ABSTRACT

The violent and bloody murders that are described in this chapbook cover most of the seven deadly sins. Thomas Smith suffered from wrath, greed, hubris, and envy, while Mrs Beast and Christopher Tomson both suffered from greed, lust, and perhaps a measure of sloth, too. Both homicides involved a signicant degree of malice aforethought, a vital element to prove murder in court. In order to avoid any suggestion that the victims deserved their fate, the author also emphasizes how honest, hardworking, and friendly the victims were in their community. Given the bloody and premeditated nature of their crimes against good, law-abiding subjects, execution was the only punishment that could rebalance society after the upset and scandal caused by the murders. As a common murderer, Smith was hanged by the neck until dead. But as petty treasoners – because they had killed a social superior, in this case a husband and master – Beast and Tomson suffered a greater punishment. She was burned at the stake, a common punishment for women who were treasonous or heretical. Although he would normally have been hanged, drawn, and quartered, his punishment was commuted to being hanged to death. Then, to send a strong message of deterrence, Tomson’s body was hanged in chains at the place of his crime. This process could result in the body being placed on public display for months or years, until somebody petitioned the king for its removal. By that time, the body would have decomposed and been ravaged by birds, rats, and insects, leaving little to bury.