Archive for July, 2008

31 July 1919 – Thomas Foster

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on July 31 by Last Writes

Thomas Foster got it in the neck after he was done for murder.

Sadly his victim may have lived had she not caved in. His wife Minnie had applied for a court order to separate on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour for Foster was forever getting drunk and abusive.

Unfortunately for her, Minnie fatefully retracted it after he grovelled his way back into her life with promises of better behaviour.

However, the acrimonious marriage got worse until Foster finally silenced his wife once and for all when he slit her throat.

Fair cop

Her preceding screams drew attention to the event and Foster was apprehended straight away. Yet that didn’t stop him trying to wheedle his way out of blame by saying she had driven him to it.

No-one was buying such defence and he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

John Ellis and Edward Taylor did the honours on this day in 1919 and the 46-year-old was hanged in Pentonville.

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30 July 1540 – Blessed Thomas Abel

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on July 30 by Last Writes

The adage ‘publish and be damned’ was sorely tested in the case of Blessed Thomas Abel.

As Catherine of Aragon’s chaplain and a Catholic, he was naturally anti the 16th-century moves to ditch the Catholic church, in favour of establishing the Protestant Church of England. But, by all accounts, he felt particularly vehement because this step change was aimed primarily at ousting his beloved queen.

Outspoken

‘…by no maner of law it maye be lawfull for the moste noble Kinge of england…to be divorsid fro[m] the quenes grace [sic]’ he wrote in his ‘Invicta Veritas’ treatise condemning Henry VIII’s plan to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Ultimately, the main goal had been to enable Henry to divorce Catherine in order to clear the way for him to marry Anne Boleyn.

Of course, Abel was banged up for putting his thoughts down on paper, but that wasn’t the reason why he lost his life. Let’s just say his card was marked as early as 1532.

Bolshy

Meanwhile, Henry got his way and bagged Boleyn, but the legacy left behind was a new church, with a new leader – the monarch. And, for this reformation to catch hold, all sign of Catholicism had to be stamped out.

While many went underground, Abel seemed unable to contain his ecclesiastical endeavours and he was chucked in jail again, after he lent his covert-ish support to the ‘Maid of Kent’.

Here was a young girl who had divine visions and Abel was considered to be fuelling the religious resurgence by disseminating her prophecies.

The priest was accused of treason and this time kept in the Tower of London until his execution seven years later.

Pain and Abel

As it happens, Abel was dispatched two days after another Thomas – Cromwell to be precise. And like Cromwell it was not a quick job, for the priest was hanged, drawn and quartered. It took place at Smithfield, when he was roughly 43 years of age.

His was part of a job lot with fellow Catholics Edward Powell and Richard Featherstone, while three Protestants were being barbecued on stakes – Robert Barnes, William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard.

Given his death was in defence of the Catholic faith, Abel was blessed alongside Powell and Featherstone. And so the road to martyrdom began and Pope Leo XIII eventually beautified them in 1886.

Also on this day

30 July 1811 – Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor
30 July 1902 – John Bedford
30 July 1901 – Charles Watkins

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30 July 1811 – Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty, Firing squad with tags , on July 30 by Last Writes

Sticking with today’s religious flavour, we head to Mexico for the most ostentatiously named subject yet to hit ‘Execution of the Day’s’ decks.

Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor (or Cura Hidalgo to his followers) was a national hero after he led an uprising against Spanish occupation.

So why would a normally mild-mannered priest want to rage against the Mexican machine?

Well, Napoleon inadvertently helped – the minute maverick was busy waging war all over the shop, and in 1811, Spain was his primary target. And while the rampant Spanish were thus diverted, Mexico was planning a little insurrection of its own.

At the forefront

Priest Hidalgo got in with the plotters and thanks to his eloquence among other attributes, he was soon leading the entire posse of uprisers.

However, all too soon the plot was busted, so the Mexicans were forced to mobilise early.

The clash was bloody and the Spanish were annihilated in places, such as Bajio and Guanajuato. But the prime target was Mexico City and while all this was going on, the capital had steeled itself against an attack.

As a result and with the onset of a reprisal likely, Hidalgo wisely beat a retreat to regroup.

Sadly, with such successes under his belt, the priest-cum-revolutionary had begun to believe his own hype. Support began to splinter, and this was the beginning of the end for the Mexicans.

Their adversaries were heading for Guadalajara where Hidalgo was holed up. On hearing who was coming, Hidalgo responded by mobilising his men and, ill-advisedly, they clashed at the bridge over the Calderon river.

Despite the Mexicans outnumbering the Spanish many times over, the European troops were seasoned campaigners and infinitely better equipped than the Mexicans. Soon the Spanish had them on the run and in no time Hidalgo was captured as the insurgents retreated.

Every dog has its day

He and some mates were then packed off to Chihuahua where they were sent to trial and sentenced to death.

Priest Hidalgo was promptly shot by a firing squad and beheaded posthumously, aged 58, alongside Ignacio Allende, Jose Mariano Jiminez and Juan Aldama – their heads were put on display in each corner of the town as a warning to all for a decade.

Yet, the heads must have been a good omen, because in that 10th year, Mexico gained the much-coveted independence, for which they had fought so hard.

Also on this day

30 July 1540 – Blessed Thomas Abel
30 July 1902 – John Bedford
30 July 1901 – Charles Watkins

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30 July 1902 – John Bedford

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , on July 30 by Last Writes

A year on from Charles Watkins, John Bedford befell the same fate. He was done for doing in his girlfriend.

Bedford murdered Nancy Price and was hanged at Derby, aged 41, for his crime.

Also on this day

30 July 1540 – Blessed Thomas Abel
30 July 1811 – Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor
30 July 1901 – Charles Watkins

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30 July 1901 – Charles Watkins

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , on July 30 by Last Writes

Just a year and a half into the 19th century, Charles Watkins was strung up.

He was sent to the gallows for murdering Frederick Hamilton. Watkins met his end at Maidstone Jail, aged 54.

Also on this day

30 July 1540 – Blessed Thomas Abel
30 July 1811 – Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Gallaga Mondarte Villaseñor
30 July 1902 – John Bedford

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29 July 1879 – Kate Webster née Lawler

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , on July 29 by Last Writes

Kate Webster

Kate Webster

Today’s mercenary minx was as murderous as she looked.

Catherine Lawler aka Webster was found guilty of wilfully killing, then hacking her former boss to bits in a bid to do away with the incriminating evidence.

Thieving and breaking the law were in Webster’s blood – she’d started on the rob at an early age, first in southern Ireland, then Liverpool, before finally winding up in London.

Having done time for stealing, Webster had come to the Big Smoke in search of work (and other people’s possessions) – and cleaning offered her a great opportunity to load herself up with ill-gotten goodies. That is until she hooked up with a bloke by the name of Strong, who got her pregnant, according to execution specialist Richard Clarke.

Dumped

Once she had sprogged, Strong predictably scarpered, ditching her and their baby son, leaving Webster to fend for herself…in the only way she knew how.

Naturally Webster didn’t stick around in one place for long for fear of being caught, yet she still managed to chalk up a few visits to the slammer, while a mate looked after baby Strong.

Miraculously, after a stretch at her majesty’s pleasure, Webster managed to land herself a respectable job, working for a household in Richmond, albeit for a batty 50-ish-year-old by the name of Mrs Thomas.

Lush times

They got on well in the beginning – that is until Thomas got wise to Webster’s shoddy ways and her predilection for propping up bar stools at any given opportunity. Needless to say the relationship went down the pan and Thomas gave Webster the boot.

However, Thomas was becoming increasingly more and more intimidated by the temperamental Webster and not without good reason. And her fears were founded when Thomas came home to find Webster laying in wait.

According to Webster they had a fight which spiralled and she ‘threw [Thomas] down the stairs to the ground floor’.

Chip off the old block

However, blood found at the top of the stairs suggested Thomas had been whacked on the head with an axe, and that’s what caused her to fall, according to historian Graham Attenborough. By all accounts though, Thomas was finished off by being strangled.

Now Webster had a dead body to do away with, so she got busy with a blade, hacking off the head with a razor and a saw, followed by the limbs.

She burned all the giblets and boiled the bigger bits, before boxing up the braised body save for a foot and the head, which she put in a bag.

Body of evidence

Webster then roped in a mate to help her transport the box with some story about someone coming to pick some stuff up. Actually she just wanted help to get it near the river, so she could chuck the boiled body parts in.

The head and foot never did turn up, but the grisly box did. Sadly the head offered the crucial key and the fact that it wasn’t there set investigations back. But who needs a head when you had Webster acting awfully suspiciously? She was busy lording it about in Thomas’s gear, even pretending to be her in a bid to sell the house in Richmond and pocket the spoils.

However, when she started off-loading furniture, of course the neighbours became wary. Then it was the buyer’s turn to get cold feet after Thomas’s personal effects were found buried in among the items he’d purchased.

Boxing clever

One by one, the jigsaw came together and the authorities were able to piece together the jigsaw in the box too. Not that Webster was sticking around to watch – she went off back to Ireland, but it didn’t take a scientist to identify her first bolt hole.

She was apprehended and dragged back to London, where she slimily tried to stitch up John Church – he who’d bought Thomas’s furniture and stuff from her – but his was a watertight alibi.

When that didn’t work, she said it was a crime of passion. Yet, the best story came during her trial, when the defence tried to propose that Thomas had died of natural causes. Yep, you read right, natural causes that lead to head injuries and strangulation.

With that pitiful attempt at an excuse, it was no wonder the jury took a mere hour to return a verdict: guilty.

Webster was hanged on this day in 1879, aged about 30.

Lard, my a**e

In an account by one Henry Mayhew1 who was commenting at the time, he talked of a boy who knew Webster. The lad told him that she’d offered them food not long before she was caught.

‘Ear you lot, I’ve some good pigs lard ear an you kids shall have it free of charge…so don’t go saying that ol’ Kate never gives you nothink.’ she is alleged to have said.

Mayhew charitably puts it down to Kate having a streak of humanity, but we reckon pigs might fly – a bi-product of body boiling, on the other hand…

1 From research published by Graham Attenborough in 2005.

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28 July 1540 – Thomas Cromwell

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , , , , on July 28 by Last Writes

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell

Like anyone in Henry VIII’s inner circle, your future could never be guaranteed or considered secure. So Thomas Cromwell found out today in 1540.

A trained lawyer, he managed to earn the stripes necessary to enter Henry Tudor’s advisory council and for a long time he was a close confidante.

Main man

Cromwell played a key role in the English Reformation, which saw the break away from Roman Catholicism towards the newly formed Church of England. Of course this was brought about to allow Henry to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon to make way for his next conquest – the doomed Anne Boleyn.

He was on a roll. Almost as soon as Cromwell had helped facilitate Henry’s marriage to Boleyn, he was extricating him from it so the king could bag Jane Seymour.

By 1535, he was supreme judge and in his new capacity as vice-general, he oversaw 13 monasteries being disbanded.

The big hitch

But all these brownie points were wiped out in one fell swoop when he encouraged Henry to marry following the death of Seymour. She’d died just a couple of weeks after bearing Henry’s one and only son and heir.

Cromwell helped mastermind what could have been the coup of the century – the uniting of two Protestant powers to help consolidate the Reformation. There was only one big hitch – Anne of Cleves was no looker and Henry was none too impressed with his ugly, new bride. Others at court picked up on Henry’s dissatisfaction and turned it to their advantage.

Chops away

Up to that point, many others at court hadn’t got a look in. They all used this mess as an excuse to get him ousted and the ploy worked.

Cromwell was executed at Tower Hill, sadly at the hands of a novice axe-man. Three chops and eventually his head was detached on this day in 1540, aged about 55.

Also on this day

28 July 1794 – Maximilien Robespierre
28 July 1865 – Edward Pritchard
28 July 1976 – Christian Ranucci
28 July 1826 – Isaac Smith

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