The triple execution of three men at Winchester Prison on Tuesday, July 21st, 1896, was the last of its kind to be held in Britain. Triple executions were thought to be cruel condemned prisoners often fainted on the drop because of the time they were kept waiting with the ropes around their necks.
Philip Matthews, 32, a coachman, killed six-year-old Elsie, his daughter by his first wife, because he couldnt afford to keep the child as well as his mistress. He took Elsie for a train ride, strangled her, and left her body in a field near Copnor level-crossing.
His mistress fainted and had to be carried from the court as he was being sentenced to death at Hampshire Assizes.
Frederick Burden, 24, a Southampton dock labourer who cut the throat of his common-law wife Angelina Faithfull at their home in Brooklyn Road, Portswood, was hanged only after a murder conviction at his second trial at Hampshire Assizes the jury at the first having failed to agree. Evidence was heard that Angelina was visited from time to time by other men, any of whom could have killed her.
Im not guilty, Burden protested when he was arrested. I was on the bridge at Winchester near the barracks at nine oclock on Thursday morning when this happened. But there were bloodstains on his clothes that were not consistent with his explanation that he had fallen over a barbed wire fence.
Private Samuel Smith, 18, stationed with the Kings Royal Rifles at Aldershot, was convinced that Corporal Robert Payne was picking on him. He told a friend: Payne has always had it in for me, and I will have my own back. Smith was peeling potatoes when Payne next came by. He picked up his loaded rifle and shot the corporal dead.
The trio went quietly to the scaffold, where executioners assistant William Warbrick placed them over the three sets of trap-doors and executioner James Billington pulled the lever. Smith and Matthews died immediately, but Burdens body jerked convulsively for a moment or so. Warbrick said later that this didnt mean that Smith suffered, for he was probably unconscious almost before his body reached the end of the drop.