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Whatever happened to Albert Pierrepoint, The UK Hangman.

Updated on October 6, 2016
Albert off duty.
Albert off duty. | Source

Albert Pierrepoint, (The Hangman ) 1905 - 1992

Albert Pierrepoint was the Hangman in England from 1932 when he qualified as the Assistant Executioner. He became the Chief Executioner in 1941 and retired in 1956. At that time, the British Home Office considered him to be the most efficient executioner in British History. Albert followed his father and uncle into 'the business' both men were also official executioners. Albert was interviewed at Strangeways Prison in Manchester and accepted as an assistant executioner. He completed a weeks training course at Pentonville Prison in London. At that point his name was added to the approved Home Office list of Executioners.

His First Hanging.

Albert attended his first execution on 29 December 1932. He assisted his uncle Thomas Pierrepoint in the execution of Patrick McDermott, a farmer who had murdered his brother. This took place at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. Albert performed his first execution as chief executioner on 17 October 1941. In Pentonville Prison he hanged the gangster Tony Mancini. It was reported that as the trapdoor was 'sprung' Mancini said 'Cheerio'.

Private Life.

By this time Albert had met and married Annie Fletcher. Albert had kept his full time job working in a wholesale grocers and Annie had run a small sweet shop just down the road. They settled in Newton Heath in Manchester. Albert had not told Annie of his other 'job' however she learned of it from another source and waited for him to mention it. He was called to Gibraltar in January of 1944 to perform a double execution. Upon his return he told Annie where he had been and revealed his other life to her. This was not a surprise to her and the couple continued to have a happy married life.

War Crimes Justice.

After the second world war, the British conducted a series or war crimes trials. The first of which was the trial of the Nazi concentration camp staff from Belsen. The outcome of the trial included eleven death sentences. Pierrepoint was appointed to be the executioner. On the 11 December 1945 he flew to Germany to carry out the executions. He also hanged two other men who had been convicted of the murder of an RAF pilot. All thirteen were hanged at half hour intervals on 13 December. On that day among the condemned was; Irma Grese she was the youngest concentration camp guard to hang at the age of twenty two, Elisabeth Volkenrath was another woman to die that day. The men included Josef Kramer (commandant of Belsen) and Fritz Klein. The women were hanged individually, the men in pairs. The trials continued for some time and over the next four years or so, Pierrepoint travelled to Germany and Austria twenty five times to execute 200 war criminals. Notably Pierrepoint hanged William Joyce ' Lord Haw Haw ' who was hanged as a traitor on 3 January 1946. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison.

Other notable executions.

John George Haigh 'The acid bath murderer'10 August 1949.

Timothy John Evans. Who protested his innocence to the end was hanged on 9 March 1950 at Pentonville Prison. He was convicted of the murder of his daughter. Timothy was given a posthumous pardon in 1966. It was found after his death that his neighbour, John Reginald Christie was a serial killer. he was hanged by Pierrepoint on 15 July 1953.

Derek Bentley also received a posthumous pardon in July 1998.Derek was hanged on 28 January 1953 for his part in the shooting to death of Police Constable Miles. The officer was shot by Bentleys accomplice. Bentley was being restrained by other officers and was not in sight of the shooting. Never the less he was charged with the murder and hanged. His accomplice was to young to hang, he was given a prison sentence and is today a free man. The widow of the murdered officer appealed for clemency as did 200 Members of Parliament. The jury recommended clemency but to no avail. Dereks family fought for forty five years to clear his name. In July 1998, Appeal Court Judges ruled that his conviction was 'unsafe' and it was quashed. There were many other executions carried out by Pierrepoint, to mention one more. For shooting her lover, he executed Ruth Ellis, on 13 July 1955 the last woman to be hanged.

Hanging A Man He Knew.

As time passed Pierrepoint had moved on from the small shop with Annie, he had by now become a publican. One night after a regular customer at his pub had been singing a duet with him, the man went home and murdered his girlfriend who was also seeing another man. Pierrepoint hanged James Corbitt on 28 November1950.

Resignation And Reflection.

Pierrepoint resigned in 1956. He had gone to Strangeways Prison to execute Thomas Bancroft, twelve hours before the time of execution Thomas Bancroft was reprieved. Pierrepoint expected full payment for his services, he was offered a lesser amount because the execution had not taken place. His case was that he had gone to officiate and had prepared everything in advance as was usual. A dispute followed and Pierrepoint resigned. The Home Office wrote to him and asked him to reconsider his position. His answer was no. In later years it is said that he turned against Capital Punishment. He felt that it did not deter people from murder. He knew that most murders were in the heat of the moment. Usually in fits of rage, or jelousy.

In Conclusion.

It is estimated that Pierrepoint executed 433 men and 17 women.It should be noted that other official executioners were active at the same time as Pierrepoint. However he carried out more executions than any of the others. Albert and Annie stayed together throughout their lives. They retired to Southport, a prosperous seaside town in the north of England. For the last four years of his life Albert lived in a nursing home. He died on 10 July 1992.


Albert Pierrepoint The Hangman.

© 2013 Graham Lee

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    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, very interesting write here! Can you even imagine having that as your job and job title! I would have nightmares every night.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Graham, I feel safe in saying this is the first hub I have read about an executioner. Well done and nice research. I wonder what he thought of his job....was he ever haunted by thoughts of those he sent off to another world? Interesting read.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Faith Reaper. Thank you for your visit and comments. Yes I wondered about sleeping having done a days work. He was aware from his earliest years though. Father and uncle were there before him. Thank you for your votes.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Thanks Bill. I think he managed to sleep well. Father and Uncle were first. Not everybody's cup of tea though.

      Graham.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      You're right about this not being everyone's cup of tea. It makes gruesome reading but someone had to do it, as they say. I read about Derek Bentley some time back. Bentley was mentally backward and an easy target for an able public prosecutor out for promotion. His case was foremost in the press in the early days of the last Labour government.

      'Give it to them', the phrase he is said to have used after a failed break-in when his younger accomplice, Christopher Craig threatened police with a revolver - I think - was used against him by the police to mean 'shoot them', and on that 'evidence' he was hanged.

      Unusual subject matter all the same, Graham. It's too easy to pardon someone posthumously. Problem is, if Albert Pierrepoint reckoned capital punishment was ineffective as a deterrent, what might he have opted for?

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have never believed in exacutions. I hosestly don't see how anyone could do it. I know that some crimes are so terrible, esp. the WW ll guards at the camps where the Jewish people were slaughtered. Your article is interesting and well written. Thank you for sharing....

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Fascinating. 'Assistant Executioner' sounds way more impressive than, say, 'programmer intern'. Don't think I could get inside Pierrepoint's head, though. Seems a bit cold to kill hundred's, quit (over a few quid) and then change sides. Great article, Graham.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting. Good to see you back. Thank you for this.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I guess if he grew up with this work then it wouldn't affect him the same as someone coming into the job with no experience, he will have already been toughened to it.

      Execution is a very controversial subject. While some deserved punishment for the dreadful crimes they commited it is not something that can be 'undone' if it comes to light that he/she was actually innocent. I wonder just how many have been executed wrongly.

      He did have a point apart from war crimes, muder is usually done in the heat of the moment and so execution is not a deterrence .

      Good hub, well researched and well written

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Alan. As always thank you for your insightful comments. Which are greatly appreciated. I am familiar with the Derek Bentley case. They were caught on a factory roof having been spotted by a child in a house opposite. The Police were called, Craig shot and wounded Detective Seargeant Fairfax in the shoulder in the attempt to arrest them. The Police caught Bentley and physically restrained him. By now PC Sidney George Miles had calmed Craig down and was shouting to him to hand over the gun. It was alleged by the Police that Bentley called out 'Let him have it Chris' however Craig shot Constable Miles dead. Both Craig and Bentley denied that 'Let him have it Chris' was ever called. The court decided this call was for Craig to shoot Constable Miles, the opposite interpretation would be that Bentley was telling Craig to hand over the gun. The court decided upon the former. Bentley had a reading age of 5 years and had been turned down for military service. The report was stated that Bentley was 'Mentally substandard' - Craig was only 16 years old and to young to be hanged, he was detained at Her Majestys Pleasure; he served 10 years and was released in 1963. He then worked as a plumber. Bentley was hanged, it was judged the the incident was a 'Joint enterprise' - Detective Seargeant Fairfax was awarded the George Medal. All in all, it was a terrible travesty. Thanks again Alan.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Ruby. Thank you for your visit and comments. I greatly appreciate them, they are indeed rewarding.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
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      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. Great to see you here, I always appreciate your comments. Thank you.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Morning Hatter. Thank you for your visit and valuable comments. Nice to be back.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Rosemay. Thank you for your visit. Yes, it takes a certain kind of individual to do this 'Job' Thank you for your welcome comments.

      Graham.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Graham, this is the first hub f its kind that I've ever read. I've always thought about how this type of a job works in the mind of the executioner. I guess from the happy married life that Pierrepoint had, he thought of it as just a job and nothing else.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      Regardless of whether it is a deterrent, another reason for capital punishment is God's instruction to Noah after the Flood, that because man is made in God's image, the man who kills another man should die. Most people here in the US aren't familiar with that part, though, and I wonder if the Church of England teaches that, or did in Pierrepoint's time?

      Very interesting article; thank you.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi rajan. Thanks for your visit. Yes, it takes all types to make a world.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      aethelthryth. Thanks for your visit. Yes, it takes all types to make a world.

      Graham.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      What a fascinating hub about Albert Pierrepoint. I knew a little about him but not that he was involved with the execution of war criminals.

      I wonder what private thoughts would have gone through this man's mind, especially about whether he felt someone was innocent or if in fact he felt they deserved to die? From what I have heard, he seemed to have taken every measure possible to ensure that death was quick - a huge difference say from a hundred or so years earlier when people were suppose to be hung, but actually strangled to death for up to 20 minutes! It's a pity those folks way back then didn't have their own version of an Albert Pierrepoint!

      This was a fascinating insight into the work of this man - voted up!!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Thank you Seeker7. Yes, Albert was known for his professionalism. I'm glad you liked it, Thank you for you valued vote.

      Graham.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Oh so interesting Graham;you have the knack of telling a tale and keeping me gripped.I knew not much on Albert Pierrepoint so this made your words even more interesting. Voted up as always and enjoy your day my dear friend.

      Eddy.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Good morning Eddy. Thank you as always for your welcome comments and vote. Today is a beautiful clear sky blue extravaganza, so welcome after the recent weather. Enjoy your corner and garden today.

      Graham.

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      A well constructed, yet chilling hub. Thank you. I have heard pf Pierrepoint over the years, but know nothing more than that he was the executioner. That was a hideous amount of hangings. Some no doubt "deserved" to die, but the mistakes were horrific.

      I actually live in the same street that Derek Bentley lived in all those years ago, and it is not the mean little tow up and two down area that the film presents, but a comfortable Victorian middle class area. maybe it was depicted thus to make it appear more poignant.

      How sad. The judge, I believe, in he case was a sadistic "hang 'em and flog'em" sadist. I, sometimes, think the wrong people reach sticky ends in the UK!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi TL. Thank you for your insightful comments. The Derek Bentley case was a tragedy. Today of course he would not have been hanged. Clemency should have been shown anyway by the judge. Furthermore he should not have been charged with murder. Thank you.

      Graham.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 3 years ago

      Hello and good afternoon Graham and it's so nice to meet you.

      I am Colin aka Epi from lake erie time ontario canada 12:05pm and I must say in my 3 years here this is one of the most fascinating and interesting hub stories I've ever read.

      Thank you for your world class research and I will proudly link and share this awesome read to my Facebook wall for more people to see.

      I am sending you warm wishes and good energy from Colin and his cats Tiffy and Gabriel and how is the weather over there right now.

      Here it is finally summer with lots of sun, this week anyway , lol, and warmer temperatures

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello Colin. It was a 'treat' to find your hubs today they are indeed excellent. I am sure I shall return to them many times in the future. Thank you for your very kind comments, good wishes and energy. The weather this evening; 17.45 is beautiful, however heavy rain is due overnight and cooler weather is forecast for the weekend. Thank you for entering my hub on your Facebook wall.

      Graham.

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain

      This was a very interesting read, I have read his autobiography, and seen the film with Timothy Spall playing the part of Pierrepoint, both the book and the film are excellent, as is your Hub Graham.

      I am glad that period of our history is over, that is as far as the death penalty goes. Voting up as I leave and hitting all relevant buttons as I go :D Maggs

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Maggs. Thank you for your visit and lovely comments. I do appreciate your votes thank you. Yes Timothy Spall is one of our best actors in my opinion. An excellent film.

      Graham.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Interesting hub. Have always thought dispatching sentences swiftly was more humane than making someone sit in isolation with the threat of death for who knows how long.

      Interesting read.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi tirelesstraveler. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. I agree with you, the quicker the better. A terrible dilemma I know.

      Best wishes.

      Graham.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Graham, me again.

      In the cases of many murderers Pierrepoint had to hang you're right in saying they could have been dealt with in another manner. Some were bad news, (like the 10 Rillington Place case).

      Really bad cases did deserve what came to them, like Kramer and the other war criminals who pleaded ,'I voss only obeyink orders!' (right up to Goering). The issue with them was that many of their fellows knew about their deeds and applauded them openly. They thought they were above the laws that governed those outside Germany (which at the time included Austria and Czechoslovakia, where the Nazis really 'went to town'). When the Russians were asked, Stalin said something about hanging 50,000 of the leaders.

      I think the 'rot' went further down, as we learned about John Demjanjuk and a few other prison camp guards. The Russians hanged every SS rank they caught, although there were many among the Wehrmacht ranks who committed atrocities and felt they had no reason to feel bad as the Slavs were 'Untermenschen'. Even Hitler Youth members seconded to the SS carried out crimes against captured Canadian troops, but expected justice when their turn came to face the music. Their possessions included sweets and chocolate. They were just children, after all (?)

      The social 'conditioning' reached a long way down, including those who killed US artillery personnel in the Battle of the Bulge after they'd surrendered. Maybe we should have left them to the French, who took care of Joachim Peiper when he decided to settle anonymously in France. The grudge goes very deep in many parts of Europe.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Alan. Thank you as usual for your in depth comments and observations. One has to wonder why Peiper settled in France it seem so illogical for him. Jailed fro 1945 until 1956 he came out and worked for Porche and Volkswagen, before retiring to France. He lived in a cottage in a wooded are with only one neighbour who was also German. As you know he was firebombed at home in 1976, he was killed in the attack, dying from burns and smoke inhalation. The grudge is still there, some things cannot be forgotten. Thanks again.

      Graham.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Graham...My my...."most effective executioner" & "traveling hangman," I would imagine were coveted referrals on Pierrepoint's resume? 500 condemned prisoners under his belt? Bully for him. That he was easily able to live with being a paid serial killer is beyond amazing. May he rest in peace.

      I am confident the Evans & Bentley families were so very grateful for the "posthumous pardons," that they sent lovely gifts to the morons who convicted them, although INNOCENT.

      Since you read my hub on the topic of CP, I know I needn't explain my sarcasm.

      Excellently done, Graham. First of it's kind for me....on HP! Thanks for the education..........UP+++

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Paula. Thanks for your visit and comments. I hoped you might find this hub. There were so many travesties of justice in earlier days. Indeed there still are, today we have forensics, in those days we did not. The pain of the ones left behind should never be forgotten.

      Graham.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This was an original topic that kept me interested until the very last word. What a fascinating "family business" he found himself in. I imagine that being the executioner could be either deeply troubling or quite fulfilling, depending on one's personal beliefs about capital punishment. I'm surprised that he and Annie didn't encounter personal safety issues, especially from mobsters. Also, now you really have me wondering how we currently select executioners. Somebody has to flip the switch in the gas chamber or electric chair, pull the trigger at the firing squad, insert the needle for lethal injection. It's such an issue in the US when something goes wrong. Voted up and more and sharing.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Flourish. Thank you for your visit and valued comments. Yes, somebody has to do the deed. They are usually volunteers for this duty. Albert hung several US military men in prison in the uk. They were convicted of murder and rape. I am considering a hub about this at present. I have fully researched it. I might upset some readers so I am trying to decide whether to publish or not. It really is of great human interest. Thank you for your votes and sharing, I do appreciate it.

      Graham.

    • DWDavisRSL profile image

      DW Davis 2 years ago from Eastern NC

      I found your Hub to be very interesting, especially in light of a discussion I recently had with my sixth grade English class about the song "Hanging Johnny." Thank you for a most informative article.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi DW. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. I am pleased you have found it of value.

      Graham.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      It was a job with a fine line. This is very interesting about the war criminals that were executed for their crimes. I never knew they executed those woman guards. Great hub, stella

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Stella. Thanks for your visit and comments. Yes they paid the price which was richly deserved. I do appreciate your visits.

      Graham.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

      informative

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      sujaya. Thank you for your visit and comment.

      Graham.

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