He had accidentally killed his skipper on the barge Speranza, William Goddard, 25, told the police in his home port of Ipswich, Suffolk.

It was NOVEMBER 30th, 1931, and he said that when they docked in London on November 26th he had asked Charles Lambert if there was any mail for him. Lambert had replied that there were two letters for him, saying one of them was from his fiancée. But the skipper didn’t use the word “fiancée.” Instead he used a derogatory term, and Goddard said he punched Lambert in the jaw, knocking him down the steps to his cabin.

On going to see if he was all right, he saw that the skipper had grabbed a coal hammer to attack him, so he wrested it from him, struck him with it, and then went for a walk to cool off. On his return he found that Lambert had not moved. The skipper was dead, and Goddard said he panicked and took Lambert’s watch and chain to make his death look like a robbery.

But when police in London went to the barge at the North Woolwich Causeway, they found a rope knotted round the 57-year-old skipper’s neck. An autopsy established that in addition to suffering a head wound, he had been partially strangled.

Goddard claimed that his first instinct had been to dispose of the body overboard, so he had tied the rope round Lambert’s neck in order to haul him up on deck, but had found he couldn’t manage it.

At his Old Bailey trial for murder, police witnesses said that when Goddard reported the killing he said that after he struck Lambert with the hammer, the skipper made so much noise that he had to “finish him off.”

This indicated cold-blooded murder rather than manslaughter, and Goddard was found guilty as charged and sentenced to death. There was no reprieve, and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison on February 23rd, 1932.