The Death of Matthew King
A month after his near-escape at Puckeridge, Turpin had found two new accomplices: Matthew King and Stephen Potter. After initially operating in Leicestershire, the trio began to rob travellers around London. On 29th April, Turpin or King stole a horse named Whitestockings from near the Green Man Inn at Leytonstone. Whitestockings’s owner, Joseph Major, reported his loss to the landlord of the Green Man, one of Turpin’s earliest biographers, Richard Bayes. Bayes made enquiries amongst his contacts in the hostelry industry, and found out that a horse matching Whitestockings’s description had been stabled at the Red Lion Inn, Whitechapel.
Turpin, King, and Potter had made the foolish decision to stable the horse not 10 miles from Leytonstone. Arriving with assistants, Bayes confronted the horse’s purported owner, John King, brother of Matthew, who insisted that he had purchased it legally. When Bayes informed a local constable, King panicked, and said that a man was waiting outside for the horse. Bayes investigated, and recognised the man waiting for the horse as Matthew King. King drew his pistol and pushed it into Bayes’s breast, which fortunately misfired, but Bayes was unable to get his own firearm out of his pocket.
Enter Turpin. What happened next was disputed even at the time, but this is Richard Bayes’s version. ‘Turpin, who was waiting not far off on horseback, hearing a skirmish, came up, when King cried out, “Dick, shoot him, or we are taken by God”, at which instant Turpin fir’d his pistol, and it mist Mr. Bayes, and shot King in two places, who cried out, “Dick, you have killed me”, which Turpin hearing, he rode away as fast as he could’. Turpin’s flight was scorned by King, who lived a while longer and ‘gave Turpin the character of a coward’.