The Murder of William Papper

OSMOND OTTO BRAND 1855 - 1882Tom Papper002
Hanged 23rd May 1882 Armley Gaol, Leeds Yorkshire.

Born in the year 1855 in Stowmarket Suffolk, Son of Walter Wiseman Brand an Corn Dealer, and Ann Elizabeth Stanton. He Married Hannah Stork in 1876 in Sculcoates Yorkshire, and had a son Henry Walter Wiseman Brand, which died as a baby in 1877.

3rd JULY 1882

At the Yorkshire Assize at Leeds on May 10th, before Mr Justice Williams, Osmond Otto Brand, 27, skipper of a fishing smack, was convicted of the murder of William Papper, a Fisher boy, aged 15 years, in the North Sea, on the 29th December last, and was sentenced to death. The trial lasted two days, and extraordinary interest was taken in it on account of the frightful disclosures of the brutal treatment which the poor boy had to endure. Mr Waddy in stating the case on the part of the prosecution, said the boy was killed by inches. It appeared that on the 16th December last the fishing smack Rising Sun left the port of Hull for a cruise in the North Sea. She had on board when she set sail the prisoner Brand, who was the captain, a man named Dench, the second hand, Rycroft, third hand, and three boys, named Blackburn, Yates, and the deceased boy Papper, who was fourteen years of age, and had a short time before been apprenticed to Brand. The smack returned to Hull on the 5th of January, having been away about three weeks. Brand went to the police office and afterwards to the parents of the deceased, and reported that early in the morning of New Year's Day, in a heavy sea, Papper was swept overboard by the foresail sheet. Brand further went on to say that he caused the vessel to be stopped, that ropes were thrown overboard, and that everything possible was done to save the boy, but without avail. Suspecting, however, that everything was not right, the mother of the boy, in the presence of the police and of the crew of the smack, reproached Brand with having ill-used her son. Brand appealed to the crew as to whether he had not treated the boy well, and at that time they all replied that he had.

Nearly two mouths elapsed before anything further transpired in connection with the case, and it seemed as if the prisoner was about to escape the ordeal of a trial for the crime of which he was now charged.

On the 1st of March, however, the young men, Blackburn and Yates, made a certain communication to the Hull police, and this having got to the ears of Dench, he came forward and volunteered a detailed statement. Upon this Brand, who was at that time in town, was arrested, and Rycroft, who was at sea, was taken into custody on landing. It was upon the evidence of Dench, Blackburn and Yates that Brand was now charged with the wilful murder of Papper on the high seas.

The evidence revealed the most revolting cruelty on the part of Brand. It appeared that as Papper was joining the vessel on the 16th December, Brand was bidding good-bye to his wife. Papper, in a harmless sort of a way for he was a gentle and amiable lad, said to Brand, “Skipper, my sister says she knows you,” a remark which seemed to have aggravated the prisoner beyond control, and to have caused him to say afterwards, “As soon as I got you out I'll kill you.” In the evening of that day, as the vessel was making down , the Humber, Brand commenced the course of cruelty towards Papper which ended in a fearful death. The boy was sent below on some pretence, and Brand followed him, picked up a piece of thick rope, and beat him with it about the head, face and body for about ten minutes, causing his nose to bleed, his face to swell, and inflicting great pain. Later in the evening Brand resumed his ill-treatment of the boy, and continued it day by day until the 23rd December, when a course of brutality was commenced against the boy, the horrible character of which has few, if any, parallels in the annals of crime. Two days before Christmas, in the depth of winter and on the high seas, the boy was ordered to stand on the stem of the vessel, and was compelled to stand there for two hours, while Brand and Rycroft threw at him stones and pellets and mud taken from the bed of the sea. The other members of the crew seemed to have been in terror that the boy would drop into the sea from sheer exhaustion and cold. Whilst the boy was lying on the deck, Brand threw buckets of cold water upon him, until he himself became exhausted. Then he struck the deceased with a stick, and reduced him to such a helpless state that he lay on the deck some time moaning and unable to move or speak.

On Christmas Eve similar acts of cruelty were perpetrated on the boy by Brand, who also tied a rope round his neck and threatened to hang him. He fastened the boy to the halyard, attached that to the winch, and ordered Blackburn to haul him up. Blackburn protested, but, Brand, who carried a revolver, threatened him, and he was obliged to comply. When Blackburn turned the winch, Brand seized Papper by the legs, and pulled until the crosstrees to which the halyard was attached broke, and the boy foil violently to the deck in a state of absolute insensibility. Brand then struck the lad on the back of the neck and jumped upon his chest.

On Christmas Day the men had for dinner ducks and plum pudding, while the deceased, who had been kept without sufficient food for several days, was not allowed to dine. When his dinner was taken up to him, and he held out his hand for it, Brand gave his food to the dog, and handed to the deceased a single currant on a fork, The dog having eaten the meat, Brand collected the bones and throw them to the boy, who began to stick them greedily, and afterwards asked for a biscuit, which was refused him.

On the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the cruelty was continued. In the bitter frost the boy was kept at the stern three days, and had buckets of water thrown over him.

On the Thursday morning, the day upon which the lad succumbed to the ill-usage to which he had been subjected. Pappor went down into the hold, and whilst there Brand pitched a bucketful of water upon him, and then dragged him up by a rope. Brand struck him between the eyes, and whilst he was in a state of partial insensibility, Rycroft filled his mouth and daubed his face with filthy mutter taken from the bilge. The lad was then lashed to a rail and more water thrown upon him. Papper managed to conceal himself for some time, and when he was found Brand caused him to be lowered into the dill, a filthy place in the bottom of the vessel, where there was an accumulation of bilge water. Rycroft, acting under the orders of Brand, tied a rope under the lad's arms, and Brand got upon the boy shoulders, causing him to sink overhead into the dirty water. He was then hauled up and again dropped into the water. When Papper was ultimately upon the deck, being then in a dying condition Brand beat him with a heavy stick jumped upon him, and again ordered water to be thrown upon him. Brand ordered a piece of canvas to be brought so that the lad might be stitched up in it with the exception of his head, and, this having been done, Papper was lowered into the sea, after which he was hauled on deck, Brand remarking “He's done haul him out.” A few minutes after Papper expired, and Brand, wishing to conceal the fact of his death from Yates hid the body in the bunk, and while Yates was in bed throw the body into the sea, giving it out that the boy had been knocked overboard by the big foresail sheet.

The statement of counsel was fully confirmed by the evidence of the crew, and the jury had no hesitation in finding Brand guilty of murder. The Judge, in passing sentence of death, hold out no hope of mercy, and said that the crime was the most atrocious he had ever heard of, and that the evidence must have carried conviction to all who heard it.

Richard Rycroft, also charged in connection with the affair, pleaded guilty of common assault, and was sentenced to three months' hard labour.
As the prisoner Brand was being conveyed after sentence, to Armley Jail, near Leeds, he attempted to jump out of the cab, and had opened the door when he was seized by the governor and a warder, and held in the cab until arrival at the jail.

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