Posts filed under 'Women'

1718: Purry Moll and Elizabeth Cave

Add comment August 6th, 2018 Headsman

Tyburn on this date three hundred years ago saw the hanging of two women, both transgressors of the booming capital’s purported sexual mores.

The Ordinary of Newgate Paul Lorrain favored Mary Price (alias Purry Moll) and Elizabeth Cave for the occasion with “A Dehortation from living after the Flesh, that is, after the carnal Desires and sinful Lusts of our Corrupt Nature, which brings forth Death, even Eternal Death.”

Purry Moll‘s sinful Lusts didn’t really have that much to do with her crime; it’s just that she and her husband had walked away from an unedifying union after the banns of marriage were already published. It seems that her post-hubby lover upon putting out to sea had left her a tobacco box as a mark of his affection but — and this gets a little tangled — her mother‘s lover had snatched the box. Moll, clearly in a domestic passion which the scarce words on file at the Old Bailey hardly even attempt to convey, strangled to death a three-year-old girl who was the daughter of mom’s lover. (But not by mom.)

So grief-stricken was she that she insisted on pleading guilty despite the court’s repeated admonition that “if she confess’d it she must be hang’d: To which she replied, if she did confess it, she confess’d nothing but the Truth.”

With her was a woman “about 40 Years of age” of whom the Ordinary noticed — and his narrative is unfortunately truncated by a missing page — “her Face to be extreamly disfigur’d, even to that degree as to have her Nose and Lips eaten up (as it were) with the foul Disease.” Ms. Cave confirmed that “she had been a very lewd Woman, debauch’d.”

She was, in fact, a whore, as would be obvious to any 18th century cad by the cursory narration of her trial: a fellow named Sampson Barret “depos’d, that going through Drury Lane at about 11 o’Clock at Night, there was 6 or 7 Women kind standing together, who divided and made a Lane for him to go through them” whereupon Elizabeth Cave followed him and picked his pocket.

Now, with apologies to the children’s rhyme, there’s really only one reason a guy would be traversing Drury Lane at 11 o’clock at night and that he’d bump into six or seven women on his way … and baked goods weren’t the reason.

This street was a hub of London’s vigorous sex trade. Pronging off “the great thoroughfare running east from the Royal Exchange, along Fleet Street, to St. James’s Park, linking the financial and trade centre of the City with the political power base of aristocratic West London,”* Drury Lane channeled into the far less reputable Covent Garden and from the 17th century had developed into the heart of the red light district that earned this zone the sobriquet “great square of Venus.”

Here, tarts offered their wares amid the bustle of theaters and taverns, often pursuing their profession under the guise of a nominally legitimate street-hawking occupation such as flower-selling.** But little pretense was necessary: from the mid-18th century there was even an annual catalogue of area working girls, Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies which by the end of its run in the 1790s was selling 8,000 copies per year. So great a boon was sex work to the economy that a German visitor half-joked that if suppressed, “London would soon be depopulated; the fine arts would be frightened away; one half of the inhabitants would be deprived of subsistence.”


In the “Morning” plate of William Hogarth‘s Four Times of the Day cycle (above), men rendezvous with prostitutes outside a notorious Covent Garden dive, Moll and Tom King’s Coffee House.

We catch an interior glimpse of this same environment in plate three of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, wherein said rake frolics at a Covent Garden brothel (below).

Unsurprisingly, venereal diseases such as that suffered by Elizabeth Cave were quite common among the more proletarian pros to be found at an hour to midnight on Drury Lane; nevertheless, they had no shortage of customers.

If Cave did indeed rob this passing john, it was unfortunate for her that she took currency. In order to save small-time criminals from the gallows, juries routinely applied “pious perjury” to downrate the value of stolen objects below the absurdly low one-shilling (12-pence) threshold for felony larceny; such maneuvers were obviously impossible when it was actual shillings that had been pilfered.

* The trade spilled aggressively out upon that same august thoroughfare, which was the route Defoe alluded to when complaining in the 1720s of “being in full Speed upon important Business, [and] have every now and then been put to the Halt; sometimes by the full Encounter of an audacious Harlot whose impudent Leer shewd she only stopp’d my Passage in order to draw my Observations to her; at other times by Twitches on the Sleeve. Lewd and ogling Salutations; and not infrequently by the more profligate Impudence of some Jades, who boldly dare to seize a Man by the Elbow and make insolent Demands of Wine and Treats before they let him go.” (Source)

** “Flower girl” consequently developed into a euphemism for a tramp. One literary artifact of this history is Eliza Doolittle of the G.B. Shaw play Pygmalion and its musical adaptation My Fair Lady: it’s never overtly stated in the text, but because Eliza begins as a Covent Garden flower girl her virtue is implicitly suspect … hence her repeated insistence, “I’m a good girl I am!”

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1939: Las Trece Rosas

Add comment August 5th, 2018 Headsman

The Spanish Civil War’s victorious fascists shot Las Trece Rosas — “the thirteen roses” — on this date in 1939.


Plaque at the Cementerio de la Almudena in Madrid in honor of 13 young women shot there by Francoist troops on August 5, 1939. (cc) image by Alvaro Ibanez.

Earlier that 1939, Franco had clinched victory by finally capturing the capital city after a siege of 29 months. A punishing suppression of the Spain’s leftist elements ensued, running to hundreds of thousands imprisoned, executed, or chased into exile.

Our 13 Roses were members of a communist/socialist youth group, JSU, and they had been arrested in rolling-up of that organization. They were crowded into the overflowing dungeons of the notorious women’s prison Las Ventas.

A few Spanish-language books about Las Trece Rosas

And there they resided on July 29, 1939, when their JSU comrades struck back against the dictatorship by assassinating Isaac Gabaldón, the commander of Madrid’s fascist police.* The 13 Roses were immediately court-martialed and executed in revenge. Their names follow; there’s a bit more detail about them in Spanish here:

  • Carmen Barrero Aguado (age 24)
  • Martina Barroso García (age 22)
  • Blanca Brissac Vázquez (age 29)
  • Pilar Bueno Ibáñez (age 27)
  • Julia Conesa Conesa (age 19)
  • Adelina García Casillas (age 19)
  • Elena Gil Olaya (age 20)
  • Virtudes González García (age 18)
  • Ana López Gallego (age 21)
  • Joaquina López Laffite (age 23)
  • Dionisia Manzanero Salas (age 20)
  • Victoria Muñoz García (age 19)
  • Luisa Rodríguez de la Fuente (age 18)

The affair is the subject of a 2007 Spanish film.

* Gabaldon’s predecessor, the police commander under the Spanish Republic, Jose Aranguren, had been removed from his post and executed in April.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Spain,Torture,Wartime Executions,Women

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1599: Elisabeth Strupp, Gelnhausen witch

Add comment August 3rd, 2018 Headsman

The German town of Gelnhausen executed Elisabeth Strupp as a witch on this date in 1599.


Sculpture erected before Gelnhausen’s Marienkirche on the 400th anniversary of Elisabeth Strupp’s prosecution; it is one of five monuments to the victims of Gelnhausen’s witch hunts — all 52 of whom were symbolically rehabilitated in 2015.

The widow of a Protestant pastor,* Strupp is little known for her life. Strupp was probably in her sixties when a preceding accused witch, one Barbara Scherer, served Strupp’s name up to interrogators in a Hexenprozesse.


Illustration of a witches’ sabbat, from the Swiss National Museum.

The usual farrago of gossip and defamation then compiled itself into legal trappings sufficient for execution: a woman who miscarried after Strupp stroked her belly; some foul words exchanged with a maid; a couple of townsfolk who had suffered random injuries that they attributed to Elisabeth Strupp’s influence; and some colorful confessions of black sabbaths. Her rank earned her only the “privilege” of beheading prior to burning.

Elisabeth Strupp is the best-known witch hunted in Gelnhausen, thanks in part to a romantic early 20th century novel by Heinrich Zipf which names her “Maria” and considerably fictionalizes her story. This book is presumably in the public domain, but if it’s available online I have not been able to locate it.

* The Strupp family had been instrumental in the early promulgation of Lutheranism in Gelnhausen.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Germany,History,Public Executions,Witchcraft,Women

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1566: Agnes Waterhouse, the first witchcraft execution in England

Add comment July 29th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1556, Agnes Waterhouse became the first known woman executed for witchcraft in England.

“Mother Waterhouse” came accused as the matriarch of a whole clan of hags in the Essex village of Hatfield Peverel. Our record for events, a pamphlet titled The Examination and confession of certaine wytches at Chensforde [Chelmsford] in the countie of Essex: before the Quenes Maiesties judges, the xxvi daye of July, anno 1566.,* gives us Mother Waterhouse accused a sorceress along with her daughter, Joan (eventually acquitted), as well as Agnes’s sister, Elizabeth Francis. By accounts they had come by their necromancies via the guidance of a “hyr grand­mother whose nam was mother Eue of Hatfyelde Peue­rell.”

Tudor England had thus far been spared the witch persecutions that were multiplying on the continent, and even here the accusations ultimately invoked the supernatural as the means for actual material injuries: to sicken and kill both livestock and people.

Both Agnes Waterhouse and Elizabeth Francis confessed to a wide array of crimes, facilitated by a feline familiar unsubtly christened “Sathan”; a neighboring child gave evidence against Agnes. Elizabeth Francis would not be executed as a result of this trial — she faced new charges that would hang her in 1579 — but she directly copped to doing murders via the cat. We excerpt below from the “Examination and confession” pamphlet but as rendered into easier-on-the-eyes modern spellings, found here:

she desired to have one Andrew Byles to her husband, which was a man of some wealth, and the cat did promise she should, but that he said she must first consent that this Andrew could abuse her, and so she did.

And after when this Andrew had thus abused her he would not marry her, wherefore she willed Satan to waste his goods, which he forthwith did, and yet not being contented with this, she willed him to touch his body, which he forthwith did wherefore he died.

Item that every time that he did anything for her, she said that he required a drop of blood, which she gave him by pricking herself, sometime in one place and then in another, and where she pricked herself there remained a red spot, which was still to be seen.

Item when this Andrew was dead, she doubting [fearing] herself with child with Satan to destroy it, and he had her take a certain herb and drink which she did, and destroyed the child forthwith.

Item when she desired another husband, he promised her another, naming this Francis whom she now hath, but said he is not so rich as the other, willing her to consent unto that Francis in fornication which she did, and thereof conceived a daughter that was born within a quarter of a year after they were married.

After they were married they lived not so quietly as she desired, being stirred (as she said) to much unquietness and moved to swearing and cursing, wherefore she willed Satan her Cat to kill the child, being about the age of half a year old and he did so, and when she yet found not the quietness that she desired, she willed it to lay a lameness in the leg of this Francis her husband, and it did in this manner. It came in a morning to this Francis’ shoe, lying in it like a toad, and when he perceived it putting on his shoe, and had touched it with his foot, he being suddenly amazed asked her of what it was, and she bade him kill it, and he was forthwith taken with a lameness whereof he cannot healed.

After “fifteen or sixteen years” she traded the little agent of chaos to her sister for some cakes, and afterwards the cat did Agnes’s will instead.

when she had received him she (to try him what he could do) willed him to kill a hog of her own which he did, and she gave him for his labor a chicken, which he first required of her and a drop of her blood. And this she gave him at all times when he did anything for her, by pricking her hand or face and putting the blood to his mouth which he sucked, and forthwith would lie down in his pot again, wherein she kept him, the spots of all the which pricks are yet to be seen in her skin.

Also she sayeth that another time being offended with one father Kersey she took her cat Satan in her lap and put him in the wood before her door, and willed him to kill three of this Father Kersey’s hogs, which he did, and returning again told her so, and she rewarded him as before with a chicken and a drop of her blood, which chicken he ate up clean as he did all the rest, and she could find remaining neither bones nor feathers.

Also she confessed that falling out with one Widow Gooday she willed Satan to drown her cow and he did so, and she rewarded him as before.

Also she falling out with another of her neighbors, she killed her three geese in the same manner.

Item, she confessed that because she could have no rest (which she required) she caused Satan to destroy the brewing at that time.

Also being denied butter of another, she caused her to lose the curds two or three days after.

Item falling out with another of her neighbors and his wife, she willed Satan to kill him with a bloody slice, whereof he died, and she rewarded him as before.

Likewise she confessed that because she lived somewhat unquietly with her husband she caused Satan to kill him, and he did so about nine years past, since which time she hath lived a widow.

Also she said that when she would will him to do anything for her, she would say her Pater noster in Latin.

Latin! And here perhaps we find a hint — for details on the background and specific context of this prosecution are not to be found — that the shocks of the Reformation were one root of events. As Kate Dumycz observes

Mother Eve perhaps started practising her “craft” in the second half of the fifteenth century … a time when, although the existence of witchcraft was acknowledged and people consulted cunning men and women, there was no witchcraft act on the Statute books … this family would have lived through great upheaval that affected all parts of England because of the Reformation. Christopher Marsh comments that many rituals of the Catholic Church (such as charms, sorcery, enchantments) were banned in 1559 and this ruling was a “broader campaign to destroy the credibility of traditional religion by exposing its alleged superstition”. Rosen remarks “Bitterness, resentment and pain that can no longer be discharged through familiar religious channels will almost inevitably be turned upon others; and in their delusions, such women were aided by the learned and by the religious terms in which they continued to think.”

Agnes Waterhouse leaves us a tantalising clue about contemporary attitudes towards religion and those who practised outside the State dictated religion “she was demanded what praier she saide, she aunswered the Lordes prayer, the Aue Maria, and the belefe, & then they demaunded whether in laten or in englyshe, and shee sayde in laten, and they demaunded why she saide it not in engly[sh]e but in laten”. [note: this interrogation occurred during Agnes Waterhouse’s repentant gallows speech, not during the trial -ed.] So, Agnes Waterhouse at least, practised some of the “old ways” and perhaps had not converted to Protestantism and therefore operated outside the beliefs and “norms” of her society. Rosen comments that between 1534 and the time of this trial “there had been eight major religious changes requiring oaths from teachers, ministers and public officials with four total reversals of religious practice enforced by law and death sentence”. … Agnes Waterhouse’s ability to say her prayers in Latin would have been compulsory during Mary’s reign and yet a few years later this factor was used against her as an indication that she was practising witchcraft and thus, as a witch, was unable to say her prayers correctly in English.

Whilst it has long been established by modern day historians such as Keith Thomas that “in England witchcraft was prosecuted primarily as an anti-social crime, rather than as a heresy” Agnes Waterhouse’s case shows that religion must have played a small but significant part in her neighbours’ belief that she was a witch although she was executed as a murderer rather than a heretic.

Agnes Waterhouse, Joan Waterhouse, and Elizabeth Francis were the first of nine women (plus one man) from Hatfield Peverel prosecuted as witches between 1566 and 1589.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Public Executions,Witchcraft,Women

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1714: Eleven at Tyburn, amid recidivism

Add comment July 16th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1714, the Tyburn gallows groaned with eleven felons … luckless small-timers, most of them (as we shall see) repeat offenders, whom Executed Today retrieves here in its repeatedly offending eleventh year.

As we sometimes do, we’ll be channeling the words of the Newgate Ordinary, friend of the site Paul Lorrain. His “ACCOUNT OF The Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Friday the 16th of July, 1714″ can be enjoyed in full here.

Lorrain begins by noting that “Nineteen Persons, viz. Fifteen Men, and Four Women,” caught death sentences at the most recent sitting of the grim blackrobes, but “Seven of the Men, and One of the Women, having obtain’d HER MAJESTY‘s Reprieve (which I pray GOD they may have Grace duly to improve) Eleven of ‘em are now order’d for Execution.”

Those fortunate eight, consider ‘em the reserve army for future hangmen. Many of the remaining eleven had in their own time been recipients of such a reprieve and had failed to duly improve, as Lorrain notes repeatedly in his summations below (we’ve linked their antecedent crimes where we could find them in the invaluable Old Bailey Online.)

1. Ann Edwards, condemn’d for two Burglaries; viz. First, for breaking open and robbing the Lodgings of Mr. James Moody; and, Secondly, for doing the like in those of Mr. Emmanuel Francisco; taking out of the former a Pewter Dish, and 3 Plates; and out of the latter several Goods of Value; both which Facts she committed at the same time, and in the same House, on the 30th of May last. She said, she was 36 Years of Age, born at Preston in Lancashire; That she had, for these 15 Years past, liv’d in the Parish of St. James Westminster, and other Neighbouring Parishes, and there serv’d in the Capacity of a Cook (and sometimes in that of a House-keeper) in several good Families; That (besides the Facts she was now condemn’d for) she had done many ill things in her Life-time, and was about two Years ago burnt in the Hand, and order’d to the Work-house, where she remain’d a Twelvemonth, according to the Order of the Court; and being afterwards Discharg’d, but not Reform’d, she soon return’d to her former evil Course, and thereby brought her self to this Untimely and Shameful Death. She said, she heartily repented of all the Sins she ever committed, and desir’d me to pray to GOD for her poor Soul, overwhelm’d with Grief. This I promis’d her I would do, and withal instructed her to pray for her self, and pacify the Wrath of GOD, and obtain His Mercy; which (upon her true Repentance) she would certainly find, through the Merits and Mediation of the Saviour of all Men, especially of them that believe, as the Apostle tells us, 1 Tim. 4.10.

2. William Dyer, who pleaded to a Pardon at the Old-baily on the 12th of August, 1713, was now brought again under Condemnation for two new Facts by him committed, viz. First, for breaking open the House of Mr. John Palmer of Edmonton in Middlesex, taking thence a Gown and Petticoat, with other Goods, on the 13th of June last; and, Secondly, for doing the like in the House of Mr. John Blunt of the same Place, on the 23d of the same Month. He said, he was born in that Parish of Edmonton, and had been a Domestick Servant in several good Families thereabouts, and in London. He confess’d, he had robb’d some of his Masters, both while he liv’d with them, and afterwards; and that particularly since he had obtain’d his Pardon, instead of answering the easy Condition of it, which was, That he should transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe,* within 6 Months after (which he had 2 or 3 times fair Opportunity to have done) he return’d to his wicked Practice of robbing Houses in his Neighbourhood, and elsewhere; so that, tho’ he pretended he would honestly apply himself to his Business of Carpentry (a Trade he had formerly serv’d part of his Apprentiship to) yet his chief Employment, ever since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last, had been Robbing and Stealing, and doing suchlike Mischiefs, to the great Prejudice of the Publick: And herein his Wickedness and Impiety advanc’d so far, as not to spare even the Curate of his own Parish, whose House he broke open and robb’d in January last, about which time also, he said, he stole a black Mare out of the Grounds of Mr. John Allen in that Parish, for which One William Huggins was try’d at the Old-baily in February following. This William Dyer could read well, and had been carefully instructed in the Principles of the Christian Religion, by those worthy Persons he had serv’d; but yet, for all that, he prov’d desperately Wicked, and was like to have committed Murder, in attempting to shoot the Man that apprehended him. He seem’d, in all his Carriage under this Condemnation, to be unsincere and obstinate; and I must needs say this of him, That he gave me very little Signs of true Repentance for a great while; for when I examin’d him in private, he refus’d to make a free Confession of the many ill things he had done, the discovery whereof might have been of Use and Satisfaction to those honest Persons he had so basely wrong’d; but instead of clearing his Conscience by such a Confession; he said, He had declar’d too much already, and would say no more. Being ask’d how Old he was, he answer’d me, That he could not exactly tell, but thought he might be about 28 Years of Age. As I was discoursing him in private, shewing him the Necessity of doing what I advis’d him to, in order to avoid the severe and terrible Judgments of GOD, and obtain his Mercy, and the Pardon of his Sins, I observ’d him to fleer and snigger, mixing Tears and Laughter together; wherein (as indeed in his whole Deportment) he discover’d both a great Weakness, and Indisposition of Mind; but at last his Confession to me seem’d to be sincere, and Repentance true.

NB. That the Facts for which this William Dyer was formerly condemn’d were, viz. the breaking open and robbing the House of Mrs. Elizabeth Wiser, taking thence a Silver Mugg, and a Spoon, on the 15th of February, 1711-12: And likewise for stealing Ribbons and other Goods out of the House of Mr. Charles King, on the 27th of June, 1712. Of both which Facts he was convicted at the Sessions held at the Old-baily in July following.

3. Margaret Stevenson alias Sarah Williams, alias Susan Rogers, alias Susan Lambeth, which last was her right Name; Condemn’d for Stealing a Piece of green Persian Silk of the value of 3 l. out of the Shop of Mr. John Johnson, on the 25th of May last. She said, she was near 28 Years of age, born at Hamersmith in Middlesex; That she coming to London young, was bound to a Seamstress in Chick-lane, with whom she serv’d the full time of her Apprentiship, viz. 7 years; That she afterwards work’d for her self, and for a great while together liv’d an honest Life; but at last falling into bad Company, was thereby corrupted, and enticed into the commission of several Things, which at first were very much against her Conscience, tho’ (thro’ Custom) became easie to it at last; but she now found by her woful Experience, that, soon or late, Sin brings always along with it unspeakable Sorrow and Misery. She own’d that she was justly condemn’d; and, that she had been so before, and receiv’d Mercy (which, to her great Grief now, she had taken no care to make good use of); for, she having formerly obtain’d the QUEEN’s Free Pardon, which she pleaded at the Old baily on the 12th of August last, under the Name of Sarah Williams, she did soon after return to her evil Course of Life, changing her Name indeed, but not her Manners. NB. The Fact for which she was formerly Condemn’d and Pardon’d, was, the Stealing 60 Yards of Persian Silk out of the Shop of Mr. William Ball, on the 8th of June, 1713.

4. Robert Cook, alias Hedgley, which was his right Name, Condemn’d for Breaking the House of Mrs. Mary Mellers, and stealing thence 8 Pewter-Dishes, 40 Plates, and other Goods, on the 13th of May last. He said, he was about 24 Years of age, born at Hoddesdon in Hartfordshire; and, That while in the Country, he was employ’d in Husbandry: Afterwards he came to London, and being prest to Sea, serv’d above 7 Years on board the Lenox, the Boyne, the Monmouth, and other Men of War. He confess’d, he had been a great Offender; That in May last was Twelve-month he was whipt for a Felony he had committed about that time; and, That the Sentence now pass’d upon him was very just, and he readily submitted to it, praying GOD to fit him for his great Change. He likewise confess’d, That he committed a Robbery in a House at Islington, about 9 months ago, taking thence some Pewter, a Coat, a Hat, &c.

5. Thomas Davis, Condemn’d for being concern’d in the same Fact with Robert Cook, last mention’d. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born at Shrewsbury: That he came up to London about 8 Years ago, and was bound Apprentice to a Waterman for 7 Years, which Time he serv’d faithfully; and being out of it about 6 months since, ply’d for himself. He confess’d the Fact for which he was condemn’d, but said it was his first; and I could not disprove it, but told him, ‘Twas pity he ever enter’d upon such a Course as this, which seldom fails of ending in Destruction.

6. George Horn, Condemn’d for a Robbery committed jointly by him and Thomas Perkins, on the Person of Mr. Thomas Gamball, from whom they took a Coat, a Hat, and a Shirt, with 11 s. and other Goods, upon the QUEEN’ Highway, between Clerkenwell and Islington, on the 25th of May last. He said, he was 23 Years of age, born in the Parish of Allhallows in Thames-street, London; and by his Trade was a Lighterman, that us’d to carry Corn, Wood, &c. He confess’d, That once he was burnt in the Hand for a Felony which he committed about 2 Years ago, and afterwards went to Sea , where he serv’d sometimes on board several Men of War, and at other times in Merchantmen. I found him of a very harden’d Disposition, that could not be brought, but with much difficulty, to a sense of his great Duty and Spiritual Interest, being at first regardless of his present miserable state, and of the Means of preventing his falling into that which is infinitely worse, viz. the State of the Damned. I did what I could to rouze him up to a due Consideration of the Danger he was in; to awaken in him a just Fear, and excite him to a sincere Love of GOD.

7. Thomas Perkins just before-mention’d, as being concern’d with the said George Horn in the Robbery committed on Mr. Gamball. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. James Clerkenwell: That he went to Sea, and was a Servant to a Commander of one of HER MAJESTY’s Men of War; and afterwards returning home, was bound for 7 years Apprentice to his own Father, a Smith; That his Father dying when he had but three Years to serve, he left off that Occupation, and went to Sea again; and there being employ’d for about 2 Years, he at last return’d to his Trade of Smithery, working Journey-work with One that had formerly serv’d his Father: That falling into bad Company, he (when in Drink) was perswaded to assist George Horn in the Commission of this Robbery he is now to die for: And tho’ he confest he had been an ill Liver, yet he said, he never was Guilty of any such Fact before.

8. James Powell, alias Ashwood, alias Bowen, alias Neale, which last was his right Name. This Malefactor had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, being then try’d by the Name of James Ashwood, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (which he did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe, and pleaded to it accordingly on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for a Burglary, viz. for breaking open the House of Mr. Tho. Hulls, and taking from thence Two Guinea’s, and Thirty Shillings in Silver, on the 15th of May last. He said, he was about 20 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Martin in the Fields, and was bound Apprentice to a Perriwig-maker in that Parish; but his Master dying, and so being left to himself, presently fell into ill Courses, which he was now sensible he could not well have left off (so far he was engag’d in them) if this Death had not put a stop to his wicked Career.

9. Charles Goodall, alias Goodale. This Malefactor likewise had formerly receiv’d Sentence of Death, for stealing a Silver Cup and other Goods out of the House of Mr. John Beale, on the 6th of November, 1711, and obtain’d a Pardon on condition he should (but like the abovesaid James Powell did not) transport himself out of the QUEEN’s Dominions in Europe: Which Pardon he pleaded on the 6th of June, 1712; as he did to another (and that a Free one) on the 12th of August, 1713; and now was Condemn’d again for breaking open the House of Mr. Albion Thompson, and taking thence a Coat, and several other Goods of Value, on the 17th of May, 1714. He said, he was about 19 Years of Age, born in the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields; but, when very young, his Parents remov’d to that of St. Clement-Danes, and there he liv’d with them, and by them was brought up to School very carefully; but did not improve his Time as he might have done; for he betook himself to ill Courses, and so Corrupt he was, that tho’ after his Pardon he had resolv’d to lead a better Life, (which for a time he did, at his Father’s House) yet it was not long before he return’d again to his wicked Ways, that brought him to this his Untimely End: A Matter which, upon reflection, was a great Grief to him, and ought to be an effectual Warning to other loose Livers, as he had (and confest himself to have) been; for which he earnestly implor’d GOD’s Mercy, and the Pardon of all whom he had any ways offended.

10. Mary Billingsby, alias Brown, Condemn’d for trepanning Judith Favero, an Infant, into a By-place near Hoxton, and there stripping her, and putting her in fear of her Life. She said, she was about 18 Years of Age, born at Norwich, and had liv’d 3 Years in George-yard in Shoreditch, and was there imploy’d in Doubling of Worsted . At first she deny’d the Fact, but afterwards confest it, saying, That Poverty had driven her to it: Upon which I told her, This was a very bad Excuse; and, That if she had been an honest and diligent Person, she might have supply’d her Wants otherwise than by such unlawful Means, and such too as were most base and cruel. I found her very ignorant, not being able so much as to Read, nor give an Account of any Thoughts she had of the World to come, and what would become of her there; till she was taught, That by the Merits of CHRIST, embrac’d by Faith and Repentance, (which I particularly explain’d to her) she might be sav’d.

11. Robert Porter, alias Sandey, Condemn’d for breaking open the House of Mr. James Deluce, and taking thence a Wastcoat, two Wigs, and three lac’d Hats, on the 2d instant. He said, he was 16 Years of Age, born in the Parish of Stepney, and for some small time serv’d a Weaver there; but leaving his Master’s Service, went a pilfering. I found him very obstinate and untractable, unwilling to confess any ill thing he had done; yet when I told him, That he had formerly been convicted of a Felony, and for it order’d to the Work-house, out of which he made his Escape, he own’d all this to be true, but would say no more; nor at first receive such proper Instructions and Admonitions, as were given him, in order to bring him to Repentance and Salvation: But at last finding himself in the Death-Warrant, and so having no further Hope of Life here, he appear’d more concern’d for his Soul than before: I was not wanting in making Use of this Opportunity to bring him (if possible) to a thorough Sence of his past sinful Life, his present sad Condition, and his future Eternal State, from which he was not far off, and which would be a State either of Happiness or Misery to him, according as he did or did not sincerely repent of his Sins. This (with several pressing Exhortations I us’d to this purpose) seem’d to make some kind of Impression upon his obdurate Heart: But whether they melted it indeed into that true Repentance, which alone is available to Salvation, I shall not take it upon me here to determine: but advise them, who walk in the same wicked Paths, to repent sooner and better.

As was his wont (except perhaps with Catholic convicts who tended to give him a cold shoulder) the chaplain exercised his office all the way to Tyburn

to which they were this Day carried from Newgate in 4 Carts, [where] I attended them for the last time, and endeavour’d to perswade them throughly to clear their Consciences, and strive more and more to obtain GOD’s Grace, that they might make a good End in this World, and be receiv’d into that State of Bliss and Glory in the next, which shall have no End. To this purpose I earnestly spoke to them, and pray’d for them: Then I made them rehearse the Apostles Creed, and sing some Penitential Psalms; and finally recommending their Souls to the boundless Mercy of our Good and Gracious GOD, I withdrew from them, leaving them to their private Devotions, for which (and for their speaking to the People to take Warning by them) they had some little Time allow’d them: After this the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off, calling all the while upon GOD, to have Mercy on their departing Souls.

Note, That William Dyer did particularly confess, That he had committed the following Robberies, viz. 1st, he robb’d a House and a Shop at Tottenham, 2dly, the Reverend Mr. Butto’s House; 3dly, Mr. Allen of a Mare at Edmonton in Middlesex; 4thly, Mr. Coward’s House at Waltham-stow; 5thly, Mr. Huvet’s House; and 6thly, Mr. King’s in the Parish of Greenstead; 7thly & lastly, the House of Mr. Reynolds at Stanford-rivers in Essex. These he said, were (as far as he could remember) all the Houses he had broken and robb’d, &c. (besides those he stood Condemn’d for) since his Discharge out of Newgate in August last; and, That he never robb’d on the Highways, nor ever committed Murder.

This is all the Account I here can give of these Malefactors; Four of of whom, together with Five others mention’d in my former Papers, make up Nine out of Fifty-four that pleaded the QUEEN’s Pardon in August last, who (by new-repeated Offences) brought themselves to this shameful End: Which I pray GOD may be such a Warning to those that remain, that they never return again to their Sins and Follies, but lead such a Course of Life as may be comfortable to them in this World, and (through Mercy) advance them to unspeakable Joys and Comforts in the World to come.

PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary .

Friday, July 16. 1714.

* At the time, this was still a generic sentence of exile (note that the onus is on the prisoner to “transport himself” out of Great Britain). Our hanging-date, however, arrives barely three years distant from the opening of organized mass convict transportation to the Americas, which would continue until the American Revolution. This era is covered in detail by Early American Crime author and occasional Executed Today guest-blogger Anthony Vaver, author of Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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2011: Ruyati binti Sapubi, migrant worker beheaded on film

Add comment June 18th, 2018 Headsman

Indonesian migrant worker Ruyati binti Sapubi was beheaded in Mecca on this date in 2011 for the meat cleaver murder of her mistress. She numbered among the several hundred thousand Indonesian women hired as domestic servants in the Gulf kingdom.

“The maid carried out the killing after she was denied permission to leave the kingdom and return to her family in Indonesia, according to officials in Jakarta,” according to press reports on the very sketchy details allowed by Riyadh.

The mild and passive voice here conveys a wild overreaction by the help, but a moment’s consideration of the scenario — a terribly vulnerable imported domestic worker disallowed from leaving her job — puts matters into a different light. (To add diplomatic insult to injury, the Saudis failed to inform Indonesia when the actual execution was imminent.)

Indeed, just days after the execution, word leaked of a Sri Lankan domestic who had been secretly held in outright slavery for 14 years.

Mature Content: The execution was secretly recorded. This is a snuff film.

The Indonesian government slapped an immediate moratorium on overseas work in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of this horror. Unfortunately, these and similar measures in the 2010s have only compounded the risk of trafficking, increasing the vulnerability of people desperate to secure work abroad.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Indonesia,Mature Content,Murder,Public Executions,Saudi Arabia,Slaves,Women

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1697: The Paisley Witches

1 comment June 10th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1697, the Paisley, Renfrewshire Gallow Green played stage for the strangling and burning of six “witches.” They’re known as the Paisley witches, the Renfrewshire witches, or the Bargarran witches, and are sometimes acclaimed the last mass-executed witches in western Europe.

This book posits a more than incidental resemblance between Salem and Renfrewshire, given that the “possessed child” figure was not a usual ornament for Scottish witchcraft cases.

In a setup bearing a disturbing similarity to the Salem witch trials,* an 11-year-old brat named Christian Shaw, the daughter of a local laird, got a tongue-lashing from the family servant and then turned around and accused her a sorceress.

The psychological mechanisms at play make interesting speculation in such cases. Was she merely a spiteful little monster, or did she believe in accordance with the superstitions of her time that the servant’s curses had effect, and suffer real afflictions that ensued upon this belief? Can we see her in the end as a creature necessarily produced by her nation in its troubled hour, unmoored as it was by the political and religious dislocations of the Glorious Revolution, gnawed by famine, and hurtling towards an unwilling union with England? (The bizarre execution of an Edinburgh university student for blasphemy also unfolded in 1696-1697.)

We leave such speculations to the reader as we plunge into the onset of supernatural doings in these environs almost a year before the consequent executions — via a 1698 pamphlet titled “A True Narrative of the Sufferings and Relief of a Young Girle Strangely Molested, by Evil Spirits and their Instruments, in the West”

August 22 [1696], the Child went to Bed in good health; but so soon as she fell asleep, began to struggle and cry, Help, Help: And then suddenly got up, and did fly over the top of a Resting-bed, where she was lying (her Father, Mother, and others being in the Room, and to their great Astonishment and Admiration) with such violence, that probably her Brains had been dasht out, if a Woman, providentially standing by, and supported by a Door at her back, had not broke the force of the Childs motion, who being laid in another Bed, remained stiff and insensible as if she had been dead, for the space of half an Hour; but for Fourty eight Hours thereafter could not sleep, crying out of violent Pains thorow her whole Body, and no sooner began to sleep or turn drowsie but seemed greatly affrighted, crying still Help, Help.

These frightening spasms continued for days, contorting her body and robbing her of speech; helpless doctors bled her to no effect.

Some dayes thereafter was an alteration in her Fitts, so far, that she got speaking, during the time of them; and while she was in the fits, fell a crying, that Katharine Campbel and Agnes Naismith were cutting her side, and other parts of her Body; Which parts were in that time violently Tormented. And when the fit was over she still averred, that she had seen the same Persons doing the same things which she complained of while under the fit (it being remarkable that in the intervals she was still as well and sensible as ever) and would not believe but that others present saw them as well as she!

Katharine Campbell was servant who had chewed her out. Agnes Naismith was an old lady with a witchy reputation. In time they would headline the execution that occasions this post.

We must here pause to remark that the decision of the adults around Christian Shaw to steer this crisis in the girl’s life towards a judicial witch hunt was by no means predetermined. While capital statutes against bewitchment remained on the books, they were fading in practice; according to the invaluable Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database, there had been only a single witchcraft prosecution in Scotland since 1683, and that one did not result in execution. The sudden eruption of a dormant and vanishing cosmology, with sufficient force to devour seven humans, shocks the eye.

Credit must go to Shaw for a rare commitment to the performance, as her symptoms continued intermittently for months, and accumulated a growing roster of accused supernatural tormentors. She was taken to Glasgow for treatment, and taken again; she went on regimens of prayer and fasting; at one point she began pulling debris out of mouth like a prestidigitator, in such number and variety that her doctor remarked that “Were it not for the hairs, hay, straw, and other things wholly contrary to human nature, I should not despair to reduce all the other symptoms to their proper classes in the catalogue of human diseases.”

Although modernity will doubt that they bewitched the child, the accused women, Agnes and Katharine, knew exactly what was up when they were brought to confront their accuser. They addressed their common peril with opposite strategems. Agnes, “did (tho not desired) pray for her, viz. that the Lord God of Heaven and Earth might send the Damsel her health,” which prayer cured Christian Shaw of continuing to accuse Agnes of muddling her (“upon the contrary, as she apprehended, defending her from the fury of the rest” of the witches) — whereas the saltier Katharine “could by no means be prevailed with to pray for the Damsel, but upon the contrary when desired by some, cursed them and all the Family of Bargarran, and in particular the Damsel and all that belonged to her, withal adding this grievous Imprecation; The Devil let her never grow better, nor any concern’d in her, be in a better condition than she was in, for what they had done to her.” I like this Katharine, but Laird Bargarran had the sheriff throw her forthwith into the dungeon; the reader may recall from our foreshadowing that Agnes’s more diplomatic approach did not ultimately serve her any better.

By January, five months after Christian’s first fits, the doctors and ministers had been defeated and the Privy Council appointed a tribunal to investigate the matter and shoo away the hags bothering Christian Shaw. The annals of their actions makes for repellent reading, even by the standards of judges. Readers with strong eyeglass prescriptions can enjoy the full pdf here, but most will probably prefer this lucid summary by Undine, a onetime Executed Today guest blogger. We also have a Victorian compilation of records related to the affair here.

The hunt swept up a 14-year-old boy and his 11-year-old brother, a 17-year-old girl who was made to furnish accusations that incriminated still more people besides. One can see in our credulous 1698 account the enspelled little shit begin to revel in her theatrics and the power she held over her neighbors.

February 12. Margaret Laing and her Daughter Martha Semple, being delated by the three Confessants, and accused by the Girl to have been active instruments in her Trouble, came of their own accord to Bargarran’s House, and before they came up Stairs the Girl said, she was now bound up, and could not accuse Margaret Laing to her face: And accordingly the Girl’s Mother having desired somer of those who were sitting by her to feel some parts of her Body, and they having done it, found her Body so stiff and inflexible, that there was no moving of it, and immediately again found some parts of her Body contracted and drawn hard togethe [sic], as if by Cords; after this Margaret Lang and her Daughter, having gone to the Chamber of the Girle, did in presence of the Ministers and others, desire the Damsel to come to her; for she would do her no Harm, and laying her Arms about her, spake very fairly to her, and question’d her if ever she had seen her other Daughter among her Tormentors, to which the Girle did positively reply, she had frequently seen her Daughter; but declined thorow fear to accuse herself, saying faintly No, after which Margaret and her Daughter returning into the Hall, and the Minister enquiring at her why she said No, seeing she had accus’d her before, she answered, take me contrar, upon which she was seiz’d with a grievous Fit; yet after her recovery being urg’d again by those present to tell her Mind freely, whether or not Margaret Lang was one of her Tormentors the Child thereupon Essaying to say Yes, and having half-pronounced the Word, was cast into unexpressible Anguishes; and again in the interval of the Fit, she Essay’d to express the same thing, and saying only the word Tint (that is soft) was on a sudden struck with another fit, and when the fit was over, and the Child returned to the Chamber, Margaret Lang who was sitting near the Hall door, spoke these words after her. The Lord bless thee, and ding (that is beat, or drive) the Devil out of thee. A little after which words, Margaret going down stairs, the Damsel came to the Hall and said, her Bonds were now loos’d, and that now she could accuse Margaret Lang to her Face, and declar’d the occasion of her being so Restrain’d and Bound up while Margaret was present, was her letting fall a parcel of Hair at the Hall door as she came in; being a Charm made by her for that end, which also had been the occasion of her uttering the word Tint in the former fit: And accordingly a parcel of Hair had been found at the Hall-door, after Margaret Lang had gone straight from the Hall to the Chamber, which immediately was cast into the Fire and burnt. And its remarkable, that it could be attested that there was no Hair, or any other thing else in that place before Margaret Lang came in, and the Girle being enquired, what way she knew Margaret Lang had laid the forementioned Charm upon her, replyed, something speaking distinctly to her as it were above her Head, had suggested that to her.

In the end — and posterity unfortunately lacks the original trial record — there were seven condemned to death and although their names in the surviving accounts “are not very distinctly stated” they appear to comprise our two original accused, Katharine Campbell and Agnes Naismith, the aforementioned Margaret Lang, the 14-year-old child James Lindsay and an apparent kinsman named John Lindsay, and also John Reid and Margaret Fulton. (Some accounts more mawkishly make it little James Lindsay with his 11-year-old brother Thomas, but that’s not indicated by the primary sources which repeatedly note that Thomas is “under the age of pupilarity.”)

John Reid managed to hang himself in prison and cheat the executioner. Katharine Campbell did him one better by fighting her persecutors all the way to the stake, and deservedly showering everyone in earshot with curses. The legend has it that Campbell’s malediction lurks behind any civic setback endured by Paisley down the years, such as the 1810 Paisley canal disaster. A horseshoe placed over the embittered sorceress’s grave to keep ill fortune at bay was lost in the 1960s; in 2008, a brass horseshoe plaque was installed in its place at the intersection of Maxwellton and St. George Streets — the memorial admitting the injustice done to all the Renfrewshire witches.


(cc) image by Paisley Scotland.

As for the witches’ accuser, Christian Shaw mirrored in her own life’s story the epochal shift that transformed witches from a legally recognized threat to a ridiculous superstition — as she grew up to become essentially the founder of Paisley’s distinctive (and still to this day important) thread industry by creating the “Bargarran Thread” .

* Coincidentally, the first execution of the Salem trials also occurred on June 10.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Cheated the Hangman,Children,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Not Executed,Notable for their Victims,Public Executions,Scotland,The Supernatural,Witchcraft,Women,Wrongful Executions

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1918: Edla Sofia Hjulgrén, Finnish parliamentarian

Add comment May 22nd, 2018 Headsman

One hundred years ago today, former Member of Parliament Edla Sofia Hjulgrén was shot during the Finnish Civil War.

A labor activist for many years, Hjulgrén (English Wikipedia entry | the vastly more detailed Finnish) won election to the Eduskunta in 1913 as a Social Democrat.*

At the time, Finland was still a Grand Duchy within tsarist Russia. When the Russian revolutionaries who conquered power in St. Petersburg in 1917 proved reluctant to agree to Finnish independence, the Finns just declared it, and a civil war ensued in the first months of 1918 — between Soviet-backed Red Guards and German-backed White Guards.

The Whites won a nasty war thick with atrocities on both sides. Although she was a pacifist, our Sofia Hjulgrén was among hundreds of Red supporters swept up after the decisive Battle of Vyborg clinched White victory. She was shot there — it’s Viipuri to the Finns, and Vyborg to the Russians — in the cemetery. The Soviets got Vyborg back in a subsequent war with Finland, and erected a monument there to the hundreds of victims of the Whites’ April-May 1918 Vyborg Massacre.


(cc) image by Olga.

* Finland boasts of being the first legislature in the world with full gender equality — meaning that, as of 1906, women enjoyed full equality both to vote and to stand for office. Women comprised above a tenth of its parliamentary delegates on the eve of Finland’s independence.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Finland,History,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Russia,Shot,USSR,Wartime Executions,Women

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1943: Thirteen Red Orchestra members

Add comment May 13th, 2018 Headsman

Thirteen anti-fascist resistance members of the “Red Orchestra” ring(s) were efficiently beheaded by the Plötzensee Prison fallbeil on this date in 1943.


Let no one say that I wept and trembled and clung to life. I want to end my life laughing, laughing the way I loved and still love life.

-Erika von Brockdorff

They were:

German Wikipedia’s list of executions in the Reich has only the above 11 listed for this day; via … @KrasnojKapelle on Twitter and this Bundesarchiv page, the other

* A psychoanalyst, Rittmeister contributed through his correspondence the whimsical/ominous title of a volume about the history of his field — “Here Life Goes on in a Most Peculiar Way”: Psychoanalysis before and after 1933.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,Germany,Guillotine,History,Mass Executions,Spies,Wartime Executions,Women

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1974: Leyla Qasim, Bride of Kurdistan

Add comment May 12th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1974, Kurdish activist Leyla Qasim was hanged by the Ba’ath regime in Baghdad.

A middle daughter among four brothers from the heavily Kurdish Khanaqin district, Qasim joined the Kurdish Student Union as a student at Baghdad University in the early 1970s.

The Iraqi government had fought a running war against Kurdish rebels throughout the 1960s, resolved only by a tenuous truce; by the spring of 1974 armed conflict began again.

Visible Kurdish activists living right in the capital became a natural target.

Qasim and four male companions were arrested in late April, accused of plotting against Iraq (various accounts have this down to a hijacking scheme or a cogitating the murder of Saddam Hussein). They were tortured, condemned in a televised trial, and executed together.

She purportedly gave her family the last words of a proper martyr: “I am going to be [the] Bride of Kurdistan and embrace it.”

She’s still regarded as a Kurdish heroine and many families confer her name on their daughters.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Iraq,Kurdistan,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Torture,Treason,Wartime Executions,Women

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