Living together in Gosport, Hampshire, William Churcher, 35, and Mrs. Sophia Jane Hepworth had a relationship which seemed to consist largely of heated arguments. They were at it again on the evening of APRIL 9th, 1902, at a local public house where they constantly argued with each other.
Their dispute continued after closing time, when they went home and neighbours heard them still arguing. This continued until 1.45 a.m. the next day, when a piercing scream was followed by silence.
Later that morning a witness saw Churcher come out of the house, lock the door and throw away the key. Shortly afterwards the police were called when Mrs. Hepworth failed to turn up for an appointment. Breaking into the house, they found her body on the living-room floor, her throat cut.
Traced and arrested, Churcher admitted the murder but claimed provocation. He was sentenced to death at Hampshire Assizes on July 2nd, and was hanged at Winchester Prison on July 22nd, 1902.
Although his crime was unremarkable, his execution had two distinctions. It was the first to be preceded by the tolling of a bell instead of the hoisting of the traditional black flag; and it was performed single-handed by William Billington, working on this occasion without an assistant.