Executed for Jealousy, Elizabeth Richardson

Elizabeth Richardson and Pilmott's Murder
Pilmott’s Murder, Public Domain

Elizabeth Richardson (alias Forrester) was seduced at an early age and when older, she subsisted on wages made from “casual prostitution.” It was her casual prostitution that allowed her to meet an attorney named William Pilmott (perhaps Pilmot or even Pimlot or Pimlott). His chambers were located at Symond’s Inn.

Their relationship seemed to be filled with passion, and Pilmott liked Richardson enough to keep her. It is unclear whether or not the pock-marked Richardson had cause for jealousy, but whether she did or not, she was intensely jealous of Pilmott. In fact, her jealousy drove her to regularly visit Pilmott at his chambers thinking she would find him engaged in some sort of compromising situation with another woman.

One Sunday, Pilmott went with his friends to a house on Fleet Street. While he was out Richardson visited his chambers, and, as he was missing, she decided to wait for him. However, at some point she left for a few minutes and during her absence Pilmott returned, bolted the latch, and went to bed.

At about midnight Pilmott climbed into bed. A half later Richardson returned and tried to gain entry. As Pilmott was sleeping, Richardson’s knocks went unanswered. Richardson believed he was purposely refusing to open the door because she knew he was home. So, she pound harder, but her noisy clamor and “horrid imprecations” still did not rouse Pilmott.

As Pilmott would not open the door, Richardson became staunchly determined to see him and refused to leave. As she waited, she became more and more incensed. At last her passions got the better of her. She purposely broke a window, and, perhaps, that is what woke Pilmott, because he suddenly appeared at the door.

Once awake, Pilmott found Richardson in a rage. Pilmott then handed her over to the watch because she was so mad and uncontrollable. While she was in their custody, and moments after Pilmott handed her over, Richardson, who was still fuming, stabbed Pilmott. She rammed a two-inch pointed-pen knife under his left breast.

Pilmott was shocked Richardson had been stabbed him. Then, as the watchman was explaining to Richardson that he was taking her to the watch-house, Pilmott pulled the pen knife from his chest and told the watchman he’d been stabbed. As Pilmott seemed fine, the watchman requested he accompany them about 100 yards to the watch-house.

Upon their arrival, Pilmott felt faint. He sat down and opened his waistcoat. It must have come as a surprise to everyone when they saw “blood was … issuing from his wound; and, [Pilmott] leaning down his head … presently expired, without speaking.” Richardson was aghast at what she had done and begged the watchman to call for a physician, which the watchman did.

While they were waiting for the physician, amidst grievous tears and laments about what she had done, the watchman sent Richardson to prison. When the physician arrived and examined Pilmott, no one was surprised when he pronounced Pilmott dead. Nor was it a surprise to learn the following day, after Pilmott’s chest was opened, that Richardson had penetrated Pilmott’s heart with her pen knife.

Richardson trial took place at Old Bailey. The evidence was deemed “indisputable,” and she was found guilty of “Wilful Murder” and sentenced to death. But her death sentence was over shadowed by her claims Pilmott’s death was her greatest punishment. Moreover, she reverted to an “unhappy woman [who] employed herself in a truly contrite manner, regularly attending public devotions and at other times engaged in earnest prayer.” She carried on this way until her execution at Tyburn on 21 December 1768. After the execution, her body was cut down and carried to the Surgeons’ Hall for dissection.

But the real moral of the story maybe this tidbit of advice: “Let the untimely fate of Mr. [Pilmott] and the disgraceful death of Elizabeth Richardson, remain a dread[ed] lesson to each sex. Females, avoid the arts of men! and ye, seducers of innocence, be careful how you form connexions with her who, once ruined, becomes abandoned to misery, and seeks retaliation on the sex by whom she was betrayed!”


  • —, in Derby Mercury, 30 December 1768
  • Knapp, Andrew, etal., The Newgate Calendar, Vol. 2, 1825
  • “Saturday’s and Sunday’s Posts,” in Manchester Mercury, 22 November 1768

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