When Frederick Parker and Albert Probert mounted the gallows at Wandsworth Prison, they died never knowing they'd taken a singular place in Britain's chronicles of crime. Theirs would be last execution in British prison to be witnessed by a gentleman (or lady) of the press. Until the Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act of 1868 executions were … Continue reading On This Day in 1934; The last British hanging witnessed by a journalist.
All in all, a sorry fate for a man who'[d once shown such promise.
West Virginia has never been known as a hard-line death penalty State, abolishing capital punishment in 1965. After 1899 there were 104 hangings and, with a change in method, nine electrocutions. Elmer Brunner's, on April 3, 1959 was the last. Brunner wasn't a notable murderer in himself. His crime, murdering homeowner Ruby Miller, was … Continue reading On This Day in 1959; Elmer Brunner, the last execution in West Virginia.
For most crime buffs the name 'George Kelly' inspires memories of rattling Tommy guns, bank robberies and the kidnapping of Charles Urschel, all attributed to American crook George 'Machine Gun' Kelly. Kelly, a second-rate gangster at best, was made out to be far worse than he actually was, spending the remainder of his life … Continue reading George Kelly, falsely convicted and quickly hanged.
Study media reports of executions, recent or decades-old, and you’ll probably find mention of the prisoner’s last meal. Most prisoners spend their entire sentences eating whatever the prison kitchen provides and have no choice. Condemned inmates are traditionally allowed to choose their final meal. Before British reporters were barred from witnessing hangings in the early … Continue reading The Last Meal.
It's been a while since I last posted due to work and other commitments, so I'll be offering a series of shorter posts dedicated to the etyomology of crime in general, interspersed with the occasional longer post about other things. It's always been curious to me how many words and phrases have crept into common … Continue reading The Etymology Of Crime – Tyburn.
“I am glad to die for my country.” – The last words of Edith Cavell. Edith Cavell was shot by a German firing squad at the Tir National rifle range near Brussels on October 12, 1915, having been convicted by a German military court of aiding the enemy by helping Allied soldiers and escaped prisoners … Continue reading Edith Cavell – Hand-wringing propaganda is not enough. Nor does it do her any service.
‘The policy of the Administration is to kill, not to better or reclaim.’ – Rene Belbenoit. It is 1852. In France, Emperor Napoleon III, increasingly worried by rising crime and insufficient colonists to consolidate France’s empire, devises a new, dreadful solution. Napoleon isn’t interested in social reform, he’s interested in social cleansing where criminals can … Continue reading Devil’s Island – Colony of the condemned.
Execution has long been part of criminal history. Its more hawkish supporters consider it society’s ultimate sanction for the very worst offenders. Less enthusiastic supporters regard it as a necessary evil and a deterrent to other criminals even while acknowledging its distasteful nature. Opponents believe it’s no deterrent at all, is applied on an arbitrary … Continue reading Death on Wheels – Mississippi’s Travelling Executioner.
The Tower of London, nowadys a popular tourist destination. Once also a prison, defensive fortress, a crime scene (if you believe, as I do, that the 'Princes in the Tower' were murdered here) and also the site of a number of execution. Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey (who was the shortest-reigning Queen in British history, … Continue reading Josef Jakobs – the Last Execution At The Tower Of London.