork, turned up the straw, and found the pocketbook and pocket of the deceased. The prisoner was taken into custody. On trial, his allegation of having gone to stand to pay a rate was proved to be false. It was proved that he had been seen near the spot where the murder was perpetrated; that he had borrowed a large hammer, which could not be found; and with which it was supposed the deceased had received blows on the skull; His smock frock and breeches betrayed bloodstains-cuff of his coat was also cut off, for which he could not account. He had the same day borrowed two shillings of his own servants, the deceased pocket not containing money. He was found guilty and ordered to be executed on Monday.
Leeds Mercury 2nd of August 1817
Hertford Assizes – Friday the 25th ult. Daniel Munn was indicted for the wilful murder of John Payne, on 1 May, at Studham in that County. The indictment charged the death to being caused by a mortal blow on the right side of the head, and with a mortal wound on the neck and throat, of the depth of four and of the length of 11 inches, of which blow and wound the deceased instantly died. The prisoner pleaded not guilty. The case for the prosecution was conducted by Mr Common Sergeant and Mr Walford; and that for the prisoner by Mr Adolphus.
After a number of witnesses had been examined, the jury found the prisoner guilty.
Mr Justice Dallas then proceeded to pass the awful sentence of death upon the prisoner, he expressed himself quite satisfied with the verdict, and concluded by ordering the prisoner for execution on Monday.
The Morning Chronicle 28th of July 1817
Our readers will probably recollect the case of most inhumane murder committed upon a person of the name of John Payne, a second carrier (of Billington in Bedfordshire) sometime since in Hertfordshire. The deceased was in the habit of regularly attending a hosted market, to which he carried the farmers corn, and sold it, bringing back the sacks to them, and accounting to them for the money he received as to the produce of their grain.
On 1 May last, on his way home from the market, he was found murdered in his cot, his throat being cut from ear to ear, and to considerable bruises on his head; one of his breast pockets, in which he usually carried in a pocketbook the notes he received that market, was cut from his coat, and with the pocketbook gone. It happened however, rather remarkably, but on that day the deceased had, contrary to his usual custom, placed his notes in his breeches pocket, where they were found safe.
The next morning the deceased pocketbook and pocket were accidentally found in the barn of Daniel Munn, a small farmer residing at Dagnall, within the boundaries of Bucks, who was well acquainted with the deceased. This led to the discovery of a variety of suspicious circumstances respecting Munn, blood being traced upon his clothes, and his being seen in the way to the place where the murder was committed, although he had stated that at the time specified he went a different road, which was also negatived by the most direct evidence upon the trial in consequence of which he was committed to the County Gaol of Hertford, charged with the murder.
At the Assizes at Hertford, on Friday, he was brought up for trial, when the circumstances above mentioned were distinctly proved, together with other particulars, amongst which was his borrowing a hammer the morning of the murder; one of the wounds in the head of the deceased appearing to have been inflicted with such an instrument, and the hammer never having been found since. The whole case left no doubt whatever on the minds of the judge or jury, and the latter after five minutes deliberation having found him guilty, the judge (Mr Justice Dallas) passed sentence of death upon him in a very impressive manner and ordered him for execution this morning.
The prisoner, who is 45 years of age, is a man of a forbidding aspect, and through the whole of the trial, and even at the tragical conclusion of it, he never evinced the slightest emotion of feeling, but to the last maintained a malignant sullenness.
On the evening of Friday he was visited by a gentleman in company with a chaplain, both of whom seriously admonished him on the folly of persevering in the denial of a crime of which there was no doubt he was guilty. Their admonitions, however, made no impression on him, and he remained in the same temper. He was again visited on Saturday morning by the same persons who with the utmost humanity paid him every attention; and the chaplain then asked if he would permit them to join in prayer?
The unhappy man instantly burst into tears and expressed his gratitude for their retention. And after prayers exclaimed “I am indeed guilty for I murdered the man with a hammer, which I borrowed for the purpose from my brother.” After some further conversation, the Chaplin and his friend retired, leaving the prisoner in a comparatively tranquil state.
The Lancaster Gazette 9th of August 1817
Execution-Daniel Munn, who was convicted of murder at Hertford Assizes, was executed on Monday night. He not only confessed the murder for which he was convicted, but also made a voluntary confession of two other murders; one a poor old woman, (named Hall) who kept a small shop at Dagnall, near his own residence, about a year and a half ago.
The other was his own wife, who he struck unawares with a billy of wood, which nearly killed her, and afterwards dragged her to the well and put down head foremost. This occurred about six weeks before the murder of Payne. This wretch appeared to die as penitent as a man could die with such a weight of guilt upon his head.
Times 29th of July 1817
Munn, convicted of murder at Hertford, was on Saturday morning visited by the chaplain and other gentlemen when on the chaplain asking if he would permit them to join in prayer, Munn instantly burst into tears, and expressed his gratitude for their retention. After prayers he exclaimed, “I am indeed guilty, for I murdered the man with a hammer, which I borrowed for the purpose from my brother.” There was a great crowd on Sunday to hear the condemned sermon-Munn is ordered for execution on Thursday, 7 August at Weston near the spot where his crime was committed.
Times 31st of July 1817
Confession of Daniel Munn
The case of Daniel Munn, who was convicted of murder at the Hertford Assizes, was one of the most atrocious that ever occurred in the criminal annals of this country. He was convicted of the murder of John Payne, on his return from Hempstead market where he was in the habit of selling corn for the farmers and receiving their money, which he frequently took home with. The prisoner was intimately acquainted with him, and consequently knew his habits as well as the road he travelled home from market: he attacked the unfortunate man in a lane unawares, struck him behind the ear and upon the head with a hammer and then cut his throat.
He was convicted on a chain of circumstantial evidence, so strong that no doubt could possibly remain in the minds of the court or jury as to his guilt; notwithstanding which, however it is satisfactory to know that, previous to his execution, he made a full confession of his guilt, and stated the only circumstance which did not come out in evidence, viz. where the hammer and knife were deposited with which he committed the murder.
The unhappy wretch also made a voluntary confession of two other horrid murders which he had committed; the one on poor old woman (by the name of Hall), who kept a small shop at Dagnall, near his own residents-(he rented a small form in the same parish under the Earl of Bridgwater). He stated that he went into a house (being known to her) about 9 o’clock in the morning; but he took an opportunity of getting behind her and striking her with a bill, which lay in the house, behind her ear; that he then cut her throat with a knife similar to the one he cut poor Payne’s throat with (a butcher’s knife); and on being asked where he had secreted that knife, he said in a well on the old woman’s premises; that he took 40 shillings from her, 23 shillings which he paid to Lord Bridgwater for rent, and the remainder he paid away to different persons in the village in discharge of small debts.
This occurred about a year and a half ago. In respect to the murder of his wife, he stated that he followed into the cow house, where she went to give some hay to the cows, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon; but he struck up unawares with a billet of wood behind the ear, which nearly killed her; that he immediately afterwards dragged her to the well and put her down it, head foremost. This occurred about six weeks before the murder of Payne. She was found in the well on the same day, upon an alarm being given by her husband.
He could assign no motive for this horrid act. He admitted he and his wife had frequently words together, but not on that day, and stated that she was a good wife. It is not only fortunate for the ends of public justice, but more particularly so for the immediate neighbourhood in which these horrid transactions occurred; two innocent men having been strongly suspected of the murder of the old woman at Dagnall and the whole neighbourhood being under the most horrid apprehensions of repetitions of the cruel scenes which had so recently taken place there. It is worthy of observation that the first suspicion of this man’s guilt, who had previously borne a good character, and upon whom the slightest suspicion had not attached, arose out of an act of Providence. The murderer had hidden a pocketbook, which he had taken from pain, in his barn.
One of his own men went into the barn with a pitchfork, to get some loose straw. He observed as he thought the motion of a rat in the corner of the bar under the straw. He struck at it with his fork and instead of a rat, pierced the pocketbook, which came out on the end of his fork. Amongst others, no person has been more satisfied in a business of so horrid and disagreeable nature by the confessions of this wretch than the Earl of Bridgwater, to whose indefatigable exertions, it is but justice to add, is to be attributed the bringing to justice and consign punishment the perpetrator of these atrocious crimes.
Munn, was executed on Monday morning, in pursuance of his sentence; he died as penitent as a man could die with such a way to guilt upon his head. On the scaffold he begged the spectators to take warning by his fate.