HANGED FEMALES IN BRITAIN SINCE 1900
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from the creation of the state in 1707 until the practice was abolished in the 20th century. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder (in 1969 in Great Britain and in 1973 in Northern Ireland). Although not applied since, the death penalty was abolished in all circumstances in 1998. In 2004 the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights became binding on the United Kingdom, prohibiting the restoration of the death penalty for as long as the UK is a party to the Convention.
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck".
There are four ways of performing a judicial hanging – suspension hanging, the short drop, the standard drop, and the long drop. A mechanised form of hanging, the upright jerker, was also experimented with in the 18th century.
A hanging may induce one or more of the following medical conditions, some leading to death:
Closure of carotid arteries causing cerebral ischemia
Closure of the jugular veins
Induction of carotid sinus reflex death, which reduces heartbeat when the pressure in the carotid arteries is high, causing cardiac arrest
Breaking of the neck (cervical fracture) causing traumatic spinal cord injury or even decapitation
Closure of the airway
The cause of death in hanging depends on the conditions related to the event. When the body is released from a relatively high position, the major cause of death is severe trauma to the upper cervical spine. However, the injuries produced are highly variable. One study showed that only a small minority of a series of judicial hangings produced fractures to the cervical spine (6 out of 34 cases studied), with half of these fractures (3 out of 34) being the classic "hangman's fracture" (bilateral fractures of the pars interarticularis of the C2 vertebra). The location of the knot of the hanging rope is a major factor in determining the mechanics of cervical spine injury, with a submental knot (hangman's knot under the chin) being the only location capable of producing the sudden, straightforward hyperextension injury that causes the classic "hangman's fracture".
As a form of judicial execution in England, hanging is thought to date from the Anglo-Saxon period.Records of the names of British hangmen begin with Thomas de Warblynton in the 1360s;complete records extend from the 16th century to the last hangmen, Robert Leslie Stewart and Harry Allen, who conducted the last British executions in 1964.
At the beginning of the 19th century, children in Britain were punished in the same way as adults. They were even sentenced to death for petty theft.In 1814 five child criminals under the age of fourteen were hanged at the Old Bailey, the youngest being only eight years old.Until 1868 hangings were performed in public. In London, the traditional site was at Tyburn, a settlement west of the City on the main road to Oxford, which was used on eight hanging days a year, though before 1865, executions had been transferred to the street outside Newgate Prison, Old Bailey, now the site of the Central Criminal Court.
In 1957, in an attempt to prevent the abolition of capital punishment completely, two levels of murder were defined: First Degree murder and Second Degree with only First Degree murder carrying the death penalty.
In 1965, Parliament passed the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act, temporarily abolishing capital punishment for murder for 5 years. The Act was renewed in 1969, making the abolition permanent. And with the passage of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998, the death penalty was officially abolished for all crimes in both civilian and military cases. Following its complete abolition, the gallows were removed from Wandsworth Prison, where they remained in full working order until that year.
The last woman to be hanged was Ruth Ellis on July 13, 1955, by Albert Pierrepoint who was a prominent hangman in the 20th century in England. The last hanging in Britain took place in 1964, when Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester were executed for the murder of John Alan West.
In the UK, some felons were traditionally executed by hanging with a silken rope:
poachers who killed the "King's royal deer".
hereditary peers who committed capital offences. However, it has been claimed that the execution of Earl Ferrers in 1760 – the only time a peer was hanged after trial by the House of Lords – was carried out with the normal hempen rope instead of a silk one. The writ of execution does not specify a silk rope be used,and the Newgate Calendar makes no mention of the use of such an item– an unusual omission given its highly sensationalist nature.
Those who have the Freedom of the City of London.
Last executions in the UK.
On the 26th of May 1868, Michael Barrett, a Fenian, (what would now be called an I.R.A. terrorist) became the last man to be publicly hanged in England, before a huge crowd outside Newgate prison, for causing an explosion at Clerkenwell in London which killed Sarah Ann Hodgkinson and six other innocent people. Three days later on the 29th of May 1868. Parliament passed the Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act, ending public hanging. Frances Kidder was the last woman to be publicly hanged in Britain, when she was executed at Maidstone at midday on Thursday, the 2nd of April 1868. Strangely the last fully public hanging in the British Isles did not take place until the 11th of August 1875, when Joseph Phillip Le Brun was executed for murder on the island of Jersey. The provisions of the Capital Punishment Amendment Act of 1868 did not apply there.
Ruth Ellis was the last woman to suffer the death penalty in Britain on the 13th of July 1955. Wales had its last execution on the 6th of May 1958, when Vivian Teed was hanged for the murder of William Williams at Swansea. The last hanging in Northern Ireland was that of Robert McGladdery on the 20th of December 1961 at Belfast for the murder of Pearle Gamble. 21 year old Henry Burnett was the last person hanged in Scotland in the newly refurbished Condemned Suite at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen on the 15th of August 1963 for the murder of Thomas Guyan. The last hangings of all in Britain were two carried out simultaneously at 8.00 a.m. on August the 13th, 1964 at Liverpool's Walton prison and Strangeways prison in Manchester, when Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans were executed for the murder of John West.
A total of 17 women were executed by hanging in 20th century Britain.
In 8 of these cases, gain would appear to be the principal motive. Of these, four were "baby farmers" who were regarded as wholly despicable and got no public sympathy.
Six were hanged for "love" related crimes.
Five suffered for murdering their husbands and one for murdering her boyfriend.
Four were poisoners - Poison has often been said to be the woman's method of choice because its administration requires no physical strength. It has always been thought that the Home Office had an un-written rule - that poisoners and gun murderers were never reprieved.
Two were executed for child murder (other than the baby farming cases).
Hanged Females In Britain Since 1900
- Masset, Louisa (Louise) Josephine, hanged at London's Newgate prison by James Billington on Tuesday, the 9th of January, 1900. Thirty six year old Louisa Masset killed her four year old son, Manfred, and dumped his naked body in the ladies’ toilet at Dalston Junction railway station in London. The reason for the murder is that Manfred was a hindrance to her relationship with her boyfriend, so she took him to the station and battered him and suffocated him to death. Hers was the first British execution of the 20th century.
Chard Williams, Ada, hanged at Newgate prison in London by James Billington on Tuesday, the 6th of March, 1900.
Twenty four year old Ada Chard-Williams was convicted of drowning a small child whom she had "adopted" for a few pounds. She was suspected of killing other children and was another "baby farmer." She was the last woman to hang at Newgate, subsequent female executions in London taking place at the newly converted women's prison at Holloway.
- Daly, Mary. 40 year old Mary Daly was hanged by William Billington at Tullamore prison in Ireland on Friday, the 9th of January, 1903 for the murder of her husband John. Her co-accused, Joseph Taylor, was executed two days earlier.
- Walters, Annie. Fifty four year old Walters was hanged at Holloway Tuesday, the 3rd of February, 1903 with Amelia Sach. Theirs was the last double female execution and the first and only double at Holloway.
Sach, Amelia, hanged by William Billington and Henry Pierrepoint at Holloway prison together with Annie Walters on Tuesday, the 3rd of February, 1903. Twenty nine year old Amelia Sach was another "baby farmer" and she and Walters became the first women to hang at Holloway which had become London's women's prison. Previously, female executions were carried out at Newgate.
Swann, Emily, hanged by John Billington and John Ellis at Armley jail Leeds on Tuesday, the 29th of December, 1903.
Emily Swann, 42, went to the gallows with her 30-year old lover John Gallagher for the murder of Swann's husband, William. Hooded and noosed on the trap doors, Emily said "Good morning John" to which he replied "Good morning love." Emily replied "Goodbye, God bless you" before the drop fell ending any more conversation.
Willis, Rhoda, also known as Leslie James was hanged by Henry and Tom Pierrepoint at Cardiff prison on Wednesday, the 14th of August, 1907. Willis, 44, was another baby farmer and was executed for the murder of a one day old girl child by the surname of Treasure. She was an attractive woman and her blaze of golden hair had a profound effect on Henry Pierrepoint. She was the last woman to be hanged for baby farming.
Thompson, Edith Jessie, hanged by John Ellis at Holloway prison on Tuesday, the 9th of January, 1923.Edith Thompson aged 28 and her lover Frederick Bywaters were hanged in separate prisons at 9.00 a.m. on this day for the murder, by stabbing, of Edith's husband, Percy. Her execution caused considerable public disquiet as many doubted her guilt and the meaning of the various love letters that passed between her and Bywaters. She had to be carried to the gallows and it was reported that her underwear was covered in blood after the hanging. John Ellis committed suicide in 1932 and like everyone else present had been deeply affected by this execution.
The bodies of Edith Thompson and Stylou Christofi were reburied in an unmarked pauper's grave in Brookwood, Surrey when Holloway was rebuilt in 1970.
- Newell, Susan, hanged by John Ellis at Duke Street prison, Glasgow on Wednesday, the 10th of October, 1923.
Susan Newell, aged 30, strangled newspaper boy John Johnston who would not give her an evening paper without the money. Having killed the boy, she wheeled his body through the streets on a handcart accompanied by her eight year old daughter, Janet, whose evidence helped to convict her. She was the first woman to hang in Scotland since Jessie King in 1889 and on the gallows, refused the traditional white hood.
Calvert, Louie, hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Strangeways prison Manchester on Thursday, the 24th of June, 1926.
Louie Calvert, also 33, had criminal tendencies and was known to the police. She battered and strangled her landlady, Mrs. Lily Waterhouse, who had confronted her over things that had gone missing from the house and had reported Louie to the police. In the condemned cell, she also admitted to the murder of a previous employer - John Frobisher - in 1922. She was the first woman to be hanged at Stangeways since Mary Ann Britland in 1886.
- Major, Ethel Lillie, hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Hull prison on Wednesday, the 19th of December, 1934. Forty three year old Ethel Major poisoned her husband, Arthur, with strychnine and her ghost is said to still haunt the prison.
Waddingham, Dorothea, hanged by Tom and Albert Pierrepoint at Birmingham's Winson Green prison on Friday, the 16th of April, 1936. Thirty six year old "nurse" Waddingham, as she called herself, used morphine to poison one of her elderly patients, 89 year old Mrs. Louisa Baguley and her disabled daughter, Ada, the motive being gain.
Bryant, Charlotte, hanged by Tom Pierrepoint at Exeter on Thursday the 15th of July 1936. Charlotte Bryant (33) was convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic. She was having an affair with their lodger and it seemed a simple way to remove her husband from the scene. Whilst awaiting execution, her previously black hair turned completely white.
- Allen, Margaret hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Strangeways prison in Manchester on Wednesday, the 12th of January, 1949. Margaret "Bill" Allen was a 42 year old "butch" lesbian who battered elderly widow Nancy Ellen Chadwick to death with a hammer. Mrs. Chadwick had been her neighbour and had irritated her in various ways. She readily confessed to the police and was convicted after a short trial. This was the first female execution in England for 12 years.
Merrifield, Louisa, hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Strangeways on Friday, the 18th of September, 1953.
Louisa Merrifield, 44, poisoned her employer, Mrs. Sarah Ann Rickets for whom she worked as housekeeper, to get her home which had been left to Louisa under her newly changed will. She used a phosphorus based rat poison called Rodine and was tried with her husband, Alfred, who was acquitted.
Christofi, Styllou, hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at London's Holloway women's prison on Monday, the 13th of December, 1954. Styllou Christofi, 53, was a Greek woman who brutally murdered her German born daughter-in-law, Hella, by battering her and then strangling her. Afterwards, she tried to burn her body. It is thought that she had also committed another murder in Cyprus. She asked for a Maltese Cross to be put on the wall of the execution chamber and this wish was granted - it remained there until the room was dismantled in 1967. Coincidentally, the murder was committed in the same street where a few months later Ruth Ellis was to commit hers - South Hill Park, Camden in London.
Ellis, Ruth, hanged by Albert Pierrepoint at Holloway prison, North London on Wednesday, the 13th of July, 1955.
Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be executed in Britain - for the murder of her boyfriend David Blakely, who had refused to see her over the Easter of 1955. She lay in wait for him outside the Magdala pub and when he came out, shot him 5 times with a revolver. She was arrested immediately by an off-duty policeman and equally quickly convicted by an Old Bailey jury. Her execution caused a great deal of public controversy at the time.
Louise Josephine Jemima Masset
Louisa (or Louise) Josephine Jemima Masset was the first person to be executed in Britain in the 20th century.
She was hanged at Newgate prison on Tuesday, the 9th of January 1900 for the murder of her son. (Her name is also given as Louisa.)
Louisa was 36 years old and was half French (on her father's side) and half English. She was described as a "cultured" woman. On April the 24th, 1896 she gave birth to an illegitimate son called Manfred and felt forced to leave France due to the stigma attached to illegitimate births in those days - it was considered "quite scandalous." She came to England and settled at 29 Bethune Road Stoke Newington in London. It does not seem as if she was very maternal and soon placed Manfred in foster care with a Mrs. Helen Gentle who lived in Tottenham. Mrs. Gentle looked after Manfred from a baby and was paid 37 shillings a month (£1.85 or about $3), which allegedly came from the child's natural father in France. This arrangement enabled Louisa to work as a day-governess for a wealthy family. She also gave piano lessons. Playing the piano was a popular form of entertainment in those days before cinema, radio and television.
Sometime in 1899, Louisa took on a "toy boy," 19 year old Eudore Lucas as her lover. Eudore was a young French bank clerk who lived next door to her and was in Britain training in finance. He was paid about £3 a week, which both agreed made marriage out of the question. Eudore was aware that Louise had a son, although what his attitude was to Manfred is unclear.
On the 16th of October 1899, Mrs. Gentle received a letter from Louisa telling her Manfred's father was going to have the boy to live with him in France and that Louisa would collect him on Friday, October 27th to take him to France. However, Louisa had also made another arrangement, she was going to Brighton with Eudore for what could be described as a "dirty weekend" and they had booked two adjoining rooms in a cheap hotel there.
On the Friday, Louisa put a clinker brick from her garden into her Gladstone bag before going to meet Helen Gentle at Stamford Hill. After tearful farewells, she led Manfred away with a parcel of his clothes that Mrs. Gentle had packed for the journey to France and took a bus to London Bridge railway station.
Manfred was dressed in a blue "frock" and had a sailor's hat on. Frocks were quite normal for small boys in those days.
Manfred Masset - This picture was taken on the day he was handed over to his mother
Mother and son were next seen at London Bridge station's First Class waiting room at 1.45 p.m. on the Friday. Around 3.00 p.m., Mrs. Ellen Rees, the attendant in the waiting room, noted the little boy seemed distressed and suggested to Louisa that perhaps he was hungry. Louisa and Manfred then left rather hurriedly, Louisa saying she was going to buy Manfred a cake. She returned without him about 3 hours later to catch a train for Brighton for her rendezvous with Eudore on the Saturday.
At Dalston Junction station, an unsuspecting lady had a horrible shock when she went to the ladies toilets at about 6.20 p.m. and discovered the body of a child. It was a male child and was naked except for a black shawl. The face and head had been battered and there were two pieces of a broken clinker brick lying by the body. These were of the same type found in Louisa's garden. Manfred had been beaten unconscious and then suffocated perhaps using a hand over his mouth and nose according to Dr. J. P. Fennell, the doctor who examined the still warm body. Louisa was familiar with this station as she went there regularly on her journey to one of her piano pupils. Saturday's newspapers were full of the story of Manfred's discovery - the Victorian's were very fond of a "good murder" and every detail was reported. Louisa had sent Helen Gentle a letter which arrived on Monday the 30th saying that Manfred was missing her, and that he had been sick crossing the channel on the ferry but that all was well now. However, Helen Gentle was suspicious of the letter, having read about the discovery of the body of a child of Manfred's age, and informed the police of her suspicions.
Manfred's body in the mortuary
She later identified the body as Manfred and was also able to identify the parcel of clothes which she had made up for him and which were found in the left luggage office at Brighton station together with the frock and sailor's hat.
Back in Stoke Newington, the black shawl found on Manfred was identified by the shop assistant as having come from his establishment and being sold by him on October 24th to Louisa, who being half French had a distinctive speaking voice.
She was also identified by witnesses on London Bridge station as having been with the child earlier in the day.
Louisa had read about the discovery of Manfred's body and when she visited her sister later, was clearly in a distressed state. She is reported to have said, "I'm hunted for murder, but I didn't do it" and implicated Eudore in the crime.
She was soon arrested at her other sister's home. She was picked out in an identity parade by. Mrs. Rees, the waiting room attendant, and was duly charged with murder. She was committed for trial at the Old Bailey in December 1899.
Louisa was tried at the Old Bailey before Mr. Justice Bruce between the 13th and 18th of December 1899. Her defence, led by Lord Coleridge, claimed that Louisa had entered into an agreement with two women, called Browning who on payment of £18.00 a year, were going to look after Manfred for the foreseeable future and that it must have been them who murdered him. She claimed to have given them a £12.00 deposit before handing Manfred over to them. This may sound far fetched now but would have had a lot more credibility at the time when "baby farming" murder cases were not uncommon.
However, as the two Mrs. Brownings could not be found and a receipt for the £12.00 could not be produced, Louisa's story was not believed by the jury. The evidence against her seemed conclusive and she was inevitably found guilty. She collapsed in the dock on hearing the verdict and had to be revived to hear her sentence, which was that she "be hanged by the neck until she was dead."
She was taken from the court into the adjoining Newgate Prison and placed in the condemned cell where she spent Christmas and New Year 1900 guarded around the clock by pairs of female warders.
She is said to have confessed to the murder in the condemned cell. A petition got up by other French women working in London was sent to Queen Victoria but was ignored.
There was to be no reprieve and at 9.00 a.m. on the morning of the 9th of January, she faced her appointment with James Billington, the hangman from Bolton. She wore a long dress, as was customary at the time, and was attended by the chaplain, the Rev. Mr Ramsey, two male warders and the assistant executioner.
Billington placed a body belt round her waist, to which her wrists were pinioned, and then led her across the yard to the execution shed and onto the trap of the large gallows in Newgate. Once there, her legs were pinioned by a leather strap outside her skirt (to stop it blowing up as she dropped) and the noose placed around her neck.
When all was ready, he put the white hood over her head and pulled the lever to "launch her into eternity" to use the popular expression of the time. A few minutes later the black flag was run up to tell the crowd outside that the execution had been carried out. After hanging for the regulation hour, her body was removed from the rope and prepared for inquest. The inquest noted that her features looked peaceful and only the rope mark on her neck bore witness to a violent death. She was later buried in an unmarked grave within the prison.
By the standards of the day, she was seen as an immoral woman, the case against her was strong and there was no doubt of her guilt or the justice of her sentence for a crime that was clearly pre-meditated and violent. To many people, the killing of a child by its mother is particularly shocking. But her case is a good example of how social values have changed in 100 years.
In Victorian England, having an illegitimate child was a serious stigma and it was no doubt considered equally scandalous behaviour to have a relationship with a much younger man.
There was no effective contraception in the 1890's - a silk handkerchief being about all that was available and so unwanted pregnancies were commonplace, as were "back street" abortions and the practice of giving unwanted children to people who purported that they were going to look after them, but in fact, murdered them as soon as they had been paid by the mother. The so called "baby farmers."
Bringing up a small child at that time also meant that it was virtually impossible for the mother to find work in order to support herself. There was no Social Security then nor any day nurseries in the modern sense. Helen Gentle's charges were by no means cheap when one considers what people earned at that time so, no doubt, Manfred was a financial burden on Louisa as well as an emotional one.
Ada Chard-Williams, aged 24, was convicted of battering and strangling to death 21 month old Selina Ellen Jones at Grove Road, Barnes in London on or about Saturday, the 23rd of September 1899. Florence Jones, a young unmarried mother, had read an advert in the local paper which offered to find adoptive homes for unwanted children. She answered the advert and duly met “Mrs. Hewetson” (Chard-Williams) at Charing Cross railway station on the 31st of August 1899. She agreed to pay her £5 to take on Selina but could only give her £3 on the day. Being an honest woman, she went back later with the balance and found that “Mrs. Hewetson” and Selina had vanished. Florence reported the matter to the police. The police soon discovered that “Mrs. Hewetson” was really Ada Chard Williams. However, they had no body with which to prove there had been a murder, at least not until little Selina's corpse was washed up on the bank of the Thames at Battersea on September the 27th. They remained unable to trace Chard-Williams as she moved frequently but were surprised she took pre-emptive action and wrote them a letter denying the killing (which she had read about) but in effect, admitting she was a baby farmer who bought and sold babies for profit. In the letter, she claimed that she had sold Selina on to a Mrs Smith in Croydon.
Chard-Williams had her own "signature" way of tying up bodies she wished to dispose of using a knot called a Fisherman’s bend, which was a crucial piece of evidence at her trial at the Old Bailey on the 16th and 17th of February 1900 before Mr. Justice Ridley. She was hanged by James Billington in the execution shed in the yard of Newgate prison on Tuesday, the 6th March 1900, the last woman to be executed there. She was suspected of killing other children although no further allegations were proceeded with. Her husband, William, who had helped with the business was acquitted.
On the morning of Tuesday June 17th 1902, a man by the name of John Daly, was found stabbed to death in a field near his home at Clonbrock. The previous day, Daly who was a coal carter, was making delliveries at Killesig, Carlow. He left the town at 9.30 p.m. and when he arrived home he led his horse around to the back of the house. His wife claimed that she had waited up for him until 11.00 p.m. and when he hadn't returned by then she retired to bed, where, she claimed, she feel into a deep sleepfrom which she awakened at 7.00 a.m. the following morning. Thinking that he husband had not come home she went outside to check and when she saw the cart out front and the horse in the field she assumed her husband had got up early and gone out to the fields to work. She sent her 11 year old son to fetch her husband and after searching for a short while the boy returned home to tell his mother that his father was lying out in one of the fields dead. The police were immediately summoned and they reported finding the body as the boy said, lying dead against the incline of some rising ground, the back of his head in a pool of blood. There were some marks of a struggle and from where the man had fallen there appeared to be a pool of blood no more than three or four feet away. When the body was examined more closely, they found a gash, which streched, over the left temple to under his left eye. Mr. Daly's head was a mass perforations, made by some very sharp tool and a pitchfork was found close to the body. Another fork with blood on it was later found at the Daly home. A local man named Joseph Taylor was soon arrested as the main suspect in the murder and Mary Daly the dead man's wife was also arrested. Both Taylor and Mary were indicted for the murder of John Daly.
At the trial of Taylor the Crown suggested that he had been having a adulterous affair with Mary Daly. On the day of the murder Taylor had been drinking heavily and John Daly the son of the deceased swaore that Taylor was in his father's house on the afternoon of the murder. He was sitting by the fire with Mary Daly and they were talking in a low tone to each other. The young boy claimed that he and his young sister were put to bed but he awoke when he heard shouting outside and saw his father being attacked by Taylor in the yard. The boy then claimed that he saw Taylor dragging his father over the garden and out into the field. Taylor's defence suggested that it was Mary Daly who had murdered her husband and that the children told this story to protect her. They suggested that Mary Daly hated her husband, and lay in wait for him on the night of the murder with a prong in her hand, then when she first attacked him , the poor man ran away and that he received the first blow of the prong probably on the spot where one of the pools of blood lay in the field. She broke the first prong and had to go back for another, which she also broke in her attack on him, and then finished him off with a stone. The jury deliberated for 50 minutes and returned a verdict of guilty. Joseph Taylor was sentenced to be hanged at Kilkenny on the 7th January 1903.
As soon as Taylor was found guilty the trial of Mary Daly began. The first witness was little John Daly who described again the scene of Taylor beating his father in the yard. The next witness was the boy's sister Lizzie, who confirmed her brother's story. Sergeant Conlan who attended the scene gave evidence regarding the finding of the prong behind the door in Daly's house.There had been blood on it and when he took it out Mrs Daly said: "He had that himself on Sunday morning" and that he had been beating her. He then asked her how the blood came to be on it, to which she claimed he had cut her hands with it. Upon further examination of her hands the Sergeant claimed that the cuts were only scratches, similar to those you would get from fingernails. The jury retired and deliberated for 55 minutes returning a guility verdict with a recommendation to mercy. His Lordship, in passing sentence, said that another jury had already returned a verdict of guilty against Joseph Taylor, and he felt bound to say he agreed with both verdicts. The sentence and judgement of the court was that Mary Daly should be hanged in the 9th January 1903 at Tullamore, just two days after the hanging of Taylor.
Annie Walters and Amelia Sach, the "Finchley Baby Farmers".
Annie Walters and Amelia Sach became the first women to be hanged in the new women's prison at Holloway on the 3rd of February 1903 by William Billington and Henry Pierrepoint. Previously, female executions in London had been carried out at Newgate prison.
Twenty nine year old Amelia Sach ran a "nursing home" which offered a haven for unmarried mothers to have their babies in and which, for a fee, claimed it would care for the infant afterwards. Sach told her clients that she could arrange for foster parents for the babies for an additional fee. Once the mother had left the baby with Sach, she would pass it over to 54 year old Annie Walters who would murder it, either with a dose of Chlorodyne (a morphine based drug that causes asphyxia in babies or by suffocation if the Chlorodyne didn’t work. The baby’s body would then be disposed of in the Thames or by burying it on a rubbish dump. Walters was neither literate or very bright and in 1902 decided take one of the babies home. She lived in rented accommodation and her landlord was a police officer. She told him that she was looking after the little girl while her parents were on holiday and his wife helped her change the baby's nappy. The policeman's wife noted that the little girl was actually a boy. A few days later, Mrs. Walters told the couple that the child had died in its sleep and she seemed genuinely upset about his death.
A few months later she did the same thing again and this time her landlord became suspicious when this second child died. She was duly arrested and charged with the murder of the child, a 3 month old boy by the name of Galley. Further bodies were discovered from the information Walters gave the police and Amelia Sach was also now implicated in these murders. The police had enough evidence to charge them both with murder. Many items of baby's clothing were found by the police when they searched Sach's home and they may have murdered as many as 20 children.
They were tried at the Old Bailey on the 15th and 16th of January 1903, before Mr. Justice Darling. It took the jury 40 minutes to find them both guilty. They were taken back to Holloway and were hanged there by William Billington assisted by John Billington and Henry Pierrepoint on Tuesday, the 3rd of February in the newley constructed execution shed at the end of “B” Wing. On the day of her execution, Amelia Sach was in a state of virtual collapse in the condemned cell. Pierrepoint recorded in his diary the following, "These two women were baby farmers of the worst kind and they were both repulsive in type. One was two pounds less than the other (in weight) and there was a difference of two inches in the drop which we allowed. One (Sachs) had a long thin neck and the other (Walters) a short neck, points which I was bound to observe in the arrangement of the rope. Amelia Sach had to be almost carried to the scaffold while Annie Walters stayed quite calm and is said to have called out “Goodbye Sach” as she was hooded on the trapdoors. This was to be the last double female hanging in Britain.
Emily was a 42 year old mother of 11 children. She was described as a stumpy little, round-faced woman, 4 ft.10 in. tall and 122 lb. in weight and from a "respectable" background. She was married to William Swann who was a glass-blower and they had a lodger, a 30 year old miner called John Gallagher, who was living with them at Wombwell in Yorkshire.
Ten minutes later Emily and John emerged from William's house holding hands and being described by neighbours as showing "every sign of affection." Behind them, in the shambles of the house, William lay dead. John and Emily calmly went over to their friends house and told them the situation.
The police had been sent for and when they arrived, they immediately arrested Emily. John, however, had escaped and went on the run for two months before finally being tracked down to the house of a relative in Middlesborough, having spent some time living rough.
Freddie Bywaters, Edith Thompson and victim Percy Thompson
On October 4th, 1922, Bywaters lay in wait until just after midnight for Edith and Percy who were returning home to Ilford (in Essex) after a night out at a theatre in London and then stabbed Percy several times. Edith was said to have shouted "Oh don't!" "Oh don't! " Bywaters escaped and Percy died at the scene. Edith was hysterical but was questioned by police when she calmed down alleging that a strange man had stabbed Percy.
The Thompson's lodger, Fanny Lester, advised the police about Bywaters having also lodged with them, and they also learned that he worked for P & O, the shipping line.
The police discovered the letters that Edith had written to him and soon arrested him and charged him with the murder.
Edith was also arrested soon afterwards and charged with murder or alternatively with being an accessory to murder. She did not know that Bywaters had been arrested but saw him in the police station later and said "Oh God why did he do it", continuing "I didn't want him to do it".
Bywaters insisted that he had acted alone in the crime and gave his account as follows :
"I waited for Mrs. Thompson and her husband. I pushed her to one side, also pushing him into the street. We struggled. I took my knife from my pocket and we fought and he got the worst of it"
"The reason I fought with Thompson was because he never acted like a man to his wife. He always seemed several degrees lower than a snake. I loved her and I could not go on seeing her leading that life. I did not intend to kill him. I only meant to injure him. I gave him the opportunity of standing up to me like a man but he wouldn't". Bywaters stuck to this story during the trial which opened at the Old Bailey on December 6th, 1922 before Mr. Justice Shearman.
Edith had written no less than 62 intimate letters to Bywaters and stupidly they had kept them. In these, she referred to Bywaters as "Darlingest and Darlint". Some of them described how she had tried to murder Percy on several occasions. In one referring, apparently an attempt to poison him, she wrote, "You said it was enough for an elephant." "Perhaps it was. But you don't allow for the taste making it possible for only a small quantity to be taken." She had also tried broken glass, and told Bywaters that she had made three attempts but that Percy had discovered some in his food so she had had to stop.
Edith had sent Bywaters press cuttings describing murders by poisoning and had told Bywaters that she had aborted herself after becoming pregnant by him.
At the trial, Bywaters refused to incriminate Edith and when cross examined told the prosecution that he did not believe that Edith had actually attempted to poison Percy but had rather a vivid imagination and a passion for sensational novels that extended to her imagining herself as one of the characters.
Edith had been advised against going into the witness box by her lawyer but decided to do so and promptly incriminated herself by being asked what she had meant when she had written to Bywaters asking him to send her "something to give her husband." She said she had "no idea." Very unconvincing!
The judge in his summing up described Edith's letters as "full of the outpourings of a silly but at the same time, a wicked affection." The summing up was fair in law but the judge made much of the adultery.
Mr. Justice Shearman was obviously a very Victorian gentleman with high moral principles.
He also instructed the jury, however, "You will not convict her unless you are satisfied that she and he agreed that this man should be murdered when he could be, and she knew that he was going to do it, and directed him to do it, and by arrangement between them he was doing it."
The jury were not convinced by the defence case and took just over two hours to find them both guilty of murder on the 11th December. Even after the verdict was read out, Bywaters continued to defend Edith loudly. However, the judge had to pass the death sentence on both of them as required by law.
Edith was taken back to Holloway and Bywaters to Pentonville, prisons half a mile apart (in London) and placed in the condemned cells.
Both lodged appeals but these were dismissed.
She was an adulteress, an abortionist and possibly a woman who incited a murder or worse still had tried to poison her husband. At least this is how she was judged against the morals of the time. That is until she was sentenced to death. The public and the media that had been so against her now did a complete U-turn and campaigned for a reprieve. There was a large petition, with nearly a million signatures on it, to spare her. However this, even together with Bywaters repeated confession that he and he alone killed Thompson, failed to persuade the Home Secretary to reprieve her.
So at 9.00 a.m. on January 9th, 1923, both were executed in their respective prisons. Bywaters met his end bravely at the hands of William Willis, still protesting Edith's innocence whilst she was in a state of total collapse. She had major mood swings even up to the morning of execution as she expected to be reprieved all along.
If it had not been for an anonymous letter writer, Ethel would probably have got away with it. Ethel Lillie Brown, born in 1891, was the only daughter of a Lincolnshire gamekeeper and was brought up in a good home with her three brothers on the estate of Sir Henry Hawley. When she left school she worked as a dressmaker but, in 1914, became pregnant. To avoid the stigma her parents brought up the child, Auriel, as Ethel's sister.