Wandsworth Prison hosted its 135th and final hanging on this date in 1961.
The star of the show was Henryk Niemasz, who became infatuated with a married woman and shot her dead when she refused to break up her marriage for him. Niemasz was also married himself, to a wife who surely deserved better given that Grypa Niemasz was willing to give her husband a fake alibi for the time he was off shotgunning his paramour.
The death penalty departed English shores in the 1960s, but the Wandsworth gallows was kept in working order until 1993, just in case. (It would have been in case of treason, which was the only remaining capital statute by then.)
The prison itself, which dates to 1851, remains in operation to this day. According to friend of the blog Another Nickel in the Machine, Wandsworth’s former condemned cell “is now used as a television room for prison officers.”
From John Sadden’s Portsmouth Book of Days (via):
Elizabeth Rowland, of Prince Albert Street, Eastney, Portsmouth, received this letter [on January 19, 1901] from 22-year-old George Hill [George Parker], whom she had been seeing while her soldier husband was serving in India.
Hill was a marine at Eastney Barracks until he was convicted of stealing there.
He was later arrested for murdering a man on a train during an armed robbery.
It makes my heart bleed, as I am writing these few lines, to think I shall never see you again, and that you will be alone and miserable now … I always loved you dearly … I am truly sorry and penitent for having, in an evil moment, allowed myself to be carried away into committing murder.
I went and purchased a revolver so that when I came down to Portsmouth I could end both our lives if I had not been successful in obtaining money from my father.
I know you were not happy at home, nor I either, for I have been very unhappy of late, mostly on account of the false charges brought against me at the barracks.
I shall get hung now. I believe I was mad; I know I was drunk.
God help me!
My days are numbered, but I will bear it unflinchingly.
Your broken-hearted sweetheart,
Geo H Hill
Hill was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on March 19, 1901