Traitors at the Tower

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on February 26 by Old Sparky

Interesting article from the BBC about the German spies executed at the Tower of London during World War One.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-25654341

Check out the audio link too for a step by step account of the dreadful deed

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01rjc33

Famous last words

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair, Firing squad, Hanged, Lethal injection on September 22 by Last Writes

Ever wondered what goes through someone’s mind as they prepare to meet their maker? We did, so here’s a compilation…

Funny one-liners

“Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!”
Those were the last words of one James French, as he addressed journalists there to witness his grizzly end.
Already in prison for life, James French purposely frittered away his life on 10 August 1966  by killing his cell-mate. The 30-year-old  was sentenced to the electric chair and met his frazzled end in Oklahoma.

“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
So said George Appel as he flash-fried on the electric chair on 9 August 1928 for killing a policeman.

“Why, yes, a bulletproof vest.”
The natural last request came from mobster Domonic Willard as he faced a firing squad. A few decades later, James W. Rodgers was to ask again.

“I’d rather be fishing”
Ain’t that the truth according to Jimmy L. Glass as he was angled towards a decidedly uncomfy seat in Louisiana’s electric chair on 12 June 1987. The 25-year-old was fried for murdering a middle-aged couple. His accomplice followed four days later.

“Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait expres”
Translation: Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.
Stepping on the toes of her executioner should have been the least of Marie Antoinette’s worries on 16 October 1793. The 37-year-old had a date with Madame la Guillotine on this day as a one of the key victims of the French Revolution.

Nearly botched the jobs

“Take a step forward lads – it’ll be easier that way.”
That was the handy hint issued by Robert Erskine Childers as he faced his firing squad on 24 November 1922.  A Irish nationlist, he was executed during the Civil War, apparently while his appeal was still being  processed.

“You guys doin’ that right?”
That was the question on Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams lips on 13 December 2005 , as his executioners fumbled around with the lethal injection equipment. http://eotd.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/13-december-2005-stanley-tookie-williams-iii/

Plaintive pleas

“Please don’t let me fall.”
Ah the irony of the words uttered on 7 July 1865 as Mary Surratt headed up to the heady heights of the scaffold erected for her hanging.
Co-conspirator in the plan to assassinate President Lincoln, Mary Surratt’s other claim to infamy was as the first woman executed by the United States’ federal government.

“Is it safe?”
Rugeley Poisoner William Palmer seemed preoccupied with the stability of the gallows trap. But it was a moot point seeing as the 31-year-old was preparing for his public hanging on 14 June 1865. The former doctor hit the scaffold on this day for lacing his friend John Cook’s diet with strychnine, as well as killing others and cashing in on their deaths.

Bit late for that…

“Yes, no last words”
Elijah Page didn’t think that one through on 11 July 2007. The 26-year-old uttered those words during the first execution in South Dakota in 60 years. He was lethally injected for forcing a friend to drink acid, before beating him to death over a period of three hours.

Descent into hell

“I’ll be in Hell before you start breakfast! Let her rip!”
And let rip they did, because the rope around Tom ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum’s neck was too long. The 37-year-old train robber literally lost his head when it came clean off as he hanged on 26 April 1901.

“Hurry up. I’d like to be in hell in time for dinner.”
Edward H. Ruloff, a convicted serial killer rushed proceedings along  on 18 May 1871 after he was sentenced to death for killing his wife, daughter, sister-in-law and niece.
Not only was he infamous as the last person to have a public hanging in the State of New York but also because he was purported to have the largest brain in a Cornell professor’s collection.

“If anyone has a message for the Devil, give it to me – I’ll deliver it!”
Lavinia Fisher announced her offer as she faced being hanged for murder on February 18, 1820.
One half of a husband and wife hotelier team who would poison and stab residents, the Fishers were sentenced to death on 18 February 1820. At that time South Carolina women couldn’t be executed, so following her husband’s death, newly widowed Fisher rocked up for her own hanging garbed in a wedding dress. She’d hope to take advantage of the residing priest by bagging herself a would-be husband on the way to the scaffold. However as hopes of matrimony faded fast, she uttered her defiant words .

Today’s post is dedicated to the founder of this site and his lovely bride to be. All the best for your wedding day Old Sparky.

Troy Davis – 21 September 2011

Posted in Death penalty with tags , on September 22 by Last Writes

As the day drew to a close on 21 September 2011 in Blighty, so the fate of the latest Georgian prisoner was hanging in the lethal balance. 

Troy Davis, a condemned man, waS waiting to find out if he’d be in line for a lethal injection at 7pm American standard time. A last-minute stay was granted, but good news was short-lived. Davis was executed at 11:08pm Georgian standard time, for a crime he may not have committed.

He was sent down for killing a homeless man and a police officer in the ’80s. But evidence was circumstantial, with no available murder weapon. 

Since the damning trial, seven of the nine who testified originally have since recanted all or part of their accounts, claiming the police coerced them. Indeed, one of the nine witnesses was Sylvester ‘Redd’ Coles, who is widely believed to be the actual perpertrator. 

As the case against Davis deteriorated so there was a short-lived sliver of hope. But Georgia’s damning laws preventing appeals meant Davis rights were curbed, prompting ‘Time’ magazine to speculate if Georgia would ‘kill an innocent man’. Questions like this drew support for his plight worldwide.

Social networks went into overdrive, with Amnesty publishing the Judge’s phone number to apply pressure on Twitter. While British comedian Bill Bailey passed comment by retweeting the Guardian’s ’10 reasons not to execute’. 

But all to no avail. Davis’s death warrant was signed and he was lined up to get a lethal dose of killer narcotics aged just 42.

While for Policeman McPhail’s family, someone had been brought to justice for the murder of their loved one, according to US Guardian reporter, Ed Pilkington, Davis’s poignant last words had a clear message of innocence.  “I was not the one who did it. I did not have a gun. Look deeper to find the truth”. 

University Challenge

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , on March 26 by Last Writes

OK, in hommage to the Oxford-Cambridge boat race, which sets sail shortly, here’s a quick story.

Not all the students of these esteemed ancient universities had blotless copy books. Indeed the relationship between students and the locals has always been fractious.

Oxford brags

Take Oxford. The uni was founded in 1167. But locals didn’t take too warmly on the influx of slacking students, who loftily blagged their way into the best places.

So just a few decades later, in 1209, the townfolk turned on them following the death of a local woman. And many students were forced to scarper.

Until then, students had enjoyed legal protection as they could only be tried by the Church under Canon Law.

Oxford appealed to King John, who backed them and decreed that students could be executed under civil law and the locals jumped at the opportunity.

On 6 December 1209, two students were strung up and hanged for the murder.

Amid the animosity, the university’s endeavours were halted and many of the students fearfully fled to the safety of Cambridge. And from there, the city’s own university was spawned. Indeed, in 2009 Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary.

A few years later students were begrudgingly welcomed back to Oxford, not least because the local merchants missed the much-needed income.

Of course, other notables to be executed include:

Thomas CranmerOxford
The Oxford martyrs: Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, (left) plus Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.

Cambridge
Oliver Cromwell who’s head was laid to rest eventually in Cambridge in 1960.

And who can forget former Cambridge student Laurence Saunders who was roasted for his anti-Catholic outbursts.

26 March

Of course we’ve cheated. The execution detailed above took place on 6 December 1209. If you’re interest in those who actually popped their clogs today, then check out this unsavoury trio who died in 1796

31 January 1606 – Guy Fawkes

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Guy FawkesWhile 5 November may be more memorable where Guy Fawkes is concerned, today’s the day he paid for his crime. Fawkes was hanged for his treasonous attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

Fawkes was also known as ‘Guido’, or the more mundane John Johnson and was tried at Westminster Hall as a member of a group of militant Roman Catholics. This posse of plotters was accused of trying to kill James I of England and Scotland. The plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5 November 1605, in an attempt to overthrow Protestant rule. Their explosive idea infamously became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

Job lot

Some of the co-conspirators were executed on the previous day. But it was old Guido’s turn on 31 January. Fawkes and the remaining cohorts were dragged to Old Palace Yard in Westminster, where they were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, one by one.

First to go was Robert Winter’s younger brother, Thomas, followed by Ambrose Rookewood, then Robert Keyes, who, according to a local paper of the day, jumped off the scaffold. He was drawn, disembowelled and quartered nonethless.

Disembowelling knives and Fawkes

Fawkes was the last to go and was seen as the main perpertrator mainy because he would have been to one to set light to the gunpowder. However he was also the weakest, having been tortured and fallen ill. The executioner had to help him up the scaffold and he allegedly broke his neck when he was hanged, so never lived to witness the rude loss of his nether region, nor his quartering.

The hardcore among you may wish to peruse Derek Acorah’s Quest For Guy Fawkes on DVD, but let’s face it, life is too short.

Of course, if you fancy a slice of weird, Guy does features in the (I can’t make my mind up if it’s good or not) film V for Vendetta and as that has Natalie Portman in it it’s got to be worth a look.

Also on this day

31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik
31 January 1923 – Eligiusz Niewiadomski

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31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Eddie SlovikUS World War II Private Eddie Slovik became the only deserter out of 21,000 soldiers to be executed.

General Eisenhower is said to have given the go-ahead so his death could be used as an example to others.

Previously while training, Slovik had asked to be transferred to a non-combat post. But he had been refused, because they needed men on the frontline.

Backfired

‘I am so unlucky’ he shrewdly wrote to his wife in 1944, before he’d even been posted anywhere. And how right he was. Of the 21,000 soldiers who were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, 49 received the death penalty. But only Edward Donald Slovik actually came face to face with the firing squad, as he became the only US soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.

He was shot on this day in 1945, and to make matters worse his poor wife had absolutely no idea.

To find out more about this fascinating case check out William Bradford Huie’s book, The Execution of Private Slovik.

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31 January 1923 – Eligiusz Niewiadomski

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Eligiusz Niewiadomski

Polish right-winger Eligiusz Niewiadomski was executed in 1923 for assassinating Poland’s first President.

He was sentenced to death for shooting Gabriel Narutowicz at an art exhibition in Warsaw.

Known for his modernist paintings, art critic Niewiadomski was a member of the right-wing National Democratic Party in the early 1900s. But he became disaffected after they lost the first election.

No chance

Poland was a young nation and went on to elect its first President in the shape of Narutowicz. Indeed he was inaugurated on 16 December 1922. But a mere five days later, he was dead.

Niewiadomski was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a firing squad. His execution took place at the Citadel in Warsaw and he was buried at the city’s Powązki Cemetery.

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