After his wife left him for a lover, 34-year-old Frederick Cross wanted to kill himself but lacked the courage to do it. So he decided to let the hangman do the job for him. For his death wish to come true, he had only to kill someone, admit the murder, and go to the scaffold. Finding a victim would be easy. Anyone would do.

His opportunity came on FEBRUARY 25th, 1955. He was in a pub near his home at Great Harwood, Staffordshire, when Donald Lainton, a 28-year-old insurance agent from Stockport, came in and asked for something to eat. When the landlord said he didn’t serve food, Cross told Lainton that if he gave him a lift he would direct him to another pub where he’d get something.

They got into Lainton’s car and Cross gave directions that took them towards Uttoxeter, and then into a side road where Lainton stopped and waited for further directions.

Cross then took a pair of scissors from his pocket and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and head. Later that afternoon the insurance agent was found lying severely injured in his car, and he died in hospital shortly after midnight.

Cross gave himself up to the police two days later, saying he had committed the murder in order to be hanged.

He pleaded guilty at Staffordshire Assizes on July 5th, his trial lasting just eight minutes. But as his execution date drew near, he again got cold feet about dying and petitioned the Home Secretary for a reprieve. None was forthcoming, and on July 26th, 1955, he almost had to be dragged to the scaffold at Birmingham’s Winson Green Prison.