British Executions

James Cook

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 10 Aug 1832

Crime Location:

Execution Place: Leicester

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


The year was 1832, Cook was 21-years-old and had recently started in business as a book-binder at Wellington Street in Leicester. Cook was a customer of Mr Paas, a manufacturer of brass instruments and had received goods from Paas to the order of about 163;25. In May 1832 Cook's credit period had expired and Paas wrote to him requesting payment. On Wednesday 30th May Paas arrived in Leicester to make his rounds and collect several outstanding debts. He made one visit to Cook who had asked him to return in the evening. Paas was never seen alive again.

In the early evening a milkman, Mr Sawbridge, noticed a large fire in Cook's workshop but thought nothing of it at the time, as large amounts of heat were required in the binding process. About 8pm Cook visited the Flying Horse public house. He produced a purse that contained a considerable amount of money, which surprised the landlord who knew of Cook's precarious financial position.

When he left the pub Cook went to Mrs Sawbridge and told her that he was going to be working late and not to be alarmed if she saw the fire burning.

Cook worked through the night in his workshop. On Thursday evening a large amount of light was seen to be coming from the workshop, even though the blinds were drawn. The neighbours were alarmed and feared that the building might already be burning. Accordingly, a Mr Timson went and broke down the door. On top of the raging fire was a large piece of flesh which was pulled from the flames and the fire was extinguished.

Cook was sent for. He declared that it was horseflesh that he had bought to feed a dog but surgical examination determined that it was, in fact, human. It had been noted that Mr Paas had not returned to his lodgings and a further examination of the premises was made. A leg and two thighs were found suspended in the chimney. A pair of blood-soaked trousers, a snuff-box and a pencil-case, engraved with the letter 'P', were found in the workshop.

By this time Cook had vanished and Cummins, an officer, went in pursuit. Cook was apprehended in Liverpool the following Tuesday, just prior to sailing for America. He was put on trial at Leicester Assizes on Wednesday 8th August 1832 and pleaded guilty. He was hanged in front of Leicester prison on Friday 10th August and, on the following day his body was gibbeted in Saffron Lane, close to the Aylestone toll-gate.