Mr. William Weare was a solicitor and avid gambler who lived at Lyons Inn in England. He had made an enemy with the Mayor of Norwich’s son, John Thurtell (1794–1824), because Thurtell thought that Weare had cheated him at cards. The total sum was £300, which equals £25,000 today. Thurtell had a vendetta to get his money back before his father noticed.
Thurtell invited Weare to gamble the weekend away with him and a few other friends at a cottage belonging to yet another gambler, William Probert. The cottage was located in Radlett, Hertfordshire. They set out on October 24, 1823, but it wasn’t long before Thurtell confronted Weare over the money he believed was cheated out of him.
Thurtell then drew a flintlock muff pistol and fired at Weare’s face. Somehow, Weare managed to escape, but horribly injured, he wasn’t able to make it far. Thurtell caught up to him and cut into Weare’s throat with a penknife. Still not satisfied, Thurtell then beat him over the head repeatedly with the pistol until his brains were scattered over the ground.
William Probert and Joseph Hunt, another friend, assisted Thurtell in disposing of the body in a pond behind the cottage. However, fearing discovery, the body was moved a second time. This time to another pond in Elstree.
These men were not criminal masterminds, as it would turn out. Their weapons had been located on the road outside the cottage by police and were tracked down to the Waggons & Horses pub where they were enjoying a meal of pork chops and ale.
All three men were charged with Weare’s murder. The trial took place at Hertford County Court and attracted a great deal of attention from the press. There were concerns raised that the men would not be granted a fair trial, spurred on by the fact that gallows were being built even while the trial was taking place.
Thurtell and Hunt were found guilty while Probert was allowed to live due to a deal he’d struck to give testimony against his friends. At age 29, Thurtell was hanged on January 9, 1824. He had proclaimed his innocence all throughout the trial, but when faced with the hangman’s noose, he confessed to the murder. Hunt was transported to Botany Bay in Australia and later became a respected police constable when he regained his freedom. Probert, despite his deal, resorted to criminal activities to support himself. He was hanged a year later for stealing a horse.
A few tunes were written about the murder. One goes as such:
“They cut his throat from ear to ear,
His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare,
He lived in Lyons Inn.”
And another lovely tune (sarcasm, of course) goes like this, referencing the men’s meal at the Waggons & Horses pub hours after the murder:
“Although his hands were warm with blood,
He down to supper sat,
And passed the time in merry mood,
With drink and songs and chat.”
John THURTELL on Murderpedia
Looking murder in the face by Susan Elaine Jones, on author’s personal website
‘Murder jug’ from 19th Century sells for big money by Daniel Smith, Leicestershire Live
Radlett: The horrifying 19th century murder that put Hertfordshire’s most affluent town on the map by Alice Cunningham, Herts Live
Regency Crime and Punishment: The Murder of Mr. Weare on Regency Reader