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genealogy of the Bird and Musgrove families
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Execution : John & George Bird

There were numerous newspaper reports leading up to the brother's execution.

According to the prison authorities, both brothers "behaved themselves with the greatest propriety" after their convictions.  John confessed his guilt but George continued to declare his innocence.  Indeed, while on his way to the scaffold, George shouted out : "I am a murdered man. I am about to leave this world, for a crime which I never committed".
 
Before they went to their execution, one newspaper graphically reports that "the two brothers embraced each other most affectionately.  They were soon ushered to the scaffold, and after a few minutes devoted to prayer, the fatal signal was given, and they were launched into eternity.  George Bird by some means got one foot upon the scaffold, by rebounding after he was turned off, and the consequences might have been dreadful had not the executioner pulled him down by the legs."

 

My Verdict

George and his brother John were convicted on circumstantial evidence although John doesn't seem to have put up much of a defence to repudiate the witness who claimed he was at The Bull boasting of "a crack" he was going on.  

Was George stitched up and hung for a crime he didn't commit ?  There was certainly some doubt in my mind as I finished reading the transcript and it does seem something which should have been appealed.  Was that done at all ?  There is nothing I can find to say it was.

Why were witnesses brought forward by the prosecution to say George had been in The Bull with his brother, when there was, in my mind, overwhelming evidence to say he had been in The Wheatsheaf ?

Wasn't it rather convenient that someone at The Bull was willing to give evidence saying they showed him the crow bar and chisel and told him they were going on a crack ?  Would be interesting to know if he had been 'got at' by the police.  See postscript below.

Why was all the evidence not found by the Police when they first visited the brothers lodgings ?  It was also strange that the two police investigating the burglary were themselves brothers.

Did the fact George Bird was known to the police to be a petty criminal in his brothers gang make them point the finger at him because of who he was rather than on the evidence ?  

I am doubtful over the verdict, certainly as far as George Bird is concerned.  Having said that, the likelihood is that even though he may not have carried out this burglary, he no doubt took part in a number of others where he wasn't caught.  Maybe justice was done in the end?

THE EXECUTION

They were hung on the same scaffold two months after the trial.  What makes the end so moving was, here we have two brothers, both probably petty crooks, one of whom is six years older than the other who confesses to the crime, and a younger brother pleading his innocence.  You might think the younger brother would resent his older brother and blame him for the fact he was to be executed.  None of it, newspapers report that  "they embraced each other most affectionately" as they approached death.  I find this strangely moving.

The Old Bailey Trial 


Postscript : THOMAS CORDWELL was indicted for stealing, on the 1st of December 1826, 1 watch, value 15s.; 1 chain, value 6d.; 1 key, value 1d.; 1 half-crown, 2 shillings, and 1 sixpence.  There followed a trial at The Old Bailey on 11th January 1827 where Thomas Cordwell was found GUILTY (aged 27) and was transported for Life.



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