A German sailor who jumped ship in New York to become an illegal immigrant, Charles Brown (then called Kurt Braun) teamed up with a gang of three Manhattan burglars and lived off the proceeds of his crimes. When pickings became slimmer in the winter of 1900–1 the gang decided to tackle a remote farm in New Jersey, where they believed $2,000 was hidden in the house.

The four burglars were surprised by the farmer, Washington Hunter, who, although 75 years old, went for them. His wife pressed a rifle into his hands and as the burglars fled he fired off several shots, one of which hit Brown in the backside. Washington Hunter, however, died from the shock of his ordeal.

When the sun came up a posse was organised to follow a five-mile trail of footprints and blood specks in the January snow. Two of the four, one of them Charles Brown, were captured. One turned informer to save his life, leaving Brown to be charged with the farmer’s murder. He was hanged on Tuesday, December 3rd, 1901.

Brown went reluctantly to the gallows, escaping from the death cell while his legs were being pinioned. He fled to an outer courtyard and used an axe to keep the jail staff at bay for several anxious moments before being overpowered and frogmarched to the scaffold at gunpoint. Worldwide Hangings from True Crime Library.

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