Archive for February, 2009

Execution of the Day – 2009 (Part 9)

Posted in Death penalty, Scaphism with tags , , on February 26 by Old Sparky

This week spans an impressive six centuries of death.

But before we round up the motley bunch, let us take you much further back in history – to 401 BC no less.

Sadly we don’t have an exact date, so instead we offer you the execution method to top all ways to despatch the condemned.

The poor subject was a Persian soldier called Mithridates (not to be confused with the Persian kings of the same name). He was sentenced to death for killing royalty in the shape of Cyrus the Younger as detailed in Plurarch’s ‘Artaxerxes’.

Some say it was accidental while others murkily put it down to more sinister reasons – it could well have been assassination.

But enough of that, for it’s the method you’re after. Well our man Mithridates was executed by the slowest, most drawn out method we’ve stumbled across: scaphism.

According to John Dryden’s translation of Plutarch’s work, Mithridates was laid in a boat on his back. Another was then upturned and put over him to ensure he was sandwiched leaving his head and limbs exposed.

Mithridates was then fed and if he refused, they forced him to eat ‘by pricking his eyes’. But, more of that later.


Once that was done, he was ‘drenched’ from head to foot in milk and honey and left to the mercy of the voracious swarms of flies which flocked in their thousands at the thought of a free meal.

So, back to all that food he’d been force-fed…well it had to go somewhere, and having relieved himself, Mithridates had unwittingly sent an open invitation to the weevils, maggots et al ‘and these entering into the bowels of him, his body [was] consumed’.

But we’re not talking a fast process. His being eaten alive from the inside and out took a whoppingly agonising 17 days in this, surely the most sadistic method of torturous execution.

So, lunch anyone?

Back to this week’s offerings…

betty-lou-beets26 February 2000 – Betty Lou Beets
Why waste time with divorce when you can bump your husband off instead, thought Betty Lou Beets? And this is how the Texan managed to offload two of her five husbands.

harry-breaker-morant27 February 1902 – Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant
Eloquent to the end, Harry ‘Breaker’ Harbord Morant shouted “Shoot straight, you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it” as he faced his firing squad. Morant was sentenced to die for his activities as a soldier during the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century.

28 February 1658 – Major George Strangwayes
Money-grabbing greed or just sheer jealously may have prompted Major George Strangwayes to kill his sister’s husband in the mid-17th century. Strangwayes murdered his brother-in-law for fear of losing his inheritance and was executed for his actions on this day in 1658.

29 February 1528 – Patrick Hamilton
It took Scottish clergyman Patrick Hamilton six hours to slow roast today in 1528. He’d been found guilty of heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

george-wishart1 March 1546 – George Wishart
A keen advocate behind the early rise of Protestantism in Scotland was executed on this day in 1546. George Wishart became a martyr to the Protestant cause when he was put to death today in the mid-16th century.

salvador-puig-antich2 March 1974 – Salvador Puig Antich
Catalan activist Salvador Puig Antich was executed for murder during Franco’s right-wing dictatorship.

3 March 1903 – Edgar Owen (aka Edwards)
Triple murderer Edgar Owen got greedy. It was his deadly avarice that led to his execution on this day in 1903. Edgar Owen (aka Edwards) was hanged for wiping out an entire family. The victims had been hoping he’d snap up their business, but he took their lives instead.

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Execution of the Day – 2009 (Part 8)

Posted in Death penalty with tags , , on February 19 by Old Sparky

Let’s tour the world this week.

First we have a foray Down Under with the last woman to be strung up, followed by a trip Stateside to reveal a spurned stalker and a hubristic harpie who killed her hubbie.

Closer to home, we have one of the Nazis’ nemeses who movingly put her German life on the line in defence of her pacifist beliefs.

Of course no world tour would be complete without an all-important visit to Shepton Mallet, before we wind up our worldly theme with an Essex boy.

jean-lee19 February 1951 – Jean Lee
Today marked a key date in social history Down Under, as Jean Lee became the last woman to be hanged in Australia. The 31-year-old was hanged for the murder of William ‘Pop’ Kent on this day in 1951. She had a knack for hooking up with the most inappropriate men.

20 February 1998 – Michael Edward Long
Obsession gripped Michael Edward Long, who was executed on this day in 1998. He was transfixed by an Oklahoma florist and, when she shunned his affections, he turned aggressor and killed her. And that resulted in a lethal injection fix for Michael Long.

21 February 1918 – Joseph Jones
Being an ex-army man didn’t stop Joseph Jones from targeting soldiers in a life of crime. He was strung up today in 1918, aged just 26, for killing a fellow comrade in arms.

sophia-magdalena-scholl22 February 1943 – Sophie Magdalena Scholl
A pacifist German who hadn’t been sucked in by Nazi propaganda was executed on this day in 1943. While a student at Munich University Sophie Magdalena Scholl and her brother Hans were active members of the White Rose group.

irene-schroeder223 February 1931 – Irene Schroeder
Like a preying mantis, Irene Schroeder had a habit of destroying the men in her path. The trigger-happy blonde was not content to continue life with a loving husband and young child and she was forever living beyond her means.

24 February 1925 – William Bignell
William Bignell was hanged for the murder of his girlfriend Margaret Legg. He was hanged, aged 32, at Shepton Mallet jail, which is still the oldest operation jail in Britain, having been opened in 1610.

robert-devereux25 February 1601 – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Royal favourite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, kept pushing his luck and finally lost his head after he ran out of chances. Queen Elizabeth I of England had a particular soft spot for Essex, but he proved pretty poor at defending her honour.

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Execution of the Day – 2009 (Part 7)

Posted in Death penalty with tags , , on February 12 by Old Sparky

With an average of one a day, you could be forgiven for thinking this week’s fairly quiet on the old death diary front…that is, until you find out there are two hard-hitters of English history for your delectation.

Yep, this week two right royal damsels in distress were dispatched after they became detached at the necks in the 16th century. One was a wily ex-wife of old ‘Enry, while the second unfortunate got caught up in the jostling for the English throne, after Henry’s son Eddie popped his clogs prematurely.

Oh, and don’t forget Russia also rid itself of a rampant serial sadist, plus there’s a Christmas Day killer thrown in for good measure.

lady-jane-grey12 February 1554 – Lady Jane Grey
Queen for just nine days (or maybe 13), Jane Dudley eventually lost her head on this day in 1554. Dudley was her married name, but she was better known as Lady Jane Grey. And on this day, she and her husband, the Earl of Guildford, faced their headless futures together, after they’d both been found guilty of treason.

catherine-howard13 February 1542 – Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard was a bit of a goer by all accounts. But did that really mean she should lose her head on this day in 1542? Howard was Henry VIII’s fifth wife, and it was his consort’s alleged extra-curricular love life that earned her a beheading for treason.

andrei-chikatilo14 February 1994 – Andrei Chikatilo
Killing spree doesn’t come close to describing the butcher of Rostov’s rampage through Russia. Andrei Chikatilo devoted 12 years of his life to murdering a whopping 53 women and children, but there unconfirmed reports that it could be as many as 56.

15 February 1910 – William Murphy
On a lean day in the land of the executioner, William Murphy became the last man to be executed at Caernarfon Gaol. The 49-year-old was hanged for the brutal murder of Gwen Ellen Jones at Holyhead on Christmas Day 1909.

16 February 1819 – John Fellows & John Corderoy
Two Johns were hanged side by side on this day in 1819. John Fellows was sent to the gallows at Newgate Prison. He’d been found guilty of stealing from a lodging house. He was executed alongside a burglar by the name of John Corderoy. Corderoy, a petty burglar, was strung up at Newgate Prison after he was found guilty of breaking and entering.

jose-burgos17 February 1872 – Jose Burgos
The most vocal of the trio of Gomburza martyrs, Jose Burgos was sentenced to be garrotted for treason in the Philippines. José Apolonio Burgos teamed up with a host of followers in Cavite and fellow Spanish-Filipino priests from the surrounding area to promote liberal ideas.

18 February 1916 – Oscar Comery
Oscar Comery pleaded guilty to killing his wife in the hope they’d be lenient on him. He’d been hoping for life imprisonment. Instead his ploy backfired and the sentence was death. As a result, he was sent to the gallows, aged 34, for poisoning his wife with strychnine.

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Execution of the Day – 2009 (Part 6)

Posted in Death penalty with tags , , on February 5 by Old Sparky

There’s a distinct Godly tinge to this week’s proceedings.

What with a whole clutch of Christians and a man who mentioned God in his final speech, it seems undeniable that religion features quite spectacularly.

Indeed, a former clergyman was bumped off thanks to a blood-lusty monarch, who revelled in pumping out as many Protestants as she could possibly muster, and who also sanctioned the death of a Scottish monarch who was rival to her throne.

Intersperse this with a couple of penitent men and an Irish ghost and it surely marks a busy week on the old execution calendar to be sure.

martyrs-of-japan25 February 1597 – The Martyrs of Japan
The Christian collective (some of whom were just boys) were rounded up and crucified in 1597 at Nagasaki along with Saint Garcia, because the Japanese emperor was convinced they were going to try and overthrow him.

henry-earl-dunn-jr6 February 2003 – Henry Earl Dunn Jr
Hate-crime offender Henry Earl Dunn Jr expressed sorrow for his actions in the lead up to his execution today. He’d been found guilty of a senseless crime, where an innocent homosexual was targeted. Of course Dunn tried to wriggle out of his sentence.

glenn-lee-benner-ii7 February 2006 – Glenn Lee Benner II
‘Words seem so futile. All I can say is I’m sorry. May God give you peace,’ said a repentant Glenn Benner II as he waited for his killer injection. The convicted rapist and murderer spent nearly half his life on death row to think on his crimes.

mary-queen-of-scots8 February 1587 – Mary, Queen of Scots
‘So long as there is life in her, there is hope; so as they live in hope, we live in fear’, so said the English ministers about Catholic supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. Indeed the men in Mary’s life were ultimately the death of her.

john-hooper-19 February 1555 – John Hooper
Events conspired against John Hooper to ensure he was burned at the stake in 1555. The ex-Bishop and clergyman had been banged up for heresy, but they couldn’t touch him because there were no laws to call upon.

10 February 1943 – Ronald Roberts
Despite a war raging, the death penalty was still alive and well in 1943. Ronald Roberts was executed on this day for murder. The 28-year-old was hanged in Liverpool Prison during the Second World War. Roberts had been found guilty of the murder of Nellie Pearson.

patrick-j-whelan11 February 1869 – Patrick J. Whelan
There’s a hostel in Canada that’s said to be haunted by the last man to be hanged publicly in Canada. That is a man who might have been fitted up for a crime. The ghost of Irishman Patrick James Whelan is said to roam his cell in the former prison on Nicholas Street in Ottawa.

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