The release of William Habron

22 March 1879 Link The Aberystwith Observer

THE RELEASE OF WILLIAM HABRON. William Habron, who was wrongfully convicted of the Whalley Range murder, which Peace confessed to have committed, was discharged from Portland Prison on Tuesday. Habron, who knew nothing of the free par- don granted to him, was on Tuesday morning informed that he was about to be removed, with two other convicts about to be liberated. He was prepared for the journey, and set off for Millbank. By orders from the Home Office no communication was made to him respecting the cause of his removal, and the whole proceedings were kept secret. Habron did not seem excited. The two officers who travelled with him were ordered to observe strict silence. Habron’s conduct and his health had alike been good during his incarcer- tion. It had been arranged that Mr. Deakin, the employer of the three Habrons, who has all through William’s severe ordeal neither flinched in his belief in his inno- cence nor relaxed in his endeavours to procure his release, should come up from Manchester, meet Habron at Millbank, and take him under his charge to his relations in Ireland. Mr. Deakin was accord- ingly waiting at Millbank to receive him when he arrived. On Habron’s arrival at On Habron’s arrival at Millbank, the fact that he had been granted a free pardon was communicated to him, together with a statement of the reasons which bad actuated the Home Secretary in recommending it. Beyond hearing from a Seller-prisoner at Portland, who was recently admitted,, that Peace had confessed the Whalley Range murder, this was the first and only intimation of what had been done in reference to hia c.ise that the poor fellow had received. The first thing William Habron said to Mr. Deakin in the cell at Milihank when he was able to speak, which for some, minutes he could not do, ‘was to i-xpress his thankfulness that at l»«t justice had been done to him, and he added, “You know, master, that we ne.ver disgraced you, He was so much over- come by the news that he was nnable to take off his prison drims and put on ordinary clothes, and had to be assisted by Mr. Deakin. As soon as the neces- sary formalities had been completed Mr. Deakin and Habron left the gaol. During the afternoon they took train for Manchester, where they arrived late on Tues- day night, Habron being taken to the house of Mr. Deakin^s brother, where the two brothers, John and Frank Habron, were waiting. The meeting between the three brothers was a very affecting one. The poor fellow seemed to be in good health, but showed in his features some traces of the suffering he has undergone. Habron has stated that after the sentence of death he suffered intense mental agony, although he was borne up by a consciousness of his innocence, and hoped that his life might be spared, and that he would ultimately be proved to the world to be guiltless. “In WilliamHabron, at least,” (says the Daily I News) there is a great fund of simple faith and atedfastness. ‘I never believed,’ he often repeats, that I could be brought in guilty, and when I was condemned I felt sure I could not be hanged, for, as I told the priest, God knows, you know, and I know that I am innocent of this crime, and an innocent man will never be allowed to suffer for the guilty.’ It was probably this steady faith in justice being ultimately done that sustained the poor young fellow’s heart and brain for the ten weeks during which he lay under sentence of death, a trial severe enough to crack the strongest nerves, and how much more terrible to a lad of eighteen !”—Habron s respite, which he received about three weeks after he was sentenced, was a great relief to him, but he continued to feel great anxiety as to what might be his fate until he was informed that his sentence of death had been commuted to penal servitude for life. After his removal to Portland he continued to hope that his innocence might be ultimately declared, and that enabled him to bear with some com- posure his confinement as a convict. The Manchester Evening Mail, in giving some further particulars respecting the release of Habron, says Mr. Cross, with the approval of Her Majesty the Queen intends to make a substan- tial grant from the Queen’s Bounty to William Babron, and it has been arranged that the money shall be invested for his use, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford (the Right Rev. Dr. Vaughan) and Mr. Francis Deakin being appointed trustees. The agreement was arrived at on Tuesday at an interview between Mr. Cross, Mr. Hugh Birley, M.P. (who has also evinced great interest in the case), and Mr. F. Deakin. It has not yet been announced what amount will be granted, but we have good reason to believe that the compensation will be as handsome as the Government can possibly make for the injury that has been inflicted. Habron, with Mr. Deakin, left St. Pancras Station by the five o’clock express on Tuesday, and arrived in Manchester about ten o’clock. They drove to the house of Mr. William Deakin, in Stretford- road, where Frank and John Habron were waiting to receive their brother. Although great secrecy had been observed with reference to the liberation of Habron, news of his release spread rapidly, and as the train pulled up at the various stations on the journey he was cheered by numbers of people who, having be- come acquainted with the fact that he was travelling by tbq train, had congregated at the various places. He was recognised and warmly congratulated on his release. At Bedford one gentleman presented him with a £5 note, and at Leicester another gentleman gave him half a sovereign.—Mr. Deakin did not tell him that while he had been in prison his father had died broken- hearted in consequeuca of the intense grief caused to him by the conviction of his son, and the painful fact was only brought to his knowledge by one of his brothers when he reached the house of Mr. WilliamDeakin. Habron was much affected by the news, as he said he had relied upon the hope of sooner or later being able to prove to his father and mother his innocence of the crime for which be has suffered. He remained at the house of Mr. WilliamDeakin all night, and thir morning (Wednesday) he left for Ireland, in the company of one of his brothers and Mr. W. Deakin. Mr. Cross has given Mr. F. Deakin full liberty to provide for the wants of William Habron, and has instructed him to pay his fares to the different places he is wishful to visit, and to provide him with new clothes, and then to forward the bill of costs to the Home Office. It is proposed to open a public subscription list in the course of a few days on behalf of the three brothers, and Mr. William Deakin has offered to receive any subscriptions. It may be stated that the trial cost the Habrons £140, and exhausted the whole of their savings during the years they had been employed by Mr. Deakin.”

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