Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Thomas Allen - Executed 10th April 1889

This execution caused somewhat of a stir in Swansea, due in part to the nature of the crime and partly due to the fact that the condemned man was a Zulu from South Africa.
Allen did not ever deny killing his victim, Frederick Kent, but he did say in a letter to the grieving widow, 'I did not intend to kill your boss.'
On the night of 18th February 1889, Allen had been drinking for some hours before staggering out of the tavern. On the street he met a girl with whom he walked to the Gloucester Hotel. She told him to go to a certain room and would follow on shortly. He went and waited - she did not turn up.
On hearing the rooms occupiers, Mr and Mrs Kent, approach, Allen hid under the bed. According to The Cambrian Allen claimed:

If Mr Kent had looked under the bed and discovered him he would have told him exactly how he got there and gone away quietly, but he was not discovered, and went to sleep under the bed. In the morning he awoke and did not quite remember where he was. He struck a match to see, and with that Mr Kent jumped out of bed and struck him. If he had only spoken to him he would have explained and gone away.

Quite why Allen was in the Kents room has never been fully explained. was he waiting, as he claimed, for a sexual liasion? Or was robbery on his mind? The prosecution played heavily on this possibilty because if robbery had been the motive and had ended in violence, then conviction was more likely.
Violence certainly occured in the room. A revolver was produced and Allen stabbed Mr Kent three times with a razor. Mrs Kent managed to get hold of the gun and fired at Allen, wounding him in the thigh.
Allen denied that robbery was his motive. He struck a match upon waking, something he would not have done if he had wanted to steal from the couple.
However the jury wasn't impressed and after only a few minutes' deilberation, returned with a guilty verdict. The automatic death sentence was duly passed.
Attempts at a reprieve were made and Allen seemed confident it would be granted. But public opinion was against him. The Cambrian:

The circumstances of this tragedy enacted on that peaceful Sabbath morning in February will not soon be forgotten. Naturally, they gave rise to a great outburst of horror and indignation, and while the murderer was the object of public execration, deep regret was felt at the untimely end of his unfortunate victim, who was universally respected, and much admiration was expressed at the heroism of his plucky wife, who wounded seriously her husband's assailant.

On the morning of Tuesday 9th April, the news was broken to Thomas Allen that there would be no reprieve. James Berry, the executioner, arrived the same day, fresh from an execution in Dublin the previous Monday. He examined the scaffold and tested the trap before getting the weight of the condemned and working out the length of the drop required.
It was a beautiful day on Wednesday 10th April and even at 7am small throngs of people had gathered on Oystermouth Road, waiting for the black flag to be unfurled. As the time of the execution neared, the crowed grew to over 2000, all bathed in early sunshine.
when the execution party arrived at the scaffold, Allen indicated that he had something to say.
The Cambrian reported:

The following words proceeded in a choked voice from his lips, 'Lord Jesus recieve my spirit this day. Lord Jesus recieve my soul.' these words were no sooner out of the wretched man's mouth than Berry stepped on one side, and then grabbed the iron lever of the drop. Instantaneously, the bolt slid out, the trap gave way, and the criminal fell into the pit.

The black flag was hoisted at 8am and was met with cheering from the young boys crowded outside.
There was a lot of debate in the local press about capital punishment after Allen's hanging, but it was to be another hundred years before being abolished in the United Kingdom.

Letter from Mrs F.M. Kent, widow of the murdered Frederick Kent:

Gloucester Hotel
Gloucester Place
April 9th
F Knight Esq


Will you please let Thomas Allen know, as I hope to be forgiven for my sins, so i will forgive him. The rest we must leave to Almighty God, who knows the thoughts of our hearts.

I am etc.
F.M. Kent.

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