Death was but seconds away when he made his remarkable request.

Having mounted the scaffold, David Allee stood in front of hundreds of ghoulish spectators, many of whom he probably knew, to make a unique plea.

"Is there is anyone present, who I might have injured and wish to ask me any question, for I am ready to make every disclosure in my power."

Allee, 21, had been convicted of a ruthless attack on a shop keeper who had been suffering from poor health.

But was he working alone or was he part of a London-based gang who had specifically travelled to Winchester to target four selected properties.

It was Christmas Eve, 1826, and having generously released his servants to rejoin their families, John Sayer was alone in his house which looked onto the High Street.

Suddenly, shortly before 7pm, he heard a firm rap on his front door and opening it, was horrified at being confronted by a burglar with a soot blackened face.

The villain rushed inside and knocking Sayer to the floor, tried to strangle him by twisting his cravat.

But Sayer, though weak in physique, was strong in resolve and bravely fought with his assailant who retreated - almost certainly an accomplice's signal.

The intruder then rushed down the street thronged with passers by who, unaware of the drama, had no reason to go in pursuit.

However Sayer was able to give the authorities a clear description of his attacker and three days later it transpired to be Allee, a shoemaker, who lived in the Winnall area.

At the town clerk's office, he was brought before the mayor, who satisfied with the evidence laid in front of him, remanded Allee to the county jail in Jewry Street.

Tragically Sayer was never able to see justice carried out.

Exactly three weeks after the brutal assault, he died, and an inquest was hurriedly arranged for a coroner and a jury to set the public's mind at rest it had not been the principal cause of his demise.

Indeed the coroner John Earle examined a series of witnesses who confirmed he had been ill for a considerable length of time and shortly before his death had suffered a heavy chest cold.

A verdict of 'Death by visitation of God' - the archaic term for natural causes - was returned by the jury who nonetheless expressed their opinion his death had been hastened by the 'mental irritation' he had suffered from his beating.

The prosecution were unable to link the two and when Allee appeared at Hampshire Assizes on March 6, he was charged with 'burglariously entering the house of John Sayer Esq with the intent of committing a felony and cutting and maiming.'

There appears to be no report about the proceedings, whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty, but he was sentenced to death by Mr Justice Burrough.

Allee was executed on March 26 alongside Francis Proudley, 24, who had pleaded guilty to one charge of horse rustling and been convicted of another.

From the outset, neither man entertained any hope of a reprieve and to the chaplain visiting the condemned cell, they freely acknowledged not only those offences but others they had committed.

At the execution, the chaplain stood by the pair who earnestly joined him in prayer before Allee spoke to the throng, admitting the error of his ways.

"Not having the word of God in my heart and being under the influence of infidel principles, I contracted the habits of idleness and extravagance, which I was unable to gratify by honest means and therefore was driven to perpetrate crimes which I acknowledge I justly suffer."

Urging them to take warning by his example, especially his associates in crime who had hitherto escaped detection, to follow the paths of honesty and virtue which alone could bring peace, he then made his remarkable request.

Whether any response came is unknown - but the rope did.