Sunday, 24 January 2010

Colonel John Jones Maesygarnedd

Colonel John Jones (c. 1597-October 17, 1660), was a Welsh military leader, politician and one of the regicides of King Charles I. A brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, Jones was born at Llanbedr in North Wales and is often surnamed Jones Maesygarnedd after the location of his Merionethshire estate. Jones spoke Welsh with his family. He was an avid Republican at a time when most of Wales was Royalist, and for this reason he was described by one of his contemporaries as 'the most hated man in North Wales'.

Jones was appointed Commissioner of the High Court of Justice in 1649, as a member of which he became one of the fifty-nine signatories to King Charles I's death warrant. Like many of the others who signed, he was in grave danger when Charles II of England was restored to the throne. He was arrested, put on trial, and found guilty of regicide. On October 17, 1660, Jones was hanged, drawn and quartered a fate which, according to some accounts, he faced with immense bravery.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Murder In Carmarthenshire

The case of Ronald Lewis Harries stirred great interest in the county of Carmarthenshire, and indeed in the town itself, when he appeared at the Carmarthen Assizes on 16th March 1954. Town records report:

Harries sat in the dock with arms folded. He wore a navy blue suit, white shirt and collar and a maroon tie, and he had a white handkerchief in is breast pocket.
Crash barriers of trestle tables and rope were erected overnight on both sides of the street outside the Shire Hall. A queue was formed at 3:30a.m and many of the people had blankets and flasks of tea. Among the early arrivals were relatives who had come from a village 13 miles away.

Ronald Harries, 26, lived at Ashwell Farm in Pendine. He was charged with the murder of John Harries, a distant relative from Derlwyn Farm, Llanginning, whose body (along with that of his wife Phoebe) was unearthed from a shallow grave in a field at Cadno Farm, the home of Ronald Harries's parents. Despite the discovery of two bodies, Harries was only tried for one murder, as the The South Wales Evening Post explained:

It is the practice of the courts that if a man is charged with the murder of two persons, he is never tried for both murders together. The prosecution always proceeds with one charge alone.

The facts of this case were slightly confusing. Sometime between 8:00p.m on Friday 16th October and 16th November 1953, John Harries and his wife disappeared from their home. The prosecution alleged the dissapearance had actually occurred that first Friday night. What is certain is that there had been no sighting of the couple after they returned home from a chapel thanksgiving service on 15th October.
The investigation was conducted by Superintendent John Capstick of New Scotland Yard. As a matter of routine he interviewed Ronald Harries at St Clears police station and was far from happy with the answers to his questions. Harries was evasive and contradictory in his statements and immediately became a suspect.
Although the accused was only distantly related to John and Phoebe Harries, he had always called them 'Uncle and Aunt'. Harries insisted that he had driven the couple to Carmarthen train station the morning of 16th October, on the first stage of their trip to London where, he claimed, they were heading for a holiday. Yet those close to the missing couple were adamant that this had not happened - they had not gone on holidays for over twenty years, they claimed, and would not have done so without first informing family and friends.
There were other concerns regarding Ronald Harries. First he had taken the cows from his uncle's farm soon after the disappearance and was known to covet the stock, implements and property of Derlwyn Farm. And in the days following the disappearance his Land Rover was constantly seen coming to and from the farm.
Hundreds of locals joined a intensive three week search of the area, and on 16th November, police discovered the bodies of John and Phoebe Harries, buried in a field of kale at Cadno Farm. They had been killed by repeated blows from a circular blunt instrument about one and a quarter inches in diameter. Harries owned just such a hammer and that evening he was arrested and charged with murder.
When the guilty verdict was passed, Harries continued to protest his innocence. Nevertheless it was reported that:

When Harries left the Shire at 6:15p.m handcuffed to a prison warder, the crowd generally booed him, though some sections were cheering. As he entered the taxi he smiled at the crowd and, as it drove off, raised his hand to acquaintences standing nearby.

Ronald Harries was executed at Swansea on 28th April 1954, and a crowd of around 150 held vigil outside the prison gates. Despite having been quite blase after his conviction, Harries collapsed when executioners Albert Pierrepoint and Robert Stewart arrived at his cell, and had to be assisted to the gallows.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Pembroke Murder

On 21st March 1950, the Rosemarket farmer Albert Edward Jenkins was convicted of killing his landlord, William Llewellyn. The jury at Pembrokeshire Assizes, consisting of two men and ten women, took less than two hours to reach their verdict.
Jenkins had denied the allegation throughout the trial, however the facts of the case were clear.
On the morning of 10th October 1949, Jenkins was visited by his landlord at his home, Lower Furze Hill Farm, in Rosemarket, Pembrokeshire. There was back rent owed and discussions were being held regarding Jenkins buying the farm. He claimed to have handed Llewellyn £1,050 that day: £50 for the rent, and the rest in order to purchase the farm. The cash was taken from a beam in the roof where Jenkins had kept it.
William Llewellyn never returned home and his wife subsequently alerted police. His body was found the next day, buried in a clay pit on Jenkin's land. The injuries to the body were terrible, revealing that he had been killed by a number of heavy blows.
According to the South Wales Evening Post, the judge pointed out to the jury that

'there was no evidence, no evidence of any eyewitnesses, but from the knowledge of affairs the jury would hardly expect in murder cases to find eyewitnesses. The evidence placed before them by the Crown was circumstantial and circumstantial evidence was often the best.'

The case for the prosecution was that Llewellyn was killed by Albert Jenkins. Despite what the accused man said about giving his landlord a considerable sum of money - and having a receipt to prove that the money did indeed pass hands - no cash was ever found on the body.
An officer of the Milk Marketing Board, Mr Cudd, had called at Lower Furze Hill Farm on the morning of 10th October and saw Albert Jenkins driving his tractor down the field. There was, he said, a large bundle on the box of the tractor, covered by tarpaulin and Jenkins 'looked rather wild.'
Llewellyn's bicycle - on which he had arrived at the farm - was later found at nearby Neyland. Two witnesses claimed that they had seen Jenkins riding a bicycle towards Neyland on the afternoon of 10th October, yet when he was later seen by a policeman, returning from Pembroke Fair, he was walking and there was no sign of the bicycle.
William Llewellyn's boots were also discovered buried in manure in the calve's cot at the farm, and leather laces on the murdered man matched two more laces found on Jenkins. Earth taken from in front of Jenkin's house was, when tested, found to be saturated with human blood.
The prosecution case was clear. After obtaining a receipt for the money, Jenkins had clubbed the unlucky Llewellyn to death and reclaimed his money. He had then wrapped the body in tarpaulin and buried it in the clay pit. When the guilty verdict was given, Albert Jenkins gazed intently at the judge and remained unmoved during the proceedings.
With Albert Pierrepoint officiating, Jenkins was executed on the morning of 19th April 1950. At 9:25 a.m the main gate of Swansea Prison opened and two warders posted the declaration of the sheriff and a certificate from the surgeon at the door. A crowd of around thirty five local people stood outside.

Swansea's Last Double Execution

Rex Harvey Jones and Robert Thomas Mackintosh
Executed 4th August 1949

The execution of two men from Port Talbot/Neath was unusual because the hangings were carried out simultaneously, side by side. It was the only such execution at Swansea where the crimes were unrelated and it was the first double execution in the jail since that of the two Greek sailors in 1858.
The South Wales Daily Post noted the similarity of both crimes:

Only two days seperated the two death dramas. It was on Saturday morning of June 4th that the body of 16 year old Beryl Beechey, slain by Robert Thomas Mackintosh, was found on the railway embankment in Port Talbot.
The initial sense of horror was at its full height when, on the morning of June 6th, came the news that the body of another girl, Beatrice May Watts, aged 20, of Abercregan, had been found in a plantation, and that Rex Harvey Jones had surrendered to the police and confessed.

Rex Harvey Jones was a young man who lived in Dyffryn Rhondda. On the evening of 6th June 1949 he and his brother were boozing at a club in Neath. That same evening, Beatrice Watts (also known as Peggy) went to a canteen dance in Morriston. Afterwards by sheer chance, Jones and Peggy met in Victoria Gardens in Neath and went home on the same bus.
It seems the bus was crowded and Peggy Watts sat on Jones's lap. Just before eleven they arrived at Dyffryn Rhondda and Jones told his brother that he was going to walk the young lady home. They had known each other for months and Rex Harvey Jones was last seen walking in the direction of the girl's home, his arm around her shoulders.
Early the following morning Jones telephoned the police admitting, 'I have killed a girl. I have killed Peggy Watts.' He told them where to find the body, saying that they had had sexual intercourse and that he then killed her. He could not explain why.
The South Wales Daily Post:

The police officer did not take the motorcar but went on his bicycle. On the way there he saw Jones walking along the road and asked him, 'Are you the man who telephoned?' He replied, 'I am.' He was cautioned and said, 'I have strangled Peggy Watts with my hands. I felt her pulse and it had stopped. I smothered the girl in the woods. We had intimacy first.'

Jones directed the officer to the place where he had left the body. Extensive bruising on her neck indicated that considerable force must have been used.
Jones pleaded not guilty to murder when his trial began at Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea. The judge told the jury to 'steel your hearts against the strain of good character, steel your hearts in order to see that justice is done,' and in due course a guilty verdict was returned.

The second South Wales murder which took place that June was committed by Robert Thomas Mackintosh. On the evening of 3rd June Beryl Beechey, aged just 16, was sent on a message to the Mackintosh's house in Vivian street, Aberavon. Mrs Mackintosh was out, only her son Robert was at home.
The girl did not return home however, and shortly after six o' clock the following morning her body was discovered lying on a railway embankment on the other side of the road from where Robert Mackintosh lived. A thick cord had been tied twice around her neck. A post mortem showed that she had been sexually assaulted, that she had been a virgin before the assault and that considerable violence had been used.
When questioned Mackintosh admitted that Beryl had come to his home but when she realised that his sister, June, was not there, she had left and he had carried on with the housework he had started before her arrival:

The police carried out an examination of the house and revealed a black patch which turned out to be blood under the bed. Other marks of blood were discovered in other parts of the house and in the kitchen. Asked by the police to account for the blood under the bed, his first explanation was that he had cut his toe.

It was enough to warrant further questioning and Mackintosh soon admitted that only a few months previously, 'I had a blackout and tried to kiss my sister June. We were in the house and I caught hold of her a bit rough and my father threatened to give me a good lacing.'
Shortly afterwards he confessed to the murder. In his own words:

'We were talking for a few minutes, then something came over me, I don't remember what. The next thing I remember was that I was in bed and Beryl was half under the bed. I realised that I had done something wrong but what it was I did not know, and that was well into the night. I had no intention of doing it; I did not want to do it. The first thing I could see was Beryl dead in the bedroom, partly underneath the bed.'

Mackintosh carried the dead girl downstairs, put a coat over her body and took her outside. He threw the body over the wall onto the embankment. It was, he said, 'the same thing as happened before, when I tried to get across my sister.'
Robert Mackintosh admitted his guilt and was duly sentenced to death.

Serious attempts were made to obtain reprieves for the two young men but to no effect. The execution date was set for Thursday 4th August. Swansea had suffered much excitement and been badly damaged by enemy bombing during the Second World War but even so, the thought of a double execution aroused considerable interest in the town.
Several hundred people waited outside the prison as the appointed hour approached. At 9:15 a.m two warders emerged from the main prison door, removed the notices of execution and replaced them with four statements declaring that the hangings had been carried out. Swansea's last double execution was over.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Trevor John Edwards - Executed 11th December 1928

Trevor Edwards was a collier from Cwmaman, and was convicted of killing his sweetheart Elsie Cook at Llanwenno near Brigend on 16th June 1928.
Before meeting Elsie had had been romancing a young lady named Annie Protheroe, but Annie left Cwmaman to go and live in Swindon, and Edwards had switched his affections to Elsie Cook. However soon after she became pregnant and a miserable Edwards sent a desperate letter to Annie:

Dear Annie,

I am writing to let you know that the trouble I feared has come and by the time that you come home I shall have a wife or a coffin. You might think that I don't think anything of you but you must not think that way because I have never loved anyone else, not in this life.

Despite making a promise to marry Elsie, Trevor Edwards had other, more evil plans on his mind. On 16th June he took her out for a walk on the hills of Llanwenno, after first stopping at a tafarn for a flagon of beer.
At some point of the walk Edwards hit Elsie over the head with the flagon. These are his own words:

'I smashed the flagon on her head. Fancy that? You would not have believed that her head would have been so hard, but she had a felt hat on. First of all I choked her, but did not choke the life out of her, but into a weakened state. Then I finished her with a razor.'

After attempting (and failing) to kill himself, Edwards quickly surrendered to the law and made a full statement, giving thelocation of Elsie's body. This was duly discovered, along with the open razor, cigarette stubs and fragments of a broken bottle. The womans head had almost been severed from her body.
The trial only lasted one day and the guilty verdict swiftly passed. The recommention of mercy from the jury was ignored and the death sentence handed down.
Unlike other executions at Swansea, the hanging of Edwards did not stir up a lot of interest locally. He had no local connections beyond being tried at Swansea Assizes. Nevertheless, some 200 did turn out on the moring of the hanging to keep watch at the jails gates.
Some interest was paid to the figure of a lonely woman dressed in a fawn coat and black hat who stood by the door until long after eight o' clock. Was it the mother of Trevor Edwards? Turns out she wasn't, she was simply waiting for her son who was due to be released from prison that day.
The almost fatal accident to one of the executioners on the day attracted almost as much attention as the condemned's fate.
The South Wales Daily Post:

Baxter was the hangman, and was assisted by Alfred Allen. Allen was a new assistant, at what was his first execution. Baxter was very quick in placing the noose and pulling the lever. Allen was not so quick, and when the drop opened Allen followed Edwards into the pit. No blame was attached; it was claimed by the Governor to be a mixture of the hangman's alacrity and Allen's slightly defective vision.

The assistant was unhurt and Trevor Edwards died instantly. To the very end he had, apparently, showed no emotion and had maintained his calm throughout.
8.14am the following notice was pinned to the jail's door:

Declaration of the Sheriff and Others

We, the undersigned, hereby declare that judgement of death was this day executed on Trevor John Edwards, in His Majesty's Prison, Swansea, in our presence.
Eleventh December 1928
(signed) Theodore Gibbins, Sheriff of Glamorgan
T. Brown, Governor of Swansea Prison
J.H. Watkin-Jones, Chaplain of Swansea Prison

Monday, 11 January 2010

'Big Dan' Sullivan - Executed 6th September 1916

Daniel Sullivan (known in the village of Dowlais as Big Dan) was a coker at Dowlais Iron & Steel works near Merthyr Tydfil. He was a renowned heavy drinker and for being violent and very aggressive when under the influence of drink.
On the evening of 8th July 1916, Big Dan had been imbibing heavily at the Antelope Inn. When he left the pub he took with him a bottle of rum which the landlord, Daniel Edwards, had sold him. (Edwards was later fined £20 and sentenced to 28 days in jail for selling alcohol after hours).
When he arrived home in the early morning, Sullivan demanded to know the whereabouts of his wife, Catherine. His step-daughter, Bridget, told him she was asleep in the bedroom, but Dan, enraged from drink, pulled his wife from the bed, demanding she cook him supper and kicked her into the kitchen.
The Merthyr Express reports that:

The woman must have been unconscious the whole time because she never screamed or made any attempt to defend herself. When the police arrived they found Catherine in a pool of blood on the floor. Sullivan had hid himself in the fowl house.

Sullivan's step-son had called the police, after first running to neighbours, finding no answer, then hurrying to the police station.
Big Dan always wore heavy, nailed boots, the type cokers wore at the steel works and he did horrendous damage to his poor wife. It seems he literally kicked her to a bloody pulp, her body being bruised, battered and bloodstained from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.
The step-daughter, Bridget, gave evidence at the trial saying that Sullivan had dragged his wife from the bed and began to kick her almost at once, shouting 'there'll be a corpse leaving the house tonight.' Bridget, who was aged just nine, had fled the scene.
The jury retired for barely half an hour before returning with a guilty verdict. Big Dan commented simply. 'I am not guilty.'
A petition was drawn up for a reprieve but the Home Secretary saw no reason to interfere with the courts decision.
Sullivan was executed at 9am on Wednesday 6th September at Swansea prison. He had spent his last night quietly and awoke early to receive the last ministrations of Father Eggerton, the Roman Catholic chaplain. He went peacefully and with resignation to meet his fate.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Henry Phillips - Hanged 14th December 1911

Henry Phillips was a labourer from Gower and lived unhappily with his wife. He was a chronic alcoholic, and frequently rowed with his wife causing them to seperate on many occasions.
She left their home for the final time on 13th July 1911 taking the four children with her. They went to stay with her mother in Knelston but Henry followed her and on the morning of 26th July, the couple were involved in a furious argument which culminated in Phillips attacking his frightened wife with a razor outside her mother's home.
Both Mrs Phillips' mother and sister heard the pitiful pleadings of 'oh Henry, oh Henry'. and rushed outside. They saw Phillips kneeling beside his wife, drawing a razor across her throat. As soon as he saw them he ran off. Mrs Phillips was taken to Swansea hospital but sadly died of her terrible injuries.
The result of the trial was obvious, a guilty verdict.
The South Wales Daily Post reported:

Phillips, the Gower labourer and doomed man, whilst seated in the docks during the hearing of the evidence, seemed, judging by his demeanour, to accept his fate. Not until the concluding stages of the trial did he show any sign of emotion.

The jury was quick to consider their verdict, and the judge commended them on their decision to find the man guilty - they could not, he said, have done otherwise. On hearing the sentence of death being passed, Henry Phillips collapsed and had to be helped from the dock by warders.
Much effort were made to have the condemned man reprieved, his supporters arguing that Phillips' plea of insanity had been ignored, also hinting that the trial had been misdirected by the judge.
A petition containing around 7000 signatures was drawn up and taken to the Home Secretary by John Williams, MP for the Gower. However every effort was in vain and the execution date was set for 14th December 1911.
At half past seven on the morning of the execution a crowd gathered outside the prison, ignoring the bitter cold and standing in silence as the hour approached.
The South Wales Daily Post reported on the condemned man's last moments:

Attired in the working clothes of an agricultural labourer, he shuffled rather than walked to the gallows, but was in no sense about to collapse. He bore his last few minutes with that same indifference that characterised him at the trial. When he was placed on the trapdoor, the noose already being put round the neck, Phillips turned his head to one side as if to see what was coming next in the carrying out of this grim tragedy of the law, but before he could move again, Ellis had placed the white cap over the head and stepped back.

Outside at the gates, three hundred men, women and children saw Principal Warder William Beynon post the notice on the jail door declaring that Henry Phillips had met his end.

Friday, 1 January 2010

William Joseph Foy

William Foy was an unemployed labourer who lived rough with a woman, Mary Ann Rees, at the Ynys Fach Coke Ovens in Merthyr. On Christmas eve morning 1908 they argued seemingly over another woman.
Both had been drinking and Rees, who was nicknamed Sloppy, stormed out saying 'All right Joe, I know what it is. Its not me you want but Polly Gough.' Foy followed her and later confessed to a drinking companion that he had thrown Sloppy down an old shaft at the works.
After this Foy jumped at two police officers, asking to be locked up because he had murdered Mary Ann Rees:

'I have thrown Sloppy down the hole at the old works. She told me she was going to give me away for living on her prostitution. I've done for her, I'll show you where she is.'

The first thing discovered was a shawl (ladies scarf) and then the body of Mary Ann Rees at the shaft's bottom. As there was little or no doubt about his guilt, Foy was arrested immediately.
He tried to build a defence at his trial in Cardiff. According to him he had followed Sloppy when she left the room after the heated argument, and during a struggle to make her to return she slipped and fell into the pit. It was a weak defence and the guily verdict was inevitable.
Originally the date of execution was set for 20th April but was stalled after appeals. These however were turned down after Justice Darling declared that Foy's act was 'most deliberate and intentional murder.'

The South Wales Daily Post reported:

Foy, during his incarceration in the gaol displayed little emotion, even when his relatives visited him, and discussed football and other topics, spending some time also in improving his handwriting. He recieved the news of his refusal of commutation with resignation, saying he would meet his fate like a man.

William Joseph Foy did indeed meditate deeply on his actions and fate whilst at Swansea prison. He was baptised into the church by the gaol's chaplain and stated publicly that:

'Now that I have been forgiven all my sins, I shall not be afraid to meet God.'

As an ex soldier, Foy was not unfamiliar with death and was determined to die like a man. Aweek prior to execution he wrote to his family:

I am pleased to tell you that I am going to recieve my communion on friday. I can assure you that, with the help of God, I am quite resigned to my fate, as it is willed by him.'

Hundreds gathered at the prison on the morning of the 8th May. Inside, Foy suprised everyone and a reporter for the South Wales Daily Post noted:

Foy appeared with a cigarette in his mouth. He held it firmly and was unmistakably smoking, dressed in the evening clothes of a workman, collarless with the neck exposed. He sported a sprig of fern in his button hole. Foy held himself rigid, with his chest thrown out and to all appeared calm and collected. The only hint or token of wrought feelings was in the wild light in his eyes.

Henry Pierrepoint, the executioner, strapped the condemned's legs together and placed the white hood over his head. The cigarette bent but did not break.
When the bolt was drawn, William Foy fell six feet and death was instantaneous.