The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act came came into power in 1965 ending 305 years of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. For over 3 centuries state sponsored death had been used to uphold the laws of the time and protect the interests of those in power and the society it governed.
On 13th August 1964 at precisely 8.00 a.m. The traps of hanging gallows 50 kilometres apart opened simultaneously for the very last time, dropping and ending the lives of the last two men to be hung in England under the Homicide Act 1957
At Manchester’s notorious Victorian Strangeways Prison, 24 year old Gwynne Owen Evans was hanged for the capital murder of John West whilst at the exact same time 21 year old Peter Allen was hanged at Liverpool’s Walton Prison for his role in the murder. Both held out for a reprieve, which would never come. Unknowingly, they would both enter the dark annuls of history as the final victims of a cruel chapter in our forgotten history.
We cannot know what their last thoughts must have been as they resigned themselves to the will of a society that sought justice and retribution for the murder of 53 year old John Alan West who they fatally stabbed in a bungled burglary.
Britains leading hangman Albert Pierrepoint made a gruesome craft of hanging, but even his skill and indeed that of the executioner Harry Allen could never have hoped to curtail the psychological suffering the majority of us pray will never know.
The appalling conditions they must have endured whilst they awaited their fate and which many people around the world continue to endure today and like Evans and West become victims of societies that exact the most barbaric and inhumane justice for heinous crimes that they believe misguidedly will rid society of its ills.
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