Thomas Tobin and Sing Sing’s Death House, the prison he built for himself.


If the worst prisons are those we make for ourselves Thomas Tobin couldn't have constructed anywhere more hideous.

On This Day in 1909 – The Santa Clara Valley Bank Robbery, the world’s first using a getaway car.


To this day many people, including crime buffs, believe the world’s first bank robbery involving a getaway car was performed in France. The quasi-Anarchist Bonnot Gang are often credited with being first, escaping in a stolen Delauney-Belleville after robbing the Societe Generale bank in Chantilly, France on 21 December 1911. This isn’t accurate, although the … Continue reading On This Day in 1909 – The Santa Clara Valley Bank Robbery, the world’s first using a getaway car.

Martha Place – The first woman in the electric chair.


A free chapter from my book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York,' available now. Like many countries the US has an at times contradictory attitude to its death penalty, no more so than when a woman faces execution. Women account for fewer than 5% of death sentences in the US and less than 1% … Continue reading Martha Place – The first woman in the electric chair.

On This Day in 1932, Michael Malloy – The Man Who Would Not Die


They had started with the obvious: alcohol. That should have been a simple, effective means of their victim destroying himself rather than the Trust taking the additional risk of actually murdering him. Insurance fraud was not a capital offence then or now; first-degree murder no longer is in New York State, but in 1932, it certainly was. The 1920s and 1930s was the busiest period for New York’s electric chair, averaging around twenty executions every year. If choosing Malloy was a bad idea, then actually murdering him was even worse.

On This Day in 1958: Virgil Richardson, cop killer and Sing Sing’s 600th electrocution.


The chances are that former clerk Virgil Richardson isn’t a familiar name today. To NYPD officers in 1956 (and especially the family of Patrolman William Long) his name was all too familiar. Virgil Richardson was Patrolman Long’s murderer and later the 600th convict to sit in Sing Sing’s electric chair. Only fourteen more would follow … Continue reading On This Day in 1958: Virgil Richardson, cop killer and Sing Sing’s 600th electrocution.

On This Day in 1944, Helen Ray Fowler and George Knight.


Neither is likely to be familiar, especially murderer George Knight. Had Knight alone been condemned for the murder and robbery of William Fowler on 30 October 1943 neither would have been even a footnote in history. Helen Fowler would have disappeared into New York State’s penal system and obscurity. George Knight would probably have vanished … Continue reading On This Day in 1944, Helen Ray Fowler and George Knight.

On This Day in 1941, Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles does the Half-Moon Hop.


On the night of November 12, 1941. Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, once a senior member of Murder Inc. and now one of the most important canaries in American history, prepared a makeshift ladder from the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, New York. He was in protective custody preparing to turn … Continue reading On This Day in 1941, Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles does the Half-Moon Hop.

On This Day in 1918; Privates Ernest Jackson and Louis Harris, Shot Four Days Before The Armistice.


Considering the time of year, it seemed appropriate to remember those who went to war but never came back. That and this isn't yet another extended plug for my new book. During the First World War the British Army passed over 3000 death sentences and carried out over 300 executions by firing squad. Around 10% … Continue reading On This Day in 1918; Privates Ernest Jackson and Louis Harris, Shot Four Days Before The Armistice.

On This Day in 1980: Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, Master Bank Robber, Dies.


Sutton, one of America’s most successful bank robbers, also ranked as one of its most remarkable. The robber of over 100 banks and taking at least a million dollars, Sutton did it without ever firing a shot. While robbers like John Dillinger would kill whenever they thought necessary and ‘Baby Face’ Nelson killed for the … Continue reading On This Day in 1980: Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, Master Bank Robber, Dies.

A Deadly Debut, Robert Elliott’s First Execution.


Robert Greene Elliott, State Electrician for New York and five other states, is often listed as making his official debut in January 1926 when he executed Emil Klatt and Luigi Rapito. They’re often said to be the first of the 387 state and Federal prisoners Elliott executed during his thirteen-year tenure as executioner. They were … Continue reading A Deadly Debut, Robert Elliott’s First Execution.