Twenty-six-year-old Robert James Kirby was an unemployed labourer with a string of convictions for theft. He was morose and moody, lived largely by sponging on friends and relatives, and the best that could be said for him was that he soon confessed when he turned killer.

His girlfriend Grace Newing,
17, worked at a sweet shop. She
was expecting his child, and on the evening of July 6th, 1933, he went to her mother’s house in Stevens Road, Chadwell Heath, Essex, to wait for Grace to come home. She was not due to finish work until 11 p.m., and would not get back until half an hour later.

Mrs. Newing went to bed at 11 o’clock, leaving Kirby in the sitting-room, and at 1 a.m. he turned up at the home of his married sister. He had murdered Grace, he told her. Then
he gave himself up to the police, who found that Grace had been strangled by a length of cord tied tightly round her neck.

At Kirby’s Old Bailey trial in September, he was said by Brixton Prison’s medical officer to have shown no sign of insanity while on remand. But a doctor called to testify for the defence said he believed Kirby was mentally defective. The prisoner had told him that Grace had asked him to kill her but the court heard there was no evidence to support this.

Finding Kirby guilty of murder, the jury added a recommendation to mercy, and Mr. Justice Swift sentenced him to death.

Under the provisions of the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1884 Kirby was examined by a panel of doctors. He told them he strangled Grace because she refused to have sex with him that night, and they found no evidence of insanity or mental deficiency.

There was no reprieve, and Kirby was hanged on OCTOBER 11th, 1933.