Thomas McGuinness was 25, unemployed and a drifter. Falling in love with a domestic worker in Aberdeen, he proposed marriage, unaware that she had a young son. When he learned of the child he withdrew his proposal but persuaded the girl to leave her job and travel the country with him.

She soon found that life on the road didn’t appeal to her, left him and went to Edinburgh. But McGuinness soon traced her and again persuaded her to join him, this time in Glasgow.

There he soon began to ill-treat her five-year-old son Alexander Imlach, stubbing out cigarettes on his arms and pushing him downstairs. Taken ill and confined to bed, the child’s mother was unable to intervene when on MARCH 8th, 1917, McGuinness threw the boy downstairs, where he finished him off by punching and kicking his head.

He told Alexander’s mother that her son had had a fit, and repeated this story to a woman neighbour. But the neighbour was suspicious and called the police. Meanwhile McGuinness had fled, but he was arrested on his return to the house the next day.

Convicted of the child’s murder, he was sentenced to death. His execution was set for May 17th, 1917, and although he was a picture of abject terror he refused a drink of brandy shortly before he went to the scaffold. “I’ve been a teetotaller all my days,” he said firmly, “and I’ll manage without it now.”

Less than five feet tall, he was one of the shortest condemned prisoners the hangman John Ellis ever encountered. And he was also inadvertently one of the most difficult.

As Ellis placed the noose around McGuinness’s neck he saw that he was about to faint. With a warning shout to his assistant Robert Baxter to jump clear, Ellis dashed to pull the lever, and the trap-doors crashed open as Baxter leapt to safety.