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Law and Order in LondonCrime and Punishment: Daniel Blake
Posted on Sep 24, 2002 - 12:51 AM by Anthony Waldstock

A butcher from Norfolk who came to London to better himself. He was executed on the 28th of February, 1763 for the murder of John Murcott, Butler to Lord Dacre.


Blake was the son of a butcher at Bunwell, in Norfolk, who brought the youth up to his own business. When he was about twenty years old he became dissatisfied with his trade and travelled to London, with an intention of hiring himself as a gentleman's servant; and he had been but a short time in the metropolis when he was engaged in the service of Lord Dacre. Having contracted an acquaintance with some women of abandoned character, Blake resolved to support the expenses subsequent thereon by robbing his fellow-servants. He had been in the service of Lord Dacre about ten weeks when he determined to carry his iniquitous plan into execution; and going into the room of Mr Murcott, his lordship's butler, he repeatedly struck him with great violence on the head with a poker, and then, taking a knife from his pocket, cut his throat almost from ear to ear. After the barbarous murder of Mr Murcott, Blake took twenty guineas from the breeches pocket of the deceased and then returned to his bed. He rose about seven and went about his usual business and in about an hour he was desired to call Mr Murcott; on which he said he had already called him two or three times, but had not been able to make him answer.

Lord Dacre's bell ringing about nine, the porter went into the chamber of the deceased and repeatedly called him. He then approached the bed and shook Mr Murcott, and, finding him still silent and motionless, exclaimed: "God bless me, I believe he is dead! " He then turned down the bedclothes, which the murderer had thrown over Mr Murcott's. face, and, perceiving them bloody, he quitted the room in great terror and communicated his discovery to the housekeeper and Lady Dacre's waiting-maid, who, going into the room, turned the clothes a little farther down and observed a knife, which they supposed to have fallen from the hand of the deceased, and on attempting to move the body the head inclined backwards and gave the wound a most shocking appearance.

Upon the rest of the servants being informed of Mr Murcott's unhappy death, Blake shed tears in great abundance, wrung his hands, and appeared to be affected in so extravagant a degree that he was urged to moderate his affliction, lest the nobleman and his lady should be alarmed. Mr Murcott's death being communicated to Lord Dacre, he sent for Marsden, clerk to Sir John Fielding, and kept him in the house three days, with the view of discovering the perpetrator of the horrid fact.

During the time that Blake had been in the service of Lord Dacre he was known to have been in very indigent circumstances, but on the day after the murder he was observed to discharge several small debts; and hence arose a suspicion of his guilt. All the servants in the family being strictly examined, in the presence of Lord Dacre, the porter declared that he firmly believed that the knife found in the bed belonged to Blake. Being taken into custody, and conducted to Sir John Fielding's, he voluntarily acknowledged himself guilty of the horrid fact, and was committed to Newgate, in order for trial. At the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey he was put on his trial; and, his own confession being corroborated by very strong circumstantial evidence, he was found guilty, and sentenced to be executed. While he was in Newgate he proved that he had but very imperfect ideas of his duty towards the Almighty, and confessed that he had not read a chapter in the Bible, or attended to any other religious book, since leaving school. While he was under sentence of death his behaviour was decent and penitential, and the day before his execution he said his mind was perfectly calm.

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