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Victorian Hangings

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From 1837 to 1901 Queen Victoria presided over the world’s biggest empire – and during her 64-year reign approximately 1,100 judicial hangings were carried out in Great Britain and Ireland. Here we present a month-by-month calendar of the fascinating stories behind some of them, set frequently against a background of dire poverty, short trials and public executions...

Victorian Hangings: December

Victorian Murder Cases:
Elijah Winstanley – Wigan

Hired as assistant hangman for an execution at Liverpool’s Walton Prison scheduled for Tuesday, December 17th, 1895, Thomas Scott, from Huddersfield, reported to the prison at nine o’clock on the night before the hanging, and then decided to go out on the town.
He hired a cab and picked up Winifred Webb, 29, a prostitute. They went for a ride around Liverpool and had sex. But after the girl went on her way, Scott discovered he had been robbed, and went to the police.
“I was with a girl. We took a cab ride and had a drink in the cab, and then we had sex for about an hour and a half,” he said.
Meanwhile, Miss Webb, who was well known to the police, had apparently herself been robbed by two later customers, and she too went to the police to complain. While she was at the police station she was searched, and she had Scott’s wallet, containing £2. 9s. 6d, and his glasses on her.
Indignantly, she protested: “He only gave me 36 shillings for 90 minutes. That wasn’t nearly enough.”
When it was discovered that Scott was supposed to officiate at a hanging in a few hours’ time the Home Office was informed, and he was immediately relieved of his duties. Next day the execution of the condemned man, Elijah Winstanley, was performed by James Billington without an assistant.
Winstanley, 31, and another man, William Kearsley, 43, were spotted by Detective Sergeant Robert Kidd, 37, and one of his police colleagues, breaking into the London and North-Western Railway Company’s yard in Wigan at the end of September 1895. When they were challenged they defied the two officers, and Sergeant Kidd was beaten, kicked and stabbed to death. Kearsley was reprieved because he had taken no part in the attack.
As for Thomas Scott, he never assisted a another execution in England and Wales, but he was the chief executioner in almost all the executions in Ireland until 1901, when his career ended because the Irish authorities decided not to employ anyone who was not on the official Home Office list. Victorian murder stories from True Crime Library.

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