Gypsy Lucy Smith had nothing of value in this world and in her husband Charles, 63, she had only a brute. Smith beat Lucy constantly with a stick. They lived in abject poverty in a tent on wasteland at Cowley, Oxford, and suffered misery and deprivation on an appalling scale even by late Victorian standards.

On the night of February 19th, 1887, Smith and Lucy and their two teenage offspring, Oceana and Prince Albert, went to bed. Almost at once Smith began to attack his wife. One of the teenagers woke up and saw his father brandishing a hammer. He heard his mother cry out, whereupon the other teenager woke up and ran for help. Lucy Smith meanwhile crawled from the tent covered in blood, but collapsed and died at once.

Smith was convicted at Reading Assizes and sentenced by Baron Huddlestone to hang after his plea of manslaughter was rejected. There appeared to be no motive for the murder, which was simply set down as domestic violence. Smith went to the scaffold on Monday, May 9th, 1887, in Oxford Prison. He fainted on the gallows before the trap-door opened.