British Executions

Gustav Rau

Age: 28

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 2 Jun 1903

Crime Location: Atlantic off Brazil

Execution Place: Liverpool

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


Gustav Rau, Willem Schmidt and Otto Monsson were convicted of the murder of Alexander Shaw and several other seamen.

Gustav Rau and Willem Schmidt were executed.

Otto Monsson was too young to execute and was imprisoned.

They had been crew members on the British barque Veronica. They mutinied on or around 8 December 1902 and killed the Captain and six crew members and then set fire to the ship.

They were later rescued and returned to England. However, one of the survivors told the authorities what had happened and the four mutineers were arrested. However, one of them gave evidence against the other three in order to escape prosecution.

They were charged with the murders of:

  • Alexander Shaw 48 (Captain)
  • Alexander McLeod 24 (First Mate)
  • Fred Abrahamsson 39 (Second Mate)
  • Julius Persson (Porrssen) 20's (Crew Member 1)
  • Gustav Johansson 20's (Crew Member 2)
  • Paddy Doran 45 (Crew Member 3)
  • Alec Bravo 50 (Coolie)

They were rescued from the island of Cajueiva off the coast of South America. There were 5 of them in total, 4 mutineers and the ship's cook. The ship's cook was the one that had informed the authorities upon return to England and the fourth mutineer had given evidence against the remaining 3 for the Crown.

The Veronica had been on a voyage from Ship Island in Mississippi, United States of America to Monte Video and all went well until 7 December 1902.

Around 7 December 1902 Gustav Rau, who was the ring leader, conspired with the others to murder some of the crew.

They first knocked Paddy Doran out with a belaying pin. When he later asked for water Gustav Rau killed him.

When Alexander McLeod asked what was going on Gustav Rau and the mutineer who gave evidence against the others attacked him with belaying pins and threw him overboard.

They then shot Fred Abrahamsson who staggered to the Captain's cabin shouting 'Oh,Lord, I am shot' but he survived for the time being.

Julius Persson was then knocked down and thrown overboard.

Then they shot at the Captain, Alexander Shaw, who was at the compass, but he managed to get to his cabin.

On 10 December 1902 Fred Abrahamsson was led out of the Captain's cabin and shot and shortly after the Captain was also shot.

After they decided to set fire to the ship and make up a story saying that the other crew members had gone off in another boat and they never saw them again, however, when Gustav Johansson and Alec Bravo couldn't remember the story they were shot and thrown overboard.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/83, HO 144/982/108104

see Liverpool Murders

see Shields Daily Gazette - Friday 03 April 1903

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 03 June 1903

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Friday 27 March 1903

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 01 April 1903

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 11 April 1903