The subject of “Capital Punishment” first interested and intrigued me after WWII during the Nuremberg trials of Nazies for war crimes. Parts of the proceedings were broadcast, but the only part that I recall with anything like clarity was the reading of the verdicts and the sentencing of those convicted. I also recall that the radio kept us informed during the executions for some reason best know to themselves.
My interest became further excited for want of a better word a few years later by one John George Haig – “The Acid Bath Murderer” as he became known. This was in 1949 and I had started my addiction to newspapers and I followed the case right up to his execution. Death had very little meaning for me at the time and what was entailed in an execution was quite beyond my scope of understanding. That somebody could place a rope around another persons neck and then drop them through a hole was incomprehensible and that it was okay to do this because that’s what the law said to do and as a result I became firmly convinced that it was the right thing to do; to execute murderers.
This belief was with me for the next 10 years or so before my revulsion for capital & corporal punishment was wiped forever. During that time I was obsessed and followed capital crimes avidly, both in England and the USA; the systems employed by these two countries were so different and in the US it was even more so with so many different methods of execution. it was really almost unbelievable!
The English as a rule executed the condemned some three clear Sundays after the sentence was passed and the only method was hanging. Hanging had been perfected as a means of execution by the Pierrepoint family most notably Albert Pierrepoint; who during his long career as an executioner sent more than 600 men and women to their doom.
This total also includes 200 or so Germans convicted of war crimes. Albert holds the record for the quickest execution in recorded history; just 7 yes 7 seconds from the moment he entered the cell ’til the trap was sprung. To believe this one needs to know the details of an English execution.
The condemned cell is just a few foot away from the actual gallows, the door to the gallows is normally the cupboard that serves as a wardrobe in the cell and in just a couple of paces you’re standing on the trap.
At the appointed hour the executioner and his assistant enters the cell the warders (2) and the prisoner stand, the prisoner has his back to the cell door. The executioner immediately pinions the arms and the prisoner is propelled through the door onto the gallows which has been opened by one of the warders and stood upon the trap, the assistance straps the legs the executioner places the noose around the neck with the bolt under the left ear and springs the trap. The drop and the broken spinal cord, instant death.
No nonsense, no last words or speeches, just a quick solemn execution, the body is left to hang for an hour before being lowered, not cut down as some like to think, but lowered and usually treated with respect.
I shall continue this in another blog later, no point in going overboard and writing a book for a blog is there?