The murder of PC John Parry by Thomas Mate in 1788

PUBLICATION: Stamford Mercury
DATELINE: Friday 12 December 1788

On Saturday last was committed to Chester goal, Thomas Mate, of Handbridge, labourer, charged upon the coroner’s inquest with the wilful murder of John Parry, a peace officer, in the execution of his duty. The circumstances of this unfortunate affair were is follow; On Friday two Mate’s neighbours came before a magistrate of Chester, and upon oath that Mate was then beating and cruelly treating his wife, who frequently called out murder, and appeared  at the window with her face very bloody, and repeatedly toll the bye-standers, whom her cries had collected together, that she was afraid her husband would murder her, intreating (sic), to apply immediately to the magistrates for their assistance to save her life. A warrant was therefore immediately granted for apprehending him, and the deceased with three other constables, went to the house of the said Mate, but found the door fastened, which they broke open, and the deceased proceeding up stairs the room where Mate then was, a gun was fired off by the said Mate, and the contents of it lodged in the breast of the deceased, which put a period to his life in a few minutes. He has left a wife and six children to deplore his loss. Mate after this shocking accident, fastened his door again, and threatened destruction to any person that should attempt to take him; but on the magistrate ordering a party of the 40th regiment to force the door again, he surrendered himself to the Constable leading the party of soldiers. (Researchers Note: 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot under Major John Adlam)

PUBLICATION: Chester Chronicle
DATELINE: Friday 16 January 1789

Monday last, at the Crownmote Court in and for this city, Thomas Mate was arraigned for the murder of John Parry, an officer of the peace, whilst attempting to execute a warrant on the prisoner (the particulars of which appeared in our paper of the 12th ult.) when, after a trial of near five hours duration, in the court of which every possible investigation the evidence, touching the facts, took place, he was fully and clearly convicted of wilful murder, and received sentence, to be executed on the 14th inst. after which his body was ordered delivered to the surgeons for dissection. On this occasion our learned Recorder, Foster Bower, Esq. conduced himself in a manner that did the highest credit to his humanity as a man, and his ability as a lawyer. – lt was essentially important, that officers of the peace should be protected in the exercise of their duty. lt was not less important that the rights of private individuals should be protected, and that if, unfortunately, an act of homicide should be committed on the a person of a constable who may rashly or ignorantly force an entrance into a house armed with an illegal warrant, the offence could amount to no more than manslaughter; – but, on the contrary, where the legality of a warrant is admitted, and is fully proved, that the nature of an officer’s errand was made known to the person charged, to take the life a under such circumstances, was, clearly and unquestionably, murder. He also said, that a man’s house afforded him a security only in civil processes, and actions for debt; – in all criminal charges it ceased to become a sanctuary. The importance of this legal truth cannot be too generally known, as a lesson or further consequence may be derived from it namely, that magistrates and all administrators of justice will see the necessity of using every possible precaution in the issuing of warrants, with to the signing and sealing thereof – so that the lives of peace officers may not be sported with, or taken with impunity. Some doubts having in the Recorder’s mind, respecting the legality of the warrant on which Mate had been apprehended, a respite has been granted him for three weeks, before the expiration of which the opinion of the Judges will he obtained. During the whole of the above solemn trial, are sorry to say, he did not the show the smallest emotion of sensibility but, on the contrary, even at the moment of receiving the dreadful sentence (which Mr. Bower prefaced by an address as pathetic as ever delivered from the bench) he betrayed a heart left to every sense of feeling, and seemed sunk to a degree of ferocious and savage obduracy, incapable receiving the least impression.


PUBLICATION: Chester Chronicle
DATELINE: Friday 23 January 1789

Mate’s execution is now positively fixed for Wednesday se’nnight, an order having arrived for that purpose on Monday last – Our worthy sheriffs we hear, very properly determined, that this daring offender shall forfeit his life near the spot where he committed the fatal outrage. Sentence to be carried out on the 14th Instant, after which his Body ordered for Dissection.

PUBLICATION: Chester Chronicle
DATELINE: Friday 6 February 1789
TITLE: Wednesday Last

Thomas Mate was executed here, for the murder John Parry, an officer of the peace, whilst attempting to serve a warrant on the person of the culprit, the particulars of which have heretofore appeared. Seldom have the awful solemnities of public justice exhibited a more shocking instance of an impenitent and unrelenting mind than was shown in this man. From the moment his condemnation to that of his dissolution, he betrayed a rooted, fixed, and almost savage obduracy; which the most felicitous and arduous endeavours of a reverend divine, and other well-disposed persons, could not possibly shake, or in any degree soften – Whilst on the tremendous brink of a dread eternity, and when the soul was about to launch into the presence of an offended God, whose chief attribute is mercy and forgiveness, to hear the inexorable spirit of this poor creature loudly declare, he would not forgive his prosecutors, and particularly his wife, (whom, tho’ near 70 years old, he charged with infidelity) – impressed the heart of every spectator with a mixture of horror and astonishment.


Here at the Museum of Policing we hold  a comprehensive collection of 18th and 19th Century newspaper cuttings from all parts of Cheshire.  As part of  our Family Research service we always examine these archives for any mention of the family member being researched.