Interesting article from the BBC about the German spies executed at the Tower of London during World War One.
Check out the audio link too for a step by step account of the dreadful deed
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”.
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.
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:
The Oxford martyrs: Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, (left) plus Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.
Oliver Cromwell who’s head was laid to rest eventually in Cambridge in 1960.
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
While 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.
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.
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.
US 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.
‘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.
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.
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.
Charles I of England Scotland and Ireland lost his head on this day in 1649. He was condemned to death for being ‘a tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy to the good of this nation’.
Following a battle between Charles I’s supporters – the Cavaliers – and Parliament’s supporters the Roundheads, led by Oliver Cromwell, the king was captured and sent to trial accused of treason for exercising his royal right to rule without the aid of Parliament. Up to that point he had refused to be beholden to his government when he needed money so he’d just got on with it for 11 years.
But his rule was seen as tyranny. Charles showed a knack for angering entire sections of society. Without a parliament he needed money, so he fined the aristocracy for failing to come to his coronation. He then ressurrected archaic taxes such as ship money, while angering the Scots with his moves to impose the Book of Common Prayer in church.
Naturally the government didn’t sit back and let him get on with it. They passed laws and, having failed to resist his actions, they formed a New Model Army of Parliamentarians under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. The two factions went head to head. Following a series of civil wars, Charles’s army was defeated and he was captured and imprisoned.
Following his trial Charles was found guilty of high treason and sentneced to be executed. But long line of executioners refused to behead their monarch. Finally two people agreed on the proviso that they wore masks to conceal their identities. They were paid the kingly sum of £100 for their efforts.
Proud to the last, Charles was said to have worn a thick cotton shirt – it was January so he wouldn’t be seen to be shivering as he didn’t want the crowd to mistake him as being frightened or weak. It took just one slice of the blade to decapitate the deposed monarch.
Apparently there was a groan as the execution took place. And following his execution, some say the paying public were then permitted to dip their hankies in Charles’s blood as it was believed to be a cure-all for illnesses or wounds.
Alec Guiness donned the dodgy wig to play Charles as he squares up to Richard Harris’ Cromwell in Ken Hughes’ 1970 film “Cromwell” and although its pretty good I don’t like the look on Harris’ face after the execution scene. I can’t work out if he’s pleased or a little but gutted…but maybe that’s the point.