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Churchill, Deborah (1677–1708)

Churchill, Deborah (1677–1708)

British pickpocket and prostitute. Born in 1677; hanged at Tyburn on December 17, 1708; married John Churchill (an army ensign).

Deborah Churchill, who came from a good family and had an excellent education, turned to a life of crime, leading one chronicler to remark on her descent into "all manner of filthiness and uncleanness which afterward proved her shame and ruin." She married an ensign in the army before becoming a prostitute on the streets of London, picking the pockets of her clients. With Richard Hunt, her procurer and lover, she blackmailed rich merchants, and although she was arrested many times Churchill escaped any harsh punishment due to Hunt's bribery of officials.

Her downfall came in early 1708 when she was walking through Drury Lane on the prowl for a pick-pocket victim. She was shadowed by three male friends, Richard Hunt, William Lewis, and a youngster named John Boy, when she propositioned Martin Were, a merchant. When Were discovered Churchill's hand in his pocket, he pushed her down, whereupon her male companions came to her aid and complied with Churchill's demand that they kill Were by stabbing him with their swords. Of the four, only Churchill was caught by officials. Tried for the murder, she was condemned on February 26, 1708. Churchill convinced the prison authorities that she was pregnant, and she received a seven-month reprieve until they realized she had lied. On Friday, December 17, 1708, she was transported by coach to Tyburn where she was hanged.

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