Too Simple To Hang

Too Simple To Hang

Chaos reigned at the home of 61-year-old Mrs. Jeffries in Bristol on March 4th, 1849. The old lady lay beaten to death in the living-room, her dog had been killed and thrown down the lavatory, and the house had been ransacked.

Her servant, Sarah Thomas, 18, had gone off to her parents’ home. When police questioned her she accused another girl of the murder and of killing the dog, but admitted she had helped loot the house.

All the evidence in fact pointed to Sarah as the murderer. She was convicted at Gloucester Assizes and screamed for her life when the judge donned the black cap. In the death cell she made a detailed confession. Mrs. Jeffries, she said, was a hard taskmaster and she was fed up with her carping, so she beat her to death with a stone while she was asleep.

Bristol folk raised an impressive petition to save Sarah, suggesting she was too “simple to hang.” Despite that, she was hanged in front of Bristol Prison on Friday, APRIL 20th, 1849. Her last moments were fearful for everyone – six prison officers had to drag her screaming to the drop. She was the last person publicly hanged in the city.