British Executions

Edward Harrison

Age: 62

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Feb 1905

Crime Location: 49 Gosterwood Street, Deptford, London

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Billington


Edward Harrison was convicted of the murder of his daughter Elizabeth Jane Rickus 30 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at Deptford, London on 26 January 1905. She was found dead in the kitchen nearly decapitated.

When Edward Harrison was charged he said, 'I am very pleased. I am very proud and thankful. He also remarked several times 'Revenge is sweet'.

When in court during evidence given by the police inspector on finding the body Elizabeth Rickus's husband broke down and had to be taken out of court. As he left Edward Harrison called after him with an opprobrious name.

In his defence he said that Elizabeth Rickus had told him that his wife was being kept by another man and that she had come at him with a knife.

Edward Harrison had married his wife in June 1872 and they had two children. For the last 22 years they had lived at 22 Windmill Lane in Deptford.

The police report stateed that for the whole of his life Edward Harrison had been a lazy, brutal and drunken man. It stated that he contributed very little to the support of himself, his wife or family and whenever he was in drink, which was often, they went in terror of him.

It stateed that the older he grew, the more confirmed did he appear to become in his brutal and drunken habits.

On the other hand his wife was described as a clean, meek, patient, sober and hard working woman. She supported herself by taking in washing and mangling (she purchased a mangle) and went out sashing and charing. She also attended the confinements of poor persons that she knew, and so she kept the home together, and even added to its comforts by the purchase of fresh furniture with the assistance of her children.

Records from the Greenwich Police Court showed that he had been convicted several times, including:

  • About 20 years ago: Assault of his wife, bound over to keep the peace.
  • 11 September 1891: Assault on wife, 6 weeks hard labour.
  • 29 May 1900: Assault on wife, one security in £3 or 1 month hard labour.
  • 3 September 1904: Assault on wife, 10 days hard labour.
  • 21 September 1904: Threatening husband of Elizabeth Rickus, bound over to keep the peace for 6 months.

On 2 September 1904 Edward Harrison drove his wife from the house by threatening her with a knife he later killed Elizabeth Rickus with and locked her out. He kept her locked out for two hours and then went and knocked her down in the street, an assault that was witnessed by a constable and for which he was sentenced to 10 days hard labour. The knife was taken off of Edward Harrison by the constable but he gave it back to Edward Harrison's wife the next day and she left it in the house on a shelf where Edward Harrison later took it to kill Elizabeth Rickus.

While Edward Harrison was in prison his wife talked to her children and agreed to separate from Edward Harrison. She then removed some of the furniture, the whole of which appeared to have been purchased by her own earnings, leaving Edward Harrison with sufficient to furnish one or two rooms for himself, including utensils for cooking etc.

Before she left the house she found Edward Harrison's clasp knife and threw it into the canal fearing that he would use it on her when he came out.

Edward Harrison's wife then took her furniture and moved into two rooms at 3 Kerry Road in Deptford. She then went to visit her sister for three weeks at Burchell Road in Peckham and then stayed at Kerry Road for the following three weeks until 24 October when she went to be a monthly nurse for a woman at Harrow Alley in Aldgate who was in her confinement. She stayed there every night until 6 January 1905 and then went direct to another woman in her confinement at Stepney Green where she stayed until three days after the murder, and which she left as a consequence of.

When Edward Harrison came out of prison he continued to live at 22 Windmill Lane and sold his furniture to his poor neighbours for what he could get for it. He stayed until 29 September when he was told to leave by his landlord, who was also his lodger, because of his drunken habits. He then went to the workhouse where he was an inmate between 29 September 1904 and 3 November 1904. He then left to take up a position as potman at The White Hart pub on Grove Street in Deptford for which he was paid 10/- per week and his food and lodgings. He was still working and living at The White Hart pub when he murdered his daughter.

The police report stated that Elizabeth Rickus was a timid, weak and inoffensive woman and that it was impossible to believe that she had told Edward Harrison that his wife was being kept by another man, especially when it was known to be false. Further, when her physique was considered it was said to have been ridiculous to think that she could 'Go for her father with the knife' as Edward Harrison had stated in his defence.

Edward Harrison's son said that he lived with his mother and father until 12 September 1904 and had been at 22 Windmill Lane for 18 years. He said that Edward Harrison had always been violent towards his mother and frequently assaulted her as well as him. He said that as a consequence of that it was decided that when he went into jail that their mother should no longer live with him. As such he said they divided the household effects with his mother taking her share to another address. He said that Edward Harrison disposed of his share when he returned.

The son said that he went into lodgings on Bestwood Street and then a week later went to stay with Elizabeth Rickus at her lodgings on Gosterwood Street. He said that Edward Harrison then found out that he was there and called several times during the next week and caused a disturbance and they had to send for the police. He said that he would knock at the door that opened into the kitchen and the moment the door was opened he would force his way in.

He said that he heard Edward Harrison ask Elizabeth Rickus for their mother's address and said that she would always say that she didn't know.

He said that he had heard Elizabeth Rickus on several occasions say 'I'll murder the B-- lot of you, you lot and the old Dutch too'. and that on one occasion said that he said 'I'll have the yard strewn with blood'.

He said that thinking he could save Elizabeth Rickus by leaving there he went back to lodge at Bestwood Street, and didn't see Edward Harrison again after September 1904.

He added Edward Harrison used to smash up the furniture when he was in a temper with an axe and that they used to hide the weapons.

He said that Edward Harrison could have lived in very comfortable circumstances and had contracts for good work on the River but that all his monies earned would be spent upon himself.

A man who knew Edward Harrison said that he was a powerful well built man and weighed about 11 stone. He said that he wasn't in his right senses when he had had a drop of drink and would rave for hours in his back yard whilst under the influence. He said that Elizabeth Rickus was a quiet, sickly girl that was frightened to death by him. He said that when Edward Harrison was drunk there was nothing of Elizabeth Rickus and a puff of wind would blow her down like she was a doll. He said that he had known both Elizabeth Rickus and Edward Harrison intimately, often day after day, for 17 years and that he would say that it was impossible that she could have gone for him with a knife.

He said that the week before the murder he had met Edward Harrison in the Plough Road and went for a drink with him at the Prince Of Wales pub. He said that Edward Harrison told him that the two Rikus's were carrying on with his wife as well as his son. He said that he blamed Elizabeth Rickus for getting his wife a two bedroom place and allowing her husband to cohabit with his wife and added that he would find her out. He said that Edward Harrison blamed Elizabeth Rickus for his wife going away and for keeping her away and that he was very bitter against her.

After coming out of prison Edward Harrison did everything he could to find his wife. On 12 December 1904 he went to Elizabeth Rickus lodgings and went down on his knees and declared that if he did not find his wife soon then there would be murder done there. Later on 26 January 1905 he had repeated his threats saying 'If I don't find my wife I'll put Cissy's life out, if I get stretched for it'. He stayed at work for the rest of the day and then made some excuse and left and went to Gosterwood Street where he killed Elizabeth Rickus.

Her body was found soon after when some relatives went to see her. They found the door locked but forced it and found her lying dead inside. She had been dead for two or three hours which corresponded with the time Edward Harrison had left the White Heart where he had been working.

Edward Harrison was arrested on 2 February by a constable in the street. He said to him 'I know what you want. Is she dead? I suppose I shall swing for this'. Police found blood stains on him. At the police station he again inquired whether Elizabeth Rickus was dead and they told him that she was and he asked again 'Quite dead' and the police said that that was so and he said 'I am very pleased. Revenge is sweet.'.

Edward Harrison was executed at Wandsworth Prison by Billington. He was said to have been quite sullen during his incarceration, not only to gaol officials but also towards his relatives. At his final interview he spoke to his wife and son but showed no signs of remorse.  Just prior to his execution when asked if there was anything he wanted to say he said 'I did it'. His death was described as instantaneous.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/96/6, HO 144/782/126186

see Captial Punishment UK (facebook)

see Crime and Execution (facebook)

see Evening Star - Friday 27 January 1905

see Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 27 January 1905