Living in a single room in Deptford, London, William England Brown, 49, was frequently visited by a 17-year-old youth. The visits ended abruptly on APRIL 19th, 1938, however, when Brown’s landlady heard a commotion, went to his room, and found him standing over the lad, who lay on the floor, stabbed in the neck. Brown was holding a knife which he told the police he had taken away from the youth, who had attacked him.

The youth’s name was Alfred Brown, but the two were not related. His stab wound proved fatal, and William Brown was charged with murder.

He was believed to be homosexual, the youth blackmailing him, and at his trial the defence sought a verdict of manslaughter. Brown said that the youth had asked him for money, and when he told him to keep away from him the lad had picked up a knife and assaulted him. There was a struggle in which he wrested the knife from the youth’s hand and stabbed him in self-defence.

Found guilty of murder, Brown was then revealed to have a previous conviction. In 1935 he had been jailed for 12 months for wounding another boy with a sheath knife. He was now sentenced to death, but the jury recommended mercy on account of his poor health and highly nervous disposition.

In this they were supported by the judge, who advised the Home Secretary that there was no evidence of premeditation, the murder having apparently been committed in a sudden frenzy by a man with weak nerves and little self-control.

Brown was consequently reprieved, and his release on licence followed eight years later.