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History of Horse Racing

We now come to a piece of rascality on the turf, which ended in a man being hanged. The first heard about it is reported in the Annual Register, 6th May 1811. “An occurrence has taken place at Newmarket, which is the subject of general consternation and surprise among the frequenters of the Turf. Several horses were entered for the Claret Stakes, and, as usual, were taken out in the morning for exercise. They all drank, as we understand, at one water trough. Some time after they had been watered, six of them were observed to stagger, and then to roll about in the greatest agony. One is since dead. On examining the watering trough, it was found that the water had been poisoned. The horses were the property of Mr Sitwell, Sir F. Standish, and Lord Kinnaird. Suspicion has attached upon one of the jockies.”

22nd July, 1812. “Daniel Dawson was arraigned at the Cambridge Assizes, on an indictment, with numerous counts, viz., for poisoning a horse belonging to Mr Adams, of Royston, Herts, and a blood mare belonging to Mr Northey, at Newmarket, in 1809; and, also, for poisoning a horse belonging to Sir F. Standish, and another belonging to Lord Foley in 1811, at the same place. He was tried and convicted on the first case only.

“The principal witness was Cecil Bishop, an accomplice with the prisoner. He had been, for some time, acquainted with Dawson, and on application to him, had furnished him with corrosive sublimate to sicken horses. He went on to prove that Dawson and he had become progressively acquainted; and, that, on the prisoner complaining that the stuff was not strong enough, he prepared him a solution ofarsenic. Witness described this as not offensive in smell; the prisoner having informed him that the horses had thrown up their heads, and refused to partake of the water into which the corrosive sublimate had been infused. The prisoner complained that the stuff was not strong enough; and, on being informed that if it was made strong it would kill the horses, he replied that he did not mind that; the Newmarket frequenters were rogues, and if he (meaning witness) had a fortune to lose they would plunder him of it. The prisoner afterwards informed witness he used the stuff, which was then strong enough, as it had killed a hackney and two brood mares.

“Mrs Tillbrook, a housekeeper at Newmarket, where the prisoner lodged, proved having found a bottle of liquid concealed under Dawson's bed, previous to the horses having been poisoned; and that Dawson was out late on the Saturday and Sunday evenings previous to that event, which took place on the Monday. After Dawson had left the house, she found the bottle, which she identified as having contained the said liquid, and which a chemist proved to have contained poison. Witness also proved that Dawson had cautioned her that he had poison in the house for some dogs, lest anyone should have the curiosity to taste it. Other witnesses proved a chain of circumstances which left no doubt of the prisoner's guilt.

“Mr King, for the prisoner, took a legal objection that no criminal offence had been committed, and that the subject was a matter of trespass. He contended that the indictment must fail, as it was necessary to prove that the prisoner had malice against the owner of the horse, to impoverish him, and not against the animal. He also contended that the object of the prisoner was to injure and not to kill. The objections was overruled without reply, and the prisoner was convicted.

“The judge pronounced sentence of death on the prisoner, and informed him, in strong language, he could not expect mercy to be extended to him:” and the man was duly hanged.