A Middlesex jury charged with giving information on local crimes reported to the court that on 29 June 1399 a hosteler (innkeeper) of Clerkenwell, Thomas Redyng, hired Robert Stanwardyn to kill Robert de Malteby of London, a bladesmith. Stanwardyn missed his target and instead killed Malteby’s servant Nicholas Roper. Afterwards Redyng and his wife Elizabeth hid Stanwardyn in their house until neighbours surrounded him and took him to Newgate prison. The Redyngs themselves escaped before they could be arrested, fleeing to the nearby Hospitaller church of St. John of Jerusalem (in purple below).
At trial, Stanwardyn pleaded guilty and was probably executed (the record is torn). In 1400, the Redyngs appeared in King’s Bench, charged as accessories to homicide, although the damning flight to sanctuary was omitted from the recorded indictment.
The Redyngs pleaded not guilty and the jury acquitted them. This case, with contrast between the presentment (where the accused appear definitely guilty) and the outcome (an acquittal), leaves us without a clear sense of what “really happened.” Were the accusations false? Were the Redyngs guilty but acquitted because they bribed or pressured the jurors? Were there other contexts that explain the acquittal (e.g. the jurors hated the dead man Malteby, thought he “had it coming to him”?) This is an important reminder that none of these records can be assumed to be “factual.”
TNA,KB 9/184/2, m. 11; KB 27/557, rex m. 6d.