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1977: Larry Tacklyn and Erskine Burrows, for the murder of Richard Sharples

December 2nd, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1977, Black Berets Larry Tacklyn and Erskine “Buck” Burrows were hanged in Bermuda for assassinating the islands’ police chief and governor.

“During the 1970s, a black power organization in Bermuda conspired to bring about social change ‘by any means necessary,’ including assassination. This is the first full account of the murders and the Black Beret Cadre, the revolutionary group whose activities resulted in mayhem throughout the island.”
Book’s advance publicity

A revolutionary black nationalist organization, the Black Beret cadre took its name from that Che Guevara photograph and its model from the Black Panthers.

The cadres’ agenda for early-1970s Bermuda

was ‘freedom by any means necessary’ which included assassination. Taking their cue from the Black Panthers, whose primary aim was to bait the ‘racist cops’, the Black Berets exhorted its members and all Bermudian youth to confront the ‘English racist police’ as frequently as possible and prepare for the coming conflict between blacks and whites …

Its purpose was to indoctrinate young black Bermudians in communist revolution and the ideology of Black Power.

Cadres Tacklyn and Burrows were one part liberators of their oppressed brothers, one part common criminals.

In 1972, they gunned down white police commissioner (a veteran of Britain’s colonies) George Duckett; in 1973, they ambushed governor (and former Tory M.P.) Richard Sharples and slew him, along with his aide-de-camp.

Neither perp was apprehended, which meant they went on to kill a couple of supermarket executives before someone I.D.’d Tacklyn. Burrows stayed on the lam long enough to rob a bank of $28,000.

The trials were a sensation — apt for the involvement of sensational Bermudian lawyer and politician Julian Hall — with Burrows convicted all around. He openly avowed the political murders.

Erskine Burrows

The motive for killing the Governor (his ADC was not our objective, he was shot only because he happened to be with the Governor at the time) was to seek to make the people, black people in particular, become aware of the evilness and wickedness of the colonialist system in the Island of Bermuda.

Secondly, the motive was to show that these colonialists were just ordinary people like ourselves who eat, sleep and die just like anybody else and that we need not stand in fear or awe of them.

Finally, the motive was to reveal to black people unto themselves.

This refers to the revealed reactions of many black people during the Governor’s funeral, when black people were seen to be standing with tears in their eyes, crying for a man who when he was alive didn’t care if they lived or died and here they were crying for a white Governor and yet when many of their own people pass away there is sometimes hardly a tear shed for them.

This shows clearly the evil effects that the colonialist propaganda has had over the long years they have ruled over this little Island.

Tacklyn managed to win acquittals over Duckett and Sharples but was condemned for killing the grocers. With “only” the two murder raps, Tacklyn’s appeals against execution might have stood a chance in other circumstances. But his affiliation with Burrows, who so openly avowed the other crimes and declined to mitigate them in court, “hung like an albatross around Tacklyn’s neck.”

That wasn’t the only thing that was hanging.

Massive riots rocked Bermuda after it became known that eleventh-hour clemency bids were rejected; “Fires erupted across Bermuda,” Reuters report, “causing millions of dollars in damage as a dusk-to-dawn curfew failed to halt the racial violence.” (Per Chicago Tribune, Dec. 3, 1977) British troops were deployed to help quell the riots.

Tacklyn and Burrows were the first people executed in Bermuda in 34 years, and remain the last executed there to this date.

Because all Britain’s overseas territories in the Caribbean subsequently abolished the death penalty (Bermuda in a contentious 1999 parliamentary dispute decided by a single tiebreaking vote), Tacklyn and Burrows also hold the distinction of being the last people put to death anywhere under British law. (As distinct from the last executed in Britain.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Terrorists

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7 thoughts on “1977: Larry Tacklyn and Erskine Burrows, for the murder of Richard Sharples”

  1. Johan Tengroth says:

    Ist here Anybody who know the name of the hangman.?

  2. Annie says:

    The riots did not happen when word was received that clemency was rejected. People felt that Tacklyn was innocent. The day he was executed, a rumour went around that Tacklyn survived the hanging and was found to be alive when examined by a physician and then buried alive. Another rumour stated he was alive but given a fatal dose of morphine and then buried-which would have been more likely and sounded possible and credible.

    Whether any of these tales was true or not is not known, but it fueled an outrage in the black community, with people citing that a person who survives an execution is innocent and so should be set free as this is a sign from God of their innocence. The black community became incensed at the rumours as they had already felt he was innocent, and this confirmed to them that he was and they felt he had been a scapegoat by the white man. Add to this other rumours that the Governor was really assassinated by the British government (people claimed that two white, foreign men were pictured leaving the scene and two white men were snuck out of the island the day after the Governor’s murder) and it was a catalyst for violence towards a system blacks were already resentful of.

    1. Joanna F Burrows says:

      Annie. I would love to hear more about this day. I am related to one of the men who was executed. I will be visiting Bermuda next week would love to chat!

      1. Jimi says:

        Hello Joanna, I am a filmmaker and I’ve been researching and writing about Bermuda 1973 for several years… Please let me know if it would be possible for us to speak via email and I can tell you about the project …Thanks
        Jimi Pantalon

        1. Omalone1 says:

          Gwiz please how is the film

        2. NarrativeRenegade says:

          @Jimi I’m also interested in your film project – where are you at in the process? Would love to know where I can view it when it’s finished!

      2. Jose Correia says:

        Killing the 2 supermarket people was very wrong ( for that they deserved to die) criminals,no sympathy, just for family left behind

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