When Bensley Lawrence, who worked as timekeeper at the Baltic Saw Mill Company in Tunbridge Wells, answered the doorbell at his home on the night of July 20th, 1888, he was confronted by two youths he recognised as former employees of the mill.
Weve been sent to tell you youve got to come down to the factory at once, they told him. Theres trouble brewing down there.
Lawrence put on his hat and went off with the two youths, but he never got down to the factory. On the way the youths, William Gower, 18, and Charles Dobell, 17, shot him. Soon afterwards he was found mortally wounded, and died in hospital next day.
The case was unsolved for three months until Gower, then living in a Salvation Army hostel in London, confessed to the murder, adding that his accomplice Dobell had fired the gun. He said they intended to rob the factory, then changed their minds, but they also hated Lawrence because when they worked at the mill he was always booking them in late and telling them off.
They both denied murder when they were tried at Maidstone Assizes in December 1888, but were found guilty after a two-day hearing. The jury added a recommendation for mercy because of their youth, especially in the case of Dobell. Nevertheless, both were hanged at Maidstone Prison on January 2nd, 1889. Dobell was then 15 days short of his 18th birthday, and he has consequently entered the annals of crime as the last person under 18 to be executed in Britain.