1948: Arthur George Osborne, as per Harry Allen’s journal

Add comment December 30th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 1948, Arthur George Osborne hanged at Armley Gaol in Leeds for murdering 70-year-old Ernest Westwood in the course of a robbery.

Osborne’s execution date was also his 28th birthday.

Mustachioed assistant executioner Harry Allen kept a handwritten journal of the executions he officiated in his 23-year career — a journal recently sold at auction. From it we have notes on each prisoner’s height (5 feet, 6.5 inches in Osborne’s case), weight (188 pounds) and the consequent length of the rope’s drop (8 feet).


Very good job? but not expected to be so. Was hung on his 28th birthday at HMP Leeds by S. Wade got highly complimented on the speed of the job.

Harry Allen was eventually promoted to a chief executioner, in which guise he became Britain’s Last Executioner: he carried out one of the two simultaneous last hangings in England, as well as the last in Scotland and the last in Northern Ireland.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Theft

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1809: Mary Bateman, the Yorkshire Witch

4 comments March 20th, 2009 Headsman

It’s the bicentennial today of the unnatural passing of the Yorkshire witch.

Mary Bateman ran her fraudulent fortune-telling business under the name “Mrs. Moore”, and had some years’ success separating fools from their money without running afoul of the law.

In fact, she outlived her fatal crime — plying with poisoned puddings a bilked couple, lest they realize their medium was defrauding them — by months, even continuing to leach money off the surviving husband after her ministrations had killed the wife.

Let’s just say she knew how to pick her clientele.

When the sucker finally got wise to the scam,* the jig was up for Mary in a sensational trial. (It’s recounted at length here — and capped by what must have a grimly comic spectacle when Mary attempted to plead her belly and the women in the courtroom bolted for the exits to avoid impaneling on a jury of matrons to adjudge the claim. The judge ordered the doors shut up before his jury pool could escape.)

Three days after conviction, she was hanged at York Castle before a crowd of thousands, who subsequently paid (.pdf) to see her corpse (and to get cured cuts of her skin as charms: even unto death, Mary had ’em swallowing her snake oil).

After execution, Mary Bateman’s body was given over for dissection in Leeds — remaining a curio worthy of public preservation to this day at that city’s Thackray Medical Museum. (Update: The museum reports that Ms. Bateman’s remains were only on loan from Leeds University, and have since been returned.)

* Source of enlightenment? Not the death of his wife, but the fact that magical financial windfalls promised by the Yorkshire witch had failed to materialize after two-plus years of paying her.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1903: Emily Swann and John Gallagher, the Wombwell murderers

Add comment December 29th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1903, a 42-year-old mother of 11 was hanged side by side with her 30-year-old lover for murdering an abusive husband in the small South Yorkshire town of Wombwell.

That June, Emily Swann had shown her outgoing boarder and lover John Gallagher (together with some neighbors) the results of William Swann’s latest beating. John returned to the house and repaid the injuries in kind — and with interest.

After some minutes of fighting audible to the neighbors, Bill had been beaten to death.

Emily’s battered-wife situation might cut a lot more ice today, but by the jurisprudence of the day it was a fairly straightforward case, especially since all kinds of incriminating remarks were attributed by the neighbors to both Emily and John — “Give it to him, Johnnie, punch him to death,” for instance, and Gallagher’s own mid-bout respite at a neighbor’s house where he reported having broken four ribs with plans to break more. Both illustrated a level of intent among both parties beyond the heat of passion.

And you wouldn’t say the authorities were disposed to sympathize with Emily’s situation in general. They rather viewed her immorality — with John and otherwise — as the cause of the thrashings William gave her.

the wonder is that he has not killed her. He has frequently gone home after leaving work and found his wife drunk in the house and nothing prepared for him in the way of food. (case file comment, quoted here)

Fortified by a stiff drink of brandy, Emily Swann glided onto the platform at Leeds’ Armley Prison beside her already-trussed defender and delivered the somewhat famous greeting, “Good morning John.” Gallagher managed to return the salutation, and a few seconds before both were launched into eternity, she replied, “Good-bye. God bless you.”

It was an unusual exchange because the English execution protocol did not solicit remarks from the doomed prisoner, and in the occasional double hangings,* most participants were too frightened, awed or preoccupied to make small talk with their fellow-sufferers in the few seconds available.

* England would soon do away with double hangings altogether. Subsequent convicts to be hanged “together,” like Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, were in fact executed simultaneously but at different prisons.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Sex,Women

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