June 23rd, 2012 Headsman
This date in 1954 marked the last execution in the city of Edinburgh.
By the jaw-droppingly horrific murder he committed, George Robertson certainly earned the distinction.
His ex-wife, Elizabeth McGarry, had recently kicked him out of the house after an attempted reunion led right back to the prolific domestic abuse that had ended their marriage in the first place. She was an unwed, unemployed mother of two teenage children, but anything beats being tied up and threatened with a hatchet.
Mother and children — 18-year-old son George Jr., and 16-year-old daughter Jean — lived in waking terror of the vengeful ex-patriarch; in the days before restraining orders, they kept doors constantly bolted and jammed with chairs under the doorknobs, and a poker within reach whenever possible.
According to this retrospective — and read the whole thing for a slasher film in prose — the estranged George managed to get into the house on the night of February 28, 1954, while everyone was asleep.
He summoned his former spouse to the kitchen and knifed her to death, then attacked young George Jr. when he arrived, too. Then he mounted the stairs — where Jean was desperately trying to escape out a window — carrying
the blood-drenched body of his ex-wife, a gaping hole in her stomach and a white handkerchief stuffed in her mouth, hands bound together.
George Alexander Robertson was just in the midst of trussing up Jean and stabbing her to death when the mangled George Jr. distracted the killer by reviving well enough to burst out onto the balcony and into the public quadrangle below. There, he
threw himself through a neighbour’s kitchen window, where he begged for help.
Following him, just yards behind, enraged and still clutching his knife, came his father.
The Hay family, whose quiet home was now about to become a murder scene, cowered in terror as blow after blow rained down on the terrified teen as he screamed for help.
Defenceless against his father’s brutality, young George finally slumped to the floor, dying.
Job done, his father threw his body over his shoulder and strolled home leaving a bloody trail across Tron Square.
The savage “brainstorm” to which he would later attribute this wild spree must have been abating. As he returned to his former domicile, he didn’t bother finishing off Jean, but stuck his head in the kitchen gas oven, where responding police found him.
The obviously unbalanced paterfamilias attempted to plead guilty to avoid the spectacle of the trial (no dice: two days of horror from the witness box riveted the city) and did not attempt to fight the inevitable sentence once imposed. He was dead within 15 weeks of the bloodbath, at the skillful hands of Albert Pierrepoint.
Also on this date
- 1977: Jerome Carrein, the second-last in France
- 1608: St. Thomas Garnet, protomartyr of Stonyhurst
- 1786: David Nelson, but not William Horbord
- 1989: Sean Patrick Flanagan, self-hating gay man
- 1592: Roger Ashton
- Unspecified Year: Justine Moritz, Frankenstein family servant