A Serial Killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773

Their Sentence, Pride and Malice I defy

Despise their power, and like a Roman die.

We were busy researching something completely different about Jamaica and stumbled across this story. Whilst we’re unable to add anything much to it we thought it was worth sharing with you – a bit gruesome, but we do write about All Things Georgian, after all.

A view of Harbour Street, Kingston from - A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica
A view of Harbour Street, Kingston from – A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

This story begins on 16th March 1773 in Spanish Town, Jamaica with the hanging of a Lewis Hutchinson, aka, Mad Master; but what warranted such a sentence?

Accounts of what led up to his hanging vary, and quite who he was, we’re unable to ascertain. Reports say he was from Scotland, but there’s no trace of a Lewis Hutchinson being born or having lived there, so far as we can tell. One newspaper report initially referred to him as James Hutchinson but then part way through changed his name to Lewis – so we’re none the wiser.

During the 1770s there were plenty of Scottish men who established sugar plantations in Jamaica, aiming to make their fortunes with the use of slaves to work the plantations. Hutchinson was no different. He owned the Edinburgh Castle plantation in the St Ann district of Jamaica and had around 24 slaves. (The Legacies of British Slave-ownership Project notes that after the time of Hutchinson, Edinburgh Castle had just under 100 slaves).

Kingston and Port Royal from Windsor Farm from A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica
Kingston and Port Royal from Windsor Farm from A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

Hutchinson, it would seem had a penchant for shooting any white man who came anywhere close to his land. Now, Dr Jonathan Hutton, an English doctor owned the close by Bonne Ville plantation with around 60 slaves, 30 male and 30 females and spent his time between Jamaica and his home in Lincolnshire.

The story goes that Hutchinson had a dispute with Dr Hutton over land boundaries, as Hutchinson felt that Hutton had encroached onto his land and this angered him greatly; so one evening when Dr Hutton was riding home accompanied by one of his slaves who was carrying his sabre when Hutchinson took the sabre from the slave and told the slave to pass on his compliments to Dr Hutton and to tell him that he had taken his sabre. Hutton either ignored or didn’t realise what had taken place.

Planter and his wife, attended by a servant c1780. Yale Center for British Art
Planter and his wife, attended by a servant c1780. Yale Center for British Art

Sometime later, Hutton and his young daughter, Mary, aged about 8 years were out riding when they encountered Hutchinson who, without provocation, struck the doctor with the sabre which had previously taken.

Dr Hutton was severely injured and was carried back to the estate to recover, but his recovery was poor. He managed to travel to Kingston to make a formal complaint about Hutchinson, but nothing appeared to have been done about it, and as he was so ill, he gave up and decided to make the long journey back to England for treatment. Once there he had an operation for trepanning. He eventually returned to Jamaica a year or so later and sought to have Hutchinson arrested.

Jamaica: a sugar plantation. Coloured aquatint by P. Fumagalli, ca. 1821 Wellcome Collection.
Jamaica: a sugar plantation. Coloured aquatint by P. Fumagalli, ca. 1821 Wellcome Collection.

A soldier by the name of Callender and some other men were sent to Edinburgh Castle to arrest him, but Hutchinson realised what was about to happen; he fired a shot at Callender and killed him. He was eventually overpowered and arrested and taken to Spanish Town gaol.  His castle was searched, where some 43 watches were found, along with a large quantity of clothing and other objects which proved that, as people had suspected, he had committed other murders.

If his slaves were to be believed, he murdered many people and threw their dead bodies down an extremely deep sink hole near the property. There were also rumours that he drank his victims’ blood and then dismembered them.

A West Indian Creole woman attended by her black servant c1780. Yale Centre for British Art.
A West Indian Creole woman attended by her black servant c1780. Yale Centre for British Art.

Another story that circulated was that he had befriended a young white man who was taken ill. Rumours were that Hutchinson had aided the young man’s recovery and when recovered Hutchinson sent him on his way.

It seems that as the young man left the castle, Hutchinson waited, made his way to the rooftop of the castle, took aim and fired a shot which killed the young man. How true that story is no-one can confirm.

Hutchinson was, however, only tried for the one crime and as such was hanged only for that. Over time people have investigated the claims of the dead bodies being thrown down the sinkhole but after much searching, there seems to be no substantive evidence to support this claim.

Young Mary Hutton, aged only eight at the time of her father’s attack, returned to London at some stage with her mother Christiana and on the 8th September 1778, although still a minor, was married at St Catherine Coleman church, London to a John Pottinger. The couple returned to Jamaica where Mary and her husband continued to run her father’s plantation, Bonne Ville; they had 45 enslaved people there in 1792 and after the abolition of slavery, Mary made two claims totalling £1,000.

Just as aside, for any of our readers or their family who play Assassins Creed 3, did you know that Edinburgh Castle is featured in it?

Sources used

A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica

Caledonian Mercury 26 June 1773

Historic Jamaica by Frank Cundell

Legacies of British Slave owner database

Featured Image

View of Port Royal, Jamaica Richard Paton (1717–1791) National Maritime Museum

 

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4 thoughts on “A Serial Killer on the island of Jamaica, 1773

  1. This reminds me of how I learned about the French serial killer, Dr. Marcel Petiot. It’s one of the things I love about doing research. You get to go down all these rabbit holes and inevitably, learn about new things. STEW

    Like

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  3. Pingback: Merkwaardig (week 42) | www.weyerman.nl

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