The Confessions, Behaviour, and Dying Speeches of Gerhardt Dromelius, Michael Van Bergen and Catherine Truerniet, Condemn'd for the Murder of Mr. Oliver Norris, and Executed by Harts-horn Brew-house in East-Smithfield, on Friday the 19th of July, 1700.
These three Persons, being all of them Dutch, had the favour of Ministers of their own Nation to Instruct and Prepare them for another World, Ministers who made it their Business, together with the Ordinary, to perswade them to a Confession of the Crime for which they suffer'd, and of their other Wickedness that provok'd Heaven to punish them in this Exemplary manner.
Gerhardt Dromelius accordingly gave the following Account of the barbarous Murder.
That he himself committed it, and that his Master and Mistress were wholly ignorant of the Matter.
The manner thus, That (being Drawer of the House,) his Master observing the unhappy Gentleman resolv'd to go home, laid his Commands upon him to conduct the said Gentleman to his Inn near Aldgate; that no sooner were they out of his Masters Doors, but the said Gentleman took the opportunity to ease himself in an adjacent broken Building;
that whilst they were there the Gentleman gave him very angry Language, and attempted to draw his Sword upon him, that this made him close with him, and having got him down he wrested his Sword out of his Hand, and gave him several Wounds with it; that whilst the unfortunate Gentleman was in this Condition, and groaning for Life, he heard the Watchman coming on, and dreading a discovery, he drew his Knife and cut the Gentleman's Throat, that so there might be an end of his Groans and his own Fears.
This is the substance of the Story as related by him in the English Tongue (for he cou'd speak English so as to be understood) and this engaged me to represent the improbability of the Story in several Particulars,
as First, That it was not likely a naked Man, as he was, shou'd venture upon a Gentleman that draws his Sword upon him, when he had both room enough to run away, and it was no disgrace for him so to do, the Gentleman so drawing, being, as he knew he was, overcome with Liquor.
Secondly, That tho' he shou'd be so Fool-hardy to close with him notwithstanding it was highly improbable they shou'd tumble together as he himself acknowledged and not dawb their Cloths with Dirt, that Night particularly having been very Rainy,
and Thirdly, That if the Murder had been committed by him alone, near the place where the Body was found, there must have been a very great quantity of Blood, not only on the Cloths but on the Ground, and Fourthly, That the Wounds he had given him with his own Sword, being at first given, while his Cloths were on, it must follow by a necessary Consequence, that there must be several little holes in those Cloths, the contrary whereof is apparent.
To all which he answer'd. That he did close with him, magre all the disadvantage, but cou'd assign no reason besides his own Madness and the Devils Temptation. That their Clothes might be dirty tho' not observ'd. That there was a considerable quantity of Blood near the place where the Body was found, and that there wou'd have been more had not he tore the Gentleman's Shirt and put it into the bleeding Wounds; and in fine, that there might be small holes in the Clothes, tho' not taken notice of;
Answers, so improbable, the first, and so contrary to Truth, the others, ' That ' almost forc'd me to lay before him the hainousness ' of Murder, especially in his Case, as it was attended by an obstinacy peculiar to himself. For ' him to affirm that to be done by his own, which ' cou'd not well be done without two or three pair ' of Hands; what cou'd he propose to himself from ' such a Humour?
It cou'd be of no use to his Master and Mistress, when the Circumstances of the Fact ' were so fully prov'd upon them, and they die for it; ' and certainly if there be a hotter place in Hell for ' one more than another, it must be for such a Person, who durst obstinately deny the Truth, and venture his own Damnation upon it - Discourse that had this effect upon him, to fetch Tears from his Eyes, and Groans from his Heart, but no alteration in his Story.
I then charged him with another Villainy, even blacker than the Murder it self, if possible, and that was an endeavour to murder the Gentleman's Reputation after he had taken away his Life; for he had industriously spread abroad the Gentleman's attempt to commit Sodomy with him, which was, as he said, the only cause why he fought and slew him; upon which he declared publickly, the Gentleman attempted no such thing, 'twas pure contrivance in him to make his Guilt appear less odious and abominable in the sight of the World,
I then ask'd, who put him upon writing that Paper wherein this was contain'd? he protested, as in the presence of Almighty God, it was his own Act and Deed.
I then observ'd, that tho' this might be true, yet since he acknowledg'd he had spoken falsely in that, there was great probability he had also spoken falsely in the main Point, and he wou'd do well to consider before too late, and confess that and all his other Sins.
This made him particularly to bewail his Intimacies with his Mistress, and to wish likewise that he had a longer time to Consider.
- Michael Van Bergen, Condemn'd for the same Murder, could not express himself intelligibly in English, but in Latin. He absolutely denied that the Murder was committed either in his House, or that he knew any thing of it.
I put him in mind, that he with his Drawer was seen to come from the Common-shore, where the dead Body lay, betwixt 2 and 3 a Clock that Morning; that he also denied.
I then took leave to observe, that he might possibly be there, after his Man had told him of the Murder, being willing, as I suppos'd, to hide the Body, and so conceal the Murder; but this neither could bring him to a Confession, not but that he owned, the Drawer inform'd him, as he lay in his Bed, immediately after the Fact was done, that he had Wounded the Gentleman, and that he did therefore assist him in his Escape upon such a supposal; but when he came to understand this Gentleman was really Murder'd, he declared this with great Confidence, that he then gave Money to persue the Murderer, that he might be made an Example and pay Blood for Blood.
Upon this I could not but enquire, where those Persons were, to whom he gave the Money for that purpose? That it was most necessary to have produc'd such Persons, if such there were, and that since such did not appear, it gave a strong Presumption, there had been no such thing done; and that therefore, instead of making his Case better, it render'd it worse.
I told him farther, that for my part, I could not conceive why he persisted in his Ignorance of the perpetrated Murder, when the World was satisfied he was Guilty, and he knew he must Die for it, and afterwards undergo the Judgment of that God, who certainly knew the Truth, and would Judge him accordingly.
That not to Confess before his Death was no Demonstration of his Innocence, for no doubt but many Guilty Wretches, had taken the same Course in the like Circumstances; and that therefore it behov'd him to Consider, and Confess, before he precluded himself all Hopes of Mercy in the other and better World.
This wrought him into Passion and Disdain, and made him ask, whether I would have him confess more than he knew? I reply'd by no means, but it was my Duty doubtless, if I had any value for Souls in his unhappy Condition to lay before them the necessity of Confessing their Guilt, lest their denying it at their Deaths, should oblige the Holy Jesus to deny them at his Judgment.
I beseech'd him therefore to Consider, and Confess that and all his other Wickedness; to which he answer'd, he had never done any thing that touch'd his Honour; Your Honour said I, What is the Honour of a sinful Creature? Have you done any thing that has reflected on the Honour of God? That to be sure you have done, and that's what you are to Confess and Bewail; to which I cou'd obtain no other reply than a Discontent, in which he cou'd find no Words, and which indeed shew'd him very uneasie under the Dispensation of a Wife and Holy Providence.
Katherine Truerniet, so her Name was, having never been Married to Van Bergen, with whom she did Co-habit as his Wife : Being Examin'd about this Murder, for which with the others she was Condemn'd; she protested with all the Solemnity imaginable, that it was not committed in their House, nor did she know of it, till after it was done.
Then indeed, she confest, that the Drawer came up Stairs, into the Room where she and Van Bergen lay, and declared in the Presence of them both, he had Murder'd the Gentleman. This she said, engag'd her to run for the Hamper, to put the Bloody clothes in, and to farther the Drawer's Escape.
A Confession how far soever from Truth, yet gave me occasion to observe to her in the first place, that Van Bergen and she heard the News at the very same time, and for him, he affirmed, that the Drawer spoke only of the Gentleman's being Wounded, whereas she declared, that he spoke of the Gentleman's being Killed.
2dly That by her own Confession, she was guily of concealing the Murder, knowing the Person who was the Murderer, and at the same time assisting him in his Escape.
To which she answered, That for the first her Husband, (as she call'd him) being at that time betwixt sleep and wake, might mistake Wounded for Killed, and for the Second, she did no more than what is customary in Holland.
But whether these two Answers were satisfactory, will quickly appear, by considering 1st. That the very Noise of Murder to a Person so nearly concern'd, as Van Bergen was, must needs rouze him quickly out of his Sleep, and make him distinctly hear what was said.
And 2dly. That a Topical Custom, if it be one, ought not to stand in competition with the Law of Nature, which obliges every Man to persue him, whom he knows to be a Murderer, and to bring him to condign Punishment.
And thus much I remark'd to her, and at the same time charg'd her with the other matters Swore against her at her Tryal.
She denied all, but the Business of the Coach and the Hamper; for the one, she said, she did it out of kindness to the Gentleman, for the other, she thought she might give it to the Drawer, it being really none of theirs, but his. I then urged upon her the necessity of Confessing all her other Sins that had justly brought this temporal Judgment upon her.
I remark'd the great Wickedness of Co-habiting with a Man without the sacred Tie of Marriage. I took notice of the Intimacy and Familiarities that were said to pass between her and the Drawer, as well as the Master.
I laid before her in the last place, a Scheme of those Vices the World charged upon her. For the First she made some scruple about Confession, that being in her Judgment to be made unto God, and not unto Man; but when I had shewn her, that where the Crimes are of a publick Nature, or had given publick Scandal, or where we are challenged with them as our Act and Deed, there we are to confess and deny not; because such a Denial at the Hour of Death, speaks such Persons Guilty of final Impenitence.
This made her lament with Tears, her Cohabiting without Marriage, tho' she asserted at the same time, that it was long of her Parents, who would not permit her to Marry him. This made her also not dare to deny absolutely, her Intimat with the Drawer, tho' she fain wou'd have past it over. But for those other Lewdnesses the World generally reports of her; she denied them as she should answer for it at the dreadful Tribunal.
I bid her once more to remember, that she was now upon the Brink of Eternity, and that as we cou'd not deny her the means of Salvation, the Blessed Sacrament, upon her desire of it, so she was to take an especial care, that her Confession be true, and her Repentance sincere, that so the receiving of the Sacrament might not prove her Damnation. She seem'd to acquiesce in this, and we must leave the Truth of born to God who judges Righteously.
On Friday the 19th of July, Michael Van Bergen, Katherine Truerniet, and Gerhardt Dromelius, were convey'd to the Place of Execution, where they behav'd themselves with that Meekness and Devotion as became Dying People; Praying unto God, and begging the Prayers of their own Country Ministers, the Ordinary and the rest of the Ministers that were with them.
Gerhardt Dromelius being ask'd about the Barbarous Murder for which he suffer'd, persisted in the same Confession as before, and with that turn'd unto the People, and beg'd of them To take Example by him, and avoid Uncleanness, and all wicked Courses, especially violent. Passion, which had brought him to this untimely end.
Katherine Truerniet and Michael Van Bergen, were prest severally to Confess the Crime for which they suffer'd Death, but there was no moving them to such an Acknowledgment, tho' they were told it was Swore against them, that he for his part, was seen to come from the Common-shore that very Morning, and that there was some Blood found behind their Door, it was all one, for they wou'd Confess no more, than that they knew of it after it was done.
The Woman seem'd to be concern'd for her Reputation after Death; I desir'd her rather to be concern'd for her Soul, for that was the only valuable Consideration, to a Person in her Circumstances. The Man seem'd to be under a Dejection of Spirit, but upon Advice it was the Will of God he should thus suffer for his Wickedness, he took Courage, and gave him the Glory. After suitable Discourses, a Penitential Psalm and Fervent Prayers, their Souls were committed unto God.
R. Wykes, Ordinary.
LONDON. Printed for E. Mallet, at the Hat and Hawk in Bride-lane.