According to The Times the hanging was “so terrible that reporters were hastily turned out” when John Conway, a 62-year-old Irish marine fireman, was executed on Thursday, August 20th, 1891, at Kirkdale Prison, Liverpool. Conway’s head was almost torn off as the lever was pulled. Afterwards, the executioner, James Berry, held an impromptu press conference, blaming the interference of prison officials who had insisted on setting the drop.

The following month Berry was sacked from his job as Britain’s chief hangman.

Conway was executed for the murder of nine-year-old Nicholas Martin, whose mutilated body was found floating inside a sailor’s kitbag in Liverpool Docks. The bag also contained a knife and a saw, which proved to be the murder weapons. Conway confessed to the murder, but police did not accept his denial that the motive was sexual.