Archive for November, 2008

30 November 1903 – Bernard White

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on November 30 by Old Sparky

Bernard White was hanged at Chelmsford for the murder of a former sweetheart.

He’d met Maud Garrett before he was posted to South Africa. On his return he found that she was engaged to another soldier. Garrett was found murdered shortly after.

After her body had turned up, White admitted he’d been with her the night before, but that he’s left her at the gates. But his clothes told a different story. Traces of blood were used in evidence of his guilt and he was sentenced to death.

Also on this day

30 November 1920 – Cyril Saunders

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30 November 1920 – Cyril Saunders

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on November 30 by Old Sparky

Cyril Saunders killed his cousin Dorothy May Saunders in 1920.

He was hanged for murder in Exeter, aged just 21.

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29 November 1326 – Hugh Le Despenser

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , on November 29 by Old Sparky

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Hugh Le Despenser's huge dispenser

Strongly rumoured to have been the bisexual lover of Edward II, Hugh Le Despenser the Younger was strung up today in an execution fraught with animosity.

Leading the way, was the woman scorned by the monarch’s adulterous affair – the Queen of England: Isabella of France.

There is even conjecture that Despenser dispensed with all social nicety by forcing himself upon her as well.

So it came as no surprise that she was at the front of the queue to exact her revenge with her lover Roger Mortimer right by her side.


Le Despenser had been busy amassing enemies throughout his Medieval life. He’d done well out of his kingly sexual conquest for Edward had proven to be a lucrative cash cow.

He’d made sure he had been on hand whenever Edward fancied going to war, such as the ill-fated run-in with Scotland led by Robert the Bruce or the clash with the Welsh barons, which was more lucrative. Hence, Le Despenser was always up for scooping up the spoils of their victories.


This favouritism really got the other nobles’ goats and Le Despenser became pretty unpopular, so much so that the pair really had to watch their backs.


Finally, the queen could take no more and she put a sharp end to the halcyon days for the king and his alleged lover.

She teamed up with her own bit of stuff, Justice of Wales Baron Roger Mortimer, who jumped the pair at Llantrinsaint and they were apprehended on 16 November 1326.

Of course, the king was unpopular but the real object of the exercise was to get a collar Le Despenser. That done, the disaffected nobles wasted no time in dispensing Le Despenser at Hereford where they set about exacting their inimitable brand of revenge.


Following a ropey trial-less set of accusations branding him a traitor, Le Despenser was given an equally ropey sentence, all headed up by the mistress of ceremonies: Isabella.

He was to be drawn and quartered as was to be expected if the crime was against crown or country.

But this was no ordinary hanging. According to a bizarrely over-zealous account on a Welsh government website, he was suspended between the prongs of a pitchfork 50 feet up and literally bounced until dead, but there is no evidence of this seeming embellishment.

Then he was relieved of his nether regions before being quartered and shipped off to be displayed round the country and his head festooned on London Bridge for all to see.

Head case

While his skull disappeared, Le Despenser’s headless corpse made a reappearance. It was apparently unearthed at Hulton Abbey in the 1970s.

According to ‘The Daily Telegraph’, carbon dating helped provide evidence that the remains could well have been his.

Sadly the same certainty does not surround the date of his execution. We’ve gone with the peerage date of 29 November 1326. But others state anything from 16 November onwards.

‘Wikpedia’ unfortunately bucks all the other sources by stating it took place in 1325. But seeing as Edward was officially deposed in favour of his own son ‘a couple of months later’ in January 1327, that date is completely wrong. And yes, you’ve guessed it, that act was the final humiliation and was instigated by none other than Isabella.

If you have come across any compelling evidence around his execution date, please drop us a line below.

Also on this day

29 November 1603 – William Clark
29 November 1920 – James Riley

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29 November 1603 – William Clark

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged, drawn & quartered with tags , , , , , on November 29 by Last Writes

Catholic priest William Clarke lost his head for being in cahoots with another priest to try to kidnap King James I.

The plan was to hold the king until he agreed to relax his stance on anti-Catholic laws, in what became known as the Bye Plot.

Bearing in mind James had only just got his hands on the throne, the scheming priests were nothing if not keen.

But other Jesuits got cold feet, fearing that if the plot was discovered the law would come down hard on the already beleaguered Catholics. So they outed the two priests to the authorities and they were promptly dealt with.

Although some sources state that Clark was done as a job-lot alongside fellow priestly plotter William Watson, he was apparently executed on his tod at Winchester on this day in 1603 – the first of three to be strung up, according to RC Bald in his book ‘The Chronology of Middleton’s Plays’.

Watch out for the others in December.

As for the Jesuits, their hope for leniency backfired – James threw all the Catholic priests out in 1604, so they’d shopped the plotters for no reason.

Also on this day

29 November 1920 – James Riley

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29 November 1920 – James Riley

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on November 29 by Old Sparky

James Riley murdered his wife Mary and received the death sentence.

He was hanged in 1920 at Durham, aged 50.

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28 November 1950 – James Corbitt

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on November 28 by Old Sparky

James Corbitt was one of Chief Executioner Albert Pierrepoint’s hangings at Strangeways in 1950.

Corbitt had killed his girlfriend, Eliza Wood, in a hotel room in Ashton-under-Lyne. But he was also one of Pierrepoint’s punters at the hangman’s own pub in Oldham. Corbitt was Tish to Pierrepoint’s Tosh and they were known for having sing-alongs to the pub piano. Some reckon that Corbitt’s hanging actually put him off the profession, because just six years later, Pierrepoint resigned as Chief Executioner.

Some even say that’s why Pierrepoint turned anti-capital punishment – after Corbitt’s demise, he returned to his pub, ‘Help the Poor Struggler’ and said ‘I thought if any man had a deterrent to murder poised before him, it was this troubadour whom I called Tish. He was not only aware of the rope, he had the man who handled it beside him singing a duet. The deterrent did not work.’

In the film Pierrepoint Corbitt was played by Eddie Marsan.

Also on this day

28 November 2005 – Eric Nance
28 November 2005 – John R Hicks

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28 November 2005 – Eric Nance

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , on November 28 by Old Sparky

Eric Nance

Eric Nance

Eric Nance was executed in Arkansas for the 1993 murder of 18-year-old Julie Heath with a box cutter.

Heath’s vehicle was found abandoned on Highway 270, west of Malvern. Her body turned up a week later about eight miles away. The autopsy was inconclusive but her corpse showed head trauma. Her clothing looked like it had been cut.

Nance tried to pass it off as an accident, saying that Heath had broken down on the road. When he picked her up, his work knife slid out of his pocket. He then attempted to put the knife in the glove compartment, when Heath turned on him and kicked him.

As he put his hand up to defend himself, the knife fatally jammed into her throat. The story failed to impress and he was put to death by lethal injection in 2005, aged 45.

Also on this day

28 November 1950 – James Corbitt
28 November 2005 – John R Hicks

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