“So help me God, I am innocent!” the doomed man cried out as the trap-door opened beneath his feet. He was Ferdinand Kohl, found guilty of killing fellow-German Theodore Furhop.

Furhop’s headless, naked body was found by a shooting party on Plaistow marshes in east London, an area now covered by the Royal Victoria Dock and industrial estates. His head was found next day. The killer and his victim had known each other for only six weeks, and police and prosecution were certain that robbery was the motive.

Convicted at Chelmsford Assizes after a two-day trial in January 1865, Kohl, who had worked in a sugar refinery on the Thames, was publicly hanged at Chelmsford on Thursday, January 26th, 1865. In the death cell he was handcuffed after a suicide attempt, and to the end he maintained that he was innocent.