Monday, 18 January 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    This is of interest to me. My grandfather, Cyril Dando, was a police sergeant at Taibach police station at the time and was involved in the investigation of one of the murders (I am not sure which one).
    There were elements of the murder that he would never talk about. He attended the hanging in Swansea jail and said there was a great contrast in the way both men went to the gallows; one calmly the other in a state of panic and agitation.
    Martyn Henry

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