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24 September 2014

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Cambridgeshire crimes
The St Neots assassin
The plot thickens...
  see also  
  Cambridgeshire crimes: burnt at Ely

Cambridgeshire crimes:
the Cambridge cut-throat chorus

BBC Cracking Crime day
BBC Politics

BBC History trail
BBC h2g2 ghost stories

At the time of his assassination, the Prime Minister was aged 50. He left a wife and 12 children.

When executed, John Bellingham was 35, and left a wife and three children.

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As the group entered the lobby, Bellingham stood up and approached Mr Perceval.

Nothing was said as Bellingham produced a pistol from the concealed pocket of his coat. Now only a few feet from the Prime Minister, he aimed and fired.

"I am murdered!"

Mr Perceval staggered forward, grasped his chest and called out, "I am murdered! I am murdered!" and he fell to the floor.

There then followed a stunned silence, as MPs looked down at the Prime Minister in disbelief. John Bellingham calmly walked back to his seat and sat down.

Henry Burgess, a solicitor of Curzon Street, Mayfair, was also in the lobby at that time and saw what happened. He approached Bellingham and grabbed the weapon, and searching him found a second small pistol which was primed with ball and powder.

A doctor examines

Mr Perceval was carried to the nearby Speaker's drawing room and medical help was summoned. Dr William Lynn of Grear George Street, Westminster arrived around 5.30pm and examined the Prime Minister. He described what he found:

quoteHis body was partly off the table; his shirt and white waistcoat were bloody; and on examining the body, I found a wound of skin about over the fourth rib on the left side near the breastbone.

The wound had the appearance of a large pistol ball having entered. On examining his pulse, I found he was quite dead.

I then passed a probe to ascertain the direction of the ball, and found it had passed obliquely downwards and inwards in the direction of the heart.

The wound was at least three inches deep, and I have no doubt that it caused his death. quote

Dr William Lynn on the death of the
Prime Minister

Bellingham was marched off to the prison room of the House to await the attendance of police and magistrates.

Two Bow Street runners, Vickery and Adkins were soon on the scene and took over the security of the prisoner. The Speaker called for any MPs who were also magistrates to examine the evidence.

Mr Michael Angelo Taylor, one such magistrate, was located and considering there was no case to answer, committed Bellingham to Newgate prison to await trial.

"Take him away!"

Bellingham was lead, handcuffed, to a coach which had been brought to Irongates in Lower Palace Yard. News of the assassination had spread quickly, and a large crowd greeted Bellingham as he was taken from the commons.

quote Mr Perceval had not been the most popular of Prime Ministers quote
Public opinion in 1812

The crowd swarmed around the coach - their intent not as one would imagine, to do Bellingham harm, but to assist his escape.

Mr Perceval had not been the most popular of Prime Ministers. The coach doors were in the process of being opened by the crowd when a party of Life Guards arrived, and forced the crowd back.

Guards piled onto the coach and Bellingham was escorted to Newgate at a gallop. At 11.00am on Tuesday 12th May, a coroner's court assembled in the Rose and Crown public house.

The court considered the evidence, and deemed that the Prime Minister had been wilfully murdered.

More about the St Neot's assassin »

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