British Executions

Edmund Hall

Age: 49

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 20 Dec 1904

Crime Location: 4 Alma Terrace, York

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Billington


Edmund Hall was convicted of the murder of his father-in-law John Dalby 78 and sentenced to death.

He cut his throat at 4 Alma Terrace, York on 29 July 1904.

Edmund Hall travelled from Leeds to York and went to Alma Terrace to see his father-in-law who was alone in the house.

Shortly after neighbours heard a disturbance and some groaning. Just as the neighbours were going to force an entry the back door opened and John Dalby came out with his throat cut and blood over him. Edmund Hall then dashed out behind him and scaled the yard wall and vanished into the darkness.

John Dalby was taken to the hospital but he died the following day.

After being alerted the police arrested Edmund Hall at York Station a few hours later. He was found to have John Dalby's watch and chain on him.

At the trial the judge described it as an 'atrocious murder'.

John Dalby had lived with his daughter and her husband at Alma Terrace in York but because they kept a shop in town he was left alone all day and on Fridays until 9.30pm.

Edmund Hall was also a son-in-law to John Dalby but his wife had died a year before and he was employed as an engineer in the Albion Works at Leeds and rarely went to York.

On Friday 29 July 1904, after he had finished a day’s work, he went to York, and instead of going to his brother-in-law's shop as usual, he went to Alma Terrace at 9pm, an hour when he knew that John Dalby would be alone.

A girl saw John Dalby let Edmund Hall in and a little later the neighbours heard strange noises of stamping, breaking of crockery and groans and becoming alarmed they tried to get in. However, they found the front door locked and ongoing round to the back they found the back door also locked.

However, moments later John Dalby opened it and they saw him with his throat cut from ear to ear after which Edmund Hall came out saying, 'I'll fetch a doctor', as he passed them and escaped.

However, he was arrested about an hour or two later in a train that was about to start for Leeds with blood stains still on his clothes and John Dalby's watch chain in his pocket.

John Dalby had received several wounds to his hands and head and died the following day in hospital from the wound to his throat.

It was stated to have been a deliberate murder, it being noted that Edmund Hall had tried earlier on the day of the murder, just before he left Leeds for York, to buy a revolver, but was stopped by the requirements of the Pistol Act. It was stated that he knew that there was a safe at Alma Terrace in which sometimes as much as £50 was kept.

It was noted however that John Dalby had no key to the safe, but he wore a watch and chain that Edmund Hall had wrenched away from him, breaking off the bar and spade guinea which were later found on the floor.

It was noted that Edmund Hall had previously tried to get money from his sister with whom John Dalby lived and it was thought that there was no doubt that the object of the murder was robbery.

Nevertheless, it seemed to be a case where there was some doubt over Edmund Hall's mental condition. He was described otherwise to have been a quiet steady man with good antecedents and as such, such an act seemed to be entirely at variance with his ordinary character.

In 1878 whilst in the army in India he had had sunstroke and was invalided home for melancholia.

He had also had a serious accident in 1900 in Woolwich Dockyard and afterwards on one occasion had lost his memory and power of speech.

He had, it was said, been discharged in 1902 by an employer in Greenwich as not being responsible for his actions, and according to medical evidence, there were physical signs that pointed to some injury to the spinal cord with which brain disease was likely to be associated.

It was also noted that although the medical officer at the prison could find no evidence that when he had committed the crime that he had been insane or irresponsible for his actions, he regarded Edmund Hall was mentally weak.

It was stated that whilst there was much more in Edmund Hall's history to suggest mental disease than in many cases where the defence of insanity was successful, his defence was said to have failed because of all the circumstances of the murder that showed deliberate intention and cool execution.

A reprieve was further attempted on the grounds of insanity, but the Home secretary said that after examination of Edmund Hall by medical men that he saw no reason for advising His Majesty to arrest the due process of the law. It was said that Edmund Hall had been hopeful of a reprieve and had been greatly cast down on the decision being made known to him.

Edmund Hall was executed at Leeds on 20 December 1904. Whilst in the condemned cell he was visited by a Wesleyan minister to whom he stated that he never intended to murder John Dalby and that he very much regretted giving way to his violent temper so fatally. Whilst there he was said to have spent his time in conjuring feats and solving intricate puzzles, in all of which the prison officials said he was quite adept, it being noted that one afternoon he kept them amused for three hours.

It was said that for the last few days that he had eaten little and not slept much. Although the press were not admitted to witness the execution, it was heard that he had submitted quietly to the process of pinioning in the cell and that he had walked with a moderate degree of firmness to the scaffold and that his death had appeared to have been almost instantaneous.

It was noted that Armley Gaol had been enveloped in a dense fog as the execution was carried out.

see National Archives - HO 144/770/122448

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 02 December 1904

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 21 December 1904

see The Scotsman - Monday 19 December 1904