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Full text of "My experiences as an executioner"



> 



> 



MY EXPERIENCES 



AS AN 



EXECUTIONER. 



I 





<2/'7ne4 







MY 



EXPERIENCES 



AS AN 



EXECUTIONER 



BY 



JAMES BERRY 



Edited by H. Snowden Ward. 



LONDON : 

PERCY LUND & CO 
MEMORIAL HALL, LUD6ATE CIRCUS, EC. 

COPYRIGHT IN UNITED STATES AND BRITISH ISLES. 



I'RiNTKD BY 




IT-IifV Ll'SI* AND CD., 
liUADFOItD. 



Copyright in United Etices and British Is:es. 



I 



Contents. 



PAGK 

Introduction . - - - . -j 

CHAPTER I. 
The Execdtioner at Home. - . . 1 1 

CHAPTER II. 

' How I BEC.\ME AN EXECUTIONER 

CHAPTER III. 
My First Execution ..... 

CHAPTER IV. 

Mv Method of Execution — CALCUL.\TroNs a.no Afpakati s 30 

CHAPTER V. 
■ My Method of Execution — The Pkcceedi.ngs - - 45 

CHAPTER VI. 
( Other Methods of Execution ... 



lO 



23 



CHAPTER VII. 
* Two Terrible Experiences 

CHAPTER VIII 
i How Murderers Die - . - . 

CHAPTER IX. 
'' From the Murderer's Point of View . 

CHAPTER X. 
On Capital Punishment . . . 

^ CHAPTER XI. 

Hanging : From a Business Point of View 

CHAPTER XII. 
The Press and the Public 

CHAPTER XIII. 
Incidents and Anecdotes - 

APPENDIX. 
The Trouble with "Answers" Limited - 



- 5> 

.■;<> 
95 

- to6 
'17 

- "4 
132 



- 141 



INTRODUCTION. 




HE intention of both the author and the 
editor of this Httle book has been to 
set forth, as plainly and as simply as 
possible, certain fafts and opinions 
with regard to what is undoubtedly a most important 
subjedl — the carrying out of the ultimate sentence 
of the law. While fafts have not been in any way 
shirked or misrepresented, much that is horrible in 
detail has been suppressed; so that people who 
may be tempted to take up the book in search of 
ghastly descriptive writing, are warned at the outset 
that they will be disappointed. 

It is believed that a publication of Mr. Berry's 
experiences will correft many errors and misconcep- 
tions as to the way in which capital sentences are 
carried out in England ; and that it will lead to a 
consideration of the whole subject, from a pracftical, 
rather than from a sentimental, point of view. 

The management, and, if possible, the regenera- 
tion of the criminal classes, is one of the most 
serious tasks that civilisation has to face ; and those 
who undertake such a task require all the light that 
can possibly be thrown upon the subje(5t. The public 



i 



8 



executioner has many and special opportunities of 
studying the criminal classes, and of knowing their 
attitude and feelings with regard to that capital 
punishment which civilisation regards as its strongest 
weapon in the war against crime. When, as in the 
case of Mr. Berry, several years' experience in various 
police forces can be added to his experience as an 
executioner, the man who has had these exceptional 
opportunities of studying criminals and crime, must 
necessarily have gathered much information and 
formed opinions that are worthy of attention. 

Therefore, this book has a higher aim than the 
mere recording of the circumstances and incidents 
of the most painful business in which a man can 
engage. The recording is necessary, for without 
the fadts before them, readers could not form their 
own opinions ; but it is hoped that the fa<5ts will be 
read with more than mere curiosity, that the readers 
will be led to take a personal interest in the weak 
and erring brethren who form the criminal classes, 
the canker-worm of our social sytem. 



An explanation of how this book was written 
may not be out of place. The statements are entirely 
those of the author, though in many cases the words 
are those of the editor, whose task consisted of 
re-arranging and very greatly condensing the mass 
of matter placed in his hands by Mr. Berry. The 
narrative and descriptive portion of the work is 



taken from a series of note-books and a news-cuttings 
book kept by Mr. Berry ; who includes the most 
minute particulars in his diaries. One chapter — 
" My First Execution" — is word for word as written in 
the diary, with the exception that a few whole pages 
of descriptive detail are omitted, and indicated by 
points (thus . . . .) The chapter "On Capital 
Punishment," and portions of other chapters, were 
not written out at length by Mr. Berry, but were 
supplied in the form of full notes, and the principal 
portions dictated. In every case, however, the 
opinions are those of the author, with whom the 
editor is by no means in entire personal agreement. 



mm 



.S3. 



II 




CHAPTER I. 

The Executioner at Home. 

By H. Snowden Ward. 

AMES BERRY, though regarded by some 
people as a monster, and by others as a 
curiosity, is very much like any other working- 
man when one comes to know him. He is neither a 
paragon of perfedlion, nor an embodiment of all vice- 
though different classes of people have at times placed 
him under both these descriptions. His chara^er is a 
curious study— a mixture of very strong and very weak 
traits, such as is seldom found in one person. And 
although one of his weak points is his Yorkshire open- 
hearted frankness, which he tries to control as much as 
possible, the man who has only been with him a few 
days has not by any means got to the depths of his 
charatfter. His wife has said to me more than once : — 
" I have lived with him for nineteen years, but I don't 
thoroughly know him yet," and one can quite understand 
it, as his charadf er is so many-sided and in some respeifts 
contradiaory. This partly accounts for the varying 
and contradidtory views of his personality which have 
been published m different papers. 

His strongest point is his tender-heartedness. Per- 
haps this may be doubted, but I state the facfl from 
ample knowledge. Mr. Berry's occupation was not by 
any means taken up from a love of the ghastly, or any 
pleasure in the work. Even in his business as executioner 
his soft-heartedness has shown itself, for though it has 
never caused him to flinch on tlie scaffold, it has led 
him to study most carefully the science of his subje(5t, 
and to take great pains to make death painless. 

Of this trait I have had many proofs. For instance, 



12 



I know that on some occasions when he has been due 
to start for a place of execution, his repugnance to the 
task has been so great that his wife and her mother 
have been obliged to use the greatest possible force of 
persuasion to prevent him shirking his duty. Another 
instance of this characfteristic appeared when I was 
overhauling his manuscript and cuttings for the purpose ; 
of this book. I came across a copy of a poem " For onu 
under Sentence of Death," and made some enquiry about 
it. I found that the lines were some which Mr. Berry 
had copied from a Dorchester newspaper, and that for 
a long time it had been his habit to make a copy of 
them, to send to the chaplain in every case where a 
prisoner was sentenced to death, with a request that 
they should be read to the prisoner. This was con- 
tinued until the governor of one of the gaols resenteil 
the sending of such a poem to the chaplain, and 
intimated that in all cases the chaplain was best able 
to judge of what was necessary for the condemned man, 
and did not need any outside interference. After this 
Mr. Berry sent no more poems, but he kept one or two 
copies by him, and I think that it may interest the reader. 

LINES FOR ONE UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH. 

My brother, — Sit and think, 

While yet some hours on earth are left to thee ; 
Kneel to thy God, who does not from thee shrink, 

And lay thy sins on Christ, who died for thee. 

He rests His wounded hand 

With loving kindness, on thy sin-stained brow, 
And says — " Here at thy side I ready stand, 

To make thy scarlet sins as white as snow. 

" I did not shed My blood 

For sinless angels, good and pure and true ; 
For hopeless sinners flowed that crimson flood, 

My heart's blood ran for you, my son, for you. 

" Though thou hast grieved me sore. 

My arms of mercy still are open wide, 
I still hold open Heaven's shining door, 

Come then — take refuge in My wounded side. 

" Men shun thee — but not I, 

Come close to me — I love my erring sheep. 

My blood can cleanse thy sins of blackest dye, 
I understand, if thou canst only weep." 



13 



Words fail thee — never mind. 

Thy Saviour can read e'en a sigh, or tear ; 
I came, sin-stricken heart, to heal and bind, 

And died to save thee— to My heart thou'rt dear. 

Come now— the time is short. 

Longing to pardon and to bless, I wait ; 
Look up to Me, My sheep so dearly bought. 

And sav, " forgive me, e'er it is too late." E. B. C. 



The soft-heartedness of Mr. Berry's nature would 
quite unfit him for his post if it were not that he pos- 
sesses a strong resolution, and can control his feelings 
when he finds duty warring against inclination. 

In personal appearance he is a kindly-looking man, 
thickset and nuiscular, with a florid complexion and 
sandy hair. He stands 5ft. 8^in. high, weighs 13 stones, 
and does not look the sort of man to willingly injure 
anyone. The appearance of his right cheek is somewhat 
marred by a long, deep scar, extending downwards from 
the corner of the eye, which has given rise to one or 
two sensational stories from the pens of imagmative 
newspaper men. The scar was caused by the kick of a 
liorse which he attempted to ride when he was a boy 
about ten years old. The horse was young, unbroken 
and V'cious, and its kick narrowly missed being fatal. 
Across his forehead is another great scar, the result of 
a terrible blow received when arresting a desperate 
characfler in a Bradford public-house The man was 
one of a gang of six, and his comrades helped him to 
violently resist arrest, but Berry stuck to his captive 
until he was safely locked in the Bradford Town Hall, 
and the six men all had to " do time" for the assault. 

Mr. Berry was born on February 8th, 1852, at 
Heckmondwike, in Yorkshue. His father was a wool- 
stapler, holding a good position in the distric*!. Young 
Berry's education was obtained at the Wrea Green 
School, near Lytham, where he gained several prizes 
lor his writing and drawing His writing ability was 
iiseful to him later in life, when he was employed' by a 
lithographer, to write "copper-plate" transfers. In 
1874 he was married, and has had six children Of 
these, two boys and a girl died while young, and two 
boys and a girl are living. 



H 

The "executioner's office," as Mr. Berry likes to 
call it on his official communications, is a house just off 
City Road, Bradford. It is one of six owned by Mr. 
Berry. When he first took the position of executioner 
some of his neighbours were so prejudiced against the 
work, that they refused to live " next door to a hang- 
man," and as landlords naturally objedt to losing two or 
three tenants for the sake of keeping one, Mr. Berry 
was obliged to move once or twice, and came to the 
conclusion that he had better be his own landlord. 
The prejudice which then existed has been lived down, 
and there is now no difficulty in letting neighbouring 
houses to respedtable tenants. 

The house in Bilton Place is furnished just the 
same as hundred of other houses in the districft that are 
occupied by better-class artisans, and there is nothing 
at all gloomy or gruesome about the place. In fadt, 
there is no indication of the business of the occupant. 
There are, in the front room, two frames of small photo- 
graphs, which are really portraits of some of the 
murderers who have been executed by Mr. Berry, but 
the frames bear no inscription. In a glass-fronted side- 
board, too, there are a few handsome ele(5lro goblets, 
cruet stands and similar articles that have been given 
to Mr. Berry by some of his admirers, but no one would 
connedl them with his business. In drawers and 
cupboards about the place there are (or were, for they 
have now gone to Madame Tussaud's) a large nurnber 
of relics and mementos of executions and other incidents 
Amongst them is the great knife, once used by the 
executioner of Canton for the beheading of nine pirates 
This was obtained in exchange for a rope with which 
several persons had been hanged. These relics were 
all stowed well away, and were not by any means " on 
show," thougli the executioner did not objecfl to produc- 
ing them if a personal friend wished to see them. 

In conversation Mr. Berry is fluent, apt in anecdote 
and illustration, and full of a subtle Yorkshire humour 
which he cannot entirely shake off even when talkmg 
on serious subjedts. He has a very good memory for 
faas, and is very observant, so that he is always ready 
with a personal experience or observation on almost any 



15 

topic. His tastes are simple. His favourite occupations 
are fishing and otter hunting, of both of which sports 
he is passionately fond. Frequently when going to an 
execution in a country town he takes his rod and basket, 
and gets a half-day's fishing before or after.the execution. 
He seems to like the sport on account of its quiet and 
contemplative nature, and says that he enjoys the fishing 
even if he never gets a nibble. 

At home Mr. Berry devotes himself largely to 
mechanical pursuits. At the present time he is working 
a patent which he bought recently, and has the topmost 
room of his house fitted as a mechanic's workshop, with 
lathe, bench, etc. In spare time he devotes a good 
deal of attention to his pigeons and rabbits, for he is an 
ardent fancier, and keeps a large number of live pets. 




i6 



CHAPTER II. 

How I became an Executioner. 

T has been said by some of those good3'-goody 
morahsts who are always anxious to point out 
sad examples of the depravity of man, and 
who are not very particular about the genuineness of 
the " fadts " with which they support their theories, 
that I was fond, even as a boy, of revelling in the 
revolting details of crime, and that I was a reader of all 
the police literature that I could obtain. Such state- 
ments are absolutel}' false. As a boy I was not a great 
reader on any subjedt, and the proceedings of the courts 
and the careers of criminals were in no wise interesting 
to me until I became a member of the Bradford Borough 
Police Force, in 1874. 

When a policeman I strove to do my duty as well 
as any man could, and often wished that I could make 
some better provision for my wife and family, but I 
never so much as dreamed of becommg an executioner, 
or took any interest in the subje(51: of hanging. 

One day, when I called at a friend's house that was 
on my beat, it happened that Mr. Marwood was staying 
there, and 1 was introduced to him, and a few days later 
I again met him and spent an evening in his company. 
He was a quiet, unassuming man, kindly and almost 
benevolent in his manner, who was in no way ashamed 
of his calling, though very reticent about speaking of it, 
excepting to those whom he knew well. He keenly felt 
the odium with which his office was regarded by the 
public, and aimed, by performing his duties in a satis- 
iaiftory manner, and by conductmg his private life 
respe(5tably, at removing the stigma which he felt was 
undeserved. At times the attitude of the public towards 
him was very keenly felt, and 1 well remember one time 
when this subjecTt was the topic of conversation at the 



17 

supper table, that he remarked to a gentleman present, 
•• my position is not a pleasant one," and turning to me, 
repeated with emphasis, " no ! it is not a pleasant one." 
The words seemed to come from the depths of a full 
heart, and I shall never forget their pathos and feeling. 
Altogether, Mr. Marwood never encouraged me in any 
way to think of his calling with feelings of envy, and 
though he did give me all particulars of his methods 
and apparatus, it was merely because I asked all sorts 
of questions from natural curiosity. 

It was only when in company with Mr. Marwood, 
with whom I became quite friendly, that I ever con- 
templated the question of capital punishment. At other 
times it was far from my thoughts. My application for 
the post, which was left vacant at his death, was, there- 
fore, in no way the result of a personal desire for the 
work or of a pre-conceived plan. I was simply driven to 
it by the poverty-stricken condition of my family, which 
I was unable to keep in reasonable comfort upon my 
earnings (I was then engaged as a boot-salesman, at a 
small salary). I knew that in the line on which I was 
then working there was no prospedl of a material 
improvement in my position ; I knew that I was a man of 
no extraordinary ability, so that my chances of rising 
were few, and I looked upon the vacancy of the execu- 
tioner's post as being probably my one chance in life, 
my " tide in the affairs of men." Personally I had a 
great distaste for the work, though I did not consider it 
in any way dishonourable or degrading, and I had to 
weigh my family's wants against my personal inclination. 
It seemed to me at the time that my duty was clear, so 
I made application for the vacant position. 

It may be said that I decided to better myself with- 
out any regard to the means of that betterment, or to 
my fitness for the position ; but when I carefully con- 
sidered the matter, in the few days before sending in 
my application, I was convinced that I could do the 
work as well as anyone, and that I could make pracftical 
improvements in some of the methods and somewhat 
improve the lot of those appointed to die. This last 
consideration finally decided me. 

I made application to the ShcrifTs of London and 



i8 

Middlesex in September, 1883. There were some 1400 

applicants for the post, but after waiting some time 1 

received the following letter intimating that I was one 

of the few from amongst whom the final choice was to 

be made : — 

London. 

The Sheriffs of London and Middlesex will be at 
the Old Bailey on Monday next, the 24th instant, at 
2 o'clock p.m., for the purpose of seeing the sele^ed 
applicants for the post of Executioner. 

If you (as one of those selecfted for consideration) 
are disposed to attend at the above time and place 
you are at liberty, at your own expense, to do so. 
19th September, 1883. 

To Mr. J, Berry. 

Of course, I kept the appointment, was duly examined, 
amongst some nineteen others, and was told that the 
chosen executioner would be communicated with. 

My adtion in applying for the post was not at all 
in accordance with the wishes of my relatives, who did 
everything they possibly could to prevent my obtaining 
it. Some of my friends and neighbours wrote, either 
through solicitors or personally, to the sheriffs. Certain 
members of my own family petitioned the Home Secre- 
tary to dismiss the application, on the ground that if 
the appointment was given to me, a hitherto respectable 
family would be disgraced. I beheve that it was mainly 
in consequence of these representations that I was 
passed over, and the post given to Mr. Bartholomew 
Binns. Upon myself the opposition had an effedl that 
was not intended. It made me devote considerable 
thought and care to the details of the work of an execu- 
tioner, and made me determine that if ever the 
opportunity again offered I should do my best to secure 
the work. During the four months that Mr. Binns held 
the appointment I had consultations with some eminent 
medical men, and when, much earlier than I expe<5ted, 
a new executioner was wanted, I was very well grounded 
in the theory of the subjedt. It was in March, 1884, 
that the magistrates of the city of Edinburgh wanted 
a man to execute Vickers and Innes, two poachers. 



19 

The Sheriffs of London and Middlesex gaA'e me a recom- 
mendation, and I addressed the following letter to the 
Magistrates of Edinburgh : — 

March 13^^, 1884. 
52, Thorpe Street, Shearbridge, 
To the Magistrates Bradford, Yorkshire. 

of the City of Edinburgh. 
Dear Sirs, 

I beg most respecftfully to apply to you, to ask 
if you will permit me to conducfl the execution of the 
two Convicfts now lying under sentence of death at 
Edinburgh. I was very intimate with the late Mr. 
Marwood, and he made me thoroughly acquainted 
with his system of carrying out his work, and also the 
information which he learnt from the Do(flors of 
different Prisons which he had to visit to carry out 
the last sentence of the law. I have now one rope 
of his wjhich I bought from him at Horncastle, and 
have had two made from it. I have also two Pinion- 
ing straps made from his, also two leg straps. I have 
seen Mr. Calcraft execute three convicfts at Manchester 
13 years ago, and should you think fit to give me the 
appointment I would endeavour to merit your patron- 
age;. I have served 8 years in Bradford & West 
Riding Police Force, and resigned without a stain on 
my characfter, and could satisfy you as to my abilities 
and fitness for the appointment. You can apply to 
Mr. Jas. Withers, Chief Constable, Bradford, also to 
the High Sheriff for the City of London, Mr. Clarence 
Smith, Mansion House Buildings, 4, Queen Vi(floria 
Street, London, E.C., who will testify as to my 
characfter and fitness to carry out the Law. Should 
you require me I could be at your command at 24 
hours' notice. Hoping these few lines will meet with 
your approval. I remain, Sirs, 

Your Most Obedient Servant, 
To The Chief Magistrates, James Berry. 

Borough of Edinburgh, 
Scotland. 
P.S. An answer would greatly oblige as I should 

take it as a favour. 



^x 



20 

A brief correspondence followed, and on March 21st I 
received the following letter from the Magistrates' Clerk : 

City Chambers, Edinburgh, 
Sir, 2ist March, 1884. 

With reference to your letters of the 13th and 
15th instant, I am now direcfled by the Magistrates 
to inform you that they accept the offer you have 
made of your services to acft as Executioner here on 
Monday, the 31st March current, on condition (i) 
that you bring your Assistant with you, and (2) that 
you and your Assistant arrive in Edinburgh on the 
morning of Friday the 28th instant, and reside within 
the Prison (at the Magistrates' expense) till after the 
Executions are over. 

The Magistrates agree to your terms of ten 
guineas for each person executed and 20s. for each 
person executed to your Assistant, with second-class 
railway fares for both of you, you finding all necessary 
requisites for the Executions. 
I am. Sir, 

Your obedient servant, 

A Campbell, 
Mr. James Berry, Deputy City Clerk. 

52, Thorpe Street, 
Shearbridge, 

Bradford, Yorks. 
P.S. Please acknowledge receipt of this letter im- 
mediately. — A. C. 

Of course, my reply was to the effedl that I accepted 
the engagement, and although I felt many misgivings 
between that time and the day appointed for the execu- 
tion, the work was carried through satisfacflorily. 



-jH- 



r^^ 



p^v 



I 




ilinii'iii 

w 

// 



«3 




CHAPTER III. 

My First Execution.* 

N the 2ist March, 1884, I received a letter 
from the Magistrates' Clerk, City Chambers, 
_ Edinburgh, appointing me to a<5t as Execu- 
tioneTon 31st March, 1884, at Calton Gaol; and that I 
was to provide all necessary appliances for carrying out 
the same. I undertook the duties; and on Thursday, 
March 27th, 1884, I departed from my home, Bradford, 
and made my way to the Midland Station, and booked 
3rd class for Edinburgh, to carry out the execution of 
the Gorebridge murderers. I arrived at Waverley 
Station 4-20 p.m., and I hired a cab to drive me to the 
gaol. On arrival at the prison 1 was met at the doors 
by a good-looking warder, dressed in ordinary prison 
garb, and very courteous; and on entering the large 
portal gate, was asked my name, and after entering it 
down in the prison book, time, etc., he pulled a string, 
which rang the Governor's bell, and in a few moments 
I was confronted with the Governor, a very nice 
gentleman, of military appearance, and very good 
looking. After passing the usual conversation of the 
day, and the weather, and what kind of journey I had 
up from Bradford, he said after such a long journey I 
should require a good, substantial tea ; and as soon as 
I had washed, and combed my hair, the tea was there, 
everything that could be desired. I sat down, and quite 
enjoyed my first Scotch meal in Bonnie Scotland. 

[An examination of himself and his apparatus by 
the Governor, and his own inspedlion of the scaffold, 
are then described at length.] ... I returned 



♦ This chapter is taken verbatim from 
are marked . , .—Ed. 



Mr. Berry's note-book. Elisions 



24 

to my room, and stayed in during the daytime. I spent 
the Thursday night smoking and reading. At lo-o 
o'clock p.m. I was escorted to my bedroom, a round 
house at the back part of the gaol, about 40 yards 
from the back entrance, a snug little place, and was 
informed that the last man who slept inside that room 
was Wm. Marwood, five years previous to my visit. 
He was then there for the same purpose as myself, but 
the culprit in his case was a poisoner. The chief 
warder, whom I spoke to, seemed to touch upon the 
subjedl with great reluctance, and said that he felt 
quite upset concerning the two culprits, and that he 
hoped they would get a reprieve. I could see in his 
countenance a deep expression of grief, which was 
making him look no better for his occupation. 
I sat me down on my bed after he had gone, locked my 
door, and could hear the trains depart from the station 
under the prison wall. I looked out of my window at 
the mail taking its departure for the South. 
I then knelt down and asked the Almighty to help me 
in my most painful task, which I had undertaken to 
carry out. . . . [The night was much disturbed 
by the persistent smoking of the chimney.] 
At 8-0 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, Friday, my 
breakfast was brought into my room, consisting of toast, 
ham and eggs, and coffee. ... At lo-o a.m. on 
Friday morning, 28th March, 1884, I was introduced to 
the Magistrates and those responsible to see the 
execution carried out. I exposed my ropes and straps 
for their inspetftion, and, after a long and careful 
investigation of all points, they retired, quite satisfied 
with their visit. After that we paid another visit to 
the scaffold ; the builders, not having finished the 
contradl, were making a final touch to the new-ere<5ted 
shed to keep the execution private, and so that nobody 
outside could see. After testing it with bags of cement, 
same weight as the prisoners, and calculating the length 
of drop and its consequences, and other details, the 
committee departed. After, I filled my time walking 
about the prison grounds, and thinking of the poor 
men who were nearing their end, full of life, and 
knowing the fatal hour, which made me quite ill to 



25 



think about. My meals did not seem to do me good, 
my appetite began to fall off, nothing felt good to me, 
everything that I put into my mouth felt like sand, and 
I felt as I wished 1 had never undertaken such an awful 
calling. I regretted for a while, and then I thought 
the public would only think I had not the pluck, and I 
would not allow my feelings to overthrow me, so I 
never gave way to such thoughts again. At i-o p.m. 
my dinner had arrived. I went up to my room, and 
sat down to pudding, beef, and vegetables, Scotch 
broth, and Cochrane & Cantrell's ginger ale. At that 
time I was a total abstainer; and I think it is the safest 
side, since what I have seen brought on by its sad 
consequences of taking too much alcoholic liquor. 

After tea, I had a chat with the warders 
coming off duty for the day. As they passed through 
the wicket gate, one remarked, " He looks a nice 
fellow for a job like that ;" another says, " But he has 
a wicked eye," and he would be sure I could do it. 

I was left smoking in the lodge with the 
gate-keeper and one (warder) who stayed behind to see 
what he could hear me say ; but I looked him over, 
and could see by the look of his face that I was not to 
say much in his presence, as he was built that way. 

I was left alone with the gate-keeper, and he 
looked like a straight, honest man, and he was like 
myself. He said, " I am glad you never began to say 
anything in the presence of that man, as he would stop 
until morning." . . . Saturday morning, 29th. 

After breakfast, had another interview with 
the Magistrates, and made the final arrangements. I 
tested the scaffold in their presence, with the ropes I 
was going to use on the Monday morning, with bags of 
cement, each bag being placed in the same places as 
was marked for the criminals ; Vickers, weighing 10 
stones and over, 8 feet (drop) ; and Innes, 9 stones, 10 
feet. One bag represented one, and the other bag the 
other. I tested the ropes by letting off the traps, and 
down went the bags, and I got my calculations from 
that point, after seeing the ropes tested with the weight 
of cement. They all looked quite satisfied with the 
results. The rope was of Italian silk hemp, made 



26 

specially for the work, f inch in thickness, and very 
pliable, running through a brass thimble, which causes 
dislocation and a painless death if rightly adjusted. 
After dining, I had the honour of having a 
drive in an open carriage (provided by the Governor) 
for a couple of hours, . . . which I enjoyed, 
after being inside the prison gates since my arrival on 
Thursday. ... I gave my friend another night's 
visit at the lodge gate. We chatted on different topics 
of the day, and spent a nice, jovial evening together, 
smoking our weed ; when a voice came to the door from 
a visitor from the offices of the town, that a reprieve 
was refused, and the law was to take its course, and I 
had a paper sent, with the words in full, Gorebridge 
Murderers, No Reprieve, which made me feel as bad 
as the condemned men for a time. But, what with the 
jolly gate-keeper, and another of the warders, I drove it 
out of my mind for a while. ... I retired to 
bed as usual at lo-o p.m., after reciting my prayers, 
and thinking only another night and I shall be back 
with my wife and children. Saturday night I was very 
restless, and I did not feel so much refreshed for my 
night's sleep, as I was thinking of the poor creatures 
who was slumbering their hours away, in the prison 
cell, just beyond where I was laid, thinking of the 
dreadful fate that awaited them in such a short space 
of time. Two men, in full bloom, and had to come to 
such an untimely end, leaving wives and large families. 
One poor woman, I was informed, her mind was so 
affecfted that she was removed to the asylum, she took 
it so to heart. ... I retired to my day-room at 
the front entrance, where I only partook very sparingly 
of the nice and tempting ham and poached eggs put 
before me. I spent most of the forenoon looking round 
inside the prison, while the prisoners was at chapel, 
until dinner time. My dinner did not arrive until 4-0 
o'clock, which is called late dinner, consisting of rice 
pudding, black currants, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, 
bread, and the usual teetotal beverages. I tried to 
make the best of it, but all that I could do was to look 
at it, as my appetite was gone ; but I managed to eat a 
little before going to roost for the last night. . . . 



27 

I retired at lo-o on Sunday, but only had cat naps aU 
nieht one eye shut and the other open, thmking and 
fancving things that never wUl be, and which is 
impossible. I was dressed and up at 5-0 a.m.; and felt 
more dead than alive as I had such a responsible part 
to play in the programme for the day. I fancied the 
ropes breaking; I fancied I was tremblmg, and could 
not do it ; I fancied I fell sick just at the last push. I 
was nearly frantic in my mind, but I never let them 
know. 6-0 a.m. arrived. I heard the sound of the 
keys, clattering of doors, sHding of bolts. Breakfast 
had to be served earlier than usual. No prisoner 
allowed out of his cell until all was over. The public 
had begun to assemble on Calton Hill in groups. 7-0 
a.m. arrived. I made my way to the scaffold, made 
my arrangements secure, and cleared the scaffold shed, 
the principal warder locking the door, not to be opened 
again until the procession enters for the great event of 
the day. . . . At 7-45 the living group wended 
their way to the prison, and into the do(5tor's room, 
ready for the last scene of the drama. The prisoners 
were brought face to face for the first time since their 
conviaion. They kissed each other; and the scene 
was a very painful one, to see mates going to meet 
their end on the gallows. They were conduced to 
the room adjoining the dolor's room, and were in 
prayer with the two ministers in attendance after 8-5. 
I was called to do my duty. I was handed the warrant, 
which was made out by the judge who condemned 
them to die. I then proceeded to pinion the prisoners, 
previously shaking hands, bidding good-bye to this 
World. Both men seemed to feel the position very 
much. The procession was formed, headed by the 
High Bailiff, the Chaplain reading the litany for the 
dead. Both the prisoners walked without assistance to 
place of execution ; they was at once placed under the 
beam on the drop, where everything was done as quick 
as Hghtning, and both culprits paid the highest penalty 
of the law. . . . The magistrates, and dodtors, 
and even the pressmen, admitted that the execution of 
the two men had been carried out in an humane 
manner as possibly could be, and that the poor fellows 



aS 

had not suffered the slightest pain in going through the 
execution ; docftors giving me a testimonial as to the 
skilful way I had carried out the execution. 9-0 a.m., 
my breakfast arrived ; and I was so much affecfted by 
the sad sight I had witnessed, that I had no appetite, 
but just merely drank a cup of coffee ; but eating was 
out of the question. 



As this was my first execution, I was naturally 
anxious to have an assurance from my employers that 
it had been satisfa(5torily carried out. The magistrates, 
the governor, and the surgeons all signified their satis- 
facftion, in the following terms : — 

City Chambers, Edinburgh, 
15^ May, 1884. 
We, the Magistrates who were charged with 
seeing the sentence of death carried into effedt, on 
the 31st March last, on Robert F. Vickers and 
William Innes, in the Prison of Edinburgh, hereby 
certify that James Berry, of Bradford, who acfled as 
Executioner, performed his duties in a thoroughly 
efficient manner; and that his conduct during the time 
he was here was in every way satisfadtory, 

George Roberts, Magistrate. 
Thomas Clark, Magistrate. 

H.M. Prison, Edinburgh, 
31 March, 1884. 
I hereby certify that Mr. James Berry, assisted 
by Mr. Richard Chester, carried out a double 
Execution in this Prison on this date, and that the 
whole of his arrangements were gone about in a most 
satisfadtory and skilful manner ; and, further, that 
the condud of Messrs. Berry and Chester, during 
the four days that they resided here, has been all 
that could be desired. 

J. E. Christie, 
Governor of H.M. Prison. 



29 

Edinburgh, 315/ March, 1884. 
We hereby certify that we have this day witnessed 
the Execution of Vickers and Innes, and examined 
their bodies. We are of opinion that the Execution 
of these men was admirably managed ; and that the 
Executioner Berry and his Assistant condu(5ted them- 
selves in a cool, business-like manner, to our entire 
satisfadtion ; death being instantaneous. 

James A. Sidey, M.D., 
Surgeon to H.M. Prison of Edinburgh. 

Henry D. Littlejohn, M.D., 

Surgeon of Police. 

I fear it seems like self-praise to publish these 
"testimonials," but my work is so' often maligned in 
common conversation, that I feel that it is a duty to 
give the opinions of a few of the men on the spot, who 
are most competent to judge of the matter. I believe 
that in every case where I have condudted an execution, 
the authorities have been perfedtly satisfied, and I could 
produce numerous letters to that effedt, but I will 
content myself with one, from the prison where I have 
had the greatest number of executions. It is dated a 
few years ago, but it would be endorsed now, and such 
testimony is very gratifying to me. 

Strangeways Prison, 

nth June, 1887. 
During the period Mr. James Berry has been 
public Executioner he has always given satisfadlion 
at this Prison in carrying out Capital Sentences, and 
his condudt has been marked by firmness and dis- 
cretion. 

J. H. Purton, Jr. 



h T-^ w 



CHAPTER IV. 



My Method of Execution. 

CALCULATIONS AND APPARATUS. 

Y method of execution is the outcome of the 
experience of my predecessors and myself, 

aided by suggestions from the dodtors, and is 

rather the result of gradual growth than the invention 
of any one man. 




The Drop. 



The matter which requires the greatest attention in 
connetftion with an execution is the allowance of a suit- 
able drop for each person executed, and the adjustment of 
this matter is not nearly so simple as an outsider would 
imagine. 

It is, of course, necessary that the drop should be of 
sufficient length to cause instantaneous death, that is to 
say, to cause death by dislocation rather than by strang- 
ulation ; and on the other hand, the drop must not be 
so great as to outwardly mutilate the vi(5tim. If all 
murderers who have to be hanged were of precisely the 
same weight and build it would be very easy to find out 
the most suitable length of drop, and always to give 
the same, but as a matter of ia.61 they vary enormously. 

In the earliest days of hanging it was the pracflice 
for the executioner to place his noose round the vicflim's 
neck, and then to haul upon the other end of the rope, 
which was passed through a ring on the scaffold pole 
until the culprit was strangled, without any drop at all. 
LAfter a while the drop system was introduced, but the 
length of drop given was never more than three feet, so 
that death was still generally caused by strangulation, 
and not by dislocation, as it is at presentT One after 



3< 

another, all our English executioners followed the same 
plan without thought of change or improvement, until 
Mr. Marwood took the appointment. He, as a humane 
man, carefully considered the subjecft, and came to the 
conclusion that the then existing method, though cer- 
tain, was not so rapid or painless as it ought to be. In 
consequence he introduced his long-drop system with a 
fall of from seven to ten feet, which caused instantaneous 
death by severance of the spinal cord. I was slightly 
acquainted with Mr, Marwood before his death, and I 
had gained some particulars of his method from con- 
versation with him ; so that when I undertook my first 
execution, at Edinburgh, I naturally worked upon his 
lines. This first commission was to execute Robert 
Vickers and WiUiam Innes, two miners who were con- 
demned to death for the murder of two game-keepers. 
The respecftive weights were lo stone 4 lbs. and 9 stone 
6 lbs., and I gave them drops of 8 ft. 6 in. and 10 ft. 
respectively. In both cases death was instantaneous, 
and the prison surgeon gave me a testimonial to the 
eSe6i that the execution was satisfacftory in every 
respe(fl. Upon this experience I based a table of vveights 
and drops. Taking a man of 14 stones as a basis, and 
giving him a drop of 8 ft., which is what I thought 
necessary, I calculated that every half-stone lighter 
weight would require a two inches longer drop, and the 
full table, as I entered it in my books at the time, stood 
as follows : — 

14 stones 8 ft. o in. 

I3i 1 8 » 2 >i 

13 > 8 „ 4 „ 

12^ , 8 „ 6 „ 

12 „ 8 „ 8 „ 

iii „ 8 „ 10 „ 

II 9 » o >» 

loj , 9 ,. 2 „ 

10 „ 9 >. 4 » 

9i 9 M 6 „ 

9 » 9 » 8 „ 

8i , 9 mIO » 

8 „ 10 „ o „ 

This table I calculated for persons of what I might call 



32 

" average " build, but it could not by any means be 
rigidly adhered to with safety. For instance, I have 
more than once had to execute persons who had 
attempted suicide by cutting their throats, or who had 
been otherwise wounded about the neck, and to prevent 
re-opening the wounds I have reduced the drop by 
nearly half. Again, in the case of persons of very 
fleshy build, who often have weak bones and muscles 
about the neck, I have reduced the drop by a quarter 
or half of the distance indicated by the table. If I had 
not done so, no doubt two or three of those whom I 
have executed would have had their heads entirely 
jerked off, — which did occur in one case to which I 
shall again refer. In the case of persons with scrofulous 
tendencies it is especially necessary that the fall sliould 
be unusually sliort, and in these cases I have at times 
received useful hints from the gaol docflors. 

Until November 30th, 1885, I worked to the scale 
already given, but on that date I had the awful experi- 
ence above referred to, which caused me to reconsider 
the whole subject and to construtfl a general table on 
what I believe to be a truly scientific basis. The 
experience referred to is dealt with in another chapter. 
The man with whom it occurred was Robert Goodale, 
whom I executed at Norwich Castle. He weighed 15 
stones, and the drop indicated by the first table would 
therefore be 7 ft. 8 in., but in consequence of his appear- 
ance I reduced it to 5 ft. 9 in., because the muscles of 
his neck did not appear well developed and strong. 
But even this, as it turned out, was not short enough, 
and the result was one of the most horrible mishaps 
that I have ever had. As will be seen from the full 
report of this case, in another chapter, the coroner 
exonerated me from all blame and testified to the careful 
way in which I had done my work ; but I felt that it 
was most necessary to take every possible precaution 
against the recirrence of such an affair. I, therefore, 
worked out a table of the striking force of falling bodies 
of various weights falhng through different distances ; 
which table I give on page 34. Working with 
this, I calculate that an " average " man, of any weight, 
requires a fall that will finish with a striking force of 



33 

24 cwt., and if the convicft seems to require less, I 
mentally estimate the striking force that is necessary, 
and then by referring to the table I can instantly find 
the length of drop required. To see how this new table 
works out we may take the case of Robert Goodale 
again. As he weighed 15 stones his striking force with 
a drop of 2 feet would be 21 cwt. 21 lbs., or with a drop 
of 3 feet 26 cwt. 7 lbs., so that if he were a man of 
ordinary build the drop necessary would be 2 ft. 6 in. 
As I estimated from his appearance that his drop ought 
to have been about one-sixth less than the standard, I 
should have given him, working on this new table, about 
2 ft. I in. instead of the 5 ft. 9 in. which was acftually 
given. This is an extreme case, with a very heavy man, 
but all through the table it will be found that the drop 
works out shorter than in the first table. For instance, 
Vickers and Innes, the two Edinburgh murderers pre- 
viously referred to would have had their drops reduced 
from 8 ft. 6 in. and 10 ft. to 5 ft. 6 in. and 7 ft. 
respeiftively if they had been treated according to the 
present revised table. 

On August 2oth, 1 891, at Kirkdale Gaol, Liverpool, 
at the execution of John Conway, an attempt was 
made to dicflate to me the length of drop, and a 
most unfortunate scene ensued. From seeing the 
convicft, Conway, I had decided that the drop ought 
to be 4 ft. 6 in., a little under the scale rate ; and 
I was surprised and annoyed at being told by Dr. 
Barr, adting, I believe, under authority, that I was to 
give a drop of 6 ft. 9 in. I said that it would pull the 
man's head off altogether, and finally refused to go on 
with the execution if such a long drop were given. Dr. 
Barr then measured off a shorter drop, some ten or 
twelve inches shorter, but still much longer than I 
thought necessary, and I reluclantly agreed to go on. 
The result, everyone knows. The drop was not so long 
as to absolutely pull off the vicftim's head, but it ruptured 
the principal blood-vessels of the neck. 

I do not know who was really responsible for the 
interference with my calculation, but do not think that 
the long drop was Dr. Barr's own idea, as the drop 
which I suggested was on the same system as he had 











34 












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35 

previously commended, and was almost identical with 
the drop that would have worked out on the basis of his 
own recommendation in a letter to the Times some years 
ago. Dr. Barr's letter to me, written in 1884, was $is 
follows : — 

1, St. Domingo Grove, 

Evert on, 
Sir, _ ^ Liverpool, Sept. 2nd, 1884. 

In compliance with your request I have pleasure 
in giving you a certificate as to the manner in which 
you conduced the execution of Peter Cassidy in H.M. 
Prison, Kirkdale. I may now report the statement 
which I gave in evidence at the Inquest, " that I had 
never seen an execution more satisfacftorily per- 
formed." This was very gratifying to me. 

Your rope was of excellent quality ; fine, soft, 
pliable, and strong. You adjusted the ring, direcfted 
forwards in the manner in which I have recommended 
in my pamphlet, " Judicial Hanging." You gave a 
sufficient length of drop, considering the weight of 
the culprit, and completely dislocated the cervical 
vertebra" between the atlas and axis (first and second 
vertebrag). I have reckoned that the weight of the 
criminal, multiplied by the length of the drop, might 
range from 11 20 to 1260 foot pounds, and I have 
calculated that this vis viva in the case of Cassidy 
amounted to 1140 foot pounds. 

The pinioning and other details were carried 
out with due decorum, I hope, whoever be appointed 
to the post of public Executioner, may be prohibited 
from also performing the part of a "showman" to 
gratify a depraved and morbid public curiosity. 
James Barr, M.D., 
Medical Officer, H.M. Prison, Kirkdale. 
To Mr. James Berry. 

A few days after Conway's execution I received a 
letter from a gentleman in the South of London, shortly 
foUowed by a second letter, and as they throw some 
usetul light upon the subjedt I give them in full-omitting 
ttie writer's name, as he does not wish it to be published. 



36 



Sir, 



Re the Execution at 



August 22nd, 1 89 1. 
Kirkdale. 



As the accident attending the execution on the 
20th inst. at Kirkdale may be falsely, and very 
unjustly, charged to your account, and at the same 
time be brought forward by a mass of misguided 
people as a reason for the total abolition of capital 
punishment, I think the following remarks on the 
subje(5\ of hanging may not be out of place. 

Some years ago. Dr. James Barr, medical officer 
at Kirkdale Gaol, published a letter in the Times 
regarding what he considered the proper length of 
drop. He said that the length of drop ought to be such 
as to produce a momentum of 2600 lbs., meaning by 
" momentum," the convicft's weight multiplied by the 
velocity of his descent at the end of the fall. Now, 
in estimating the convitft's weight, I conceive that you 
ought to leave out the weight (as far as you can guess 
it) of his head, because the weight of his head is 
supported by the noose when the jerk takes place, 
and, therefore, cannot affe(ft the amount of pull, or 
strain, on the neck. From what Dr. Barr says 
regarding the 2600 lbs. momentum, it is easy, by a 
little mathematics, to deduce the following rule. 

To find length of drop in feet, divide the 
number 412 by the square of the convidt's weight of 
body in stones. 

By the above rule I construcfted the following 
table :— 
Weight of body without head. 
15 stones , 

14 
13 



12 
II 
10 

9 

8 

7 



«ngth 


of drop. 


I tt. 


10 m. 


2 „ 
2 » 


2 „ 

6 „ 


2 „ 


II M 


3 .. 


5 .. 


4 .. 


2 „ 


5 ,. 

6 „ 

8 „ 


I ., 
6 „ 
5 .. 



Convi(5l Conway's weight, you are reported to 
have said, was 11 stones 2 lbs. Leaving i stone for 



37 



the weight of his head, which is perhaps more than 
sufficient, his hanging weight would be 10 stones 2 
lbs, so that a drop of 4 feet and a few inches* would 
have been, according to the do(5tor's rule, quite 
enough for him. Regarding the value of the rule, I 
am, of course, unable to speak ; nor do I know, from 
what I remember of the docftor's letter, that he meant 
the 2600 lbs. momentum to apply in all cases. Much 
depends on the convidl's build, strength of neck, etc. 

Yours truly, 

X. Y. 

(Second letter.) 

August 2^th, 1 89 1. 
Re the Execution at Kirkdale. 
Sir, 

In construcfting the table I sent you two days 
ago, I find that I have made an absurd mistake. It 
arose from my carelessly taking a stone weight as 16 
lbs., instead of 14 lbs., which I beg you to allow me 
correift. Instead of the number 412, I ought to have 
given the number 539. The corrected rule based on 
Dr. Barr's momentum of 2600 lbs. is, therefore, as 
follows : — Length of drop, in feet, is found by dividing 
the number 539 by the square of the number of stones 
in weight of convicft's body, exclusive of the weight of 
his head. Thus, if a convicft weighs 1 1 stones alto- 
gether, and we take his head as i stone, we have 
length of drop=|^§=5-39 feet (5 ft. 5 in. nearly). 

The table, corrected, stands thus: — 
Weight of body without head. Length of drop. 
15 stones 2 ft. 5 in. 

14 >' 2 „ 9 „ 

13 » 3 .. 2 „ 

12 „ 3 ». 9 » 

II » 4 )' 6 „ 

10 „ 5 M 5 ., 

9 1 6 „ 8 „ 

8 M 8 ,, 3 ,, 

7 » II »i o M 



*Th« length of drop 70a, yourself, thought sufScient, ts I read in the StaniarA 



38 

In allowing, in the case of convi<5l Conway, who 
weighed ii stones 2 lbs., i stone for the head, I may 
be allowing too much ; it is a mere guess. If his 
head weighed 9 lbs., the drop ought to have been 
4 ft. 10 in. Yours truly, 

X. Y. 
P.S. — A mistake of 3 or 4 lbs. in estimating weight 

of head makes, you will see, a considerable error 

in calculating the drop. 

It will be seen that this calculation, which does not 
include the weight of the head in a man's hanging 
weight, works out the drop to a rather greater length 
than my own table, but the difference is only small, and 
I have always found my own table give quite sufficient 
drop. 



The Rope. 



The apparatus for carrying out the extreme penalty 
of the law is very simple. The most important item is 
the rope, which must necessarily possess certain 
properties if the death of the condemned person is to 
be instantaneous and painless. 

For successful working the rope must, of course, 
be strong, and it must also be pliable in order tc tighten 
freely. It should be as thin as possible, consistent with 
strength, in order that the noose may be free running, 
but of course, it must not be so thin as to be liable to 
outwardly rupture the blood vessels of the neck. 

Before undertaking my first execution I gave careful 
consideration to the question of the most suitable class 
of rope, and after trying and examining many varieties, 
I decided upon one which I still use. It^is rnade of the 
finest Italian hemp, J of an inch in thickness. Before 
using a rope for an execution, I thoroughly test it with 
bags of cement of about the weight of the condemned 
person, and this preliminary testing stretches the cord 
an^ at the same time reduces its diameter to -f of an 
inch. The rope consists of 5 strands, each of which 
has a breaking strain of one ton dead weight, so that it 
would seem unnecessary to test it from any fear of its 
proving too weak, but the stretching and hardening 



39 

which it undergoes in the testing makes it far more 
«< fit " and satisfadory for its work than a new, unused 

rope would be. . , ■ . j 

It has been said that I use a rope with a wire strand 
down the centre, but the notion is so ridiculous that I 
should not refer to it if it were not that many people 
seem to believe it, and that more than once it has been 
stated in the newspapers. A rope with a wire strand 
would possess no possible advantage that I can see, 
and it would have somany pra^ical disadvantages that 
I do not think anyone who had studied the matter would 
dream of using such a thing. At any rate I have not 
done so, and I know that neither Mr. Binns nor Mr. 
Marwood ever did. Mr. Marwood used ropes of about 
the same quality and thickness as my own, while Mr. 
Binns used a much thicker rope (about i J inch diameter 
after use), of a rougher and less pliable class of hemp. 

Until the commencement of 1890 I suppHed my 
own ropes, some of which, however, were made to order 
of the Government, and I was able to use the same rope 
again and again. One I used for no less than sixteen 
executions, and five others I have used for twelve 
executions each. These are now in the possession of 
Madame Tussaud. At the beginning of 1890 a new 
rule was made under which a new rope is ordered to be 
supplied and used for most of the executions in England, 
and to be burned, together with the clothes of the 
person executed (which were formerly a perquisite of 
the executioner) by the prison officials immediately 
after the execution. In Scotland and Ireland I still 
provide my own ropes. 

The rope I use is thirteen feet long and has a one- 
inch brass ring worked into one end, through which the 
other end of the rope is passed to form the noose. A 
leather washer which fits the rope pretty tightly, is 
used to slip up behind the brass ring, in order to prevent 
the noose slipping or slackening after it has been ad- 
justed. . . / 

In using the rope I' always adjust it, with the ring! 
just behind the left ear. This position I never alter, 
though of course, if there were any special reason for 
doing so, for instance, if the convicSt had attempted 



40 

suicide and were wounded on the side of the throat, 
death could be caused by placing the ring under the 
chin or even behind the head. [The position behind the 
ear, however, has distincft advantages and is the best 
calculated to cause instantaneous and painless death, 
becau$g it acfls in three different ways towards the same 
end. I In the first place, it will cause death by strangula- 
tion, which was really the only cause of death in the 
old method of hanging, before the long drop was 
introduced. Secondly, it dislocates the vertebra, which 
is now the adtual cause of death. And thirdly, if a 
third facftor were necessary, it has a tendency to inter- 
nally rupture the jugular vein, which in itself is sufficient 
to cause pradtically instantaneous death'H 

Pinioning Straps, Etc. 

The pinioning arrangement, like the rest of the 
arrangements for an execution, are very simple. A 
broad leathern body-belt is clasped round the convitft's 
waist, and to this the arm-straps are fastened. Two 
straps, an inch and a half wide, with strong steel 
buckles, clasp the elbows and fasten them to the body- 
belt, while another strap of the same strength goes 
round the wrists, and is fastened into the body-belt in 
front. The legs are pinioned by means of a single two- 
inch strap below the knees. The rest of the apparatus 
consists of a white cap, shaped somewhat like a bag, 
which pulls down over the eyes of the criminal to prevent 
his seeing the final preparations. 

The Scaffold. 

Until recently, the scaffolds in use in the various 
gaols differed very much in the details of their construc- 
tion, as there was no official model, but in each case the 
local authorities followed their own idea. In 1885, 
however, a design was drawn, in the Surveyors' 
Department of the Home Office, by Lieut. -Col. Alten 
Beamish, R.E. Before being finally adopted, the 
design was submitted to me ; and it seemed a thoroughly 
good one, as, indeed, it has since proved to be, in a(5tual 



41 



pracflice. The design is supplied to the authorities of 
any gaol where a scaffold is to be eredted, from the 
Engineers' Department at the Home Office; and, with a 
slight alteration, has been the pattern in general use 
to the present day. The alteration of which I speak, 
is a little one suggested by myself, and consists of the 

(I 






^^^.. 




'"'W 


; . 




'If// •• 

1 




rfl 


m 




;:c 


B 


; io 










;! 
• 1 




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1 * 
1 ■ 




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i 




1 1 
1 , 




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• 1 


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.01 
1 1 

1*1 

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Plan and elevation of the Drop. 

substitution of a slope, or a level gangway, in place of 
the steps. I had found in some cases, when the 
criminals were nervous or prostrated, that the steps 
formed a pra(5tical difficulty. The slope, or gangway, 
was approved by the Home Office, and was first used 



42 

on April 15th, 1890, at Kirkdale Gaol, for the execution 
of Wm. Chadwick. It was a simple improvement, but 
it has turned out to be a very useful one. 

At most of the gaols in the country the scaffold is 
taken to pieces and laid away immediately after use, 
but in Newgate, Wandsworth, Liverpool, and Strange- 
ways (Manchester), it is kept standing permanently. 

The essential parts of the scaffold are few. There 
is a heavy cross-beam, into which bolts terminating in 
hooks are usually fastened. In some cases this cross- 
beam stands on two upright posts, but usually its ends 
are let into the walls of the scaffold house. Of course, 
the hooks fastened to it are intended to hold the rope._ 

The scaffold proper, or trap, or drop, as it is 
variously called, is the portion of the structure to which 
most importance is attached, and of which the Govern- 
ment furnishes a plan. It consists of two massive 
oaken doors, fixed in an oak frame-work on a level 
with the floor, and over a deep bricked pit. The plan 
and sedion will explain the arrangement. The two 
doors are marked a a and b b on the plan. The door 
A A is hung on three strong hinges, marked c c c, which 
are continued under the door b b. When the trap is 
set the ends of these long hinges rest on a draw-bar e e, 
as shown in the plan. The draw-bar is of iron, i J in. 
square, sliding in strong iron staples, f f f, which fit it 
exacflly. When the lever d is pulled over in the direcflion 
of the httle arrow, it moves the draw-bar in the opposite 
diredtion, so that the ends of the long hinges drop 
through the openings h h h, and the two doors fall. To 
set the trap the door b b has to be raised into a perpen- 
dicular position, until the other door is raised and its 
hinges placed on the draw-bar. The arrangement is a 
very good one ; as both doors must necessarily fall at 
exaaiy the same moment. Their great weight— for 
they are of three inch oak — causes them to drop very 
suddenly, even without the weight of the criminal, and 
they are caught by spring catches to prevent any 
possibility of rebound. 




45 



CHAPTER V. 




My Method of Execution. 

THE PROCEEDINGS. 

i HE hour fixed for executions is 8-0 a.m. in all 
the prisons, except Wandsworth and Lincoln, 
where it is 9-0 a.m. Of course, the scaffold 
and rope are arranged, and the drop decided, beforehand. 
I calculate for three minutes to be occupied from the 
time of entering the condemned cell to the finish of 
life's great tragedy for the doomed man, so I enter the 
cell puncflually at three minutes to eight. In order that 
my acftion in hanging a man may be legal, it is necessary 
Ihat I should have what is known as an " authority to 
hang," which is drawn up and signed by the Sheriff, 
and handed to me a few minutes before the time for 
the execution. Its form varies a good deal. In some 
cases it is a long, wordy document, full of the "where- 
fores" and " whatsoevers " in which the law delights. 
But usually it is a simple, oificial-Iooking form, 
engrossed by the gaol clerk, and running somewhat as 
follows: — 

Tn 7AMES BERRY. 
I, ,0/ , in the County of- 



Esquire, Sheriff of the said County of 

authorise you to hang A B 

under Sentence of Death in Her Majesty's 

Dated this day of , . 



. do hereby 

who now lies 

Prison at 



This is folded in three, and endorsed outside 
Re A B . 



, Sheriff. 



Authority to Hang. 



-, Sheriff, 



-shire. 



46 



When we enter tlie condemned cell, the chaplain is 
already there, and has been for some time. Two 
attendants, who have watched through the convicfl's 
last nights on earth are also present. At my appearance 
the convicft takes leave of his attendants, to whom he 
generally gives some little token or keepsake, and I at 
once proceed to pinion his arms. 

As soon as the pinioning is done, a procession is 
formed, generally in the following order : — 



Chief Warder. 



Warder. 
Warder. 



Warder. 

Warder. 



Chaplain. 1 

Convi(5l. J 

Executioner. 

Principal Warder. Principal Warder. 

Warder. Warder. 

Governor and Sheriff. 

Wand Bearer. Wand Bearer. 

Gaol Surgeon and Attendant. 

In some few cases, where the prisoner has not 
confessed before the time for the execution, I have 
approached him in the cell in a kindly manner, asking 
him, as it can make no difference to his fate, to confess 
the justice of the sentence, in order that I may feel sure 
that I am not hanging an innocent person. In most 
cases they have done so, either in the cell, or at the 
last moment on the scaffold. Of course, the confidences 
reposed in me at such moments I have never divulged, 
and it would be most improper to do so ; but I 
am at liberty to state, that of all the people I have 
executed, only two or three have died without fully and 
freel}' confessing their guilt. 

[On the way from the cell to the scaffold the chaplain 
reads the service for the burial of the dead, and as the 
procession moves I place the white cap upon the head 
of the convidl. Just as we reach the scaffold I pull 
the cap over his eyes. Then I place the convidl under 
the beam, pinion the legs just below the knees, with a 
strap similar to the one used for the elbows, adjust the 
rope, pull the bolt and the trap falls. Death is instant- 
aneous, but the body is left hanging for an hour, and is 



47 

then lowered into a coffin, made in the prison, and 
carried to the mortuary to await the inquest. The 
inquest usually takes place at ten o'clock, but in some 
few places it is held at noon. After the inquest the 
body is surrounded by quick-lime and buried in the 
prison ground£4 

In the carrying out of the last penalty of the law, 
everything is conducfted with decorum and solemnity, 
and so far as I can see there is no way in which the 
arrangements at an execution can be improved, unless 
it is in regard to the admission of reporters. In years 
gone by a large number of reporters were often admitted, 
some of them with probably little or no real connecftion 
with the papers they professed to represent. Occasion- 
ally also there would be one or two feather-brained juniors 
who seemed to have no proper idea of the solemnity of a 
death scene, and whose conducft was hardly such as 
serious persons could approve. The result has been 
that in many prisons the admission of press representa- 
tives has been very rigidly curtailed, and in some cases 
admission has been absolutely refused. It seems to me 
that the admittance of a large number of specflators, 
and the absolute refusal to admit any, are alike mis- 
takes. I speak in this matter as a man whose own 
work comes under the criticism of the press, and although 
so far as I am personally concerned, I am perfecflly 
satisfied if I can satisfy the Governor or High Sheriff, 
I know that there is a large secflion of the 'public that 
thinks the exclusion of the reporters must mean that 
there is something going on which there is a desire to 
hush up. I am a servant of the public, as also are the 
sheriffs, the governor, and the other officials connecfted 
with an execution, and the public, through its representa- 
tives on the press, ought to have some assurance that 
the details of each execution are carried out decently 
and in order. The presence or absence of the press, 
of course, makes no difference in the condu<5t of the 
execution, but it makes a good deal of difference to a 
certain sedtion of the public. If the Governor of the 
gaol or the Sheriff were to give three admissions for 
each execution, with the understanding that any repre- 
sentative suspe(fled of not being bona fide would be 



48 

refused admission even if he presented his ticket, I 
think that every real objecftion would be met. 

After the execution is over the fa(ft that the sen- 
tence of the law has been carried out is announced to 
the public by a notice fixed to the door of the prison. 
The form of this notice varies somewhat, but I append 
one of which I happen to have a copy. 

COUNTY OF OXFORD. 

EXECUTION OF CHARLES SMITH forMURDER. 

(The Capital Punishment Amendment Acft, 1868.) 

Copies are subjoined of the official declaration 
that judgement of death has been executed ; and of the 
Surgeon's certificate of the death of Charles Smith. 

Thomas M. Davenport, 
Under-Sheriff of the County of Oxford, 
gth May, 1887. 



OFFICIAL DECLARATION. 

We, the undersigned, do hereby declare that 
Judgement of Death was this day, in our presence, 
executed on Charles Smith, within the walls of Her 
Majesty's Prison at Oxford. 

Dated this Ninth day of May, One thousand 
eight hundred and eighty-seven. 

Thomas M. Davenport, Under-Sheriff of Oxfordshire. 
H. B. Isaacson, Governor of the Prison. 
J. K. Newton, Chaplain of the Prison. 
J. Riordon, Chief Warder of the Prison. 
Henry Ives, Sheriff's Officer. 
Thos. Wm. Austin, Reporter, Oxford Journal. 
Robert Brazies, Reporter, Oxford Chronicle. 
Joseph Henry Warner, Reporter, Oxford Times. 
J. Lansbury, Warder. 



49 

SURGICAL CERTIFICATE. 

I, Henry Banks Spencer, the Surgeon of Her 
Majesty's Prison at Oxford, hereby certify that I this 
day examined the body of Charles Smitn, on whom 
judgement of death was this day executed in the said 
prison ; and that, on such examination, I found that 
the said Charles Smith was dead. 

Dated this Ninth day of May, One thousand 
eight hundred and eighty-seven. 

Henry B. Spencer, 

Surgeon of the Prison. 



I 



50 



CHAPTER VI. 

Other Methods of Execution. 

I ROM time to time people raise an outcry against 
the English mode of putting criminals to 
death, and there are many Englishmen who 
have a firm conviction that hanging is the very worst 
and most unscientific form of capital punishment. The 
prejudices of these people seem to be based on an utterly 





English Axe and Block, now in the Tower of London. 

wrong idea of how an English execution is condu(fled, 
and I hope that the chapter dealing with my method 
will form the basis for a truer judgment. 

Of methods of execution that have been suggested 
as substitutes for hanging, there are some which hardly 
deserve consideration, because there is no considerable 



51 

number of people who wuuld approve of them. The 
various methods of beheading are hardly likely to be 
ever in favour with Englishmen generally, for they want 
executions to be as free as possible from revolting 
details. The old headsman's axe and block which are 
still to be seen in the Tower, are in themselves sufficient 
argument against a revival of their use. Apart from 
the fadt that beheading under the best conditions is 
revolting, we must further consider that from the very 
nature of the office, the executioner who has to hack off 
his vicfim's head must be a brutal and degraded man, 
and the chances are that he will not be so .-kilful or so 
careful as he ought to be for the performance of such a 
task. Even amongst races which are not so highly 
civilised as the English, and where it is easier to obtain 
headsmen of proportionately better standing, we occas- 
ionally hear of more than one blow being required to 




Executioner's Sword, Canton. 

cause death, and such a state of things is very horrible. 
(in China decapitation has been reduced to almost a 
science, and the Chinese executioners are probably the 
most skilful headsmen in the world.^ I have in my 
possession a Chinese executioner's knife, with which 
the heads of nine pirates were severed in nine successive 
blows, and a terrible knife it is, and well fitted for the 
purpose, ^et even with such a weapon, and with the 
skill and experience which Chinese executioners attain 
from frequent pratftice, the blow sometimes failsJas was 
the case in one of the last batch of Chinese executions 
reported in the English newspapers. 

Even the guillotine, which is often spoken of as the 
only perfedf and certain method, has been known to fail, 
and we have cases in wliich the knife has been raised 
and dropped a second time before causing death. | In 



52 

any case, whether the guillotine, the axe, or the Chinese 
knife is used, and whatever care may be taken to render 
the death painless and instantaneous, there is a horrible 
mutilation of the sufferer that must be revoltmg to aU 
sensitive people. 

The Spanish and Spanish-American method ot 
execution, by means of the garotte, has been much 
praised by some advocates of reform. [jThe prisoner to 
be garotted is placed in a chair, to the back of which 
an i on collar is attached in such a manner that it can 
be drawn partly through the chair-back by means of a 




The Guillotine. 

heavily weighted lever. When the lever and weight 
are raised the head can be passed through the collar, 
and by dropping the weight the collar is drawn tight 
and causes strangulation.""! This method is certain, but I 
do not consider it so goo3 as the present English system 
of hanging, because death by strangulate i is much 
slower and more painful than death by dislocation. In 
one form of the garotting chair this fa(ft has been 
recognised, and an iron spike is placed immediately 
behind the neck, so that when the pressure is appHed 
the spike enters between two of the vertebrae and severs 



53 

the spinal cord. This I consider worse than our own 
system, because the iron spike must cause a certain 
amount of bleeding, which the English method avoids. 




"^'■■Mu' 



The Garotte. 



The American system of hanging, which has been 
recently superseded by eledlrocution, was but a slight 



54 

modification of the ancient system of Jack Ketch, or the 
lime-honoured method of Judge Lynch. Q^hese older 
systems the convi(ft stood upon the grolTtid while the 
rope was placed round his neck, and the other end 
passed over the arm of the gallows, or the limb of a 
tree Then the executioner and his assistants hauled 
on the other end of the rope, until the viaim was swung 
clear oft the ground and was gradually strangled. Vln 
the improved American method the place of the execu- 
tioner was taken by a heavy weight which was attached 
to the rope and which rapidly ran up the convift to a 
height of some feetr~j In some few very extreme cases 




Old Methods. 

of heavy bodies with frail necks this may have caused 
dislocation, but as a rule strangulation would be the 
cause of death. 

When the use of eledricity for executions began to 
be talked of as a pradical possibility, I naturally took 
much interest in the subjea. As the result of all the 
enquiries I was enabled to make, I concluded that 
ahhough elearocution— as the Americans call it— is 
theoretically perfea, it presents many praaical diffi- 
culties. The experience of the authorities in the case 
of the wretched man, Kremmler, who was executed by 
elearicity in New York, fully proves that as yet we do 



55 

not know enough about the conditions under which 
electricity will cause painless and .sudden death. When 
particulars of the method that was to he adopted for 
executions in New Yoik were first puMislied, I was with 
a small committee of gentlemen in Manchester who 
were investigating the subject. They made all arrange- 
ments for cxperiti ents to test the reliability of the 
nit tiiod. Two animals were obtained that had to be 
killed in any case, namely, a calf and an old dog of a 
lar"e breed. In the case of the calf the connections 
were made in the manner prescribed, and the current 
was turned on. This was repeated twice, but the only 
result was to cause the caU to drop on its kaees and 
bellow with fear and pain, and the butcher at once killed 
it in the ordinary way with his polcixe. When the 
shock was applied to the dog he fell down and seemed 
to be parahsed, but it was some time before life was 
extina. The latest reports of American executions say 
that the deaths were instantaneous and painless, but the 
value of sucli statements is lessened by the fact of 
reporters being excluded. The total exclusion of the 
press at any rate seemed like an admission of the 
authorities that they had no confidence in the certainty 
of the method they were using. 

Altogether, after a careful consideration of all the 
principal modes of execution, I am convinced that our 
Enghsh method as at present in use is the best yet 
known, because it is absolutely certain, instantaneous 
and painless. 

It may be interesting to close this chapter with a 
list of the principal methods of execution in use in 
foreign countries. 

Austria Hanging, public. 

Bavaria Guillotine, private. 

Belgium Guillotine, public. 

Brunswick Axe, private, 

China Sword or bow-string, public. 

Denmark Guillotine, public. 

France Guillotine, nominally public ; but really 

so surrounded by cordons of gens 
d'armes, &c., as to be virtually 
private. 



56 

Germany Sword or hanging, private. 

Hanover Guillotine, private. 

Italy No capital punishment. 

Netherlands ...Hanging, public. 

Portugal Hanging, public. 

Prussia Sword, private. 

Russia Rifle shot, hanging or sword, public; 

but capital punishment is pracftically 
abolished except for political of- 
fences. 

Spain Garotte, public. 

Switzerland Fifteen cantons, sword, public. Two 

cantons, guillotine, public. Two 
cantons, guillotine, private. 

United States ..New York State, elertric shock, private. 
Other states, hanging, private. 





» 




CHAPTER VII. 

Two Terrible Experiences. 

I HE whole of the duties of an executioner are 
unpleasant, but there are exceptional incidents 
,B«^.a— occurring at times, which stand out upon the 
tablet of one's memory, and which can not be recalled 
without an involuntary shudder. I have had two of 
these experiences, and as people should alwaj s learn by 
their failures, have turned them to pra(f\ical account as 
lessons for the future. The first was the attempted 
execution of John Lee, which resulted in the Home 
Office making an investigation into the arrangements for 
executions in the different gaols, and eventually to their 
issuing an official plan for the drop, which has been 
used in all prisons where scaffolds have since been 
erecfted. The second of these experiences was at the 
execution of Robert Goodale, when the length of the 
drop caused the head to be severed from the body. 
This taught me that the long-drop system then in use, 
and introduced by Mr. Marwood, was faulty in some 
cases, and caused me to work out my present table of 
lengths of drop, as explained in the chapter on " My 
Method of Execution." 

There are so many erroneous ideas afloat about 
the details of these two cases tl at I think a good pur- 
pose may be served by giving the actual particulars, 
especially as no true explanation has ever been pub- 
lished of the difficulty which occurred in the case of Lee. 

Lee was found guilty ot the murder ot Miss Keyse, 
in whose house at Babbacombe he was employed as a 
servant. Eight o'clock on Monday, February 23rd, 
1885, was the time fixed for his execution. The scaffold 
and its arrangements had not been used for a previous 
execution, in their then position, though the drop had 
been used once, for the execution of Mrs. Took, 



1 



6o 

but it was then fixed in another place. On the 
Saturday I examined this drop, and reported that 
it was much too frail for its purpose, but I worked the 
lever and found that the doors dropped all right. On 
the Monday morning, at the appointed time, I brought 
out the prisoner in the usual way, pinioned him and 
adjusted the noose. He was perfecftly calm, almost 
indifferent. When the noose was adjusted I stood back 
and pulled over the lever. The noise of the bolts sliding 
could be plainly heard, but the doors did not fall. I 
stamped on the drop, to shake it loose, and so did some 
of the warders, but none of our efforts could stir it. 
Lee stood like a statue, making no sound or sign. As 
soon as we found our efforts useless we led the con- 
demned man away. We tried the doors, which fell 
easily ; then Lee was placed in position again, and 
again the doors refused to fall. Then the prisoner was 
taken away, and eventually his sentence was commuted. 
Perhaps it would be well to state here that the report 
to the effecft that Lee has been since executed, and 
another report to the effe(5t that he has been liberated, 
are both equally false ; for he is still in prison. 

Various reasons were given to account for the 
failure of the workings, but it was most generally 
believed that it was caused by the doors bein;, swollen 
with the rain which fell on the Sunday night. That 
this was not the cause is proved, firstly, by the faifl that 
the doors fell all right when the weight of the prisoner 
was not on them, and secondly, by the facft that they 
would not fall with the prisoner on them, even when 
we had chopped and planed down the sides where it 
was supposed that they stuck. 

The Governor of the Gaol, and the Under- Sheriff, 
who were present, were terribly upset about the failure 
of the attempted execution, and the prolonged and 
terrible suspense in which the prisoner was kept. They 
were almost frantic about it, but nothing could be done 
in the matter. 

The Under-Sheriff asked me to write out a brief 
statement of the faifls, togetlier with my opinion of the 
cause of the difficulty, and I give a copy of my letter 
below. 



6i 

Executioner's OflSce, 

I, Bilton Place, City Road, 

Bradford, Yorks., 
^th March, 1885. 
Re John Lee. 
Sir, 

In accordance with the request contained in your 
letter of the 30th inst., I beg to say that on the 
morning of Friday, the 20th ult., I travelled from 
Bradford to Bristol, and on the morning of Saturday, 
the 2ist, from Bristol to Exeter, arriving at Exeter 
at 11-50 a.m., when I walked direcfl to the County 
Gaol, signed my name in your Gaol Register Book 
at 12 o'clock exacflly. I was shown to the Governor's 
office, and arranged with him that I would go and 
dine and return to the Gaol at 2-0. p.m. I accord- 
ingly left the Gaol, partook of dinner, and returned at 
1-50 p.m., when I was shown to the bedroom allotted 
to me which was an officer's room in the new Hospital 
Ward. Shortly afterwards I made an inspedlion of 
the place of Execution. The execution was to take 
place in a Coach-house in which the Prison Van was 
usually kept. Two Warders accompanied me on 
the inspedlion. In the Coach-house I found a Beam 
about four inches thick, and about a foot in depth, was 
placed across the top of the Coach-house. Through 
this beam an iron bolt was fastened with an iron-nut 
on the upper side, and to this bolt a wrought-iron rod 
was fixed, about three-quarters of a yard long with a 
hole at the lower end to which the rope was to be 
attached. Two Trap-doors were placed in the floor 
of the Coach-house, which is flagged with stone, and 
these doors cover a pit about 2 yards by i^ yards across, 
and about 1 1 feet deep. On inspecfling these doors I 
found they were only about an inch thick, but to have 
been construcfted properly should have been three or 
four inches thick. The ironwork of the doors was of 
a frail kind, and much too weak for the purpose. 
There was a lever to these doors, and it was placed 
near the top of them. I pulled the lever and the 
doors dropped, the catches adling all right. I had 
the doors raised, and tried the lever a second time, 



62 



when the catch again adted all right. The Governor 
was watching me through the window of his office 
and saw me try the doors. After tlie examination I 
went to him, explained how 1 found the doors, and 
suggested to him that for future executions new trap- 
doors should be made about three times as thick as 
those then fixed. I also suggested that a spring 
should be fixed in the Wall to hold the doors back 
when they fell, so that no rebounding occurred, and 
that the ironwork of the doors should be stronger. 
The Governor s.dd lie would see to these matters in 
future. I spent all the Sunday in the room allotted 
to me, and did not go outside the Gaol. I retired to 
bed about 9-45 that night. The execution was fixed 
to take place at eight o'clock on the morning of 
Monday the 23rd ultimo. 

On ihe Monday morning I arose at 6-30, and was 
conducT;ed from the Bedroom by a Warder, at 7-30, 
to the place of execution Everything appeared to 
bs as I had left it on the Saturday afternoon. 1 fixed 
the rope in my ordinary manner, and placed every- 
thing in readiness. I did not try the Trap-doors as 
they appeared to be just as I had left them. It had 
rained heavily during the nights of Saturday and 
Sunday. About four minutes to eight o'clock I was 
conducted by the Governor to the condemned Cell 
and introduced to John Lee. I proceeded at once to 
pinion him, which was done in the usual manner, and 
then gave a signal to the Governor that I was read)-. 
The procession was formed, headed by tiie Governor, 
the Chief Warder, and tiie Chaplain followed by Lee. 
I walked behind Lee and 6 or 8 warders came after 
me. On reaching the place of execution I found you 
were there witlr the Prison Surgeon. Lee was at 
once placed upon the trap-doors. I pinioned his 
legs, pulled down the white cap, adjusted the Rope, 
stepped on one side, and drew the lever — but the 
trap-door did not fall. I had previousl)- stood upon 
the doors and thought they would fall quite easily. 
I unloosed the strap from his legs, took the rope from 
his neck, removed the White Cap, and took Lee 
away into an adjoining room until I made an examina- 



63 

tion of the doors. I w irked the lever after Lee had 
been taken off, drew it, and the doors fell easily. With 
the assistance of the warders the doors were pulled 
up, and the lever drawn a second time, when the 
doors again fell easily. Lee was then brought from 
the adjoining room, placed in position, the cap and 
rope adjusted, but when I again pulled the lever it 
did not adt, and in trying to force it the lever was 
slightly strained. Lee was then taken off a second 
time and conducted to the adjoining room. 

It was suggested to me that the woodwork fitted 
too tightly in the centre of the doors, and one of the 
warders fetched an axe and another a plane. I again 
tried the lever but it did not acft. A piece of wood 
was then sawn off one of the doors close to where the 
iron catches were, and by the aid of an iron crowbar 
the catches were knocked off, artd the doors fell down. 
You then gave orders that the execution should not 
be proceeded with until you had communicated with 
the Home Secretary, and Lee was taken back to the 
Condemned Cell. I am of opinion that the ironwork 
catches of the trap-doors were not strong enough for 
the purpose, that the woodwork of the doors should 
have been about three or four times as heavy, and with 
iron-work to correspLud, so that when a man of Lee's 
weight was placed upon the doors the iron catches 
would not have become locked, as I feel sure they did 
on this occasion, but would respond readily. So far 
as I am concerned, everything was performed in a 
careful manner, and had the iron and woodwork been 
sufficiently strong, the execution would have been 
satisfadtorily accomplished. 
I am, Sir, 

Your obedient Servant, 
Henry M. James, Esq., James Berry. 

Under-sheriff of Devon, 
The Close, Exeter. 

The other miserable experience which lingers in 
my memory was, as before stated, the execution of 
Robert Goodale. He was condemned to death for the 
murder of his wife, and on November 30th, 1885, I was 



64 



at Norwich Castle to condudt the execution. At that 
time I was working with my original table of lengths of 
drop, which I had based upon Mr. Marwood's system. 
This table, and some particulars of Goodale's case, or 
rather, of the new calculations which I made in conse- 
quence of the lesson then learned, will be found in the 
chapter on " My Method of Execution." He weighed 
fifteen stones, and the calculated drop for a man of 
that weight, according to the old table, was 7 It. 8 in. 
As Goodale did not seem very muscular, I reduced the 
drop by about two feet — in facft, as closely as I could 
measure it, to 5 ft. g in. The rope that I used was one 
made and supplied by the Government, and I had used 
it seven days previously for the execution of John 
Williams, at Hereford. The drop was built on a plan 
supplied by the Government, and had been used before. 
In fa(5t, everything was in perfedt working order. The 
Governor of the gaol had been specially anxious that 
everything should be right, and had taken all possible 
precautions to avoid a hitch. He had personally tested 
the drop on the Thursday morning before, and on the 
Saturday had again tested it, in company with an 
engineer. [The whole of the arrangements were carried 
out in the usual manner, and when I pulled the lever the 
drop fell properly, and the prisoner dropped out of sight. 
We were horrified, however, to see that the rope jerked 
upwards, and for an instant I thought that the noose 
had slipped from the culprit's head, or that the rope had 
broken. But it was worse than that, for the jerk had 
severed the head entirely from the body, and both had 
fallen together to the bottom of the pit. Of course, 
death was instantaneous, so that the poor fellow had 
not suffered in any way ; but it was terrible to think 
that such a revolting thing should have occurred^) We 
were all unnerved and shocked. The Governor,' whose 
efforts to prevent any accident had kept his nerves at 
full strain, fairly broke down and wept. 

The inquest was a trying ordeal for all concerned, 
and it was a great comfort to me to find that the 
Governor and the Gaol Surgeon both gave evidence as 
to the care with which every detail had been carried 
out. In the evidence I mentioned that I had hanged 



65 

one heavier man previously, namely, Joseph Lawson, 
who weighed 16 stones 8 lbs., and to whom I gave a 
drop of 8 feet. In his case there was not even 
abrasion of the skin of the neck. When I finished my 
evidence the Coroner said : — " I am bound to say, before 
you leave the room, that as far as the evidence has gone 
there seems to be nothing to throw any blame upon you, 
either from want of skill or being in an improper condi- 
tion." After this the evidence of the Gaol Surgeon was 
taken, and the jury returned a verdidt to the effecft that 
" Robert Goodale came to his death by hanging, accord- 
ing to the judgment of the law ; and that no one was to 
blame for what had occurred." 



In the foregoing I have spoken_ of two terrible 
experiences, and some of my readers, with the execution 
of Conway, at Kirkdale, fresh in their memories, will 
ask why it is not mentioned. The faa is, the foregoing 
was written before Conway's execution took place, and 
as the mishap which occurred on that occasion was in 
no way due to my own ignorance or carelessness, but 
was exadtly what I expecfted would happen in conse- 
quence of my arrangements being interfered with by 
others, the shock that I received was by no means so great 
as on the two other occasions. Particulars of this 
execution will be found in the seiflion headed, "The 
Drop," of the chapter on " My Method of Execution." 



66 




CHAPTER VIII. 

How Murderers Die. 

S one of my objects in writing this book is to 
give the public a solid basis for the form- 
ation of a sound public opinion upon the, '■ubjeift 
of capital punishment, it is necessary that the present 
chapter should be a long one, and that many of its 
details should be painful — because they are true. If I 
glossed over the fadls I should signally fail in my duty 
to my readers, but I have endeavoured, so far as 
possible, to avoid revolting details. 

To the ordinary Englishman a murderer is a 
murderer and nothing else. He is a vile creature who 
has taken life, and who by law, divine and national, 
must die because of his deed. He is a creature different 
from the rest of humanity, a fiend, a monster, who has 
outraged Justice, and must die like a dog. To me, a 
murderer is a study. He is a man who has done an ill 
deed, who may or may not be naturally vicious ; who 
may or m^}' not be really responsible for his aiflions ; 
who mayor may not be devoutly penitent. My own 
ideas on capital punishment are given in another 
chapter. I believe, honestly, and from long study of 
the subjeift, with unique opportunities of judging, that 
with a ceitain low class of the human brute, the fear of 
death is the only check that can in any way curb their 
lusts and passions. But I have sometimes thought that 
amongst those whom I have executed, for crimes which 
they have undoubtedly committed, there were men to 
whom their crmie was a trouble more terrible than 
death ; men who had not premeditated murder, who 
had taken no pleasure in it and expecled no profit 
from it, and who, if they could by any means have been 
set at liberty, had within them the making of model 
citizens. Logically, and as a matter of convidlion, I 



67 

feel that if one sheddeth man's blood, by man should 
his blood be shed ; but as a matter of sentiment, I 
sometimes feel sorry that certain murderers can not go 
free. The power of reprieve is, of course, often exer- 
cised, and very rightly so, and yet it sometimes seems 
as if murderers who have been wilful, deliberate and 
thoroughly vicious in their acfts and characters are re- 
prieved because they possess interesting personaHties 
or influential friends, while others are executed who 
have a better plea for mercy, but no one to present it. 
The whole subjetft is a very difficult one ; I must lay 
the facts before my readers and let them draw their own 
conclusions. But I may say that the executions which 
have given me the most trouble have not been those in 
which the convicts were violent or hysterical, not those 
in which they struggled and fought and cursed, or dog- 
gedly and stubbornly resisted ; but the few cases in 
which they have been devoutly penitent, and almost 
seemed to welcome death as a release from a burden too 
heavy to be borne and an expiation for the sin which 
they deplored. In such cases the executioner's task is, 
indeed, a painful one. 

The conduct of the condemned in the cell and on 
the scaffold throws much light upon the various phases of 
human character, and to me it has always been an 
interesting study. 

Robert F. Vickeys and William Innes. 

The first two men whom I executed, though strong 
chums and partners in crime, were totally different from 
each other in their conduct. They both showed deep 
emotion, although they belonged to a low type of 
humanity, and they both attentively listened to the 
chaplain as often as he was willing to visit them, and 
to such outside mmisters as took any interest in tiicir 
fate, but I believe they did this with the view of 
making the best of a bad job — if any " best "were pos- 
sible — rather than from any deep conviction of the 
sinfulness of their offence. Beyond this, their demean- 
our was totally different. ' Vickers was buoyed up with 
hope throughout, and continually asked if "the reprieve" 



68 

had come. Even when I was introduced to him on the 
morning of the execution he had not despaired, and his 
hope rendered him almost cheerful. Even when we 
were on the scaffold he was convinced that he was not 
to die, and seemed to listen as people on the scaffold 
did in olden times, for the horseman wildly dashing 
across the court-yard and crying, "Reprieve! Reprieve!" 
at the very last moment. It was not until the noose 
touched his neck that he realised that his execution 
was to be an aiffual solemn fa(5t, and when the dread 
reality burst upon him, he fainted. 




Mary Lefley. 

His companion in crime and death stood unmoved 
upon the scafiFold, resigned and calm, without either 
hope or fear. The white cap was over his face when 
Vickers fainted, and no sound from the bystanders gave 
him any hint that Vickers was overcome. The fainting 
man was supported for a moment, then a touch on the 
lever, and it was necessary to support him no longer. 
The Gorebridge murder, for wliich these men were 
executed, caused a great sensation at the time. 



69 

Mary Le/ley. 

My next execution, in which the condemned person 
was a woman, was a very different experience. Mary 
Lefley, the culprit, was before her marriage a com- 
panion of Priscilla Biggadike, who was executed at 
Lincoln for poisoning her husband. Mary Lefley 
committed the same crime, poisoning her husband by 
inserting arsenic in a rice pudding. After the sentence 
of death, even up to the time of the execution, she 
expedled a reprieve, and to the last she protested her 
innocence ; though on the night before she was very rest- 
less and constantly exclaimed, " Lord ! Thou knowest 
all," and prayed fervently. She would have no break- 
fast, and when I approached her she was in a nervous, 
agitated state, praying to God for salvation, not as a 
murderess but as an innocent woman. On my approach 
she threw up her hands and shrieked, " Murder ! 
Murder ! " and she had to be led to the scaffold by two 
female warders, shrieking wildly all the time She died 
as she had lived, impenitent and untruthful, denying 
her guilt to the last. 

Joseph Law son, 

the principal adtor in the Butterknowle tragedy, when 
Sergeant Smith was murdered, was a terrible combina- 
tion of craven fear and reckless bravado. During the 
last few days of his life he was dull and despondent, 
and during the night before his execution his sleep was 
frequently broken by fits of terror and nervous exhaus- 
tion, when he shivered like one in an ague. On the 
morning of the last day he arose at six o'clock, and tried 
to appear cheerful or even jovial. In the pinioning- 
room he saluted the warders with a cheerful "good 
morning," and on his way to the scaffold laughed 
hilariously at a stumble of his own. Then he 
commenced using foul, blasphemous language, and not 
ceasing even when the white cap was drawn over his 
face. His oaths drowned the voice of the chaplain who 
was reading the usual burial service, and with awful 
words on his lips he was launched into a dark eternity. 



I 



70 

Peter Cassidy. 

My very next case was a strong contrast to the 
foregoing. Tlie condemned man was Peter Cassidy; 
his offence, wife-murder. It was one of those cases in 
which it is difficult to know whether the man should be 
most pitied or blamed, whether he was not more sinned 
against than sinning. That he committed the murder, 
in a fit of drunken frenzy, was undoubted — he did not 
deny it ; but that he had received great and frequent 
provocation is certain. Both he and his wife were 
addicfted to drink — which was most to blame for it I do 
not know— but on the day of the murder his wife was 
away from home for some time without his consent or 
knowledge of her whereabouts. When she returned 
she was drunk, so was he, and in the quarrel that 
ensued he slew her. But when he was sober again, his 
remorse was as deep as his drunken passion had been 
violent. He realised the gravity of his offence and the 
justice of his death sentence. To the ministrations of 
the Rev. Father Bonte, the Roman Catholic chaplain, 
he paid great attention, and on his last day on earth he 
seemed peaceful and resigned. He walked to the scaf- 
fold with a free, firm stride. The morning was dark and 
gloomy, but just as we passed across the prison yard a 
thin bright gleam of sunlight pierced the leaden cloudsand 
rested for a moment upon the little procession. In that 
moment of sunshine Cassidy breathed convulsively, but 
the sky clouded over almost instantly and he regained 
his composure. On the scaffold he entered into the 
Roman Catholic service, which Father Bonte was read- 
ing, repeating the responses firmly and fervently, in 
fadt, he was so engrossed in the service that I do not 
think he knew that I pinioned his legs. He continued 
his prayers as I adjusted the white cap over his eyes, 
but when the rope touched his neck he blushed crimson 
to the very roots of his hair, and his lips twitched. 
Intense shame and sorrow were never more plainly ex- 
pressed by any man. A very large proportion of murders 
are diredtly traceable to drink, and in almost every case 
where a murderer has said anything about the motive for 
his crime he has blamed the drinking habit. 



7' 

Moses Shi nip ton. 

As a rule, it is the first offender— there are many 
murderers whose great crime is their first offence— who 
is moi-t affected by the terrible nature of his position 
when condemned to death. The old and pradised 
crimmal, though he has a great dread of the scaffold 
and the rope so long as he is at large, and though he 
usually takes more interest in his trial and uses greater 
efforts for his acquittal than the novice in crime, is 
usually resigned and indifferent as soon as the sentence 




Moses Shrimpton. 

is passed. As a rule, he pays but little heed to the 
ministrations of the chaplain, or the condolences of his 
friends. He is neither piously inclined, nor hysterically 
fearful, nor abusively rebellious— he simply waits his 
fate. A kind of hard stoicism seems to keep him quiet ; 
he has played a desperate game with his eyes open, has 
played for high stakes— and lost. I say that this is 
generally the case with the gaol-bird ; and yet there are 
exceptions, and amongst such exceptions in my own 
experience, Moses Shrimpton was notable. His life. 



72 

almost from the cradle to the grave, was one long career 
of crime and punishment. He was a man of strong 
characfter and much determination of purpose, a leader 
amongst the ruffians of his districft. He was sentenced 
to one month's imprisonment for poaching in February, 
1848, and from that time until his execution in May, 
1885, he was seldom out of prison for many months 
together. He gloried in his success as a poacher, and 
told the tales of his desperate adventures in a most 
interesting manner to the warders in Worcester Gaol, 
where he was a well-known and frequent inmate. He 
was sentenced to death for the violent and brutal 
murder of a policeman, who arrested him red-handed 
when fowl-stealing. He expressed no surprise or senti- 
ment of any kind when he found that he was condemned 
to death, but to the astonishment of all who knew him, 
he appeared to be entirely changed in characfter by the 
thought of death. Those who administered spiritual 
consolation to him during his last three weeks of life 
were persuaded that his repentance and amendment 
were real, and certainly his a<5tions appeared like those 
of a man who was really convinced. He paid great 
attention to the chaplain who visited him, and he read 
the Bible hour after hour. Certain passages that 
puzzled him he carefully noted down, and asked for an 
explanation at the chaplain's next visit. When the 
time for his execution came he was confident, almost 
defiant, and walked to the scaffold eredl and firm. As 
he stepped on to the drop he glanced downwards and 
drew his feet together to assist me in fixing the strap 
that pinioned his legs. Before I pulled down the white 
cap he looked around as if to see the last of the world, 
and then, nodding to signify that he was ready, awaited 
the adjusting of the noose. 

Rudge, Martin and Baker. 

Some more ordinary examples of the deaths of 
hardened criminals were presented in the cases of 
Rudge, Martin and Baker. It will be remembered that 
these men committed a jewel robbery at Netherby, in 
Cumberland, and afterwards murdered police-constable 



73 



Byrnes and made a murderous attack on other policemen, 
while endeavouring to escape arrest. These men, when 
once their sentence was passed, had no further interest 
in life ; and I beheve that if the choice could have been 
offered to them they would have preferred to walk 
straight from the dock to the scaffold, rather than to have 
had the three weeks' grace which is given to condemned 
men. In the case of almost all habitual criminals I 
believe this is so — they do not fear death and they do 
not repent of their crime. So long as there is a ghost 
of a chance of acquittal or reprieve, they cling to life, 
but as soon as the death sentence is passed they become 
indifferent, and would like to " get it over" as soon as 
possible, mainly because the prison life bores them. 

Of the three men I have instanced, Rudge was the 
only one who seemed to care to take any interest in life. 
He spent a good deal of his time in writing a statement 
of his views upon the present system of penal servitude, 
for the information of the Home Office. As he had 
undergone two long sentences he knew his subjedt 
thoroughly from the inside. With his attendants he 
talked freely, both about himself and about other matters 
of interest. He insisted that there was something wrong 
with his head, which had caused him trouble several 
times in his life. He did not ask for any reprieve on 
this account, but he begged the prison chaplain to 
examine his brain after death, and repeated the request 
almost the last thing before the time for the execution. 
Martin and Baker spent most of the three weeks in bed. 
They would neither talk nor do anything else. Rudge 
and Martin were baptised Roman Catholics, whilst 
Baker had received some Protestant education, but 
none of them seemed to care for the ministrations of 
the priest or the gaol chaplain. To them it seemed 
cowardly and unreasonable to ask God for mercy simply 
because they were condemned to death, when they 
knew very well that they would have been living in 
defiance of God and man if they had remained free. 
After some time they yielded to the counsel and en- 
treaties of their spiritual advisers so far as to listen to 
all they had to say. Baker appeared to attend carefully 
to the chaplain's ministration, and partook of Holy 



74 

Communion an hour before the execution. Baker 
was troubled about the welfare of his sweetheart, Nellie, 
and spent part of the night before his execution in 
writing a long letter to her. In this letter he assured 
her of his love and constancy, and begged her to keep 
in the path of right. 

All the three men walked firmly to the scaffold, 
where tliey shook hands all round, saying, " Good-bye, 
old pal, good-bye" — nothing more. The drop was 
already chalked with their names — Martin in the centre, 
with Rudge on the right and Baker on the left. The 
men stepped at once to their places and gave all the 
assistance they could in the final pinioning and in the 
adjustment of the nooses. Just before the drop fell 
Baker cried, " Keep straight, Nellie !" and then the 
three men died together, without a word of fear or even 
a quiver or a pallid cheek amongst them. The youth 
and manly bearing of Baker, and the strong affeiftion of 
which he was capable, as shown by the way in which 
his Nellie was always uppermost in his thoughts, affecfted 
me very much. His execution was one of the saddest 
of my many experiences. 

Mary Ann Britland. 

I have said that the people who are most cruel and 
callous in their murderous deeds are often most cowardly 
after convi(5tion. The class of cruel and callous mur- 
derers is quite distindt from that of the violent murderers, 
like Rudge, Martin and Baker. These men, fighting 
against the law, fight fairly according to their lights. 
They take risks and meet the consequences in a straight- 
forward manner. But the cruel and callous class show 
a cowardice and selfishness of which Rudge, Martin, 
and Baker were incapable. An instance of this occurs 
to me in the case of Mary Ann Britland, whom I 
executed at Strangeways Gaol, Manchester. She was 
an example of the class of persons to whom the three 
weeks' respite before death is the greatest possible 
cruelty. She was condemned for the murder of a 
woman who had befriended her, and in whose house 
she was living as a guest at the time of the murder. 



i! 



75 

She was also proved to have murdered her own husband 
and daughter by the same means, namely, poison. It 
seems hard to conceive of any adequate motive for such 
a series of crimes, extending over a considerable time, 
but a theory was advanced, and supported by her con- 
fession, to the effecft that she desired to marry the 
husband of her latest vicftim. To accomplish this 
objedl she first killed her daughter (for what exadt 
reason is not clear, unless she feared that the girl had 




Mrs. Britland. 

some suspicion of her design upon the others), then her 
husband, and finally her friend, who had pitied her 
lonely and widowed circumstances, and given her food 
and shelter. The husband of the third vidtim was tried, 
with a view to bringing him in as an accomplice, but 
the investigation showed that he had never shown any 
friendliness for Mrs. Britland, and that it was clearly 
impossible that he could have had any connecftion with 
the murders. At her trial she was completely unnerved, 



7< 



not by remorse, but by fear. When the verdidt was 
announced, and she was asked if she had anything to 
say why sentence should not be passed, she burst into 
tears. During the passing of the sentence she inces- 
santly interrupted the judge with cries for mercy, but 
finding such appeals of no avail, she screamed to Heaven 
in tones of the greatest agony. Even after she had 
been removed to the cells, her screams could be heard 
for a long time by people outside. During the time 
that elapsed before her execution she was partly buoyed 
up by the hope of a reprieve, and protested her innocence 
almost to the very last. In spite of her hope, she could 
not shut out the terrible fear that the reprieve might 
not come, and the dread of death was so heavy upon 
her as to reduce her in three weeks to a haggard wreck 
of her former self. She prayed long and apparently 
earnestly for God's help, but did not acknowledge her 
guilt until almost the last moment, when she saw that 
there was no hope of reprieve. When the morning 
of the execution came, she was so weakened as to be 
utterly unable to support herself, and she had to be 
pracflically carried to the scaffold by two female warders. 
For an hour before the time of the execution she had 
been moaning and crying most dismally, and when I 
entered her cell she commenced to shriek and call aloud. 
All the way to the scaffold her cries were heart-rending, 
though her voice was weak through suffering, and as 
the white cap was placed over her head she uttered 
cries which one of the reporters described as " such as 
one might expedt at the acflual reparation of body and 
spirit through mortal terror." The female warders held 
her on the drop until the noose was fixed, then their places 
were taken by two male warders who stepped quickly 
back at a signal which I gave them, and before she had 
time to sway sideways or to collapse the drop fell and 
the wretched woman was dead. 

yames Murphy. 

Some condemned persons are unconsciously humor- 
ous, whilst others that I have met with have shown an 
unconcerned and designedly humorous disposition, which 



77 

is surprising when one considers the grave nature of my 
business with them. James Murphy, whom I executed 
at York, in November of 1886, for the murder of police- 
constable Austwick, of Barnsley, seemed to look upon 
his sentence and death rather as a joke than otherwise, 
and perhaps partly as a matter of pride. He never 
seemed to think that it was a very serious matter, and 
the principal reference that he made to the subjecft was 
a frequent assurance to his attendants that he would 




James Murphy. 

die firmly and show no fear on the scaffold. I was in- 
troduced to him by the Governor of York Castle the 
day before the execution, while he was at dinner. He 
was told that " a gentleman from Bradford " had come 
to see him, but he feigned not to understand my identity, 
and muttered, " Bradford ! Bradford ! — I have no friends 
at Bradford." Then it was explained that the gentle- 
man in question was his executioner, and he smilingly 
replied, " Oh I of course i" but continued picking the 



r8 



mutton bone on which he had been engaged when we 
entered. In the last letter that he wrote, speaking of 
this incident, he said : — " I am in good spirits the 
Goxcrnor brought your letter to me at dinner time and 
the hangs man with him. I shaked hands with the 
hangs man and he ast me to forgive him and I did so. 
Bui I eat my dinner none the worse for that." The same 
statement might also apply to his supper, and his break- 
fast next morning, for during the whole of his imprison- 
ment his good humour and resolution never deserted 
him for a moment. He was perfecftly contented with the 
arrangements made for him by the prison authorities ; 
but the Roman Catholic priests in attendance could 
get no satisfadtion out of him whatever. He parted 
from his brother, wife, and daughter without any 
sign of emotion, in the light-hearted manner of a work- 
ing man who was starting for his day's labour. He 
did justice to his last meal, and when it was finished 
asked for a " pipe of bacca," the only request that he 
made with which the Governor was unable to comply. 
He seemed to take a great interest in the pinioning 
process, and helped me as well as he could. His 
request was that I would execute him quickly and pain- 
lessly, and this favour I was able to grant. 

Edward Pritchard 

was hanged in Gloucester Prison on February 17th, 
1887, for the murder of a boy at Stroud. The objecft 
was robbery, for the boy was carrying money to pay 
wages, from the bank. Pritchard pracftically pleaded 
guilty, and appeared to be sincerely sorry for his deed. 
He was not anxious to escape death, but took great 
pains to secure the forgiveness of the firm whose money 
he had taken, and of the parents of the boy whom he 
had murdered in order to get it. To the father of the 
lad he wrote a letter, earnestly begging for his forgive- 
ness ; and Mr. Allen, who was a good, kind-hearted 
man, journeyed to Gloucester to convey an assurance 
of that forgiveness in person, and to pray with 
the murderer. Owing to a prison regulation Pritchard 
was unable to receive Mr, Allen's visit, but the fadt 



79 

that the visit was made seemed a great consolation to 
the prisoner. While waiting for execution Pritchard 
frequently showed much emotion and it was feared that 
there might be a " scene " at the last moment, but when 
the time came, he was composed. There was no reck- 
less bravado, but a quiet submission. He walked 
uprightly to the scaffold and stood motionless upon the 
drop. For a second his glance wandered round the 
prison-yard, and in that second he seemed to comprehend 




Walter Wood. 

everything. He saw his grave, ready dug, in a curner, 
and heaved a sob, but this was his only demonstration 
of feeling whilst in my hands. 

Walter Wood. 

Another man who was apparently truly penitent 
was Walter Wood, executed at Strangeways, Man- 
chester, on June 30th, 1887, for the murder of his wife. 
When the sentence of death was pronounced he was 



8o 

calm, and so he remained up to the time of execution. 
He did not falter even when visited by his mother and 
his two sons. He negle(fted no means of showing his 
contrition and making his peace with God, and on the 
day before his execution he attended the prison chapel, 
occupying a screened pew, where he paid careful atten- 
tion to the service and appeared much solaced by a 
portion of the sermon which was introduced for his 
special benefit. On the morning of his last day he was 
awake early and spent the time with the good chaplain 
of the gaol. As I entered the cell the poor fellow was 
slowly repeating the responses to the prayers read by the 
chaplain, and he continued to do so during the pinioning. 
The chaplain was assiduous in his attentions and did not 
weary of his good work even when on the scaffold, but 
continued to comfort and solace the doomed man with 
an earnestness that indicated the depth of his sympathy. 
At the last moment the calm, but wretched, culprit 
raised his head, drew a deep breath, and said in a deep, 
solemn, unshaken tone, " Lord have mercy upon me. 
Lord receive me." And so he died. This execution 
aff'e(fted me deeply. The man was fully conscious of 
the hideousness of his crime, and sincerely repented. 
He assured the chaplain that he beheld the world and 
all things in a totally new light, and that the conscious- 
ness of his crime had changed his whole chara(fter. 
What would have been the fate of such a man if he 
could have been allowed to go free. 

Alfred Sowrey. 

One of the worst cases I ever had to deal with was 
that of Alfred Sowrey, hanged at Lancaster Castle on 
August I St, 1887, for shooting the girl to whom he was 
engaged to be married, at Preston. He was impenitent, 
violent, and half-dead with fear by the day of execution. 
At the time of his trial he glared about in such a mad 
way that those who stood near the dock feared for their 
personal safety. During the time between sentence 
and execution he became seriously ill through sheer 
terror, and it was thought that he could not possibly 
live to the day appointed for his execution. The efforts 



81 

of the gaol chaplain to bring Sowrey to a calmer and 
more reasonable state of mind seemed utterly unavail- 
ing, the prisoner was too terrified to take much notice 
of anything that was said to him. On the morning of 
the execution he took his breakfast as usual, but 
rejedled the chaplain's ministrations. From the cell 
to the scaff"old he had to be partly pushed and partly 
carried by two warders, in whose strong arms he struggled 
violently. His groans and cries could be heard all over 
the prison. His teeth chattered, and his face was alter- 




Alfred Sowrey. 

nately livid and deathly white. Every inch of ground 
over which the procession passed was violently contested 
by the criminal, who had to be bodily carried up the 
steps and placed on the drop. As he saw the beam 
above him a wilder paroxysm of fear seemed to seize the 
miserable youth, and four warders were required to hold 
him in position. Even with this assistance I had the 
greatest possible difficulty in pinioning his legs, and 
while doing so I received a nasty kick which took a 
piece of bone out of my shin, and has left a mark visible 



82 



even to-day. After the completion of the pinioning 
process he still resisted the placing of the noose, throw- 
ing his head violently from side to side, and he continued 
his struggles until the drop fell. During the whole of 
this terrible scene the chaplain, who had taken much 
interest in his ungrateful charge, and who had done 
everything he could for Sowrey, continued reading the 
beautiful prayers for the dying ; but Sowrey paid no heed. 




Dr. Cross. 

Dr. Philip Henry Eustace Cross. 

My first execution in 1888 was that of Dr. Philip 
Henry Eustace Cross, who poisoned his wife by slow 
degrees, administering doses almost daily for a long 
time. Dr. Cross was a retired army surgeon, of good 
family. His medical experiense gave him a gieat 



83 

advantage in the commission of his crime, and he was 
evidently convinced that there was not the slightest 
fear of discovery. After convidtion he protested his 
innocence until he received the message to the effetft 
that there would be no reprieve but that the law must 
take its course. He then relapsed into a mournful 
condition, and turned his attention entirely to the Bible. 
The last few days before his execution he was greatly 
prostrated, and on his last night of life he did not retire 
to bed until twelve o'clock. His sleep was restless and 
fitful. In the morning, however, he was resolute. He 
told his attendants that he did not fear death, for he 
had met it face to face more than once on the battle- 
field. He died unmoved, without a word. 

Joseph Walker. 

A sorrow-stricken face that often haunts me is that 
of Joseph Walker, executed at Oxford in November, 
1887. He had murdered his second wife, after great 
provocation. Her reckless drinking habits and jealous 
disposition, developed soon after the marriage, had 
made the home absolutely miserable. On several 
occasions she threatened her husband with a knife, and 
the only way in which he could defend himself without 
injuring her was by seizing her wrists and holding her 
down on the floor until her fury abated. The climax was 
reached when one of Walker's sons by his first wife, who 
had been driven from home by his step-mother, com- 
mitted suicide. The father attributed this to the step- 
mother's cruelty. She went to Croydon, where the 
suicide was committed, to attend the inquest, and 
instead of returning home remained in London until her 
husband went to fetch her. Up to this time he had 
been steady, but after the return from London he gave 
way to excessive drinking and negledled his work. On 
the day of the murder there was a violent quarrel 
between the man and his wife, and when he fell into a 
drunken sleep she rifled his pockets of a considerable 
sum of money. At night Walker cut his wife's throat, 
killing her with one terrible blow, and then, sobered by 
his adt, called a neighbour to witness what he had done, 



84 

and surrendered to the police who had been fetched to 
the house. The verdidl of " Guilty " was brought in by 
the jury, but a strong recommendation to mercy was at 
the same time handed to the judge. In consequence of 
the great provocation which had been received by 
Walker, strenuous efforts were made to induce the 
Home Secretary to commute the death sentence to one 
of penal servitude, but without avail. The condemned 
man was perfecflly willing to die, and his earnest repent- 
ance greatly touched the chaplain who laboured early 
and late to comfort him. Walker spent much of his 
time in fervent prayer, not for himself, but for his 
children. He prayed continuously that his sin might 
not be visited on them, for he knew how our Christian 
country usually treats those who have the burden of a 
dishonoured name to bear. He besought both God and 
man to treat his children kindly, and to lead them in 
the way of sobriety and honesty. For himself, while 
confessing the murder, he denied any premeditation of 
the matter. At the time of execution he was perfedtly 
composed, and walked calmly to the scaffold, but he 
seemed to see nothing — his thoughts were far away — 
and even after death his face wore the same expression 
of sad composure. Walker was a heavy man, weighing 
over sixteen stones, and received a drop of 2 ft. 10 in., 
the shortest I have ever given. 

yohn yackson, 

whose daring murder of warder Webb and escape from 
Strangeways Gaol, as well as his success in hiding 
from the police, caused immense interest to be taken in 
his case, was executed by me in the same gaol in which 
his crime occurred. Although he was commonly sup- 
posed to be incapable of feeling, his emotion at the 
prospedt of his own fate was so touching that the official 
who had to tell him that reprieve was refused was very 
loth to break the news. On hearing it, he bowed his 
head and burst into tears, for, strange as it may seem, 
he had hoped that the death sentence would not be 
carried out. His grief continued to the last, and to the 
last he maintained that he had only intended to stun, 



85 

and not to kill the warder. On the night before his 
death he did not sleep two hours, and when I entered 
his cell in the morning he was engaged in fervent prayer. 
He shook hands with me in a manner that was most 
affecfling, and submitted quietly to the pinioning. He 
walked resignedly to the scaffold, and died without 
uttering a sound. 




John Jackson. 

Charles Joseph Dobell and William Gower. 

One naturally expedts a hard indifference from an 
old criminal, but it saddens me to see it in the young, 
and yet two of the youngest men — or rather, boys — that 
I have executed were callous to the last degree. They 
were Charles Joseph Dobell (aged 17) and William 
Gower (18), executed in Maidstone Gaol for the murder 
of a time-keeper at a saw-mill in Tunbridge Wells some 
six months before. So carefully was the crime committed 
that the police could obtain no clue, and it was only 



86 

found out by the confession of the lads to a Salvation 
Army officer. There is reason to believe that the lads' 
natural taste for adventure had been morbidly stimulated 
by the reading of highly sensational literature — " penny 
dreadfuls " and the like. They seem to have conducfted 
themselves with a sort of bravado or courage which, if 
genuine, would have done credit to a patriot or martyr 
sacrificing himself for country or for faith, or to one of 
their backwoods heroes fighting against " a horde of 
painted savages," but which was distressing in two lads, 
almost children, sentenced to death for their crime. 
After they were sentenced they paid careful attention 
to the chaplain's words, but they showed no sign of 
emotion, and it was said that " it is doubtful whether 
at any time they fully realised the serious nature of their 
position." They walked to the scaffold in defiant 
manner, more upright than was their wont, and neither 
of them looked at or spoke to the other. There was no 
farewell, no word of repentance or regret, merely a brief 
supplication to God to receive them. 

Samuel and Joseph Boswell. 

It is a terrible trial to have to execute men who 
firmly believe, and apparently on reasonable, even if not 
correct grounds, that they are suffering an injustice. 
The worst instance that I remember of this kind was in 
the case of Samuel and Joseph Boswell, executed in 
Worcester Gaol for the murder of a game-keeper on the 
estate of the Due d'Aumale, at Evesham. Three men, 
the Boswells and Alfred Hill, were found guilty of the 
murder, and the only difference which the jury could 
find in their guilt was that Hill was, if anything, the 
worst of the three. An application for a reprieve was 
made, apparently on the ground that though the men 
were guilty of poaching, they had not intended to 
commit murder. The Home Secretary responded to 
this application by reducing the penalty in Hill's case to 
penal servitude for life. This acftion fairly astounded 
the people of Evesham, who thought that there was no 
possible reason for making any difference in the fate of 
the three culprits. The Vicar telegraphed to the Home 



87 

Secretary that his decision was " absolutely incompre- 
hensible ;" the Mayor, on behalf of the borough, 
telegraphed to the effect that " universal indignation " 
was " expressed by the whole community in Evesham 
and by county gentlemen." Several other similar 
messages were sent from other bodies, and the Vicar of 
Evesham was dispatched to London to interview the 
Home Secretary. The news was communicated to Hill 
but not to the Boswells, and as the feeling amongst out- 
siders was so strong, it can be imagined that the two 
men who had to suffer the punishment were shocked 
with a sense of injustice when they met on the morning 
of the execution and found that Hill had been reprieved. 
When they met on that fatal morning the brothers kissed 
each other, and, looking round, they enquired simul- 
taneously, " Where's Hill ?" On being answered, they 
seemed utterly broken down with the feeling of the 
injustice of the arrangement. They asserted that Hill 
was the real murderer, whilst they were only accom- 
pHces. The men had been much troubled during their 
imprisonment by the thought of what would happen to 
their wives and children, and were in a terribly harassed 
and nervous condition. I put the white caps on their 
heads before leaving the cells, and a few steps from the 
door of the house in which the scaffold stood I pulled 
the caps over their eyes. This I always do when men 
are not quite firm and determined, before they see the 
scaffold. In the case of Samuel Boswell this simple afl 
caused him to fall back into the arms of one of the 
warders in a state of collapse, and he had to be almost 
carried on to the scaffold. He moaned several times, 
until he heard his brother's voice give the response. 
" Lord, have mercy upon us," when he again drew him- 
self together and answered, "Christ, have mercy upon us.' 
Then Joseph piteously cried, " Oh, my poor, dear wife,' 
«' Yes," answered Samuel, " and my dear wife and my 
poor children.' Joseph turned his head a little and said, 
" Good-bye, Sam," to which his brother answered, 
" Good-bye, God bless you, Joe boy. Oh ! dear, dear,|| 
Joseph continued : " I hope e\'erybody will do well," 
and as he finished speaking the drop fell, and together 
the brothers expiated their crime. 



wimmmmm 



88 



Richard Davies. 

Another case in which " the one was taken and the 
other left " was the Crewe murder case, in which Richard 
and George Davies were found guilty of the murder of 
their father, with a strong recommendation to mercy on 
account of their youth. So far as could be made out, 
there was absolutely no difference in the degrees of their 
guilt ; but the sentence of George was commuted to 
penal servitude simply because he was the younger. 
At this there was great excitement throughout the 
country, and thousands of telegrams and petitions were 
poured mto the Home Office, begging that the leniency 
might be equally extended to both since the guilt of both 
was equal. But all to no purpose. The condemned 
lad protested, to his last moments, that although he 
took part in the murder, he never struck his father nor 
handled the hatchet with which the deed was done. He 
wrote most affectionate letters to his mother, brothers 
and sisters ; who semed to fully believe the truth of his 
statements with regard to his share in the crime. Ten 
minutes before his death he wrote out the same declara- 
tion and handed it to the chaplain. He stated that he 
had no wish to live, but that he hoped and expecfted to 
meet his relations in heaven. When I entered his cell 
he was pale, but calm. After pinioning him his face 
seemed still paler and his mouth worked convulsively 
as he strove to keep back his emotion. Along the cor- 
ridor he walked firmly, with bent head, but when we 
reached the yard where a fresh breeze was blowing and 
the blue sky was visible, he raised his head and eyes 
for a last look at the world and the sky. He died 
firmly, with a brief prayer on his lips. 



In both the cases last described the acflion of the 
Home Secretary was very severely commented upon by 
press and public, and it seems to me that such occurrences 
are the strongest possible arguments in favour of the re- 
arrangement of the law which I suggest in the chapter 
on " Capital Punishment." It is decidedly injurious 



89 

for the public to have the idea that the life or death of 
a man depends upon the urgency of the petitions in his 
favour and the amount of sympathy expressed for him, 
rather than upon the justice of the case. Moreover, it 
seems to me tliat by singling out special cases, and 
attacking the decision of the Home Office, the press 
and the public place themselves in a thoroughly illogical 
position. If they objecft to the system of leaving the 
matter in the hands of the Home Secretary, surely it is 
the system, and not the man, that should be attacked. 
On the other hand, if they are satisfied that the Home 
Secretary is the proper tribunal, they ought surely to 
rest content with his ruling, remembering that he has 
far better opportunities of judging the merits of the 
case and the whole of the evidence than any outsider 
can possibly have, and that his responsibility in the 
matter makes him more careful in his enquiry than any 
outsider possibly can be. 



The melancholy interest of the subje(ft allures me 
to continue, yet the details of murderers' deaths at the 
best are ghastly and grim, and I fear that my readers 
will shudderingly wish me to stop. Two more experi- 
ences, and I will close the sad record. 

Mary Eleanor Wheeler^ 

better known as Mrs. Pearcey, was a woman of decidedly 
strong charadter. Her crime is so recent and aroused 
so much interest that I need not go over the circum- 
stances. The night before her execution was spent in 
the condemned cell, watched by three female warders, 
who stated that her fortitude was remarkable. When 
introduced to her I said, "Good morning, Madam," and 
she shook my proffered hand without any trace of 
emotion. She was certainly the most composed person 
in the whole party. Sir James Whitehead, the Sheriff 
of the County of London, asked her if she wished to 
make any statement, as her last opportunity for doing 
so was fast approaching, and after a moment's pause 



go 

she said : — " My sentence is a just one, but a good deal 
of the evidence against me was false." As the proces- 
sion was formed and one of the female warders stepped 
to each side of the prisoner, she turned to them with a 
considerate desire to save them the pain of the death 
scene, and said, " You have no need to assist me, I can 
walk by myself." One of the women said that she did 
not mind, but was ready and willing to accompany Mrs. 
Pearcey, who answered, " Oh, well, if you don't mind 




Mrs Pearcey. 

going with me, I am pleased." She then kissed them 
all and quietly proceeded to her painless death, 

yohn Conway, 

who murdered a boy of ten years old, at Liverpool, was a 
case that was most difficult to understand. His previous 
record did not indicate any quarrelsome or murderous 
tendency, though he was known to get drunk occasion- 
ally ; and there seemed to be absolutely no motive that 
could be assigned for the crime. His confession was 



I 



91 

made privately, to the priest, the day before his execu- 
t ion, with instrucflions that it should be read as soon as 
he was dead, but it left the matter of motive as mysterious 
as ever. It was as follows : — " In confessing my guilt 
I protest that my motive was not outrage. Such a 
thought I never in all my life entertained. Drink has 
been my ruin, not lust. I was impelled to the crime 
while under the influence of drink, by a fit of murderous 
mania, and a morbid curiosity to observe the process of 
dying. A moment after the commission of the crime I 




John Conway. ' 

experienced the deepest sorrow of it, and would have 
done anything in the world to undo it." Conway was a 
very superstitious man, a believer in omens, witchcraft 
and all sorts of supernatural powers, and he had a firm 
idea that if one good man could be induced to pray for 
him he would be saved from execution. He was sure that 
his own prayers would avail nothing, and he thought 
that he was not fit to receive the sacrament of his 
church ; but he attended the service at which the 
sacrament was administered, and begged that one of 
his fellow-prisoners, who partook of the rite, should pray 



9* 

for him. As he reached the scaffold Conway stared 
wildly around and cried out that he wanted to say some- 
thing. The priest interfered to induce me to stop the 
execution for a few seconds, and I did so, but the convi(ft 
merely thanked the gaol officials and his Father Con- 
fessor for their kindness. And so he died. 



Does the reader think that I have spun out this 
chapter too much ? Does he think that I have unneces- 
sarily harrowed his feelings ? If so, let me assure him 
that I would not have given this chapter, I would not 
have written this book if I had not had what I believe 
to be good purposes in view. I have tried to avoid 
sensationalism, but I want to make every reader think. 
I want to make him think that murderers are, after all, 
men and women, with human sympathies and passions. 
I want to make him think that there are degrees of 
murder, that justice, and not spasmodic leniency should 
be the aim of our laws, and a few other thoughts that 
will occur to the reader without any suggestion of mine. 







95 



CHAPTER IX. 

From the Murderer'spointof view. 

(fef^!^URNS sang, and we are fond of repeating his 
I KS\ singing :— 

y ' !-^ Oh ! wad some power the giftie gie us, 

To see oursels as ithers see us ; 

but I never heard anybody utter the opposite aspiration, 
for the gift to see others as they see themselves. _ And 
yet I am not quite sure that this gift is not as desirable 
as the other. At any rate, if we are to legislate wisely 
and well for any class of people it is absolutely necessary 
that we should be able to see things from their own 
point of view. It is with much hesitation that I start 
this chapter, for I know that my power to analyze 
thought and charaefler is not great enough to enable me 
to deal with the subjedl on broad Hnes. But if I can 
induce a few people to consider the question of murder 
and its punishment from the murderer's point of view, 
the chapter will do good. _ 

On the whole, I think that our attitude towards 
murderers is based too much on sentiment and too httle 
on reason. Many people pity all murderers, whether 
they deserve it or not; many others condemn them body, 
soul and spirit, without considering to what extent they 
are the result of circumstances. If I can induce my 
readers to consider that a murderer has as much right 
to judge the State as the State has to judge him, I think 
this book will have achieved one good purpose. 

I do not wish to work out an argument, but will 
just give a few of the expressed ideas of the murderers, 
in the hope that they may give rise to fruitful trains of 
thought. I would point out, however, that many of the 
people who have died on the scaffold have lived in such 
deplorable circumstances— assailed by every sort of 



96 

temptation, surrounded by an atmosphere of gay and hol- 
low vice, cradled in misery and educated in wretchedness 
and sin, with little of the good and the beautiful entering 
into their Hves to raise them, but with the accursed 
facihty for obtaining drink to lure them down — in such 
deplorable circumstances, I say, that even an angel 
could hardly keep himself unspotted from such a world. 
When men commit a horrible crime it is our duty to 
exa(ft the penalty ; but it will do us no harm to consiil ^r 
whether we are in any way responsible for the conili- 
tions which may have driven them to crime ; antl 
whether we cannot do even more than we are doing for 
the prevention of crime by the improvement of the 
conditions. 

Besides the conditions of life, the mental status of 
the wretched culprits should be worthy of attention, and 
I think we might ask ourselves whether it would not 
have been better for soma of the murderers, as well 
as for society, if they had been placed under life-long 
restraint years before their careers reached the murder 
stage. 

There are many other questions which will naturally 
occur to the thoughtful reader, and which I need not 
indicate. 

Arthur Shaw. 

Amongst my earlier executions was that of Arthur 
Shaw at Liverpool. Shaw was a tailor, thirty-one 
years of age, who lived in Manchester. He was married, 
but his married life was not happy, for his wife seems 
to have drunk heavily, and he himself was not steady. 
On November 3rd, 1884, they quarrelled, and fought for 
some time, and shortly afterwards the woman was found 
dead — killed, according to the do(ftors, by strangulation. 
Shaw did not deny the murder, but pleaded that it was 
unintentional, and that he had been greatly provoked by 
his wife's long-continued dissipation. The jury strongly 
recommended him to mercy. Immediately before meet- 
ing his fate, in a last conversation with the chaplain, 
the man admitted his guilt but earnestly insisted that 
he had never intended to cause his wife's death. He 
stated that he was not drunk at the time of the murder, 



97 

but that he had been driven to drink by his wife's drunken- 
ness and neglect of the home, which was always miserable; 
and that her drunkenness and neglecft exasperated him 
until he was perfeiftly wild. He concluded by saying: 
"When we were having the scuffle I had no idea I was 
killing the poor woman." 

Thomas Parry, 

hanged in Galway on January 20th, 1885, for the murder 
of Miss Burns, wrote a long statement, which he handed 
to the governor to be read after his death. The gist of 
it was given in the following paragraph : — " I wish to 
assure the public and my family and friends that I was 
of unsound mind for a week previous to the murder and 
for some time afterwards. I am happy to suffer for the 
crime which I committed, and confident that I shall 
enter upon an eternity of bliss. I die at peace with all 
men, and hope that anyone that I have ever injured will 
forgive me." 

George Ho r ton, 

of Swanwick, poisoned his little daughter ; for the pur- 
pose, it is supposed, of obtaining the sum of £-j for 
which her life was insured; and was executed at Derby 
on February ist, 1886. It is difficult, or impossible, for 
an ordinary person to understand such a man's frame of 
mind. One would think him absolutely callous, yet he 
wept over the body of his child when he found that she 
was dead, and wrote most affetftionate letters to his 
other children when he was in prison. A portion of his 
last letter to his eldest daughter was as follows : — 

You must be sure to pray to God to gide you all 
you life through and you must pray for your Brothers 
and Sisters i do pray to God to gard you all you life 
through. So my dear Daughter you must think of 
what i have told you. you must always tell the truth 
& when you are tempted to do wrong you must pray 
to God for his help and he will hear you. Always 
remember that my Dear Children, and you must tell 
the others the same, you that is your brothers and 



^wn 



98 

sisters God has promised to be a father to you all ways, 
remember that he sees all you do and all you think, 
then if you do his will while here on earth he will 
receive you to his throne in glory where all is peace 
and rest. So my Dear Children you will be able to 
meat all your brothers and sisters and your poore dear 
Mother in heaven, and by the help of God i shall meat 

you there to may God help you all and 

bless you and keep you all your lifes through. He 
will do it if you pray to him and ask him. You no 
you must take every think to God in prayer for you 
no you will have no one els to help you now. so no 
more from your loving father, George Horton. 
May God bless you all. Kisses for you all. 

Edward Pritchard 

was an instance of how " evil communications corrupt 
good manners," and a striking example of the unfortun- 
ate uselessness of our reformatory system. At twelve 
years of age he was convi(fted for being an " associate 
of thieves," and sentenced to two years in a reformatory. 
For three years after leaving the reformatory he managed 
to keep out of prison, but when seventeen he was sen- 
tenced to four months' imprisonment for shop-breakiug, 
and after this he was frequently in gaol. About a year 
before the murder he appeared to have reformed, 
attended Sunday-school and chapel, and took an a(ftive 
part in religious work right up to the time of committing 
the murder. He murdered a small boy of fourteen who 
was in the habit of regularly fetching money from the 
bank to pay the wages at a large facftory, and stole from 
him the wages money, amounting to over ;^2oo. The 
evidence of the deed was absolutely conclusive and 
overwhelming, and Pritchard had no hope of reprieve, 
A day or two after his convicftion he wrote a letter to 
one of his Sunday-school teachers, in which he professed 
to have seen the error of his ways, urged all his com- 
panions to shun bad company, drinking and smoking, 
spoke of the delight with which he remembered some 
of the Sunday-school hymns, and anticipated the 
pleasure of soon singing them "up there." AH through 



1 



99 

his life there seems to have been a struggle between 
good and evil, with an unfortunate balance of power on 
the side of evil. It is difficult to believe that he would 
have devoted his spare time for a year to religious work 
if he had not felt strong aspirations for the higher life. 
After convidlion he said but little about himself, and 
made no formal statement or confession, but a letter 
which he wrote to the father of the murdered boy will 




tlirow some light upon his mental state. In this letter 
Pritcliard distindlly affirms that he was led to commit 
the crime by the instigation of a companion, and though 
the statements of a convicfled murderer must always be 
received with caution, it is possible that there was some 
ground for this assertion. If the crime was really sug- 
gested and the criminal encouraged by the influence of 
another, and probably a stronger mind, we may well ask 



nwi 



lOO 



lOI 



ourselves how much of the moral blame attaches to the 
instigator, and how much to the weak tool. The 
letter was as follows : — 

Her Majesty's Prison, 
Sir, Monday, Feb. 14/A. 

I write these lines to you to express my deep 
sorrow for the dreadful crime I have done to you and to 
your master. I write to ask you if you and your wife 
will forgive me for killing your boy, and please ask 
the master if he will forgive me for taking his money 
from him. It would not have happened if I had not 
been incited to do it, and it was by no other person 

than , who was a witness against me. 

He persuaded me to do it, and said he might do it 
himself if I did not ; so I done the unhappy affair. I 

am very sorry I ever met with at all, but it 

cannot be called back now. I have cried to God for 
mercy ; I must still cry, and I hope I shall gain a better 
home. I have asked Him to forgive me and blot out all 
my sins, and wash me in my Saviour's precious blood ; 
and I think and feel He will do it. I'm going to 
receive the Holy Communion on Wednesday, and I 
should like to hear from you by Wednesday, before I 
go to be partaker of that holy feast. If you will 
forgive me, I shall be more at peace. 

I am very, very sorry indeed, for what I have 
done. There is nothing that can save me from my 
doom, which will be on Thursday, but I can ask God 
to have mercy on my poor soul. 

I have no more to say at present, only that I was 
a great friend of poor Harry, and I went nearly mad 
about it the first few nights, and could not sleep ; 
but now I find comfort in Jesus. Good-bye, Sir. 
Please send me an answer by return of post, and I 
hope we shall meet in Heaven. 

From Edward Pritchard. 

Gloucester County Gaol, 
Gloucestershire. 

A few particulars of Pritchard's last moments are given 
in " How Murderers Die," p. 78. 



a 



Alfred Scandrett^ 

another young man — only just twenty-one years old — 
was another example of the result of bad influences. 
His father deserted the home when Alfred was about 
ten years old. His mother was a hard-working woman 
who contrived to support her family by mangling and 
by selling papers in the streets, in which latter work she 
was assisted by Alfred and several other children. The 
lad was fond of hanging round street corners and public- 




Alfred Scandrett. 

houses, and his mother found it impossible to keep him 
at home like the other children. He continually made 
resolutions, but again and again he was led away by his 
companions, and at twelve years of age he was convicfted 
for stealing cigars from a shop, but discharged with a 
caution. A month later he was charged with another 
offence and sentenced to 21 days. Other imprisonments 
followed, then five years in a reformatory, but punish- 
ment was no cure. His love for his mother was his one 
redeeming feature, and if she had not been forced by 



^ 



rwmimmtT*' ^" »■' 



lO? 



grinding poverty to work almost day and night at her 
mangling and paper-hawking she might have succeeded 
in saving him from himself. He tried to break away 
from his evil associations, and at one time begged his 
mother to find money to take him to Canada, but she 
was utterly unable to scrape together enough to pay the 
passage. A youth called Jones, who was hanged with 
Scandrett, was his companion in his final crime — a 
burglary, ending in murder. Although attached to his 
mother, who said he had always been " a good lad" to 
her, Scandrett could not bear the idea of living at 
home when he was engaged in crime, so that almost the 
whole of the last eight years of his life was spent, when 
out of gaol, in common lodging-houses. After his con- 
vidtion for murder and sentence to death, his great 
anxiety was for his mother. And well might he be 
anxious, for the poor woman suffered sadly for his sin. 
As soon as it was known that she was " the mother of 
a murderer," her customers — to their eternal disgrace 
be it said — withdrew their patronage to such an extent 
that her mangling earnings dropped from 12s. or 14s. 
to 2s. a week, and her newspaper trade fell away to 
nothing. She was even " hunted " and insulted in the 
streets when she went to her accustomed corner to sell 
the papers. To get from her home in Birmingham to 
Hereford Gaol for a last interview with her son, she 
was obliged to pawn her dress, and even that only 
raised enough money to pay the fare one way, so that 
she had to trust to chance for the means of getting back 
again. Some of the prison officials, more humane than 
her "friends" at home, subscribed enough money to 
pay the return fare. The last meeting was a very 
aflfe(5ting one. Scandrett comforted his mother by 
assuring her that they would meet in heaven, and said, 
•' Pray daily and hourly, mother, as I have done, and 
then we shall meet in heaven." 

Arthur Delancy. 

The number of men who are driven to crmie through 
drink is something terrible, and I should think that no 
temperance worker could read the real histories of the 



i 



.Murderers who have come under my hands without re- 
doubling his efforts to save men from the curse of drink. 
rA case in point was Arthur Delaney, executed at 
Chesterfield on August loth, 1888. It may be said that 
he was naturally a bad, violent man, but surely he 
would never have become a murderer if he had not 
consistently made himself worse and worse by hard 
drinking. His vi(5tim was his wife, to whom he had 
been married four years, and who was spoken of as a 
respecftable, hard-working woman. Not very long after 
the marriage, in a drunken fit, he violently assaulted 
her, for which a(ftion the magistrates imposed a fine and 
granted a separation order. His wife, however, forgave 
him, and in spite of his bad behaviour continued to live 
with him. A few days before the murder he was un- 
usually violent, and treated his wife so brutally that she 
was obliged to again appeal to the magistrates, who 
again imposed a fine. This raised Delaney's anger to 
such an extent that the next time he got drunk he 
battered his wife so violently that she had to be removed 
to the hospital, where she died. Like many other 
culprits, Delaney saw the cause of the mischief when it 
was done ; and a letter written after his sentence, has a 
ring of simple earnestness about it that makes it worth 
preserving. It was written to some Good Templars 
who had tried to reform him. 

H.M. Prison, Derby, 
My Dear Friends, August Mi, 1888. 

I write you farewell on this earth, but hope with 
gods great mercy to meet you all there, were there 
will be no more sorrow or temptation. I do sincerely 
thank you for your kindness to me, and hope that my 
fall will be the means of, with god's help of lifting 
others up from a drunkard's grave. Had I followed 
your advise my poor wife would been alive now, and 
we should have been happy, for she was a faithful 
and good wife to me. God knows that I should not 
have done such a dreadful crime if I had kept my 
pledge, but hope it will be a warning to those that 

play with the devil in solution. Will you tell 

to give his heart to god, and he will be safe from his 



A 



I04 

great curse, the drink. Bid him and his wife farewell 
for me, and tell him to put all his powers to work to 
help the Noble work of Temperance onward, for it is 
God's work. Oh ! do implore them that is playing 
with the drink to abstain from it, for it is a national 
curse. Now farewell to you all, and may God prosper 
your noble work. 

From your unfortunate friend, 

Arthur T. Delaney. 

What proportion of murders is diretftly traceable to 
drink it would be very difficult to say, but time after time 
we find that murderers who write to their friends state 
that drink, and drink only, has caused their ruin. 

Elizabeth Berry, 

Although I am endeavouring in this chapter to 
give a few ideas of the motives for murder as seen by 
the murderers themselves, I am not by any means con- 
doning their crimes. My main objedl is to induce people 
to look more into the pre-disposing causes of crime. I 
want them to consider whether in many cases prevention 
is not better than cure, and whether more can not be 
done to remove the causes. Undoubtedly drink has to 
answer for the largest number of such crimes. After 
drink comes lust and jealousy, though these almost 
invariably reach the murder climax through drink. 
The other main motive is the love of money, which has 
led to many of the most heartless, inhuman deeds that 
it has been my lot to avenge. I have given one or two 
instances of parents who murdered their own children 
for the sake of a few pounds of insurance money, and 
such instances could be multiplied. In fadt, so apparent 
did the motive become a year or two back, that the 
Government was obliged to pass a law regulating the 
insurance of the lives of infants. If such an adt, or 
even a further-reaching one, had been in existence 
earlier, Elizabeth Berry might have been alive now 
instead of lying in a felon's grave. Mrs. Berry 
poisoned her daughter, aged ii. At the time of the 
murder the child's life was insured for £10, for which 



105 

Mrs. Berry was paying a premium of id. per week. The 

murderess had also made a proposal for a mutual 
insurance on her own life and the child's by which ;^ioo 
should be paid, on the death of either, to the survivor. 
She was under the impression that the policy was com- 
pleted, but as a matter of fadt, it was not. It seems 
almost impossible that a woman should murder a child 
for the sake of gaining even the full sum of £1 10 ; and 




Mrs. Berry. 

we might be justified in believing that there must be 
some other motive if it were not for the fadt that infant- 
icide has been committed again and again for much 
smaller sums. From the point of view of the murderers 
of children it would seem that a few pounds in money 
appears a sufficient inducement to soil their hands with 
the blood of a fellow-creature. It is well, therefore, 
for the sake of child-life that the temptation should be 
removed. 



ik 



io6 




CHAPTER X. 

On Capital Punishment. 

JVNE of the questions which is most frequently 
I ^-^ut to me is, whether I consider capital pun- 
_ _ ishment is a rightand proper thing. To this 

I can truly answer that I do/ For my own part I attach 
much weight to the Scripture injunction, "Whoso 
sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," 
and I think that the abolition of capital punishment 
would be a defiance of the divine command. Therefore 
I would not abolish capital punishment altogether, but, 
as I shall explain later, I would__greatly alter the con- 
ditions under which it is imposed. 

Perhaps many of my readCTs will say that the 
Scriptural command should have no weight, and others 
will say that it was a command given under the " dis- 
pensation of Law," while we live under the " dispensa- 
tion of Grace." Therefore I would argue that, quite 
apart from any consideration of a religious nature, 
vg^pital punishment is absolutely necessary for the 
checking of the greatest criminalij) 

In the discharge of my duties as a policeman, both 
in the Nottingham, in the Bradford, and in the West 
Riding PoHce force, I have had many chances of study- 
ing the ways of life and thought of the criminal classes, 
and I have paid a great deal of attention to the subjedl. 
As the result of my experience I can safely say that 
capital punishment, and " the cat," are the only legal 
penalties that possess any real terrors for the hardened 
criminal, for the man who might be called a " profes- 
sional " as distinguished from an " amateur " ruffian. 
Such a man does what he can to keep out of prison, 
because he dislikes restraint, and routine, and sobriety, 
but this dislike is not strong enough to deter him from 
any crime which offers even a chance of escaping scot- 



: 107 

free ; and I do not think that the fear of imprisonment 
ever occurs to him when he has once got crinainai work 
acftually in#iand. Penal servitude, even for life, has no 
very acute terrifying influence, partly because no crim- 
inal ever believes that it will be a reahty in his case, as 
■ he feels sure that he will get a commutation of sentence ; 
and partly because, even if he were sure that the im- 
prisonment were acflually for life, he knows that prison 
life is not such a dreadful fate, after all— when one gets 
used to it. But when it comes to a questioii of a death 
sentence it is quite another matter. Death is a horrible 
mystery, and a death on the scaffold, a cold-blooded, 
pre-determined, and ignominious death is especially 
horrible to the criminal mind. As a rule the most 
desperate criminals are those who are most terrified by 
the thought of death at the hands of the executioner, 
possibly, because the most desperate men spring from 
the most superstitious class of the community, and have 
the greatest dread of that " something " after death 
which they cannot define. 

The criminal classes do not negleft their news- 
papers, but keep themselves pretty well posted, either 
by reading or conversation, upon the subjedts that are 
of most direa interest to them, and follow all the details 
of the most important criminal trials. In this way they 
always keep more or less before them the thought of 
the nature of capital punishment, and I believe that it 
will be found that the number of capital crimes in any 
given period is inversely proportionate to the number 
of capital punishments in the immediately preceding 
period. Whenever there is a series of executions, 
without reprieves, the number of murders decreases, 
and on the other hand, after a period in which several 
persons have been tried for murder and acquitted, or 
reprieved after sentence, the number of crimes appears 
to increase. I do not think that this rule can be 
demonstrated forcibly and convincingly by a reference 
to the mere numbers of murders, convicflions, reprieves, 
and executions during the past few years, because there 
are many considerations which bear upon the signifi- 
cance of an execution or reprieve; but I think that 
anyone who has given attention to the subjedt will bear 



I 



loS 



me out in my contention. 

Undoubtedly the fear of death is a great deterring 
power amongst abandoned men, and the fear is most 
powerful when the death seems most certain and the 
hope of reprieve most remote. This consideration leads 
me to think that the deterrent value of the death sen- 
tence would be greatly increased if it could be made 
absolutely irrevocable. Considering capital punish- 
ment as a moral power for frightening criminals still at 
large, I think it would be much better, if in all cases 
where there is the slightest possible chance of reprieve, 
the sentence were suspended for a time. 

I advocate that the sentence of death, once passed, 
should be a sentence which the doomed man, as well as his 
friends and sympathisers who are still at liberty, should 
regard as quite irrevocable. At the same time I do not 
advocate an increase in the number of executions — ^just 
the reverse. As the best means to this end I think we 
ought to have a considerable alteration in our criminal 
law as it relates to murder cases. I think that the jury 
should have more power over the sentence, and for this 
purpose I think that they ought to have the choice of 
five classes of verdicSt, namely : — 

1. Not guilty. 

2. Not proven. 

3. Murder in the third degree. 

4. Murder in the second degree. 

5. Murder in the first degree. 

In the case of a verdicft of "Not Guilty" the 
prisoner would, of course, be acquitted, and would be a 
free man as he is with such a verdicft at present. 

In the case of the verdicft of "Not Proven" it should 
be within the power of the judge to remand the prisoner, 
pending the further investigation of any clues that 
might seem likely to throw light upon the case ; or to 
release him, either with or without bail or police super- 
vision. 

A verdicft of " Murder in the third degree " would be 
brought in in cases where there was undoubted proof 
of the crime being committed by the prisoner, but in 
which the circumstances were such as to make it ex- 
tremely unlikely that the prisoner would ever again 



109 

commit a violent crime. This would cover the cases of 
people who shoot their friends and then plead that they 
" did not ihirAi it was loaded," and would be a much 
Ijetter verdicft than the " accidental death " which is 
generally returned at present. When the jury find this 
verdi6l of murder in the third degree it should rest with 
the judge to impose a term of imprisonment, long or 
short, according to the circumstances. 

" Murder in the second degree" would embrace cases 
in which the murder was fully proved but in which 
there was not premeditation or intent to murder. Under 
this head would come a number of deaths resulting 
from rows, brawls, and assaults without intent to kill. 
The judge would have the power to pass a sentence of 
death or of penal servitude for life. 

" Murder in the first degree," in which both intent 
and result had been murder, would be a verdicft leaving 
the judge no option but to impose the death penalty. 

Another question which ought to be considered in 
this connecftion is the question of appeals. At present 
appeals are made to the Home Secretary. He is really 
assisted by a number of other gentlemen, who examine 
most thoroughly into the original evidence, and any 
additional evidence that may have turned up, but this 
is a tribunal not legally appointed, and the public notion 
is that in cases of appeal the reversal of the sentence 
lies in the hands of one man. I do not think that even 
the most abandoned wretches would impute any unfair- 
ness to the English Home Secretary, but I know that 
in many quarters there is an iclea that the Home 
Secretary is "a very kind gentleman," who will " let 
'em off" if he possibly can, and such an idea seems to 
be a very mischievous one. A court of appeal would 
appear less personal, and would be far less likely to 
be suspecfted of leniency if it consisted of three judges, 
one of whom should be the judge who had originally 
tried the case. To such a bench of judges I would 
allow appeals to be made, and would give them power 
to re-open cases, refer them back to the juries, or to 
modify sentences, but not to reverse a jury's verdicft. 
This would mean that in the case of a verdicft of " murder 
in the first degree," the only way in which the execution 



no 



could be prevented would be by referring the case back 
to the jury, and this should only be done on the pro- 
ducflion of new evidence pointing to a miscarriage of 
justice In the extreme case of evidence turning up at 
the last moment, the Home Secretary should have 
power to grant a stay of execution for such length of 
time as would allow the bench of judges to re-open the 
case. 

The drawing up and presentation of petitions by 
people who are in no way conneifted with the case, 
would to a great extent be done away with under such 
a system as I have outlined, but in order to provide for 
cases where the system might not have this effecft, I 
would make it a punishable offence to attempt to in- 
fluence the decision of the judges or jurymen, by an 
appeal to any consideration other than the evidence. 
This advice I give because in so many, nay, in most 
cases, the appeals contained in petitions are based upon 
considerations other than the justice of the case. If 
the condemned person is an interesting characfter, or 
if there is any sort of excuse upon which an appeal can 
be based, there are always a great number of people 
who have no special knowledge of the case, and who, 
perhaps, have not even read the newspaper reports, 
who are ready to get up petitions, collecft signatures, 
and stir up a lot of sympathy for one who too often 
deserves nothing but execration and contempt. Such 
agitations lead to much misrepresentation of facfls, and 
often to sweeping condemnations of the judge and jury. 
They tend to infuse, in the minds of young people 
especially, an incorredt notion that the administration 
of the law is uncertain and ineflecftual, even if it is not 
unjust and corrupt. 

The mere facfl of the extent to which the considera- 
tion of loathsome crimes and their punishment is brought 
under the notice of children by this system of petitions, 
is in my mind sufficient argument for its complete suji- 
pression. One case I might instance, in which the 
masters of two public schools led the whole of the 
children under their charge through an ante-room in 
which a petition was lying, and made them all sign it in 
turn. This kind of thing occurs whenever a petition 



III 

praying for » sentence of death to be reversed or com- 
muted is in the course of signature, and surely such a 
^hing should not be possible. 

In many cases the people who draw up these peti- 
tions are people who objecft on principle to all capital 
punishment, but unfortunately the principle is entirely 
lost to sight when dealing with individual cases. 
The fact of big petitions being presented in one case, 
while no effort is made in another case with similar 
features, naturally leads uneducated people to think 
that there is uncertainty and injustice about the whole 

affair. . , . , t i.- i 

There is still one other respedt m which I thmk 
that our law with reference to murder and the death 
penalty ought to be altered, and that is with regard to 
the length of time allowed to elapse between sentence 
and execution. In the interests of all concerned I would 
reduce the time from three clear weeks, as at present, 
to one week only. No doubt many readers will cry out 
against this as an unnecessary cruelty to the condemned, 
but I say that I would do it in the interests of all after full 
consideration and an unusually full knowledge of the 
ideas of the condemned upon the subjetft. It is not a 
shorter time that would be a cruelty— the present long 
time is where the real cruelty comes in. 

So far as I know, the three weeks' "grace" given 
to the condemned man is intended as a time for repent- 
ance and for attending to the affairs of the soul. 
Therefore, the question of allowing a long or short time 
is to a great extent a religious one, and dangerous for 
me to tackle, so I will confine my remarks as far as 
possible to matters of fadt and mere common-sense con- 
siderations. If the only purpose of the time allowed 
between sentence and execution is to admit of conversion 
and a preparation for heaven, it is fair to ask of anyone 
who wishes to continue the present system, whether it 
serves the purpose. If not, there would seem to be no 
valid argument in favour of its continuance. Person- 
ally, I am convinced by long experience, that the hope 
of regeneration during three weeks in the _ case ol 
murderers is absolutely vain. There are many instances 
in which the criminal becomes "penitent," as it is 



112 

sometimes termed, and these penitents may be divided 
into two classes. Firstly, there is the class of those who 
have committed murder without intent or premeditation. 
In a fit of frenzy or under peculiar circumstances they 
haTe killed a human being. It may be a half-starved 
motker who has killed the baby she could not feed, or a 
man who in a whirlwind of temper has killed the 
unfaithful and miserable wife whose conducft has made 
his life a hell upon earth for years. It may be many 
another similar case which under the scheme of five 
possible verdi(5ts, propounded above, would be returned 
as murder in the second or third degree. Under such a 
law the extreme penalty would not be imposed ; but 
while we are under our present law, and supposing that 
these persons are condemned, without chance of reprieve, 
we may fairly ask whether the three weeks' grace is an 
advantage to them. Such criminals are truly repentant, 
or rather, remorseful. As a rule, the enormity of the 
crime bursts upon them in the first calm moment after 
its commission. They recoil in horror from the deed 
they have done and would gladly sacrifice anything, 
even life itself, to undo that deed again. There is true 
repentance, which I take it is the key to forgiveness, 
even before their apprehension and condemnation. 
Everything that can be done on earth by or for such 
poor souls, can be done in a week, and they would not 
ask for more. Their repentance is sincere, their horror 
of their crime is greater than their dread of death, which 
they welcome as a means of expiation. Is any good 
purpose served by keeping such people for three weeks 
in agony ? 

The second class of "penitents" consists of a 
horrible sedtion of humanity — the cowardly desperadoes. 
These are usually men whose crimes have shown a re- 
finement of cruelty and callousness that is positively 
revolting. They are the " hardened " or professional 
criminals whose hearts are devoid of pity or remorse, 
and equally devoid of the least spark of courage. They 
are the miserable men whose lives have been spent in 
defying and blaspheming God, but who, when they see 
death before them, whine and howl, and beg for the 
intercession of the chaplain or any other godly person 



"3 

they may meet with, not because they repent of their 
sins, but because they are frightened almost to death 
by4he thought of a fiery hell, which has been painted 
before their imaginations in glowing colours. To such 
men as these I am sure that the shortening of the 
waiting time would be the greatest possible mercy, for 
the longer time only gives them opportunity to work 
themselves into an almost demented state. At the end 
of three weeks they are often so broken down and 
hysterical as to be incapable of corre(fHy understanding 
anj'thing, and their only remaining feeling is a wild, 
frantic dread of the scaffold. 

Besides the two classes of penitents, there only 
remains the class who are not penitent at all. They 
are mostly men who have been long acquainted with 
crime, who have made it the business of their lives. 
They look upon the law and its officers much as a 
business man looks upon a clever and unscrupulous 
competitor ; and upon a sentence of death as one of the 
business risks. Life ends for them, not at the scaffold, 
but in the dock, when sentence is pronounced. 
From that time they sink into a state of sullen indiffer- 
ence, or take up any occupation that may ©ffer, merely 
to kill time. In some cases they take to Bible reading 
and prayers, because they think " it can't do any harm, 
and may do a bit of good," and because they have 
nothing else to do. No one can say that such men are 
penitent, since on release they would return to their 
vicious ways. They would not be likefy to reach any 
better state if they were allowed to live three months 
instead of three weeks, for the only regret that they 
can ba brought to feel is personal and purely selfish. 
It is founded on fear of hell, and is not a contrition for 
having committed the crime, but a regret that the 
crime carries with it a punishment in the next world. 
Convicfts of this class, when they have no hope of 
reprieve, do not thank us for the three weeks of " life " 
that are given to them. If they could have their own 
choice, they would prefer to walk straight from the 
dock to the scaffold, and to " get it over " at once. 

In every case if the matter is thoroughly inquired 
into, on lines of common sense instead of mere sentiment, 



114 

I think the conclusion will be that the three weeks 
allowed are no advantage whatever to the convicfls. In 
most cases their position would be decidedly improved 
by reducing the time. 

There are other distinct advantages to be gained 
by reducing the interval. In the first place it would 
greatly improve the moral effedt of the death sentence. 
Retribution following diredly after convicftion is a dis- 
tinct objed lesson, and the shorter the time between, 
the more obvious is the connexion between the crime 
and the punishment. When even three weeks elapse 
the connedlion is often lost. 

In the second place, the alteration I advocate 
would greatly prevent the stirring up of false sentiment 
m favour of convicfts who happen to have an interesting 
P^'.sonality. It would put a stop to the petition signing 
which IS often indulged in by people who know nothing 
of the case, but who are worked upon to express 
sympathy with the convict, and want of faith in the 
justice of our system of trial. If only a week elapsed 
between sentence and execution, the fa(5ts of the trial 
and details of the evidence would remain fresher in the 
public mind, and people would be less liable to be led 
to mistrust the justice of the sentence. 

To all the people who have charge of the con^vicfts 
before execution, a shortening of the time would be a 
great blessing, for such a charge is often a soul-harrow- 
ing experience. The chaplains especially, whose 
experiences are often most unpleasant ; and whose 
earnest efforts m et with such disappointing return, 
would, I think, welcome the change. 




1 



117 



CHAPTER XI. 

Hanging : From a Business 
Point of View. 

HAVE stated in Chapter H. the reasons which 
led me to take the office of executioner. The 
reader will remember that I then claimed no 
liigher motive than a desire to obtain a living for my 
family, by an honest trade. I am not ashamed of my 
calling, because I consider that if it is right for men to 




3)amfS fitm, 



Executioner. 



Bradford, 

Yorkshire. 



be executed (which I believe it is, in morder cases) it is 
right that the office of executioner should be lield 
respecftable. Therefore, I look at hanging from a 
business point of view. 

^When I first took up the work I was in the habit 
of applying to the Sheriff of the County whenever a 
murderer was condemned to death. I no longer con- 
sider it necessary to apply for work in England, because 
I am now well known, but I still send a simple address 
card, as above, when an execution in Ireland is 
announced. 



1 



ii8 

In the earlier days I made application on a regular 
printed form, which gave the terms ar.d left no opening 
for mistake or misunderstanding. Of this form I give 
a reduced reproduction on opposite page. I still use this 
circular when a sheriff from whom I have had no 
previous commission writes for terms. The travelling 
expenses are understood to include second-class railway 
fare from Bradford to the place of execution and back, 
and cab fare from railway station to gaol. If I am not 
lodged in the gaol, hotel expenses are also allowed. As 
a rule the expenses are not closely reckoned, but the 
sheriffs vote a lump sum which they think will cover it ; 
and if the execution has been satisfa(5tory the sum 
granted is generally more than enough to cover what I 
have spent. 

There are, on an average, some twenty executions 
annually, so that the reader can calculate pretty nearly 
what is my remuneration for a work which carries with 
it a great deal of popular odium, which is in many ways 
disagreeable, and which may be accompanied, as it has 
been in my own experience, by serious danger, resulting 
in permanent bodily injury. It will be seen that the 
net commission is not by any means an exorbitant 
annual sum, considering all the circumstances of the 
office ; and that it does not approach the amount which 
some people have stated that I was able to earn. 

Of course, my earnings are entirely uncertain, since 
they wholly depend upon the number of executions, 
and this arrangement, by which my livelihood depends 
upon the number of poor fellows condemned to die, is, 
to me, the most repugnant feature of my work. It 
seems a horrible thing that I should have to peruse 
newspaper reports in the hope that a fellow-creature 
may be condemned to death, whenever I wish to feel 
sure that " business is not falling off ;" and that I 
should have to regard as evil days and hard times those 
periods when there seem to be lulls in the annals of 
crime, and when one might reasonably hope that a 
better state of things was dawning in the land. 

These considerations, and the more selfish but still 
perfe(ftly natural wish to be certain of my income and 
of my ability to give my children a fair start in life, 




119 



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120 

have led me to strongly approve of the suggestion that 
the executioner's office should be a Government appoint- 
ment, with a fixed salary instead of an uncertain 
commission. When the Lords' Committee on Capital 
Punishment was sitting, early in 1887, I expressed my 
views on this matter in a letter addressed to the 
President of the Committee, Lord Aberdare. I am not 
without hope that a change in the arrangements for 
regulating the office of executioner will ere long be 
made, and the lines on which I think that it might be 
most reasonably and satisfadlorily done, are set forth in 
the letter to Lord Aberdare, which I append. 

I, Bilton Place, 

City Road, Bradford. 
My Lord, February, 1887. 

I have been for some time past in correspondence 
with Mr. Howard Vincent, M.P. for Sheffield, with 
reference to alteration in the mode of remunerating 
my services, in carrying into effecfl the Sentence of the 
Law upon Criminals convicfted of Capital Crimes. 
Mr. Howard Vincent has suggested that I should 
address myself to the Honourable Committee on 
Capital Punishment, through your Lordship as their 
President. 

I would therefore respecflfully point out to your 
Lordship and your Honourable Committee that the 
present mode of payment for my services is unsatis- 
fadlory and undesirable, and that a change is needed. 

As your Lordship is doubtless aware, under the 
existir.g arrangements I am paid the sum of /"lo 
together with travelling and other incidental expenses 
for each Execution conduifted by me. There are, on 
an average, roughly speaking, 25 Executions yearly. 
What I would respecflfully suggest is, that, instead of 
this payment by Commission, 1 should receive a fixed 
salary from the Government of ^iS° P^r annum. I 
may say that since accepting the Appointment I have 
never received less than ;^27o in any one year. I am 
informed that in determining a fixed Salary, or Com- 
pensation in lieu of a payment by Commission, the 
average annual amount received is made the basis for 



121 

the calculation. 

It will be apparent to your Lordship that an offer 
of a less sum than the former average would not be 
sufficiently advantageous to induce me to exchange 
the old system for the new. I may further, with your 
Lordship's permission, draw attention to the peculiar 
Social position in which I am placed by reason of 
holding the office before referred to. I am to a great 
extent alone in the world, as a certain social ostracism 
is attendant upon such office, and extends, not to my- 
self alone, but also includes the members of my family. 
It therefore becomes extremely desirable that my 
children should, for their own sakes, be sent to a 
school away from this town. To do this of course 
would entail serious expenditure, only to be incurred 
in the event of my being able to rely on a fixed source 
of income, less liable to variation than the present 
remuneration by Commission alone. I am also unable 
for obvious reasons to obtain any other employment. 
My situation as boot salesman held by me previous 
to my acceptance of the Office of Executioner, had to 
be given up on that account alone, my employer 
having no fault to find with me, but giving that as the 
sole reason for dispensing with my services. 

My late Employer will give me a good reference 
as to General character, and the Governors of Gaols 
in which I have conducfied Executions will be ready 
to speak as to my steadiness and also my ability and 
skill on performing the duties devolving upon me. 

In conclusion I should be ready to give and call 
Evidence on the points hereinbefore referred to (if it 
should seem fit to your Lordship and your Honourable 
Committee), on receiving a notification to that effecft. 

Under these circumstances I trust that your 
Lordship will be able to see the way clear to embody 
in your Honourable Committee's report a recommenda- 
tion to the effecft that a fixed annual sum of ^350 
should be paid me for my services rendered in the 
Office of Executioner. 

I have the honour to be 

Your Lordship's Obedient humble servant, 

James Berry. 



1 



122 



To the Right Honourable Lord Abcrdare. 

President, 
Capital Punishment Committee, 
Whitehall, London, S.W. 

P.S. If your Honourable Committee has an alterna- 
tive to the foregoing proposal I would respedlfuliy 
suggest that I am permanently retained by the 
Home Office at a nominal sum of ;^ioo a year, ex- 
clusive of fees at present paid to me by Sheriffs of 
different Counties and the usual Expenses. 

In connedlion with this subjedt I should like to 
point out that in asking for the office of executioner to 
be made a recognised and permanent appointment, I 
am not suggesting any new thing, but merely a return 
to the conditions in force not much more than fifteen 
years ago. Up to 1874 the executioner was a perman- 
ently established and recognised official. Mr. Calcraft, 
the last who occupied this position, was retained by the 
Sheriffs of the City of London, with a fee of £1 is. od. 
per week, and also had a retainer from Horsemonger 
Lane Gaol. In addition to his fees he had various 
perquisites, which made these two appointments alone 
sufficient for his decent maintenance, and he also under- 
took executions all over the country, for which he was 
paid at about the same rate as I am at present, but 
with perquisites in all cases. In 1874 he retired, and 
the City of London allowed him a pension of twenty-five 
shillings a week for life. 

Mr. Calcraft's successor was Mr. Wm. Marwood, 
who had no official status. He had a retaining fee of 
£io a year from the Sheriffs of the City of London, but 
beyond that he had to depend upon the fees for in- 
dividual executions and reprieves. In his time, also, 
there were considerable perquisites, for instance, the 
clothing and personal property possessed by the criminal 
at the time of his execution became the property of the 
executioner. These relics were often sold for really 
fancy prices and formed no mean item in the 
annual takings. But the sale and exhibition of such 
curiosities were only pandering to a morbid taste on the 



123 

part of some secftions of the public, and it was ordered 
by the Government — very rightly, from a public point 
of view, but very unfortunately for the executioner — that 
personal property left by the criminals should be burned. 

In many other countries the post of executioner 
is permanent. In some cases it is hereditary, as in 
France, where it has remained in the Deibler family, 
passing from sire to son, for a great length of time. 

Even in British territory at the present time a per- 
manent official hangsman is not entirely unknown, for 
in Malta the post is a definite appointment, to which a 
salary of /'30 is attached. 

In England the Sheriff is the officer appointed to 
carry out the executions, and though he is allowed to 
employ a substitute if he can find one, it would fall to 
him to personally condu(ft the execution if no substitute 
could be obtained. In certain cases, in days gone by, 
there has been very great difficulty in securing anyone 
who would undertake the unpleasant duty, though I do 
not remember any recorded instance of the Sheriff being 
absolutely unable to engage an executioner. 




\ 



¥ 



124 



CHAPTER XII. 



The Press and the PubHc. 






MIGHT almost head this chapter, " My 
Critics," for both press and public are 
constantly criticising my doings. The criti- 
cism is generally friendly, though often based on 
incomplete knowledge of the facfts. Of the press-men 
I must say that they usually seem most kindly disposed, 
and certainly many of them go to great trouble to 
extradt from me a few statements which they can 
spin out into an "interview." As a rule I dislike these 
interviews, for I know that my employers very strongly 
objedt to any more sensationalism than is absolutely 
necessary being imported into the accounts of executions. 
Unfortunately, with many of the papers, sensationalism 
is the one thing needful, and when I meet with a really 
energetic reporter attached to such a paper ni}- position 
is a very difficult one. If I say little or nothing in 
answer to his questions, he may spin a fearful and 
wonderful yarn out of his own head, and out of the 
gossip and rumours which seem to be constantly afloat, 
started, I imagine, by needy penny-a-lmers. On the 
other hand, if I submit to the interview as the best 
way of keeping it within bounds, the " touches of 
colour " which the interviewer generally thinks it 
necessary to add, are pretty sure to land me in bo' her 
and misunderstanding. 

In several instances statements which were calcul- 
ated to seriously injure me professionally have been 
published ; and though I believe they were inserted 
with no evil intent, I have been obliged to employ my 
solicitors to secure their contradiction. 

The instance which annoyed me, perhaps, more 
than any other was the reporting of a supposed interview 
in the Essex County Chroniclf. It was said to be from 



125 

" an occasionail contributor." The interviewer in 
question tackled me in the hotel where the Sheriff pays 
the execution fee ; entering the room immediately after 
I had been paid, and just as the Sheriff was driving off. 
He asked me two or three questions about private 
matters, which I answered truthfully and straightfor- 
wardly, though I was somewhat annoyed by the man 
and his manner. The "interview" which appeared 
quite shocked me. Several of the statements were 
utterly wrong, but what troubled me most was the 
following paragraph, which was quite at variance with 
the adtual facfls, and with the statements which I had 
made : — 

" And what do your friends think of the profession 
you have taken up ?" I asked. 

" It killed my mother and brother," he mournfully 
replied. "When Marwood died I was appointed in 
his place, and directly my mother knew of it she was 
taken ill. My father's solicitor then wrote to the 
Home Office, informing the authorities of this. The 
result was that I gave up the position, and Binns got 
the appointment. My mother died soon afterwards, 
though, and then, when I saw the way in which 
Binns was going on, I came to the conclusion that he 
would not hold the place long, and I again wrote to 
the Home Office stating that my mother was dead 
and that there was nothing now to prevent my accom- 
modating them if my assistance should be required. 
Soon after that I was engaged to hang two men at 
Edinburgh, and I have carried out nearly all the 
executions since then. My brother had married a 
girl with plenty of money, and his pride received a 
blow on my appointment. That was the cause of his 
death. He was a Liberal and in favour of abolishing 
capital punishment, but I am a Conservative through 
and through. Altogether I have buried my mother, 
two brothers, and two aunts within the last three 
years." 

This was a false and cruel paragraph, the acftual 
fa<fts with regard to the deaths of my relatives being as 



126 



follows : — I. My aunts died before I took the office, or 
thought of doing so. 2. My mother died from cancer 
on the liver, from which she had been suffering for a 
long time before I applied for the post ; and she died 
between the time of my first application and the time 
of second application, when I was appointed for the 
double execution at Edinburgh. 3. My brother died 
of low fever, after I had held the office of executioner 
for about four years. 

I do not wish to deny that my choice of the calhng 
of executioner was a disappointment and annoyance to 
my family ; but to say that it caused, or hastened the 
death of any one of them is to say that which is not 
true. If I thought that it had really had any such 
disastrous effedt, I hope I am not such a callous and 
hardened wretch as to make the matter the subjecfl of 
discussion with a stranger. 

One would almost have thought that such statements 
as the one extraded above would bear their refutation 
on their face, and that there would be no need to 
contradidt them ; but the matter was seriously taken 
up by the Daily News, which made it the subjecfl of a 
leader, and other papers all over the country extra^ed 
from, or commented upon the matter in the Daily News. 

Of course, I put the matter into the hands of my 
solicitors, who took steps to stop the original libel, but 
they were naturally unable to stop its circulation 
through the country. 

Another affair which caused me much annoyance 
at the time arose in Hereford, from the greed for 
interesting and sensational "copy" shown by a member 
of the staff of the Hereford Times. He got up some 
sensational matter to the effedt that after the execution 
of Hill and Williams I retired to a neighbouring hotel 
where a smoking concert was in progress, and there 
held a ghastly levee. The worst of this report was 
that it was based on some foundation of fa(ft, and that 
a mere colouration of the report made a reasonable and 
perfedly innocent entertainment appear as if it was 
something shameful. 

The aiftual fa(fls were that after the execution I 
was in company with Alderman Bamet, Mayor of 



127 

Worcester, and a detedlive sergeant, both of whom 
were personal friends of mine. With Alderman Barnet 
I was invited to a social evening held by some of his 
friends. It was a perfectly private party, and was 
decorously conducled in every way. W'hen the Times 
representative appeared, as he was known to the 
gentlemen present, he was invited to join us, simply as 
a friend. The report of the party was much talked 
about at the time, and Sir Edwin Lechmere, M.P. for 
Hereford, made it the subject of a question in the 
House of Commons. 

From time to time a very great number of incorredl 
and exaggerated statements have been made in the press 
with regard to almost every detail of my work, and I 
suppose that so long as the public have a love for the 
marvellous, and so long as press-men have treacherous 
memories or vivid imaginations, it will continue to be 
so. My enormous income is one of the subjects on 
which the papers most frequently get astray, and it has 
often been asserted that my earnings amounted to a 
thousand a year. I only wish that it might be so, if I 
could make it from an incease of fee rather than an in- 
crease in the number of executions, but the reader has 
in other places correct statements of what my income 
really amounts to. I never bear malice against my 
friends of the press for these little distortions of fact, for 
I know that they mean no harm, and on the whole they 
have always used me very well. 

With regard to the public, their curiosity to see me 
is much greater than my desire to satisfy it. I have no 
wish to be followed about and stared at by a crowd, as 
if I were a monstrosity, and in many cases I have had 
to go to some trouble to baulk them. This I can do to 
a certain extent by travelling by other trains than the 
one I am expected by. In some cases where there are 
two or three railways into a town, one of which 
is the direcfl line from Bradford, I take the direct line to 
sorrte local station, and there change into a train of 
another line or into some train running on some local 
branch line, and so arrive unobserved. At Newcastle, 
after the execution of Judge, there was a big and 
enthusiastic crowd waiting to see me and my assistant 



128 

depart. There were one or two men in the crowd who 
knew me by sight, and they knew the train by which 
we were to travel, so they made a raid on the station, 
and in spite of the efforts of the railway officials and 
police to keep the place clear they burst through the 
barriers with a howl of exultation and filled the platform. 
The plan by which we evaded them was very simple. 
We walked over the river to Gateshead, and booked 
from there to Newcastle. Arriving by train in the midst 
of the people who were looking for us, we attracfled no 
attention whatever, because the folks who knew me were 
near the entrance gates, expecfting us to come into the 
station in the ordinary way. As we had our tickets for 
Bradford with us, we simply crossed the platform to 
our own train, and in due time steamed southward, 
leaving the disappointed crowd under the firm impression 
that we had not entered the station. 

The first time that I went to Swansea there was a 
large crowd of people waiting to see me, but they were 
disappointed, for I had made a little arrangement which 
completely upset their calculations. It happened that 
I travelled from Shrewsbury to Swansea with a gentle- 
man who is well known in the latter town. In the train 
we entered into conversation, and I found that his 
carriage was to me£t him at the station. I therefore 
asked him if he could recommend me to a good hotel, 
and was delighted when he said that he would drive me 
to one, which was just what I wanted. He did not 
know who I was, and the little crowd that was watching 
never imagined that the executioner would be riding in 
their townsman's carriage. Of course, I did not want 
to stay at the hotel, because I was to lodge in the gaol, 
but I thanked my friend for the lift, walked into the 
hotel for a glass of beer while he was driving away, and 
then walked up to the prison without anyone suspedting 
my errand. 

Whenever I have been in acftual conta(ft with 
crowds in England, their attitude has been friendly. 
In Ireland such knots of people as may gather are 
usually the reverse. In England, if there is any sort 
of demonstration, it is a cheer ; in Ireland it is hooting 
and groaning. But it is seldom, in England, that I 



III 



i3g 

meet with any personal demonstration. The crowds 
that assemble outside the gaols when executions are 
in progress, are interesting studies. They hail the 
hoisting of the black flag with a cheer or a groan, 
that indicates their opinion of the merits of the case. 
It is curious to notice how the sympathies of this 
secftion of the public lean one way or the other, 
often without any apparent reason. This thought 




Israel Lipski. 

occurred to me very forcibly at the executions of Israel 
Lipski and William Hunter, who were hanged within a 
few months of each other. 

^;At Lipski's execution the crowd was the largest I 
have ever seen, many of the people remained hanging 
about for hours. The excitement was intense, but 
there was no sympathy for the prisoner. Inhere were 
many Jews in the crowd, and wherever they were 
noticed they were hustled and kicked about, and 



130 

insulted in every imaginable manner ; for the hatred 
displayed by the mob was extended from Lipski to his 
race. When the black flag was hoisted it was received 
with three ringing cheers. Altogether, the crowd showed 
the utmost detestation of the murderer. And yet his 
crime was no worse than the majority of murders, and 
there were many things conneifted with it, and with the 
circumstances of the miserable man's life, both before 
and after, which I should have expected to excite some 
little sympathy ; at any rate, amongst people in a 
similar station of life. 

Hunter's execution was the next but one to Lipski's, 
and his crime was one which has always seemed to me 
about the most heartless I ever heard of. Hunter was 
a striker in a foundry by trade, but a tramp by choice. 
He left his wife and two children and went on tramp, 
eventually striking up a sort of partnership with a 
Scotch woman who had six illegitimate children. One 
of these, a little girl between three and four years of age, 
went tramping with them, and of course, the poor wee 
mite was utterly unfit for the exposure and the many 
miles of walking which they made her accomplish daily. 
Hunter and the woman were both cruel to the child, 
and carried their cruelty to such an extent that on one 
occasion at any rate, they were remonstrated with, and 
eventually turned out of a common lodging-house on 
account of their condudl. At last, one day after a long 
tramp, the little mite began to cry from weariness, and 
Hunter, to stop her crying, beat her with a switch. 
Later, for the same purpose, he thrashed her with a 
stick that he picked up in the road. Still later in the 
day he continued his ill-treatment until he had beaten 
the life out of the poor little creature. In justice to the 
man — or brute — it should be said that when he found 
that the child was insensible (it was really dead), he 
fetched water to bathe its poor battered head ; and when 
he realised that it was dead he cut his own throat and 
very nearly killed himself — but these considerations 
seem very little extenuation for the harsh brutality of 
his condu(51. One would have thought that the man 
who had thus heartlessly tortured to death a helpless 
child would have been execrated by all men ; yet the 



I 



I3» 

crowd that assembled at Hunter's execution wore quite 
a holiday air. There were some 1500 people, most of 
whom laughed and jested. When the flag was run up 
there was no demonstration, perhaps the Carlisle people 
are not demonstrative. However that may be, the 
contrasted conducTl of the crowds at the two executions 
struck me forcibly ; and though it is sad that men 
should rejoice at the death of a fellow-man, if the cheers 
had been given at Hunter's death which greeted the 
death of Lipski, I think they would have been more 
natural and more English than light jests and laughter. 










I 1 — T"^ ^! 






132 




CHAPTER XIII. 

Incidents and Anecdotes. 

|S is alwa3's the case when a man attains any 
prominence or notoriety, a number of utterly 
groundless stories have got afloat about my 
doings and adventures. Others, which were originally 
founded on facft, have been so modified and altered that 
I do not recognise them when they come back to me 
again. Altogether I have been credited with being the 
hero of so many surprising adventures that I am afraid 
the few little incidents which have really occurred to 
me will seem tame by the side of the ficflions. 

One of the most striking incidents that ever occurred 
to me was on the journey from Lincoln to Durham, 
after executing Mary Lefley, in 1884. At Doncaster 
we changed from the Great Eastern to the Great 
Northern Railway. I looked out for a carriage with a 
vacant corner seat, and got into one containing three 
rough-looking men. When the train had started they 
began to talk amongst themselves, and to look at me, and 
eventually began to chaff me. Of course I pretended 
not to understand their allusions to the execution that 
morning, and was indignant at their supposing me to 
be an executioner, but they were confident that they were 
right, and began offering to bet amongst themselves as 
to which of them I should get first. I was glad to get 
to York, where I parted from their company. Two 
years afterwards I met the same three men under very 
different circumstances. They were at Carlisle, con- 
demned to be executed for the Netherby Hall burglary, 
and I carried out the sentence of the law. Their names 
were Rudge, Martin, and Baker. 

I always try to remain unknown while travelling, 
but there is a certain class of people who will always 
crowd round as if an executioner were a peep-show. 



»33 

On the journey above mentioned, after changing at 
York, I got into a carriage with a benevolent-looking 
old gentleman. A little crowd collecfted round the door, 
and just as we were starting a porter stuck his head 
into the window, pointed to my fellow-passenger, and 
with a silly attempt at jocularity said : — " I hope you'll 
give him the right tightener." The old gentleman 
seemed much mystified, and of course I was quite 
unable to imagine what it meant. At Darlington there 
was another little crowd, which colleifted for a short 
time about our carriage. Fortunately none of the 
people knew me, so that when the old gentleman asked 
them what was the matter they could only tell him that 
Berry was travelling by that train and that they wanted 
to have a look at him. The old gentleman seemed 
anxious to see such an awful man as the executioner, 
and asked me if I should know him if I saw him. I 
pointed out a low-looking charatfter as being possibly 
the man, and my fellow-traveller said, " Yes ! very 
much like him." I suppose he had seen a so-called 
portrait of me in one of the newspapers. We got quite 
friendl}', and when we reached Durham, where I was 
getting out, he asked for my card. The reader can 
imagine his surprise when I handed it to him. 

This little story has been much warped and magni- 
fied, and has even been made the subjecft of a leading 
article which takes me to task for "glorying m my 
gruesome calling," and shocking respecftable people by 
giving them my cards. 

Another little anecdote which has been greatly 
distorted is what I call the toothache story. It happened 
in 1887, when crossing from Ireland, that there was one 
of the passengers who was terribly ill with mal de mer 
and toothache combined. He was rather a bother to 
several travellers who were not sick, and who wished to 
enjoy the voyage, and he must have given a lot of 
trouble to the stewards. I think that one of the latter 
must have told him that I could cure him, for he came 
and begged me to tell him what was the best thing for 
his complaint. I admitted that I was in the habit of 
giving drops that would instantaneously cure both the 
toothache and the sea-sickness, but assured him that he 



134 

would not be willing to take my remedy. Still he per- 
sisted, so I handed him a card, and as he was a sensitive 
man it gave his nerves a shock that was quite sufficient 
to relieve him of the toothache, and me of his presence 
for the rest of the voyage. As the card which I then used 
has often been mentioned in the newspapers, I give a 
fac-simile of it. The wording was in black, with the 
fern in green, and the border in gold. I now use a 
perfe(fHy plain card, as reproduced on page 117. 

A sad little incident in connetftion with the murder 
of Warder Webb by John Jackson will always remain 
in my memory. I had been to Strangevvays Gaol once 




EXECUTIONER. 



I. aiLTON rL>e(. 



or twice before on duty, and Webb had always been 
my personal attendant during my residence, so that we 
were quite friendly. At the execution previous to 

iackson's — that of John Alfred Gell, in May, 1888 — we 
ad two or three long chats, and Webb was most 
anxious that I should go to Manchester to spend a half- 
day or a day with him in the cit)', when he could get 
leave of absence. He hoped it would be a long time 
before they should see me there again professionally, 
but said that they would always be glad to see me if I 
were in Manchester on other business, and could call. 
Then, turning to the subjecft of executions, he began 
wondering who would be the next that I should have 



I 



135 

to go there for, and who would be the vidlim, and 
shaking his head sadly, he said, " A body never knows 
who will be next." The poor fellow little thought that 
he would be the next vicftim, and that the very next 
time I visited Strangeways would be no friendly call, 
but a visit to avenge his own death. 

Of course, my duties take me about the country a 
great deal, and I have met a great many interesting 
people in the course of my travels. As a rule, I do not 
make myself known unless I have some good reason for 
doing so, because I have no fancy for making myself 
into a cheap show. On one occasion I travelled from 
Coventry to Warwick with the reporter of one of the 
Coventry papers. He knew nothing of my identity, 
and does not seem to have recognised me at the 
execution ; but while writing out his report the 
connecftion between the gentleman in the train and the 
executioner in the gaol seems to have dawned upon 
him, and he wrote the following, which amused me 
greatly when it appeared in his paper : — 

After writing this report and describing the 
hangman's features and dress, it dawned upon the 
writer for the first time that the description was that 
of a gentleman with whom he had travelled from 
Coventry to Warwick on the previous afternoon. On 
reflecfting upon all the circumstances of the journey, 
he felt quite certain of the fa(ft ; and although amused 
at the thought of having travelled and conversed 
with an executioner without knowing it, he was a 
little chagrined that he had not given the conversation 
a "professional" turn, which he would have done 
had he been aware who his fellow traveller was. The 
incident is sufficient to show that persons travelling 
by rail occasionally get into singular company without 
having the slightest knowledge of the facft. 

In 1887 when I had to go to Dorchester, to hang 
Henry William Young for the Poole murder, I stayed 
at Bournemouth, and took a room in a Temperance 
Hotel. During the evening I got into conversation 
with the landlady, who was much interested in the 



136 

subjecfl of executions, and who appeared to like to 
discuss it. She was decidedly " down on " Berry, " the 
hangsman," and expressed herself very freely as to 
his character and disposition ; amongst other pleasant 
things, saying that he was a man without a soul, and 
not fit to have intercourse with respedlable people. Of 
course, I smilingly agreed with everything that she had 
to say, and chuckled quietly to myself about a httle 
surprise that I had in store for her. The surprise came 
off at bed-time, when she handed me my bedroom 
candle, and in return I handed her my card. The 
good lady nearly fainted. 

It is not often that I feel frightened, for I am pretty 
well able to take care of myself, but I once had a little 
adventure in the train, coming from Galway to Dublin, 
that gave me one or two cold shivers. It was at a time 
when Ireland was much disturbed by agrarian outrages, 
and I knew that amongst some of the lower classes 
there was a feeling of hatred against myself on account 
of my occupation. Of this I had an example when 
going down to Galway, and as it led up to, and some- 
what prepared me for the other incident, I may as well 
mention it. My journey to Galway was undertaken for 
the purpose of hanging four men who were condemned 
to death for moonlighting. It was an exciting journey 
altogether, for four men who were in the same compart- 
ment as myself from Dublin to Mullingar got into an 
excited discussion upon some political subjecft, and just 
as we left Killucan they began to fight most violently, 
using their sticks and fists to such an extent that all 
their faces were soon covered with blood. As the train 
drew into Mullingar the fury cooled as quickly as it had 
begun, they all began to apologise to each other and 
wipe the blood from one another's faces. At Mullingar 
I got out for a drink, to steady my nerves, for the fight 
at such close quarters had somewhat upset me, although 
I took no part in it. On the platform two villainously 
rough-looking characfters spoke a few words to the men 
who had got out of my compartment and then followed 
me into the refreshment room, where they seemed 
anxious to make my acquaintance, and so forcibly 
insisted that I should have a drink with them, that I 






137 

had to consent for ftar of causing a row. They asked 
me where I was going, said that they were going to 
Galway, and in what seemed to me a peculiarly signifi- 
cant tone, asked me if I knew whether Mr. Barry, the 
hangsman, was really in the train or not. They followed 
me on to the platform like two shadows, and got into 
the same compartment of the train. All this made me 
feel rather uncomfortable, for though I was well armed, 
there is nothing in life that I dread so much as the 
possibility of having to kill a man in self-defence and of 
being tried, and possibly convicted, for murder. I was, 
therefore, very pleased when two plain-clothes men 
whom I knew belonged to the Royal Irish Constabulary, 
got into the other half of the carriage, which was one 
of those in which there are two compartments divided 
by a low partition. I do not know whether my two 
rough companions even noticed that there was anyone 
in the other half of the carriage, to which their backs 
were turned. Their conducft, indeed, seemed to show 
that they thought we were alone, but I could see that 
the R. I. C. men were regarding them with interest and 
taking note of every word they said. All the way from 
Mullingar to Athenry the two fellows plied me with 
questions, and tried by all means in their power to draw 
me into discussion, and the expression of opinion. I 
answered them as briefly as I could without being 
uncivil, but took care that they should not gain much 
solid information from my answers. At Athenry they 
shuffled into the far corner of the compartment, and in 
stage whispers, which they evidently thought I could not 
hear, argued as to whether I was " Barry " or not. One 
of them got quite excited, pointed out that I was an 
Englishman, that I came from the North of England, 
that there was no one else in the train that looked like 
an executioner, that my tale about being a poultry-buyer 
was " all a loie," and finally that I had a scar on my 
cheek which " proved it intoirely, begorra !" The other 
fellow said that " shure the gintleman in the corner was 
a gintleman, and not a murtherin, blood-thirsty, blagyard 
of a hangman," which opinion at last seemed to be 
shared by both. As we steamed into Galway I used 
my handkerchief, and then rested my hand on the 



i 



window-ledge with the handkerchief hanging out. This 
was the signal arranged with my police escort, who were 
on the platform, and who managed to be just opposite 
the door when the train stopped. As I marched off 
amongst those strapping fellows, I looked round to see 
my two travelling companions gesticulating wildly, and 
abusing each other for having been deceived, and for 
having treated " the very blagyard we went to meet." 
I never knew whether they had intended me any harm, 
but the constabulary men told me that they were two of 
the roughest charad\ers in Galway. 

The four men who were condemned to death were 
reprieved, one after the other, as the days fixed for their 
executions drew near, so that I was not required to 
carry out my painful duty after all. But I was kept 
waiting more than a week in Galway gaol, with nothing 
more lively to do than to read the newspapers, and to 
walk about in the dreary prison yard, because the 
governor did not consider that it would be safe for me 
to venture outside. I was heartily glad when the last 
reprieve arrived and I was free to return home. To 
avoid observation as much as possible, I took the mid- 
night train, and as there were very few passengers I 
secured a compartment to myself, and made all snug 
for a sleep. I was not disturbed until we reached 
MuUingar, when I noticed a man who looked into my 
compartment, then walked the whole length of the train, 
and finally came into my compartment, although there 
were others in the train quite empty. He at once 
began to talk to me in a friendly sort of style, with a 
strong American twang, but I did not like his looks at 
all, so pretended to want to go to sleep. As I sized 
him up from my half-shut lids I set him down as a 
" heavy swell " Yankee, He wore a big slouch hat and 
cape coat, carried an elaborately silver-mounted hand- 
bag, and his coat pocket showed the unmistakable 
outline of a revolver. He plied me with all sorts of 
questions on Irish politics, asked me where I lived, 
what was my business, where I was going to stay in 
Dublin, and a host of other questions which I evaded 
as far as I decently could. I did tell him, amongst 
other things, thi ; my name was Aykroyd, and that I 



139 

lived in the North of England, but not very much 
beyond this. After a while he pulled out his revolver 
and commenced examining it in a careless sort of 
fashion. As I did not like this turn of affairs, I pulled 
out my own weapon, which was built for business and 
twice the size of the one carried by the stranger, and 
made a pretence of looking it over very carefully. _ The 
stranger asked me to let him examine my " gun, but 
I told him that it was a weapon that I did not like to 
hand about for fear of accidents, and after a final look 
at the charges, I put it back into my coat pocket in 
such a position that it covered the stranger, and kept 
my finger on the trigger until we reached Dubhn. The 
American tried to keep up a conversation all the way, 
but I was not very encouraging, and I thought that by 
the time we reached Dublin he would be heartily sick 
of my company. But when I got out of the station 
and was driving off to my hotel, I was surprised to fand 
that he jumped on to the same car, and said he would 
go to the same hotel as I did. After havmg a wash 1 
came down into the breakfast room and heard the 
American asking the waitress if she knew Mr. Berry, to 
which she replied that she did ; and then if Mr. Berry 
was there that morning, to which she rephed that she 
had not seen him. As a matter of faa she had not, and 
I slipped along the passage to tell her, as she went to 
the kitchen, that my name, pro tern, was Aykroyd. 
I found in the coffee room that there was a letter 
addressed to me, on the mantel-piece. The stranger 
was examining this, and asked me if I knew the hang- 
man by sight. When it was nearly time to catch my 
boat the stranger still stuck to me, and at the last 
moment he suggested that we should have a drink to- 
gether. We went to Mooney's, where I was known to 
the bar-tender, to whom I tipped a vigorous wink as we 
went in, which showed him there was something in the 
wind. After ordering our drinks the American asked 
him if he knew Berry, the hangman, to which he trutfi- 
fully replied that he did. The American then asked it 
he knew whether Berry had come from Galway by the 
night mail, adding " he was expeaed to travel by that 
train, but Mr. Aykroyd and myself came by it and we 



140 

saw nobody like him, tliough I carefully ]o.oked alon" 
the whole train." The bar-tender of course knew 
nothing, so we drank up, and I went out to my car, the 
American shaking hands with me and wishing me a 
pleasant voyage. I had run it rather close, and quick 
driving only just brought us to the quay in time for me 
to get aboard. As the ship swung out from the quay-side, 
a car, driven at red-hot speed, came dashing along, and 
the passenger, whom I recognised as my American, 
gesticulated wildly, as if he wanted the vessel to stop. 
But we swung out with steam and tide, and he drove 
3ome distance along the quay-sides wildly but vainly 
waving his hands. 

The neTct time I was at Mooney's I heard some 
further particulars. The stranger had gone back for 
another drink, and after chatting for a few minutes, the 
bar-tender told him that his friend Mr. Aykroyd was 
the very Berry for whom he had been enquiring. On 
hearing that, he rapped out half-a-dozen oaths, rushed 
for a car, and drove off in mad haste. 

I have never seen him since, nor has the bar-tender, 
and I never knew what were the motives for his peculiar 
condu(5l. 




I 



141 



Appendix. 



The Trouble with "Answers" Limited. 







ARLY last year (1890) I felt compelled to bring 
an a(51;ion for libel against the "Answers" 
Newspaper Co., Ltd. As the case was fully 
reported at the time, I think that a report condensed 
from the columns oiThe Bradford Observer, of March 17th, 
1890, may be more satisfactory than my own statement 
of the case. I, therefore, give it, in the form of an 
appendix, rather than in the chapter — " The Press and 
the Public " — to which it belongs. 

In this action Mr. Waddy, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. 
Waugh (instructed by Mr. J.J. Wright) appeared for 
the plaintiff, Mr. James Berry, the public executioner, 
of I, Bilton Place, Bradford; and Mr. Cyril Dodd, Q.C., 
appeared for the defendants, the "Answers" Newspaper 
Company, Limited. The plaintiff claimed ;^500 for 
libel, which was printed and published in the periodical 
called " Answers ;" the defendants admitted the printing 
and publication of the libel, and by way of mitigation of 
damages they withdrew all moral imputations against 
Berry's character and paid a sum of 40s. into court, and 
apologised for the words used. 

Mr. Waddy said in behalf of the plaintiff — and he 
thought the observation would commend itself to their 
judgment — that no man in the kingdom, whatever he 
might be, and whatever calling he might follow, as long 
as he followed the duties of his calling in honesty and 
integrity, ought to be deliberately insulted and flouted 
for any reason whatever ; and he believed that when 
they heard what kinds of falsehoods were printed con- 
cerning Berry they would agree with him that Mr. 
Berry, although he was the common executioner, being 
a sober and respectable man, was entitled at their hands 
to be prote(51ed from wanton insult. He would tell 



142 

them what the fa(fts were. It appeared that some time 
in September or Ocftober of 1889 a man named White 
came to him representing himself to be a correspondent 
of an American newspaper, and told Mr. Berry that he 
was anxious to hear his views upon the very interesting 
subjecft of executions by means of elecftricity, and that 
his opinion, in view of his experience at executions, was 
of very great importance. He offered Mr. Berry a fee 
of £}, if he would give him the interview which he 
desired ; and that fee was paid, and Mr. Berry did 
discuss the question with him. He did that on the 
promise, both by word of mouth and in writing, that 
whatever he said should not be published in this 
country. Mr. Waddy then read the article which had 
appeared in " Answers," from which I need only give 
extraifls. 

He is a powerful, thick-set man, of about medium 
stature, and his countenance is not an unpleasant one 
at a first glance, though upon closer study one dis- 
covers that the face reveals the lack of several moral 
elements in the man's composition, which seems to 
indicate that the Creator designed him especially for 
the ends he serves. 

A critical observer would probably say that his 
eyes are too close together, and that their brilliancy 
is that of the codfish rather than the eagle, while, 
though the mouth and chin indicate determination, 
the forehead gives the impression of lack of balance. 

A phrenologist would perhaps find that the 
cranial bumps that indicate sense and shame, pity 
and sympathy, are not particularly well developed 
upon the head of Mr. Berry. 

• • • • • 

" Have you ever been threatened by the friends 
of criminals whom you have hanged ?" 

"Often," replied Mr. Berry, "but I don't pay no 
attention to them. I'm a doin' o' my duty, and I'm 
proteefted by th' Government." 

" It was said that if Mrs. Maybrick had not been 
reprieved a mob would have been formed in Liverpool 
to prevent your hanging her." 



I 






I 



I 



143 

" They'd never have seen me," said Mr. Berry, 
" I'd 'a been in th' jail and 'anged her before th' mob 
knew I was about, and I'd been on th' train and on my 
way back 'ome before they knew she was dead. Why 
when I 'anged Poole in Dublin, who murdered 
informer Kenny — O'Donnell, who murdered th' other 
informer, Carey, having been 'anged at Newgate th' 
day before — there was a great mob in Dublin to pre- 
vent my getting into th' prison, and nobody outside 
knew Poole was 'anged until I was on th' boat a 
steaming away for Holyhead." 

" How do you manage that ?" I asked again. 

" I'll tell you," said Mr. Berry in a burst of con- 
fidence. " I shaves off my whiskers and I puts on 
women's clothes. That's th' way I got into Dublin 
Jail, with my ropes and straps under my clothes, and 
that's th' way I've done many a job." 

Berry never did such a thing in his life as put on women's 
clothes. He n^^er had occasion to put them on, and 
there was not the slightest shadow of foundation for 
the statement. The people mentioned in the article as 
having been hanged by Berry were not hanged by him 
at all. This libel was printed upon November 23rd, 
1889, and an aclion was commenced at once. The 
defendants now stated in mitigation of damages that 
they denied that the words bore the construdtion which 
the plaintiff had put upon them, withdrew all imputa- 
tions, and admitted that any such were unfounded, and 
apologised for the matter complained of. But the 
apology and the withdrawal appeared upon the plead- 
ings only. From that day to this, with 158,000 of their 
papers going out every week, there had net been one 
single word in the paper apologising for their aclion. 
It was open to them with a view to mitigation of damages, 
to have taken this course, but they had done nothing 
but put their apology upon the record, and paid into 
court the majestic sum of 40s. as, in their opinion, suffi- 
cient to atone for the wrong. 

Mr. Berry was then put into the box and supported 
Mr. Waddy's statements. 

Mr. Waddy then spoke upon the whole case. 



144 

For the defendants Mr. Dodd said that the owners 
of the newspaper which he represented were as anxious 
as anybody could be that reasonable justice should be 
done. Of course, Berry did not suggestthat there wasany 
aclual money out-of-pocket loss. Then another feature 
of such a case was the question of whether the paper was 
one of that class which feeds on personal attacks. He 
submitted that the general charadter of the paper, a 
point to which juries were apt to pay some attention, 
was good. The articles in question were copied from 
an American paper, and the proprietors of " Answers" 
were in the position of having been misled, just as the 
proprietors of the New York Sun had been misled by the 
large imagination of Mr. White. Berry seemed to 
be very quick in his methods, for his writ was served 
within a very few days of the appearance of the article, 
and without any opportunity being given to his clients to 
try and make some kind of apology to suit him. His 
clients had endeavoured to meet the case in a perfectly 
reasonable way. They did not for a moment express 
any doubt that they were dealing with an honest, a 
decent, and an experienced man, they withdrew all 
supposed imputations, and had had no intention of 
making any ; and he contended that the highest testi- 
monial possible was one from a person who had said 
something derogatory to him. Berry had suffered no 
monetary damage whatever beyond the acftual costs of 
the ac5\ion. He suggested, therefore, that the jury 
should give such a verdi(fl as would show that the 
plaintiff was quite right in bringing the matter into 
court, but that they were of opinion that the defendants 
had done everything that they could to mitigate the 
mischief and annoyance occasioned by the publication 
of the libel. 

His Lordship then summed up, and the jury found 
for the plaintiff, with ^loo damages. 



H 



♦ 



FINIS.