Matters stepped up a gear in terms of his infamy and sheer brutality when he joined Tom King, another highway robber; but it seems that Turpin killed his accomplice during a botched robbery. He then fled north. After that, he began to make a living from horse-stealing, and to do this, he stole horses in South Lincolnshire and took them up the Great North Road to sell in East Yorkshire.
Richard "Dick" Turpin was an English highwayman whose exploits were romanticised following his execution in York for horse theft. Dick Turpin is probably the most famous highwayman of all. Mention the name to most people, and they will tell you he was a daring and dashing highwayman.
It was when the Yorkshire connection occurred that he assumed the name of John Palmer. John Palmer was charged for shooting a chicken in the street and threatening to shoot its owner as well. Turpin was feared and reviled while he was alive. The only mourners at his execution on 7 April were paid ten shillings each by Turpin. The myth of highwayman Dick Turpin outlives the facts.
Nearly everything we know about him — or think we know about him — is false. A penny dreadful featuring Dick Turpin. Staffordshire figurine by Sampson Smith. You might also be interested in: Jack the Ripper and the tabloid press The secret life of the country house Escape from Broadmoor. When contacted, the JP at Long Sutton a Mr Delamere confirmed that John Palmer had lived there for about nine months,  but that he was suspected of stealing sheep, and had escaped the custody of the local constable.
Delamere also suspected that Palmer was a horse-thief and had taken several depositions supporting his view, and told the three JPs that he would prefer him to be detained. Horse theft became a capital offence in , punishable by death. In July he stole a horse from Pinchbeck in Lincolnshire, and took it to visit his father at Hempstead.
When Turpin returned to Brough stealing three horses along the way he left the gelding with his father. The identity of John Turpin's son was well known, and the horse's identity was soon discovered. About a month after "Palmer" had been moved to York Castle,  Thomas Creasy, the owner of the three horses stolen by Turpin, managed to track them down and recover them, and it was for these thefts that he was eventually tried. From his cell, Turpin wrote to his brother-in-law, Pompr Rivernall, who also lived at Hempstead.
Rivernall was married to Turpin's sister, Dorothy. The letter was kept at the local post office, but seeing the York post stamp Rivernall refused to pay the delivery charge, claiming that he "had no correspondent at York". Rivernall may not have wanted to pay the charge for the letter, or he may have wished to distance himself from Turpin's affairs, and so the letter was moved to the post office at Saffron Walden where James Smith, who had taught Turpin how to write while the latter was at school, recognised the handwriting.
He alerted JP Thomas Stubbing, who paid the postage and opened the letter. Although there was some question as to where the trial should be held—the Duke of Newcastle wanted him tried in London—Turpin was tried at York Assizes. Turpin was charged with the theft of Creasy's horses: Presiding over the trial was Sir William Chapple, a senior and respected judge in his early sixties. Turpin had no defence barrister; during this period of English history, those accused had no right to legal representation, and their interests were cared for by the presiding judge.
Among the seven witnesses called to testify were Thomas Creasy, and James Smith, the man who had recognised Turpin's handwriting. Turpin offered little in the way of questioning his accusers; when asked if he had anything to ask of Creasy, he replied "I cannot say anything, for I have not any witnesses come this day, as I have expected, and therefore beg of your Lordship to put off my trial 'till another day", and when asked about Smith, he claimed not to know him.
When questioned himself, Turpin told the court that he had bought the mare and foal from an inn-keeper near Heckington. He repeated his original story of how he had come to use the pseudonym Palmer, claiming that it was his mother's maiden name. When asked by the judge for his name before he came to Lincolnshire, he said "Turpin".
Before sentencing him, the judge asked Turpin if he could offer any reason why he should not be sentenced to death; Turpin said: You knew the Time of the Assizes as well as any Person here. Turpin "behav'd himself with amazing assurance", and "bow'd to the spectators as he passed". York had no permanent hangman, and it was the custom to pardon a prisoner on condition that he acted as executioner. On this occasion, the pardoned man was a fellow highwayman, Thomas Hadfield.
The short drop method of hanging meant that those executed were killed by slow strangulation, and so Turpin was left hanging until late afternoon, before being cut down and taken to a tavern in Castlegate. On the Tuesday following the burial, the corpse was reportedly stolen by body-snatchers. The theft of cadavers for medical research was a common enough occurrence, and was likely tolerated by the authorities in York. The practice was however unpopular with the general public, and the body-snatchers, together with Turpin's corpse, were soon apprehended by a mob.
The body was recovered and reburied, supposedly this time with quicklime. Turpin's body is purported to lie in St George's graveyard, although some doubt remains as to the grave's authenticity.
Some of the Turpin legend can be sourced directly to Richard Bayes' The Genuine History of the Life of Richard Turpin , a mixture of fact and fiction hurriedly put together in the wake of the trial, to satisfy a gullible public. Bayes' description of Turpin's relationship with "King the Highwayman" is almost certainly fictional. Turpin may have known Matthew King as early as , [nb 11] and had an active association with him from February , but the story of the "Gentleman Highwayman" may have been created only to link the end of the Essex gang with the author's own recollection of events.
No contemporary portrait exists of Turpin, who as a notorious but unremarkable figure was not considered sufficiently important to be immortalised. An engraving in one edition of Bayes' publication, of a man hiding in a cave, is sometimes supposed to be him,  but the closest description that exists is that given by John Wheeler, of "a fresh coloured man, very much marked with the small pox, about five feet nine inches high Turpin is best known for his exploits as a highwayman, but before his execution the only contemporary report of him as such was in June , when a broadsheet entitled "News news: It was, however, the story of a fabled ride from London to York that provided the impetus for 19th-century author William Harrison Ainsworth to include and embellish the exploit in his novel Rookwood.
Turpin is introduced with the pseudonym Palmer, and is later forced to escape on his horse, Black Bess. Although fast enough to keep ahead of those in pursuit, Black Bess eventually dies under the stress of the journey. This scene appealed more to readers than the rest of the work, and as Turpin was depicted as a likeable character who made the life of a criminal seem appealing, the story came to form part of the modern legend surrounding Turpin. William Harrison Ainsworth , Rookwood . Ainsworth's tale of Turpin's overnight journey from London to York on his mare Black Bess has its origins in an episode recorded by Daniel Defoe , in his work A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain.
After committing a robbery in Kent in , William Nevison apparently rode to York to establish an alibi, and Defoe's account of that journey became part of folk legend.
Nevertheless, Ainsworth's legend of Black Bess was repeated in works such as Black Bess or the Knight of the Road , a part penny dreadful published in — These narratives, which transformed Turpin from a pockmarked thug and murderer into "a gentleman of the road [and] a protector of the weak", followed a popular cultural tradition of romanticising English criminals. Later ballads presented Turpin as an 18th-century Robin Hood figure: Five hundred pounds he gave so free, all to Jack Ketch as a small legacy.
There may have been other members who were either not identified or who were only occasional associates of the Gang. Turpin and his gang invaded isolated farmhouses, terrorizing and torturing the female occupants into giving up their valuables. Flushed with success-and money-Turpin and his mates proceeded to rob their way around the Home Counties, frequently employing torture as a weapon of persuasion.
Eventually, local constables captured two of the gang, Turpin himself narrowly missing capture by bursting out a window. Turpin headed back into the familiar East Anglian countryside and lived rough for some time. From a cave in Epping Forest from which they could watch the road without being seen, they robbed virtually anyone who passed their hiding place. Even local peddlers started to carry weapons for protection.
On 4th May, , a gamekeeper named Morris tracked Turpin to Epping Forest, but when he challenged him at gunpoint, Turpin drew his own gun and shot Morris dead.
One night, while on the road to London, he took a fancy to a particularly fine horse ridden by a man called Major and forced him to exchange it for his own jaded mount. He issued handbills around the pubs of London, describing the horse and naming Turpin as the thief.
The horse was traced to the Red Lion pub in Whitechapel, where Turpin had stabled it. When Tom King came to collect the horse, he was arrested. Turpin, who had been waiting nearby, rode toward the constables holding King and fired at them. Unfortunately, he was a dreadful shot, and the bullets hit King rather than his captors. Before he died, King provided the constables with sufficient information to force Turpin to again live rough in Epping Forest.