Detail of Catherine Hayes and her Accomplices cutting off her Husband's Head
counsel to carry on the prosecution; and these gentlemen did all in their power to convince the Court and jury that the most striking example should be made of one who had so daringly defied the laws of God and man. The indictment being opened, and the witnesses heard, the jury, fully convinced of the commission of the fact, found her guilty. The prisoners being brought to the bar to receive sentence, Mrs Hayes entreated that she might not be burnt, according to the then law of petty treason, alleging that she was not guilty, as she did not strike the fatal blow; but she was informed by the Court that the sentence awarded by the law could not be dispensed with. Billings and Wood urged that, having made so full and free a confession, they hoped they should not be hung in chains; but to this they received no answer.
On the day of her death Hayes received the sacrament, and was drawn on a sledge to the place of execution. Billings was executed in the usual manner, and hung in chains, not far from the pond in which Mr Hayes's body was found, in Marylebone Fields. When the wretched woman had finished her devotions, an iron chain was put round her body, with which she was fixed to a stake near the gallows. On these occasions, when women were burnt for petty treason, it was customary to strangle them, by means of a rope passed round the neck, and pulled by the executioner, so that they were dead before the flames reached the body. But this woman was literally burnt alive: for the executioner letting go the rope sooner than usual, in consequence of the flames reaching his hands, the fire burnt fiercely round her, and the spectators beheld her pushing away the faggots, while she rent the air with her cries and lamentations. Other faggots were instantly thrown on her; but she survived amidst the flames for a considerable time, and her body was not perfectly reduced to ashes in less than three hours. They suffered at Tyburn, May 9, 1726.