One hundred men died at the bend in the road. But it took the Royal Navy to catch the mad murderer
G. M. HAMILTONNovember151950
THE KILLER IN THE CASTLE
One hundred men died at the bend in the road. But it took the Royal Navy to catch the mad murderer
G. M. HAMILTON
ON A hilltop in the wild and lonely Pedro district of Jamaica, in the parish of St. Ann, there stands a
desolate ruin. Despite its grandiose name of Edinburgh Castle, this fortress had only two small towers and one tiny room. It has such an evil reputation that for 176 years no one has lived in it, and now bushes grow through the floors and creepers are slowly pulling down the walls.
About 1768 it was the home of Lewis Hutchinson, registered as the owner of 24 slaves and 95 head of stock. He was a morose and mysterious man; he had no friends. Some say he was married but kept his wife in a separate establishment. No one knew much about him and in those dangerous days when the planters were ready at any moment to defend themselves against attacks from pirates on the sea and rebellious slaves from the plantations, if a man seemed strange in his habits, or a district was thought to be unsafe, people did not interfere, but just let things alone and minded their own business.
And yet rumors began to be whispered around that those setting forth along the road which led past Edinburgh Castle were never seen again; that though they might have died of fever or been murdered by runaway slaves it was strange that the Pedro district alone was gaining a reputation for mysterious disappearances.
But nothing was done and no one realized that Lewis Hutchinson, a mad killer, waited patiently in his tower day after day and month after month, picking off every white traveler he saw passing along the road beneath his home. He never missed, so no one ever survived to tell. Immediately he had fired, his slaves rushed into the road and hurried back up the hill with the body, which they laid at their owner’s feet.
Hutchinson went over each body carefully. He took the watches, the rings and seals, and often the clothes well, then at nightfall a ghoulish procession with the corpse on a plank wound down the hill and through the narrow gullies to a deep-sunk hole, known now as Hutchinson’s Hole, as Kenky Sink among the black folks. Here they put one end of the plank the side of the pit and tipped up the other. Down shot the body, hitting the sides as it fell, while Hutchinson listened, ' /lth his head on one side and pleased smile on his lips, to the bumps, the breaking of little branches and the final crash when it reached the bottom, more than 270 feet below. Then he turned with a satisfied sigh and climbed back to his castle to sleep like a baby until next dawn when the vigil recommenced.
One day as he sat waiting a white youth appeared round the bend, reeling as though drunk. He finally turned toward the castle’s gateway, where he collapsed, looking up at the building on the hill and lifting his hands as though in entreaty. Hutchinson was intrigued. He put away his gun and went down the hill. He found the boy very sick, shaking with fever and hardly able to speak. All he could say was “Forgive me, sir, and help me, please . . . can go no farther . . .”
“Shooting Is My Hobby”
The slaves came and carried him back to the castle where Hutchinson nursed him carefully, giving him drugs and milk and fruit, keeping him quiet while the fever subsided and his strength slowly returned, and then helping him on easy walks around the hilltop and slow rides through the valleys until he was quite well again.
One day the boy said: “Never can I thank you for your kindness, sir. But for you I should have died. As you know, I am anxious to make
in this country. When I have a home established I trust you will do me the pleasure of visiting me.”
“Indeed, sir,” said Hutchinson, “it is I who am in your debt. My life is a lonely one. My wife suffers from an affliction of the heart, and she finds these hills try her beyond her strength, so she lives in the plains and I stay here by myself, since I am forced to watch over my estates and my people. My only hobby is shooting and, truly, game is so scarce in this country that it is not often I can even find something at which to fire.”
“Indeed,” said the young man, “I did not know you enjoyed shooting. Still more must I blame myself for the vexation I have caused you, since you spent all your time with me and could not indulge in your favorite sport while I was encumbering your hospitable house.”
“It is nothing,” insisted Hutchinson, courteously waving his hand, “I can shoot at any time, but the pleasure your company gave me was a rare joy.”
“Tomorrow, sir, I must continue my way. I shall consider myself further in your debt if you will put me on the road to Kingston, for I am, as you are aware, a stranger in these parts and I do not wish to get lost among these lonely hills.”
“I shall be truly sorry to see you go,” said Hutchinson, “and I would ask you to do me a favor.”
“Sir, I beg you . . . you have but
“Will you retrace your steps a little way down the road so that you may pass once more beneath the castle and we can wave farewell to each other? Put this whim down to the sentiment of an older and childless man, if you will; but this act of yours will give me much pleasure.”
The young man was touched, pleased and also rather surprised at such a gesture from his dour-looking host. But, of course, he gladly consented.
Hutchinson was truly sorry to part with the young man, for he liked him. He was handsome and engaging and, as so often happens, Hutchinson felt a certain tenderness for one whom he had nursed through a dangerous illness.
However, the guest was determined to go, so next day Hutchinson escorted him down the hill and set him on his way, giving him certain provisions for the journey. As they shook hands the boy tried once more to thank Hutchinson for his kindness and care, but he could not find the words to express his feelings, so he said nothing. Then he sat down to wait until his friend should have reached the castle. When he judged the time was right, he set forth along the road.
As the boy rounded the bend he halted, looked up and waved. Hutchinson sighted him nicely along the barrel and squeezed the trigger. Shot through the heart, the boy fell dead and the waiting slaves rushed to the road and brought his body back to their master.
Hatred for the Doctor
Hutchinson’s eyes were alight with a mad gleam as he contemplated the corpse with great satisfaction. “ ’Twas a neat shot,” he thought, “though if he had not stopped to wave I would have said my shooting was better. However, I must be out of practice now, so perhaps ’twas just as well—for I must not miss—I must never, never miss.” That night another body went bumping down the sinkhole.
Hutchinson had no friends, but he had a neighbor, Jonathan Hutton, an English naval doctor, from Lincolnshire, retired. He and his family divided their time between their two properties, the one in England, and Hutton Bonville or Bonneville Pen, Jamaica.
The two men loathed each other. Once they nearly came to blows over a boundary dispute. The doctor thought of Hutchinson with some contempt, regarding him as a mad man with an evil disposition but Hutchinson hated Hutton savagely and bitterly and wanted to kill33 him.
One evening he met the doctor riding home from Moneague, followed at some distance by a slave carrying his sabre and accoutrements. Hutchinson managed to wrench the sword from the
slave and said: “You can give my
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compliments to Dr. Hutton and tell him I have got his sabre.” The doctor, with true naval dignity and British phlegm, rode on, ignoring him.
Some time later, hearing that Hutton was getting ready to go to England, Hutchinson made his own preparations. Mrs. Hutton was away, but her eightyear-old daughter was still at the family place. On the day of the departure she rode with a slave on horseback, followed by the doctor, mounted but unarmed, and many servants and slaves with their baggage.
Hutchinson was waiting for them around the bend. As the cavalcade appeared the mad man rode straight at the doctor and struck him a terrible blow on the head with his own sword. The slaves shrieked and ran, while poor little Mary burst into wild and terrified crying and her father lay bleeding and unconscious on the ground.
Hutchinson and his slaves made off and gradually the doctor’s people gathered round him, lifted him up and bore him and the sobbing child back to Bonneville. The doctor did not die, but he was unconscious for a long time and only several days later was he fit enough to get to Kingston and catch the boat to England.
At Clarendon his wife met him and Dr. Hutton reported Hutchinson’s murderous attack. But he was too ill to stay and press the charge and he and his family sailed for England. The wound in his head healed but slowly, he suffered great pain and finally had to endure a trepanning—without the benefit of anaesthetic—and had a silver plate fixed to his head.
He Had Them Scared
Meanwhile, Hutchinson continued his murdering unmolested. It was said later that more than 100 white men met their deaths at that bend in the road and nobody ever bothered to wonder about the slaves he may have shot, for slaves in those days did not really count.
While Dr. Hutton was in England no one in Jamaica took any notice of his report on Hutchinson. Those were wild and lawless times, and as there was nobody in the island to bring a case with witnesses the authorities probably felt it was wiser to take the line of least resistance, and let sleeping dogs lie.
After a year’s rest Dr. Hutton returned, a suffering and angry man and one who had a naval training behind him to stiffen his resolution. He was determined to bring Hutchinson to justice, yet he still could not get the very cautious officials responsible for the safety of the island to arrest him. The plain truth was that everyone was too frightened by this time to carry the warrant.
The doctor was ill and could not do the job himself, but at last he persuaded a white soldier named Callender
to go. Callender, who must have been a brave but foolish man, boldly approached Hutchinson’s eyrie and was instantly shot dead. All his companions fled and the killer dropping still another down the sinkhole, must have felt with satisfaction that he was as invulnerable and terrifying as a German robber baron on the Rhine.
The authorities, however, could not ignore the open killing of their soldiers; to shirk the issue any longer had become quite impossible. They sent a strong body of armed men to arrest Hutchinson. He heard they were coming, realized they were too many for him and that the end was near. He fled from his castle and took the road through the wild hills to the south, making for Old Harbor.
When he reached the sea he saw a fisherman in his boat sitting under a crane from which dangled a rope. The man was mending his gear. “Hey, you,” shouted Hutchinson, “how much to take me out fishing?”
“It is too late to go fishing now,” said the man. “You must come back at dawn.”
“I have a fancy for the sea. I will give you some money if you will take me out now.”
“I want half a gold piece if I am to go to sea again, when I have just returned.”
“You are a shark,” said Hutchinson good-humoredly, “but it shall be as you say.” He went along the wharf and dropped into the boat.
Spanish Town Hanging
As the fisherman turned to fix the rudder Hutchinson leapt upon him and bore him down. He hit him on the head with his fist and knocked him unconscious. Quick as thought, the killer slipped the end of the dangling rope round his neck and hauled him aloft, strangling him. Then he took the oars and rowed out to sea, watching with pleasure the jerking, swinging figure of his latest victim. Perhaps he thought he might reach Cuba.
The British Navy by now was taking a hand in this strange manhunt. Acting under the orders of Admiral Rodney himself, George Turnbull, a naval officer, went out in a boat to where Hutchinson was rowing with all his might away from Jamaica into the vast spaces of the Caribbean Sea. He arrested him.
Hutchinson was taken to Spanish Town and tried. His slaves in evidence said they had been appalled at the things he had made them do, but he terrorized them, and in their blindly obedient way they continued to do as he bade them. They told all they knew, including the story of the poor young invalid. But in those days the evidence of black men against white men was inadmissible.
It was the shooting of Callender which convicted Hutchinson. If he had allowed himself to be arrested quietly by the soldier, and stood his trial, he might even then have got off scot-free. But this deliberate murder, before witnesses, was something which nobody could deny. He was condemned to death and hanged.
Braggart to the last, he left £100 for his tombstone, which was to be engraved thus:
Lewis Hutchinson, hanged Spanish Town, Jamaica, on the sixteenth morning of March in the year of his Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-three — aged forty years.
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