A government inquiry into capital punishment was ordered as a result of the botched hanging of Edward Hewitt in Gloucester Prison on Tuesday, JUNE 15th, 1886. The hangman, James Berry, had calculated a drop of six feet, which proved insufficient for the condemned man’s weight of 10st 4lb. As a result the drop failed to dislocate his vertebrae.

Hewitt, 34, died in extreme agony – his eyes bulged out of their sockets and he bit through his tongue. Medical evidence suggested he had been alive for two and a half minutes after the trap-door opened.

Hewitt, who had many jobs and many periods of unemployment, and was always hard up, was hanged for killing his wife Sarah, 43, two months earlier, on April 17th, after an argument about money. He beat her for several hours after he returned from the pub to their home in Wells Court, Sherbourne Street, Gloucester, and she finally died in the early hours of the next day.

He was convicted a month after the murder by a jury that recommended mercy on the grounds of provocation, drunkenness, and his lack of intent to kill. The recommendation, like the government inquiry into the hanging, came to nothing.