“God has forgiven me for all I have done. I have forgiven everybody – and I hope everybody has forgiven me.”

As the guards made a final check of the straps and electrodes she spoke once more. This time, her voice was loud enough for everyone present to hear her words: “I think these straps are too tight.” They were the last words Earle Dennison uttered.

As the first white woman to be executed in Alabama, Earle Dennison had made history. Former colleagues said she had been good at her job, unflappable in the operating theatre, always ready to hand surgeons the instruments they needed even before they asked for them.

But that was all that could be said in her favour. She was evil through and through, a strange mixture of cunning and stupidity. If anyone ever deserved the electric chair, it was hard to imagine a better candidate…