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.

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