British Executions

Emily Swann

Age: 42

Sex: female

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 29 Dec 1903

Crime Location: George Square, Wombwell, Yorkshire

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


John Gallagher and Emily Swann were convicted of the murder of Emily Swann's husband William Swann and sentenced to death.

William Swann, a glassblower, and Emily Swann had lived in Wombwell and at some point John Gallagher, a miner, moved in with them as a lodger and had an affair with Emily Swann. However, he was turned out on account of his intimacy and went off to lodge with a woman a few doors away where Emily Swann frequently visited him.

William Swann and Emily Swann started to quarrel frequently and around a month before the murder, in April 1903, they had a violent quarrel in which John Gallagher interfered and kicked William Swann.

It was heard that a week before the murder, Emily Swann was heard to say to John Gallagher, 'Go and punch his ribs off, and I'll stand by and see you do it and think you do no wrong'.

On the afternoon of Saturday 6 June 1903, John Gallagher and Emily Swann had spent the afternoon drinking at John Gallagher's lodgings where John Gallagher was standing drinks because he was leaving for Bradford. At some point Emily Swann took up a jacket and vest of John Gallagher's and took them back to her own house where she was followed by John Gallagher who, however, returned to his lodgings about ten minutes later.

However, Emily Swann returned to John Gallagher's lodgings a little later and showed him a black eye that she said William Swann had given her.

It was said then that John Gallagher got up and said, 'I'll give the bugger something for himself', and went off to William Swann's house at which point Emily Swann was said to have said, 'I hope he'll kill the bugger', and followed on to her house.

It was said then that John Gallagher shook the door until it flew open and went in with Emily Swann and sounds of a violent struggle were heard during which Emily Swann was heard to say, 'Give it him, Johnny, give it to the bugger'.

John Gallagher was said to have then returned to his lodgings where he was heard to say that he had broken four ribs and that he would break some more. He was then said to have said, 'I'll finish him before I go to Bradford', and to have then gone back off to William Swann's house where Emily Swann was still at.

Another struggle was then heard during which Emily Swann was heard to say, 'Punch the bugger to death'.

After that, John Gallagher and Emily Swann came out of the house holding each other's hands. John Gallagher then went back off to his lodgings and Emily Swann went back into her house but came out after an interval and called in a neighbour and told them that William Swann was dead.

The police report stated that William Swann had died from blows to the head and had four broken ribs and about twenty injuries.

After that John Gallagher escaped and at the inquest, Emily Swann put all the blame for the murder on him. However, John Gallagher was later arrested in August 1903.

The police report stated that it was a cruel and deliberate murder and stated that the fact that John Gallagher and Emily Swann had been drinking for some hours afforded no excuse.

It was noted that it was not proven in evidence that Emily Swann had actually struck any blows on her husband, but after John Gallagher was arrested he said that Emily Swann had joined in and had struck William Swann with a poker and noted that at the trial the judge had stated that he believed that to be correct.

It was also noted that although both John Gallagher and Emily Swann had been drinking heavily, they had returned to the house to attack William Swann a second time, demonstrating that they had known what they were about. It was also noted that they had evidently some days before contemplated violence on William Swann, although perhaps not actual murder.

They were both tried at the West Riding Assizes in Leeds on 9 December 1903 and found guilty and sentenced to death and later executed on 29 December 1903 at Armley Gaol.

see National Archives - HO 144/736/113887