8 May 1909 – William Joseph Foy

Welshman William Joseph Foy died with a butt between his lips – a cigarette butt that is.

He was allowed a fag as he did his final walk to his death on this day in 1909. And executioner Henry Pierrepoint confirmed that the cigarette remained in his mouth until he was cut down an hour later.


For Foy was a murderer. Once from a good family, he had fallen on hard times and was destitute when he finally turned killer. The victim was his long-suffering girlfriend Mary Ann Rees and they were living together in a disused furnace. He was known for his abuse, but still Rees loved him. But her love for him was to lead to the death of them both.

In a fit of ire, Foy had literally swung Rees around and tossed her down a shaft to her death. At least that was as per his first statement. He went on to retract that story, but to no avail. Foy was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged at Swansea, aged just 25.

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