British Executions

George Breeze

Age: 21

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 2 Aug 1904

Crime Location: 9 Back South Railway Street, Seaham

Execution Place: Durham

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


George Breeze was convicted of the murder of Margaret Jane Chisholm 20 and sentenced to death.

He strangled her at her house at 9 Back South Railway Street, Seaham on 6 July 1904 where he had been lodging.

When he was charged with her murder he pleaded guilty. After being found fit to plead the judge asked him if he had anything to say and George Breeze replied, 'I am ready to die at any moment. I am not sorry for what I have done'. The judge then asked him if he was still saying that he was guilty and he replied, 'Yes, quite guilty', and when asked if he wanted to be defended he said, 'No'. He later said, 'I have nothing to say. I am ready to die at any moment if you have a mind to pass sentence of death upon me. It is no use being sorry when the thing is done'.

The judge then passed the sentence of death and George Breeze said, 'I thank you very much. I hope there will be no reprieve'.

After killing Margaret Chisholm he had given himself up to the police in Durham.

Margaret Chisholm's husband said that he and George Breeze had been friends and had played football together for two years and said that George Breeze would often visit his house where he lived with his wife and child before he moved in as a lodger.

Three weeks before the murder George Breeze had a row with his father and Margaret Chisholm suggested that he could stay with them. Margaret Chisholm's husband said that he had nothing against the idea and George Breeze moved in as a lodger. However, they only had one room and so George Breeze would sleep on the couch in front of the fire.

Margaret Chisholm's husband said that only once did they had words whilst he was there, and that that was the night before the murder, saying that they had been talking about strong men and Margaret Chisholm had said, 'Get away, thou knowest everything', to which George Breeze had replied, 'I’m as good as anybody belonging to you', to which Margaret Chisholm said he was not. George Breeze then told her that her father and brothers were no good. However, that was where the dispute ended and they were soon as friendly as ever.

Margaret Chisholm's husband said that he last spoke to George Breeze before going to bed about 11pm and was called at 3.40am to go to work on the Wednesday morning and that while he was getting dressed Margaret Chisholm made some tea and he had some breakfast. He said that the last he saw of his wife she was pouring out a cup of tea for herself.

He said that at the time George Breeze was on the couch but he didn't know if he was awake or not and left without speaking to him.

He said that occasionally he and his wife had words but that during those occasions George Breeze would act as peacekeeper and tried to bring peace between them. He said that George Breeze paid 25s. a fortnight for his food and lodgings but the last time he had paid he had given Margaret Chisholm 30s. He said that that was George Breeze's own goodness given of his own free will. He said that Margaret Chisholm had not wanted to take it but that George Breeze had insisted.

Margaret Chisholm's husband said that he thought that George Breeze had murdered his wife because of the words that George Breeze had had with his wife the night before.

The court heard that George Breeze took in a publication called 'Famous Crimes' and often talked about what was in it and had received the latest number the Tuesday before.

A woman who lived next door said that she heard Margaret Chisholm calling her husband at about 4am but didn't hear anything after that time and up to when she later saw George Breeze walking off down the street. She said that she later showed a constable where Margaret Chisholm's house was and when the constable got no reply she came to his assistance and found the door key on the floor protruding from beneath the door and let the police in. When they went in they found Margaret Chisholm's 2 year old child sitting on the bed undressed with the body of Margaret Chisholm clapping her hand. Margaret Chisholm was wearing a skirt and blouse and was lying on the bed on her back.

It was noted that the bed and couch were separated by only 2 feet.

When Margaret Chisholm was found she was foaming from the mouth and nose.

On a table the police found 2 notes. The first read:

'I confess I killed the only woman I ever loved because she was true. I have gone to Sunderland to give myself up and hope that when the time comes I shall die happy. May the Lord cherish her as one of his Godly creatures. She was a piece of Nature's best handiwork'.

The other note read:

'Why did he have to go to work and leave me to cause my own destruction and the death of one I loved more than the very world, even more than my own life? Why did I kill such a young life? Because she was unhappy, and I was unhappy'.

When he went into the Durham police station on Court Lane he gave them a piece of foolscap that read:

'I, the undersigned, confess that I killed Meg Ashworth, legally Mrs Chisholm, in a fit of mad passion, driven to desperation by her handsome face.

She made me do what God never ordained man to do. Still, as the world goes merrily round, some must be happy, some miserable, whilst I never knew that life was happy.

Night after night my mind was throbbing thinking of her I adored her more than the very world, even more than those that are dear to me.

It makes your mind uneasy when you see the only woman you ever loved married to another to be tortured by the pangs of hunger, while he enjoys the pleasure of this cruel, heartrending world.

Men, take my advice, shun his evil company. If you don't your life will be a constant plague. It is their main hobby to take a young girl as a wife, to leave her to the just deserts of this avaricious world.

When life is young some say that all the money in the world could not buy this sweetness, but money could have bought my sweetness, because when you are poor you are trampled upon like a worm by others.

Fellow-workmen, forget that once I was one of your mates, because you are not to be classed with me as I now write my name with the scroll of a murderer, a murderer in God's sight, but not a murderer in my own, because she was unhappy, and she knew she was tied by the bonds of matrimony.

People might say 'He will regret what he had done' but such is not the case, for when the time comes I will be ready for the scaffold, taking three steps at a time, and also put the rope around my own neck, because I know that we are both to meet where there is plenty, and no one to laugh and jeer at you.

The address of her aunt is Aiden Street, Gilesgatemoor, Durham. My name is George Breeze. Happy though dying on the scaffold, my only wish is that I am very sorry to put the club I was about to play for to such expense, for if it had not been for him I would have been with my old club, Bonnie Seaham White Star.

Hoping that my name will soon be forgotten, as it is not fit to be spoken of. I also hope that the poor, half-starved child will be brought to me before I die, as I love its little sparkling face. The flower of my heart is faded.

Someone take care of the child, as its mother has done. Yours, George Breeze'.

After handing the police the foolscap note that he had written he made a statement which read:

'I strangled Mrs Chisholm in my mad passion. When I got up this morning Mrs Chisholm told me that her husband had told her that he was jealous of us two, and she wished she was dead. I said, 'Would there be any harm in my killing you?'. And she said, 'I don't care. I don't think you would do it' and that I had not the heart to do it. I then strangled her. I am sorry for her. I would not have done it if I had thought seriousness of it'.

George Breeze was hanged at Durham on the morning of Tuesday 2 August 1904.

It was said that after his conviction that he maintained his stoical attitude for a time but gradually changed and later said that he hoped a reprieve would be forthcoming. He was said to have walked firmly to the scaffold and to have smiled at the press representatives to whom he said, ‘So long’, in true pitman style.

see National Archives - HO 144/765/120419

see Seaham

see East Durhamsee

see Crime and Execution

see The Scotsman - Monday 18 July 1904

see Dundee Evening Post - Friday 08 July 1904

see Manchester Evening News - Tuesday 02 August 1904