British Executions

Joseph Cornelius Parker

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 11 Jul 1899

Crime Location: Semilong, Kingsthorpe

Execution Place: Northampton

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Joseph Cornelius Parker was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old girlfriend Mary Elizabeth Meadows and sentenced to death.

He shot her dead in Semilong, Kingsthorpe on 11 March 1899.

They had been courting for four years, evidently with the consent of the family, her mother saying that she had never known them to quarrel.

Mary Meadows had lived with her family at 73 Salisbury Street in Semilong.

Joseph Parker had been a striker.

Joseph Parker had bought a pistol, which he said had been a derringer, on 4 March 1899 and practiced with it and then on 9 March he said to a 15-year-old companion, 'I shall have to do away with my girl', to which his companion had replied, 'Take no notice of her'.

Then, on the evening of 10 March 1899, he went to a shop and bought a revolver and 50 cartridges, leaving her with the old gun, which had been loaded.

Joseph Parker later said that he and Mary Meadows had gone together, however, the woman at the shop said that Joseph Parker had come alone, although it was noted that it was possible that Mary Meadows might have waited for him outside.

After that Joseph Parker had a great deal to drink, so much so, that when they got back to 73 Salisbury Street, Mary Meadows's mother would not let him go out again for fear that he should get taken up.

Mary Meadows then stayed up with him, as her mother said, 'for fear he might fall into the fire'.

At about 5.30am Mary Meadows's mother heard them getting the breakfast things after which they went out. They were seen by a man walking arm in arm and looking very happy, so much so that though he heard the pistol shots, he didn't think they could have been fired by either of them because they were looking so happy.

As soon as Joseph Parker shot Mary Meadows he went off to the Police Station and gave himself up, saying in the most callous way to the police constable there, 'Do you want a job? I have shot my girl. On the New Road. I have put two shots through her head. She is quite dead. I have done it with this'.  He then handed the police constable the revolver. He then said, 'Be careful with it, there are four shots in it and two I have put through her head'.  He then went on to say, 'We went last night and bought the revolver and a box of cartridges and we have been together all night. She wanted me to shoot her and then shoot myself. She wanted me to do it in the house. She said no one would hear us. I could not do it in the house. We came outside, and stood for a few minutes and I lifted the revolver and pulled the trigger and shot her in the head. She had fallen to the ground and I then put another shot through her and left her lying on the ground and as I could not shoot myself I thought I would give myself up'.

At his trial it was heard that there had been a terrible history of insanity in his family and a doctor said that he thought that Joseph Parker had been suffering from a mental disease, although noted that he thought that Joseph Parker had known the nature and the quality of his act and that it was wrong. The doctor further concurred that he thought that it had meant to be a double suicide and that he was not surprised that he did not attempt suicide.

Joseph Parker said that he had made three suicide attempts before.

At his trial at the Northamptonshire Assizes, when he was asked to plead, he pleaded guilty, and when the clerk of Assizes asked, 'You say you are guilty?', Joseph Parker replied, 'Yes'. However, the judge then advised him to withdraw his guilty plea and he pleaded not guilty.

However, he was convicted of murder, but with a strong recommendation to mercy on account of the insanity in his family. However, his sentence was not interfered with and he was executed at Northampton on 11 July 1899.

see National Archives - HO 144/276/A61129

see Illustrated Police Budget - Saturday 18 March 1899