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Hangman Albert Pierrepoint killed everyone from serial murderers to Nazi war criminals, and was paid well by the British government to do so. For the first fifty-six years of the last century the name of Pierrepoint appeared on the short Home Office list of qualified executioners for Great Britain and Ireland. The autobiography of Albert Pierrepoint, a Yorkshireman who for twentyfive years served as the public executioner in both the UK and Ireland. Pierrepoint comes.

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His father, Henryand uncle Thomas were official hangmen before him. Pierrepoint was born in Clayton in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His family struggled financially because of his father’s intermittent employment and heavy drinking. Pierrepoint knew from an early age that he wanted to become a hangman, and was taken on as an assistant executioner in Septemberaged His first execution was in December that year, alongside his uncle Tom.

In October he undertook his first hanging as lead executioner. In Pierrepoint was involved in a dispute with a sheriff over payment, perrepoint to his retirement from hanging.

He ran a pub in Lancashire from the mids, which he continued to do until the s. He wrote his memoirs in in which he concluded that capital punishment was not a deterrent, although he may have changed his position after that.

He approached his task with gravity, executtioner said that the execution was “sacred to me”.

Henry was removed from the list of executioners in July after arriving drunk at a prison the day before an execution and excessively berating exectuioner assistant. Henry’s health declined and he was unable to undertake physical work; as a result, Pierrepoint left exeuctioner and began work at the local Marlborough Mills.

By he had learned to drive a car and a lorry to make his deliveries; he later became manager of the business. On 19 April Pierrepoint wrote to the Prison Commissioners and applied to be an assistant executioner. He was turned down as there were no vacancies, but received an invitation for interview six months later. He was accepted and spent four days training at Pentonville PrisonLondon, where a dummy was used for practice. He received his formal acceptance letter as an assistant executioner at the end of September The executioner was chosen by the county high sheriff —or more commonly delegated to the exeutionerwho selected executionet the hangman and the assistant.

He should exscutioner understand that his conduct and general behaviour should be respectable, not only at the place and time of the execution, but before and subsequently, that he should avoid attracting public attention in going to or from the prison, and he is prohibited from giving to any person particulars on the subject of his duty for publication.

In late December Pierrepoint undertook his first execution.

His uncle Tom had been contracted by the government of the Irish Free State for the hanging of Patrick McDermott, a young Irish farmer who had murdered his brother; Tom was free to select his own assistant as it was outside Britain, and took Pierrepoint with him. They travelled to the Mountjoy PrisonDublin pierrepoing the hanging. It was scheduled for 8: Pierrepoint’s job as assistant was to follow the prisoner onto the scaffoldbind the prisoner’s legs together, then step back off the trapdoor before the lead executioner sprung the mechanism.

For the remainder of the s Pierrepoint worked in the grocery business and as an assistant executioner. Most of his commissions were with his uncle Tom, from whom Pierrepoint learned much. He pierrepoknt particularly impressed with his uncle’s approach and demeanour, which were dignified and discreet; [25] he also followed Tom’s advice “if you can’t do wxecutioner without whisky, don’t do it at all. In July Pierrepoint was the assistant at the execution of Udham Singha Punjabi refugee who had been convicted of shooting the colonial administrator Sir Michael O’Dwyer.

In October Pierrepoint undertook his first execuitoner as lead executioner when he hanged the gangland killer Antonio “Babe” Mancini. He and his assistant arrived the day before the execution, where he was told the height and weight of the prisoner; he viewed the condemned man through the “Judas hole” in the door to judge his build. Pierrepoint then went to the execution room—normally next to the condemned cell—where he tested the equipment using a sack that weighed about the same as the prisoner; he pierrepoinr the length of the drop using the Home Office Table of Drops, making allowances for the man’s physique, if necessary.


On the day of the execution, the practice was for Pierrepoint, his assistant and two prison officers to enter the condemned man’s cell at 8: Pierrepoint secured the man’s arms behind his back with a leather strap, and all five walked through a second door, which led to the execution chamber.

The prisoner was walked to a marked spot on the trapdoor whereupon Pierrepoint placed a white hood over the prisoner’s head and a noose around his neck. The metal eye through which the rope was looped was placed under the left jawbone which, when the prisoner dropped, forced the head back and broke the spine.

Pierrepoint pulled a large lever, releasing the trapdoor. From entering the pierrrepoint man’s cell to opening the trapdoor took him a maximum of 12 seconds. The neck was broken in almost exactly the same position in each hanging—the Hangman’s fracture. During the Second World War Pierrepoint hanged 15 German spies, as well as US servicemen found guilty by courts martial of committing crimes in England. When Pierrepoint entered the condemned man’s cell for the hanging, Richter stood up, threw aside one of the guards and charged headfirst at the stone wall.

Stunned momentarily, he rose and shook his head. After Richter struggled with the guards, Pierrepoint managed to get the leather strap around Richter’s wrists. He burst the leather strap from eye-hole to eye-hole and was free again. After another struggle, the strap was wrapped tightly around his wrists. He was brought to the scaffold where a strap was wrapped around his ankles, followed by a cap and noose. Just as Pierrepoint pushed the lever, Richter jumped up with bound feet.

As Richter plummeted through the trapdoor, Pierrepoint could see that the noose had slipped, but it became stuck under Richter’s nose.

Despite the unusual position of the noose, the prison medical officer determined that it was an instantaneous, clean death. In August Pierrepoint married Anne Fletcher after a courtship of five years. Executiiner did not tell her about his role of executioner until a few weeks after the nuptials, when he was flown to Gibraltar to hang two saboteurs; on his return he explained the reason for his absence and she accepted it, saying that she had known about his second job all along, after hearing gossip locally.

In latefollowing the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the subsequent trial of the camp’s officials and functionaries, Pierrepoint was sent to HamelinGermany to carry out the executions of eleven of those sentenced to death, plus two other German war executiondr convicted of murdering an RAF pilot in the Netherlands in March He disliked any publicity connected to his role and was unhappy that his name had been announced to the press by General Pierrepoijt Bernard Montgomery.

When he flew to Germany, he was followed across the airfield by the press, which he described as being “as unwelcome as a lynch mob”. Amery, the eldest son of the cabinet minister Leo Amerywas a Nazi sympathiser who had visited prisoner-of-war camps in Germany to recruit allied prisoners for the British Free Corps ; [e] he had also broadcast to Britain to encourage men to join the Nazis. He was found guilty of treason. Previously, the Austrians had used a shorter drop, leaving the executed men to choke to death, rather than the faster long-drop kill.

He undertook four double executions of prisoners, with his trainees acting as assistants. Woodswho was relatively inexperienced. The press was invited to observe the process, and pictures were later circulated which suggested the hangings had been poorly done.

Executioner: Pierrepoint. Albert Pierrepoint by Albert Pierrepoint

Wilhelm Keitel took 20 minutes to die after the trapdoor opened; the trap was not wide enough, so that some of the men hit the edges as they fell—more than one person’s nose was torn off in the process—and others were strangled, rather than having their necks broken. After the war, Pierrepoint left the delivery business, and took over the lease of a pub, the Help the Poor Struggler on Manchester Road, in the Hollinwood area of Oldham.

I wanted to run my own business so that I should be under no obligation when I took time off. I could take a three o’clock plane from Dublin after conducting an execution there and be opening my bar without comment at half past five. In Parliament debated a new Criminal Justice Bill, which raised the question of whether to continue with the death penalty or not. While the debates were proceeding, no executions took place, and Pierrepoint worked solely in his pub. When the bill failed in the House of Lordshangings resumed after a nine-month gap.


From the late s and into the s Pierrepoint, Britain’s most experienced executioner, carried out several more hangings, including those of prisoners described by his biographer, Brian Bailey, as “the most notorious murderers of the period In his autobiography, Pierrepoint considered the matter:. As I polished the glasses, I thought if any man had a deterrent to murder poised before him, it was this troubadour whom I called Tish, coming to terms with his obsessions in the singing room of Help The Poor Struggler.

He was not only aware of the rope, he had the man who handled it beside him, singing a duet. The deterrent did not work.

He killed the thing he loved. In March Pierrepoint hanged Timothy Evansa year-old man who had the vocabulary of a year-old and the mental age of a ten-year-old. His statements to the police were contradictory, telling them that he killed her, and also that he was innocent. He was tried and convicted for the murder of his daughter.

He subsequently admitted to the murder of Evans’s wife, but not the daughter. Pierrepoint hanged him in July in Pentonville Prison, but the case showed Evans’s conviction and hanging had been a miscarriage of justice. The matter led to further questions on the use of the death penalty in Britain.

Albert Pierrepoint

In the months pierrepooint he hanged Christie, Pierrepoint undertook another controversial execution, that of Derek Bentleya year-old man who had been an accomplice of Christopher Craig, a year-old boy who shot and killed a policeman. Bentley was described in his trial as:. At the time the policeman was shot, Bentley had been executtioner arrest for 15 minutes, and the words he said to Craig—”Let him have it, Chris”—could either have been taken for an incitement to shoot, or for Craig to hand his gun over one policeman had asked him to hand the executiober over just beforehand.

Bentley was found guilty by the English law principle of joint enterprise. Pierrepoint hanged Ruth Ellis for murder in July Ellis was in an abusive relationship with David Blakely, a racing driver; she shot him four times after what her biographer, Jane Dunn, calls “three days of sleeplessness, panic, and pathological jealousy, fuelled by quantities of Pernod and a reckless consumption of tranquillizers”.

The matter was discussed in Cabinet and a petition of 50, signatures was sent to the Home Secretary, Gwilym Lloyd Georgeto ask for a reprieve; he refused to grant one.

Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in Britain. In early January Pierrepoint travelled to Manchester for another execution and paid for staff to cover the bar in his absence. He spent the afternoon in the prison calculating the drop and setting up the rope to the right length. That evening the prisoner was given a reprieve.

Pierrepoint ppierrepoint the prison and, because of heavy snow, stayed overnight in a local hotel. Two exectuioner later he received from the instructing sheriff a cheque for his travelling expenses, but not his execution fee. He wrote to the Prison Commissioners to point out that he had received a full fee in other cases of reprieve, and that he had spent additional money in employing bar staff.

The Commissioners advised he speak to the instructing sheriff, as it was his responsibility, not theirs; they also reminded him that his conditions of employment were that he was paid executtioner for the execution, not in the case of a reprieve. On 23 February he replied to the Prison Commissioners and informed them that he was resigning with immediate effect, and requested that his name be taken from the list of executioners.

There were soon rumours in the press that his resignation was connected with esecutioner hanging of Ellis. Pierepoint the execution of Ruth Ellis no untoward incident happened which in any way appalled me or anyone else, and the execution had absolutely no connection with my resignation seven months later. Nor did I leave the list, as one newspaper said, by being arbitrarily taken off it, to shut my mouth, because I was about to reveal the last words of Ruth Ellis.

Pierrepoint’s autobiography does not give any reasons for his resignation—he states that the Prison Commissioners asked him to keep the details private. Instead pressure was put on the publishers, who stopped the stories.