Friendliness Mistaken for Flirtation and the Fight for Love


The eighteenth century, a time commonly thought to have been characterized by happiness and simplicity among many in the modern day, certainly did not live up to those standards on the 26th day of June, 1785. On that fateful day the assailant John Hogan had beaten Ann Hunt within an inch of her life, cast down to the floor like a pile of rubbish then having been hit repeatedly with a common household broom; finally she was violently cut with a razor along her neck, torso, and arms. John Hogan left her there to die. It was not until eight hours later that the said Ann Hunt would succumb to the beating laid upon her skull, and the lacerations given to her throat and body. The murder was later found to be premeditated.

ImageA broom in close resemblance to Hogan’s murder weapon

Trial Summary

At the trial Ms. Hunt was described to have been a young servant to the home of Mr. Orrell, an attorney. John Hogan had been a porter to a cabinet maker. It was at the Orell’s home that Hogan had first met Ann Hunt:

“the prisoner asked her for something to drink, for some water or small beer, this was the first conversation he had with her, she then good naturedly gave him some(…)” Image

A sentiment even more common in modern society

It appeared that Ms. Hunt had a disposition common to many women within the eighteenth century: she had ultimately obliged Mr. Hogan. From thence Hogan had gone to visit Hunt once a week and a close friendship had begun: “this caused a degree of intimacy.” Oddly, John Hogan only went to visit the home on Sunday, the same days that the Orrell’s would have gone to church leaving Hunt alone. Many during the eighteenth century held their spiritual lives in high regard of significance. This Sunday would have seemed much like any other, but on this sacred day Ann Hunt was also murdered. The Orrell’s returned from church that day to discover Hunt, “her throat cut from ear to ear, her breast cut in many places, one of her arms broke, and one of her fingers broke, and a dreadful fracture upon her scull.” At this point in time the Orrell’s thought Ann Hunt might have killed herself. This explanation seemed quite possible because a death like this had been uncommon. It was at the scene that the broom had been found; the razor was later discovered cast into the fire.

Leading up to the Murder

Interestingly, it had been the milkman who described Hogan seen within the area at the same time carrying a nosegay. Hogan’s nosegay had been found in cold blood at the scene of the crime, almost as if it had been his trademark. Along with this circumstantial evidence it was later discovered that some of Mr. and Mrs. Orrell’s belongings had also been stolen from the home and later found to be pawned. Among these objects was a cloak belonging to Mrs. Orrell as well as eight silver spoons. This had been a time before the invention of surveillance cameras, but it was still discovered that a woman living with the accused unknowingly brought the cloak belonging to Mrs. Orrell in to the local pawnbroker.


ImageA modern fashion statement corsage closely resembling the nosegay of three cabbage roses found on the floor at the scene of the crime

The Aftermath

During Mr. Orrell’s testimony he stated that after finding Hunt covered in her own blood and lying lifeless in the corner of the kitchen a surgeon nearby had to be called in for assistance. This surgeon then told Mr. Orrell to immediately take Ms. Hunt, clinging to life, to the hospital where it was found she had several broken bones in her facial structure. Mr. Hogan was soon suspected and it was then decided he should be shown the body of his victim following her death. In modern times those taken in for questioning are often shown pictures of the victim’s body. This is done to see if they express any emotion; Hogan himself was somber. Upon further questioning John Hogan had not been willing to give a response, and for lack of evidence was then released. The surgeon at the time noticed that Hogan had cuts on his hands as if he had been in a fight with someone. Hogan was again taken into custody for further suspicion. This suspicion was drawn from many of the suspect’s clothes containing blood-like stains at the time of first questioning. In the modern era items such as these would often be discarded shortly after a murder, but they were not in this case. Perhaps this was because many people in those times paid well for their attire, or had only owned a few pieces of clothing (which was quite common in those times). Hogan stated he had been involved in a fight. So why didn’t he dispose of his clothes?

In the Court

During Hogan’s court appearance many witnesses, including the milkman, the surgeon, the pawnbroker, and a neighbor who helped the Orrell’s were present. Many statements had reason to believe John Hogan was guilty; he not only denied this fact, but had no alibi. After hearing about the nosegay which was seen by the milkman and left at the crime scene, the belongings of the Orrell’s proven to have been once in Hogan’s possession, the cuts upon Hogan, and the stains found on his clothing showing “very strong resistance” his guilt was further emphasized. This may have been a time before DNA testing, but the court had as much proof needed for the jury to gain a verdict.

Leading up to the Verdict: Another Woman

Shortly prior to this verdict having been given it just so happened that the woman living in the same home as the accused had yet not given her own account of the events. This woman by the name of Elizabeth Pugh stated she had not been married to the prisoner. While the trial does not elaborate why the two were cohabiting together it is quite interesting to question. One would think that a man and woman living together in the eighteenth century was unheard of (See further research below). This woman living with Hogan at the time stated he never had any intent to harm Ann Hunt. His only motive had been:

“he wanted to be great with her, and she resisted.”

The woman prior to the murder had known nothing more than what the papers had published after the death of Hunt. After having questioned Hogan herself (before the trial) she was forbidden to tell anyone because if he found out he would have killed her as well.
Prisoner Statement and Final Plea
All Hogan had to say at the time was that he may have taken the spoons and disposed of them, but he certainly did not kill Ann Hunt. So how did the spoons come into his possession, and why did he later admit to throwing them over London Bridge?

The prisoner did not speak much during the session as if shocked to have been caught. With a multitude of evidence against John Hogan the court stated, “it will be very fortunate that society should be rid of a man so perfectly destitute of all humanity, and whose conduct has been the most barbarous that ever came before a Court of Justice for their enquiry.” Perhaps in the modern era if someone such as Hogan had admitted to the crime at an earlier time they may have gained a lighter sentence. As the court closed it was mentioned by the judge:

“for, to butcher, in that savage and inhuman manner, the unhappy object, who had been but a few minutes before the object of your brutal desires and appetites, argues a degree of savage inhumanity and ferocity, unknown to the nature of the fiercest beasts, reserved for man alone, and thank God, only for such as you! Loaded with such a degree of guilt on your mind, you have shewn a hardness of heart, that has enabled you to view the unhappy victim of your cruelty without emotion, a spectacle so shocking, (…) happy will it be for you, if that trouble and uneasiness is, in the short time you have to live, increased to the utmost degree of horror and remorse; for it is the utmost degree of horror and remorse alone, that can wipe from the guilty conscience the stains of innocent blood, and obtain that mercy from your offended God, which you cannot expect from man.”

It wasn’t until January 11th of the following year, 1786 John Hogan was sentenced to hanging. His final words to the judge were “please your honour, I am innocent of it, and whoever takes my life away, I will never forgive them.”
After his death his body was to be dissected and anatomized. It isn’t mentioned how close of relationship Hogan had with Hunt or precisely what happened that very day of June 26th; Hogan never admitted to anything. What might have happened if Hogan had never been caught? Would he have found another mistress? They always say a new broom sweeps clean, and I guess Ann Hunt just didn’t make the cut! Nonetheless, Justice was given.
In an article by Rebecca Probert assessing cohabitation it is mentioned unmarried man living with an unmarried man was viewed as an act of fornication. These acts were simply unheard of to those within the eighteenth century: “cohabiting couples were treated as fornicators by the church courts, and punished accordingly. Since the start of the twentieth century, however, the law has gradually accepted that cohabitants should be regarded as members of each others family for a whole range of legal purposes” (Probert). While the jury never questioned the relationship between John Hogan and Elizabeth Pugh it would have been interesting to hear their reasoning. Could Pugh have been involved in the murder as well? They were not married, but were they a mutual couple?
As Probert’s article suggests, “All too often, misunderstandings of such terms – and similarly ambiguous terms such as ‘mistress’ – have led to such relationships being categorised as early forerunners of today’s cohabiting relationships, when they are nothing of the sort” (Probert). Could this provide any further insight into suggesting the two were in fact copulating? One could hypothesize that once Pugh discovered Hogan was interested in Hunt she would have had no trouble giving a true testimony at the trial. Perhaps Pugh herself was jealous of the other woman and committed the act herself?
Not only did murder have a consequence, but fornication was also judged: “Those who ignored the summons to court and the subsequent sentence would be excommunicated – a powerful weapon in the context of the time” (Probert). Most matters were taken into account by the church courts of the time. The article states by cohabiting suspicions would rise. Most of these cases are determined to have not led to fornication.
After the decline of church courts the switch was made to have binding contracts between the cohabiting couple. As Probert mentions these contracts were meant to prevent a ruined reputation. Those followed through with cohabitation were often of a higher class: “While any list of eighteenth-century aristocrats who maintained a mistress would be a very long one, the list of those who shared a home with the woman would be much shorter” (Probert). Not only did Hogan possibly murder Hunt, but he was also cohabiting with a woman. As the trial does not go into much detail of the relationship between Hogan and Pugh, it is still worthwhile noting its existence even within the eighteenth century. In modern day the act of cohabitation is becoming more acceptable and prominent.
Violence Among Women
For now let us once again focus on the facts rather than speculation. It is certain that the death of Ann Hunt could not have been preventable. An article by Roderick Phillips states women in distress often fled to the neighbours of their gender: “women gave assistance of all kinds moral support, emotional comfort, physical refuge and protection, and medical assistance” (Phillips). In the case of Ann Hunt help came too late.
This article mentions men would never offer much assistance to a women. These women were often under the control of their own husband. One would wonder what a male neighbour would have done for Ann Hunt who had not been married under the control of a man? The article by Phillips also mentions the beating of a woman was justifiable to a limited degree if their was cause to allow it. An example is given of men attending a dinner party in which a woman was being beaten by her husband. Women were more easily able to intervene in a situation. The men in this example only watched the actions until the husband raised a knife to the women. The reactions would have been quite different from each gender in the time of the eighteenth century.
Neighbours were the closest people who could be a witness of situations. Within the article by Phillips it is mentioned these neighbours provided surveillance and protection. One could imagine that the untimely death of Ann Hunt was so sudden which gave none of the neighbours suspicion to act upon. Her throat was slit so that she could not call out for help.
Within another article by Joanne Bailey violence was suggested to be a sign of the times: “violence in the early modern period was carried out as if it were theatre or a spectacle, occurring in more ‘public’ places in front of witnesses. By the end of the eighteenth century, on the other hand, it was becoming more
(Bailey). This article also states the reasoning men would have to beat a woman in the home: “Early modern men were permitted to respond aggressively to any physical or verbal challenge to their reputation. Traditional forms of manhood, however, came under attack in the long eighteenth century as civility made its mark” (Bailey). Hogan himself was likely enraged having learn Hunt had no such romantic interest for him. This article goes into excessive detail on the subject of beating a woman.
Closing Comments
The memento mori gives voice to the eighteenth century. With the trial transcript for John Hogan given a discussion arises centering the death of Ann Hunt. While most would have thought beforehand that the eighteenth century was quite simplistic, it also was characterized by brutality. Though we may have discussed literature primarily the concept of a memento mori gives historical background. A trial transcript from the eighteenth century allows us to make comparisons and assessments. These further put that information in context.
This trial should have given us information about religion, family and friends, crime scene investigation, technology, eye-witness testimony, etc. Nonetheless even though comparisons were made one can often be left with questions. What was the motive to the murder? Did it accomplish anything? Would Hogan have killed again? These questions and many more peak the interest of the reader. It is quite important though that speculation is not caused.
From completing my memento mori I learned many fascinating concepts. I was quite surprised Elizabeth Pugh was not taken as a suspect. It seemed her testimony was believable. Could there have been a possibility that she committed the murder and framed John Hogan? It is also interesting that the jury can easily come to a verdict. In a modern sense trials can go on for years before a verdict is given. It seems in this time there had been no chance to appeal. One could imagine that many were wrongfully sentenced.
When I chose this trial I found it to be very interesting. As I began I made minor comparisons to the modern day. I began to find myself making more comparisons which made speculation arise. The complexity of this trial can create difficulty as our questions are not always answerable with the information given.
Major comparisons towards society also play a role. From analysis towards cohabitation and the violence of women the time of the eighteenth century is no longer viewed as simplistic. I really enjoyed the opportunity to explore this trial in great detail. If I were to continue posing questions I don’t think I could ever receive an answer that might later be disproven through further research.
Now that I have given my thoughts…What are your own concerning the trial and verdict?
Bailey, Joanne. “‘I Dye [Sic] By Inches’: Locating Wife Beating In The Concept Of A Privatization Of Marriage And Violence In Eighteenth-Century England *.” Social History 31.3 (2006): 273-294. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Phillips, Roderick. “Women, Neighborhood, And Family In The Late Eighteenth Century.” French Historical Studies 18.1 (1993): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Probert, Rebecca, ‘From Fornicators to Family: Cohabitants and the Law, 1600-2010’ (June 22, 2011). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2011-08. Available at SSRN: or
Image Sources:

Grey’s Quote:

A modern interpretation possibly of close resemblance to John Hogan’s own character

(Click here to watch the original and dramatic video clip showing the context to this quote)

*Quote only correlates to John Hogan trial / Video clip for viewing and entertainment purposes*

Did he really love her, or were his intentions all along to rob the Orrell’s home?