The Sussex Smugglers. 77
cut about the eyes and nose with a knife; and then, in the dead of night, he was taken to Harris's Well—a noose tied round his neck by Tapner (a native of Aldrington, near Brighton), and he was ordered to get over the palings to the well. Having done so, his murderers tied one end of the rope to the pales, and pushed the miserable man into the well. The rope, however, was too short to strangle him— so, after hanging some time and being still alive, he was drawn up, untied, and then thrown head-foremost down the well. Still he was not dead. His groans were audible, and, to stifle these and finish the horrible deed, the smugglers tore up the rails and gateway round the well and threw them and large stones upon their victim till he expired.
These atrocious murders were not long undiscovered ; though the discovery of them was by accident. Whilst a gentleman named Stone was hunting on the Downs his dogs unearthed the body of Galley, and six miles off, in the well, was found the corpse of Chater. Such a crime as this could not be allowed to go unpunished. Seven of the fourteen men engaged in it were captured before Christmas (1748), and a Special Commission was issued for their trial at Chichester, in January, 1749. The whole of them were convicted, either as principals or accessories in the murders, and six of them (namely, Tapner, two men named Mills, father and son, John Cobby, and John Hammond—all Sussex men—and William Carter, a native of Hampshire) were executed—some of them in chains, as Tapner, on Rook's Hill, near Chichester, and Cobby and Hammond on Selsey Island. The seventh convict, Jackson, escaped a similar fate by dying in prison.
The daring character of these men, and the danger which travellers ran from them, is illustrated by a circumstance in connection with these trials. One of the men executed, Richard Mills, had another son besides the one who suffered with him, and this worthy, being at liberty at the time of the trial, actually proposed to his associates to stop the Judges