An affair developed after May Shaw met Leonard Holmes when he was stationed in Huddersfield as a soldier in 1943. He asked May if she would join him if his wife Peggy left him, and she said she would.
They kept in touch, and on Monday, NOVEMBER 19th, 1945, Holmes travelled to Huddersfield from his home in Walesby, Nottinghamshire, and told May that Peggy had left him. The news was no surprise, for two days earlier he had sent May a telegram: “See you Sunday or Monday for sure. Be prepared. OK. All fixed. Len.”
He stayed with May until the evening of Tuesday, November 20th, when he said he had to return home. But it was a journey he was never to complete. The police were looking out for him, and he was arrested at Retford station and charged with his wife’s murder.
During his absence from home his brother had called, and on receiving no response to his knocks he had sensed that something was wrong. Breaking in, he had found Peggy’s body.
“There is only one answer to the charge. I admit it,” the 32-year-old killer told the police. He claimed that while he and Peggy were in a pub the previous Saturday night, he had seen her wink at two airmen. He suspected she was being unfaithful, and they had a row on their return home. In the heat of the argument he had picked up a coal hammer and struck her, and on seeing she was still alive he had strangled her to put her out of her misery.
He said he glanced at his watch, which told him it was four minutes past two in the morning. He had a wash, burned his bloodstained clothes, and when his six children got up he gave them breakfast and took them to school, telling them to go to their grandmother that evening. Asked about the incriminating telegram he had sent May Shaw, he said he had seen a packed suitcase which convinced him that his wife was about to leave him. That was why he had sent the telegram.
At Holmes’s trial, however, the judge told the jury that the telegram’s evidence of premeditation ruled out a manslaughter verdict. They might think this was a case of cold-blooded murder, he suggested.
And they did. Found guilty and sentenced to death with no recommendation to mercy, Leonard Holmes went to the scaffold at Lincoln Prison on May 28th, 1946, to become the last prisoner executed by Thomas Pierrepoint.