Ann Hinrichson was a thrifty housewife, and although she was well provided for, she decided to take a lodger while her Danish husband, a ships captain, was away at sea. The man who answered her advertisement was John Gleeson Wilson, who didnt have as much as a penny to pay for lodgings.
On his second day at the house, No. 20, Leveson Street, Liverpool, Mrs. Hinrichson, who was pregnant, went out shopping, leaving her two young sons with the maid, Mary Parr. This was the chance Wilson was waiting for. He attacked the maid, knocking her unconscious and leaving her for dead, beat the older child, Harry, to death with a shovel, and slit the throat of Alfred, the younger boy.
Mrs. Hinrichson came home while he was still raiding her bedroom drawers. She just had time to scream at the sight of her dead children before Wilson advanced on her and beat her half to death with a poker.
After Wilson left the house a delivery boy raised the alarm. Mrs. Hinrichson and Mary Parr were still alive, but the children were dead. Mrs. Hinrichson never regained consciousness, but Mary was able to give a description of the killer before she too died of her injuries.
Wilson was arrested and charged at Liverpool Assizes on August 22nd, 1849, only with the murder of Mary Parr. The murders had raised so much feeling in the city that Wilsons counsel was jeered as he stood up to plead. His defence was in vain, and Wilson was sentenced to death.
He was hanged at noon on Saturday, September 15th, 1849, outside Kirkdale Prison before a crowd of nearly 100,000. Many took advantage of special rates offered by the railway companies, travelling from all over the country.
As William Calcraft, the chief executioner, was unwell, the hangman was 70-year-old George Howard from York, who proved to be completely incompetent. The drop was too short, and so was the white cap that hardly reached over Wilsons eyebrows. As he was being slowly strangled to death, those nearest the gallows saw Wilsons eyes bulge from their sockets and his face turn bright purple. Many fainted.
Howard rushed forward to pull the cap down over Wilsons face, and the dying man glanced sideways at him, a look of terror in his watery, bloodshot eyes. He did not stop struggling at the end of the rope for another 15 minutes.
To escape its notoriety, Leveson Street was afterwards renamed Grenville Street. Even so, sightseers continued to point at No. 20 for many years to come.