At 18 the apprentice carpenter decided he was tired of life. “I’ve had enough,” Robert Burton said. “I just want to die now.”

So far life for him had been a bit of a rollercoaster. After his father threw him out of the family house he enlisted in the West Kent Militia just to collect the joining-up fee, then deserted and spent the cash having a merry time in Chatham. Next he worked for a shoemaker, stole the takings and was jailed for two months.

Prison seemed to concentrate Burton’s mind. After his discharge he didn’t think much of being an apprentice, so, having decided he wanted to die, he resolved that the best way to go about it was to kill someone and get himself hanged. His predatory eye fell on little Thomas Houghton, who was out playing alone. Burton struck up a conversation with the boy, lured him under a railway bridge, and tried to cut his throat. But Thomas struggled so much that Burton was forced to squeeze his throat “until his eyes popped out.”

At the Kent Assizes in Maidstone in March 1863, the jury rejected the defence submission that Burton was insane. He was convicted, and in the death cell claimed that the murder was his “revenge on society.” He was hanged on Saturday, April 11th, 1863, outside Maidstone Prison. Before the noose was tied he smiled and waved to the crowd, then told the hangman: “I am quite ready.”