Pair ‘raised their murderous hands’
GEORGE Butler and Joseph Pace – both from Berkswell – were executed at Warwick Gaol on April 28, 1820, for the murders which happened after they had “burglariously broken” into the house of a farmer named Thomas Phillips.
After disturbing the master at around 5am, they shot both him and his servant, John Baker, who had been sleeping in the same room.
The judge said that Pace had ‘raised the murderous hand against the master,’ while it was Butler who murdered Mr Baker who had tried to protect his master at his own risk.
It was reported that Butler, 24, had been brought up as a farmer’s labourer before “giving way to Sabbath-breaking and getting acquainted with evil company brought him in to a way of living that made toil a trouble.”
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Pace had got married just three weeks before his execution.
Ironically, he had lived with the prosecutor in the case as a servant for a three-week stint earlier in his life. Butler and Pace, who were said to be known for their involvement in other “daring robberies”, refused to confess to their crimes, even when death was upon them.
The broadside – which gave news of crimes and executions to the public from the 16th to the mid-19th centuries – regarding Butler’s and Pace’s executions stated: “At a quarter to twelve they were brought out on the fatal drop, in front of the gaol, too much unconcerned apparently about their fast approaching fate, when after a short time spent in prayer, they were launched into the presence of their offended Maker, to atone for the many crimes they had committed against God and the laws of their country during their short pilgrimage thro’ life to eternity.
“Their youthful appearance excited tears of pity from the numerous surrounding spectators; & it is hoped the God of all mercy thro’ the merits and intercession of the blessed Redeemer, will have compassion on their guilty souls.”
This story was pieced together with the help of Coventry History Centre, based at the Herbert Art Gallery.