Black Country Muse



Post Reply
Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > Rhoda Willis. 1907.

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

Henry Pierrepoint, the father of the more famous Albert Pierrepoint,  was the first of the family to take on the unsual task of being No.1, on the Home Office List of approved executioners. When he stood down, due to ill health in 1921, ( he died in 1922 ) the post was taken up by his brother, Thomas Pierrepoint. Henry left behind a diary of sorts, setting down some of his thoughts and a few details of some " jobs " he had been involved with. Non of them actually liked executing women, but if the state degreed they should hang, the order was carried out. He was in charge at the first execution at Holloway Prison, ( and the only double one ) in 1903, when the two " Baby Farmers " I mentioned, met their fate. One of the women was so distraught, that he had to hold her upright on the drop, as she kept fainting. He saved his sympathy though, for the female prison officers, non of whom had ever expected to witness such an event, and who left the scene in a calm manner. Some of this must have gone through his mind in 1907, when he, and his brother were called to Cardiff, to hang Rhoda Willis. ( see Staffordshire's Hanged Women )  Where as the previous two had murdered far more than the 2 deaths they had been hanged for, ( total monetary gain £55 ) and had turned it into a business, Rhoda Willis had committed the act in desparation. The name on the documents Henry received was Leslie James, she only revealed her real name two days before the execution, and that was because she made a request to see her lover the day before her death. On the day, according to Henry, the sun was shining as he made his way to her cell, his brother at his side. She was at prayer with the Chaplain, when she looked up at him, and he spoke only two words to her. " Be Brave ". The execution shed was a short walk across the prison yard, and as they stepped outside Henry wrote of the event, " The sun shone brilliantly on her auburn hair, just for a moment, a prettier sight no one could wish to see ". Despite a petition, and over 150 letters asking for clemancy, no reprieve was forthcoming, and her history of the head injury were discarded. Even some members of the jury were expecting the verdict to be reduced to Manslaughter. The release of some prisoners was bought forward to 7.00am, which otherwise would have coincided with the event. On that bright sunny morning of 14th August, 1907, her birthday, the attractive 44 year old was " hanged by the neck until dead ". What these deaths bring into stark contrast, is the glaring inconsistencies in the sentencing of the women involved, which goes back over a 100 years, and is still an issue today.


A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 25, 2012 at 2:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.