The Death of Thomas Morris
After the death of his friend, Turpin next hid in Epping Forest, having been identified by his own ally in front of a witness he had failed to kill. Bayes claimed that Turpin felt remorse for the killing, riding away with the cry, ‘I have lost the best fellow-man I ever had in my life; I shot poor King in endeavoring to kill that dog’. Whether he was responsible or not, Turpin had to save his own skin, and Epping Forest was a frequently-used hiding place for Turpin and his new gang, if not an especially safe one.
Contemporary sources report that Turpin had a secret cave in Epping Forest, in which he had a bed, clothing, food, and a small amount of wine. Unfortunately, the area was patrolled by forest keepers, and Turpin was known to them. In another incident in which the precise events are disputed, Turpin was confronted by a keeper’s servant, Thomas Morris, who had recognized Turpin and knew of the warrant for his capture. In some versions, Morris went to arrest Turpin alone, but even if reports that he went with a single accomplice are correct, he vastly underestimated the danger Turpin posed.
Quite simply, on 4th May 1737 Turpin shot Morris with his carbine. Morris died instantly, near to Turpin’s secret cave. Though it was debated whether Turpin or Bayes had shot King, this time he had definitely murdered an innocent man, and a cry went up for his arrest. The people of Epping reportedly said that ‘he will never be taken until a proclamation is published offering a reward for apprehending of him and give the reason… as he had declared that he will never be taken alive but he will kill, or be killed, and it will be dangerous’.
The people were heard, and in June 1737 a reward was offered. ‘His Majesty is pleased to promise his most gracious Pardon to any of his Accomplices, and a Reward of £200 to any Person or Persons that shall discover him, so as he may be apprehended and convicted… [he] is about Thirty, by Trade a Butcher, about 5 Feet 9 Inches high, brown Complexion, very much mark’d with the Small Pox, his Cheek-bones broad, his Face thinner towards the Bottom, his Visage short, pretty upright, and broad about the Shoulders.’ By this time, Turpin had wisely headed north.