Monday, 15 February 2010

George Thomas - Hanged 13th February, 1894

On 9.45pm, 19th November, 1893 George Thomas approached Police Sergeant James Jones who was patrolling King Street Carmarthen, with news that would shock the entire community.
He confessed to killing a young girl, and leaving the body near the 'Joint Counties Lunatic Asylum'. At first the policeman could not believe it, and it was only when he was in the police station under the lights that the bloodstains on his hands and clothes became clear to see.
The law immediately went to the area indicated by Thomas and about a quarter a mile from the asylum, between Pentremeirig Farm and the small cottage of Dawelan, searchers found the body of a young girl lying in pools of blood. She had two gaping gashes in her throat, and her head had almost been severed from her body. One of the wounds had started from the ear and crossed the jawbone to the cheek, whilst the other, described as a clean cut across the throat, severed the windpipe. The weapon found nearby was a long black handled razor. The body was moved before the town folk awoke in the morning.

The Court

Thomas was brought before the borough bench on Monday 20th November 1893 at 11 o'clock. By now the whole of Carmarthen had heard about the terrible murder and streets around the courthouse were full. When Thomas appeared under police escort the crowd shouted, 'Lynch him!' and police had to force a path to the court.
As the impatient and angry mob waiting outside heard news of the proceedings inside the packed courtroom, many started to bang on the doors, again yelling, 'Lynch him!' As the evidence was read out, Thomas appeared unaffected by the events.
At the end of his appearance Thomas was heard to remark, 'I do not much care for this sort of thing' (meaning the proceedings at the inquest), 'I will have to go there again tomorrow. Then I will have a rest and will only have to go there once again. Afterwards I expect I will have a long drop.'
As Thomas appeared in the corridor of the court further cries of 'Lynch him! He ought to be murdered!' Could be heard from the crowds in the Guildhall Square. Again a path had to be forced, and he had to be carried to the carriage waiting to take him to the gaol. The carriage entered Nott Square and up Queen Street before entering the prison gates, which was by now, under a heavy guard.

The Victim

Mary Jane Jones was 15 1/2 years old, and was descibed as as exceptionally pretty young woman. She lived with her aunt, Mrs Rosie Dyer, at the cottage Dawelan, Carmarthen. Her parents lived near the Joiners Arms, Fforestfach, Swansea; and her father was a weaver. Coming from a family of nine her aunt offered to help the family by taking Mary Jane. She proved a great help to her elderly aunt by collecting the rents to the numerous properties that she had in the town.
Thomas (who was 26) was very much besotted with Mary Jane and had made his feelings known on many occasions. She in return, reciprocated none of that love, but openly discouraged it. In fact, she was very afraid of Thomas and her aunt had noticed this.
When police told her of the murder, the aunts first words were:

'O fy ngeneth fach? Beth wna i? Fyddai'n chwech deg saith os byddai fyw i weld yfory. Ond beth yw pwrpas byw.' (Oh my dear neice! What shall I do? I shall be 67 if I live to see tomorrow. But what is the purpose of living.')

'Pam na sbarith ei bywyd hi? Y ferch druan'. ('Why did he not spare her life? My poor girl.')

Carmarthen Railway Station

Mary Jane Jones' parents arrived at Carmarthen on the 2.56pm train from Swansea. The father had heard the news early in the morning, having received a telegram saying that something had happened to his daughter. At that time, he had no idea of what was to come. The first indication he had was when he was passing a public house in Fforestfach. He heard some men talking about a murder in Carmarthen. He could not bear to read the account and could not even tell his wife of what he had heard.
When they arrived in Carmarthen some relatives we were waiting to take them to the mortuary and this was the first that the mother knew of why they were in Carmarthen. A more heart-rending scene could not be imagined than that of a man and woman of middle age shedding bitter tears of grief, weeping:

'I wish I was near to protect my dear little girl. I wish she had sent to tell me that this man was going after her. He had no right to go after my poor little daughter; she was so young. We have had enough trouble in the family lately, goodness knows, without this terrible stroke.'

No words could describe the scene at the mortuary when the stricken parents hand in hand, viewed the mutilated body of their child.

The Funeral

Johnstown, presented a melancholy and depressing sight on the Wednesday morning before the funeral. The general gloominess of the town was still more marked by the dull sombre sky. Mary Jane's body had been taken to her Aunt Phillips house for the funeral. In the same road stood the house of the murderer. With the funeral service arranged for Thursday afternoon, it was to be a public affair with the internment at Llanllwch churchyard. The coffin was of polished oak trimmed with brass handles. The inscription read:

Mary Jane Jones
Died November 19, 1893
Aged sixteen years.

No doubt with the passing of time some rustic gravedigger has moved that piece of brass with pick and shovel, not knowing what terrible truth lies behind the simple words-

Died November 19, 1893

Long before the funeral at 3 o'clock the cottage adjoining the Royal Oak, was packed with people from the town. Outside the crowds had swelled with hundreds of visitors to Carmarthen who had come to the fate and gala that was to take place on the same day. Mr Studt, the famous fairground proprietor was also in town. However it was the funeral that took everyone's attention.
The service was conducted in Welsh. From the house the procession proceeded to Llanllwch Church where Mary Jane Jones was laid to rest, a young girl who in the spring-like bloom and gentle innocence of youth had met one of the most savage and terrible of deaths.

Sentence of Death

The killer wrote numerous letters to his parents from gaol but none were answered.
George Thomas stood in the dock to answer the charge of murder on Monday 20th January, 1894. There were hints by some that he was suffering from Homocidal Monomania but Dr Williams (the surgeon to the prison) stated that in his opinion Thomas was sane, callous and indifferent to murder and he drew the conclusion that, morally, he was very depraved. Dr Williams also stated that he could not find any indication of illusions or hallucinations. He formed the opinion that Thomas knew exactly what he was doing and that he had full control over his actions.
Evidence also included that of Mr J.W. Forbes, Governor of H.M. Prison, Carmarthen - 'I have held the appointment of Governor for six years. Thomas was received into the prison on 20th November last. I saw him every day with the exception of the days between 1st and 16th December, as I was on sick leave. He was perfectly calm and to all appearances rational. He is the most callous prisoner I have ever known, he is extremely so.'
The jury had two theories to consider. One that he was in full possession of his faculties, thus making him fully responsible. Or that he suffered from homocidal monomania and that the rejection of his affections by the young woman was the spark that lit the powder keg of rage within him, waking up the latent maniac, resulting in Mary Jane Jones' death.
The jury retired at 7pm and after 39 minutes returned with the verdict, 'Guilty AND SANE.'
An official then placed the black cap on the Judge's head and in a hushed courtroom; Mr Justice Kennedy addressed Thomas:

'George Thomas, you have been found guilty of the awful crime of wilful murder by a jury that has most carefully and patiently heard the whole of the evidence in the case. It is not for me to add to that which must be the intensity of your feelings at this moment by long words of mine. I can only express the earnest hope that in such time as may elapse whilst you spend your alloted time on earth you may seek forgiveness for your sins where alone forgiveness of sin can be found.
I must now pass upon you the sentence of the court, the only sentence which I can pass, and that is that you shall be taken hence to the place whence you came, and from thence to a legal place of execution. That you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead, that your body be buried within the precincts of the prison wherein you shall last be confined after your conviction, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.'

Throughout the trial Thomas's expression was composed and unruffled, even now when the jury had given their verdict, or still more harrowing, when the Judge pronounced the sentence of death, he did not exhibit the slightest trace of feeling or remorse. As the Judge uttered the words 'And may the Lord have mercy on your soul', he made a left about face, as if on a parade square and disappeared to the cells below.
Many in the square outside were in the windows of surrounding houses and were able to tell the waiting crowd the moment the judge put on his black cap, it was at this moment that the crowds gave way to their frustration and uttered a loud cheer.

The Execution

George Thomas was hanged at Carmarthen Prison on 13th February, 1894 at 8am. From the moment he had surrendered to the final snap of the rope, he had displayed a general demeanour and behaviour described as being opposite to that of any man expecting execution. Whilst in gaol, he had been offered books such as, 'Pilgrims Progress' and 'The Life of Christ'. He never looked at them and spoke about religion in a satirical way. He frequently remarked to the warders, who were detailed to watch over him, when they stated that they believed in the Bible, 'How do you know it is true?' and taunted the warders with being afraid of the afterlife.
He treated evidently looked upon Christianity as mere superstition. When the High Sheriff informed him that the reprieve had failed, he simple said 'Vey well' and walked off in a huff. Indeed he slept and ate as if nothing was wrong. The governor even remarked, 'I never had one like him before.'
The gallows had been prepared and tested by the prison but on the arrival of Billington, the hangman, he set about carrying out his own test. He placed a 115Ib sack of sand (the weight of the killer), attached the rope, and tested the bolt. Over night the sand remained in place to stretch the rope, only being removed two hours before the time set for execution.
At 7.45am, the officials went to the central dome inside the gaol where they could command a view of the condemned cell. Every detail was timed to the second as, almost at once, Thomas came into view and the solemn tone of the prison bell rang out. It was now 7.50am. As if waiting for the chimes, the Chaplain started to read the bible and the hangman pinioned Thomas. Billington spoke to the condemned and the procession formed.
The Chaplain led, reading the burial service, then came Mr Powell the Chief Warder, then the prisoner, walking with a firm gait, between two warders. The Governor, Sheriff, Surgeon, and other officials followed the hangman, who wore a black velvet skullcap. Thomas was so calm and collected that he noticed that Mr Powell was walking with a different step to himself. In a soldierly manner (he'd been a soldier) changed step to be in military form.
The Chaplain walked over the trap to the other side of the room and Thomas quietly stepped onto the mark on the trap door. As he looked at his feet and with the Chaplain reciting, 'Of whom shall we seek for succour but thee, O Lord', Billington quickly pinioned his ankles and with the Chaplain still reciting, the cap was placed over Thomas's head and the rope positioned around the neck. With a nod from the hangman the Chaplain said, 'Lord have mercy on my soul'. With the lever pulled, Thomas dropped and in an instant was dead. A drop of 6ft 6inch had been given. The whole process had taken less than 60 seconds from the time that he had entered the execution shed.
The gallows had been built seven years before and Mr John Thomas, the father of the condemned man, had forged the bolt used to activate the trap door when he worked in the Old Foundry in Carmarthen some years before.


  1. Very well written Mr. Francis. I felt I was there..

  2. Brilliant reading he was evil I felt nothing about hanging him myself as I read it,This is one rope I could have placed around his neck with out a care in the world,Reading the story makes you wish you we're the hangman ,I don't think he was mad playing mentally insain never worked people seen through his evil crime remorse was never in his mind ,I think his plan was life in a mental hospital if he play the mentally I'll man you can't hang me, He could have got away from the hangman knot nice ending to a sad story

  3. Interesting and informative account, I now feel more convinced that this young man was an undiagnosed psychopath, (albeit at the low end of the scale), long before the term psychopathy was in common use.