Capital punishment came to its historic conclusion on November 1st, 1965, when a security guard became the last man sentenced to be hanged in England. He was David Chapman, 23, who had been employed as a guard at Scarborough’s North Bay swimming pool for only three weeks when he murdered the pool’s night-watchman.

Chapman was out drinking with fellow-guard Paul Reid, 18, on the night of JUNE 22nd, 1965, and by closing time he had downed nine pints of beer.

Passing the swimming pool on their way home the two men were to say later that they decided to take a dip They called to night-watchman Alfred Harland to let them in, but when he didn’t answer they broke in. Instead of taking a dip, though, Chapman turned his attention to the safe.

Chapman claimed that when Alfred Harland approached him the night-watchman lunged at him, lost his balance and fell into the pool, knocking himself against the base of the diving-board on the way. When he surfaced “he seemed to go limp in the water.”

But detectives believed that, realising he would be arrested for breaking and entering if he rescued Harland, Chapman had decided to let the night-watchman drown.

Chapman said that he and Reid later fished Harland out of the pool, and thought he was dead. Chapman went to unlock the safe, heard a sudden splash, and Reid told him: “I’ve put Alf back again.”

Reid’s story was somewhat different. He said he saw Chapman on the diving-board, pushing Harland back into the water as he struggled to the surface. “I said to Chapman, ‘What the hell did you do that for?’ He replied, ‘Shut up. We’ve got what we came for.’”

Chapman then looked at him, Reid continued, and said: “I had to do it because he recognised me.”

Both men pleaded not guilty to capital murder at Leeds Assizes in October, but guilty to breaking and entering and stealing. The jury found Chapman guilty of murder, and convicted Reid of being an accessory after the fact of grievous bodily harm.

Before Chapman became the last man in England to be sentenced to death, the court heard that he had previous convictions for assault.

A few days later the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act received royal assent. and Chapman’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.