British Executions

Frederick Preston

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 3 Oct 1899

Crime Location: 2 Daintry Street, Hackney, London

Execution Place: unknown

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Frederick Preston was convicted of the murder of his 19-year-old girlfriend Eliza Jane Mears and sentenced to death.

They had been seeing each other for a while but her mother urged her to give him up because of the way he treated her and he beat her to death with a blunt instrument.

Frederick Preston had been a French Polisher and had lived in Chapman Road in Hackney Wick.

They had been engaged to marry for about 17 months, with the wedding planned for some time in 1899.

Eliza Mears had worked for her living at a rubber factory and resided with her mother at 2 Daintry Street in Hackney.

It was heard that towards the end of June 1899 that Frederick Preston had not behaved kindly to Eliza Mears. On 6 July 1899 Eliza Mears's mother became aware of an injury to Eliza Mears's breast resulting from a blow that Frederick Preston had given her. Eliza Mears's mother said that she looked at Eliza Mears's breast and saw that an abscess was forming.

On 8 July 1899 Eliza Mears's mother told Frederick Preston that she wished for the engagement to be broken off. When Frederick Preston asked her whether she persisted in that, she replied, 'Yes, I wish it to be broken off'. Frederick Preston then said, 'Very well, then no one else shall have her'.

Some hours later Frederick Preston was in the company of a fellow lodger to whom he said, 'If Eliza does not give way to me I shall do her some injury', and at the same time he produced a hammer from up his sleeve. However, his fellow lodger asked him to give him the hammer, which he did, saying, 'It is a good job you are with me'. The fellow lodger then took the hammer to the house they lodged at and put it in the washhouse.

On the evening of Sunday 9 July 1899, Eliza Mears had been standing with her mother at the door to their house in Daintry Street when Frederick Preston came up and asked her to get him a spokeshave that he had left at her mother's house. She went into the house to get it for him and Frederick Preston returned to his own lodgings where he went into the washhouse and was afterwards heard to go out again.

He then went back to Daintry Street where he met Eliza Mears when she came out with the spokeshave who said to him, 'Here you are, Fred. This is what you sent me for'. She then turned round to go back to her mother's house and Frederick Preston followed her and said, 'Eliza, is it to be like this?', to which Eliza Mears replied, 'Yes'.

Frederick Preston then stepped forward and drew his hand from his right pocket and struck her a heavy blow on the head with something that could not be seen. Eliza Mears then fell to the ground and Frederick Preston struck her several more blows with the same weapon.

Frederick Preston then dropped the weapon and walked away, saying, 'You drove me to it. I will suffer all now'.

The murder was witnessed by a man that had lived at 5 Daintry Street who had been sat outside his house. He said that he had been sat outside at about 10pm and that he knew Frederick Preston by sight and was talking to him. He said that he then saw Eliza Mears coming from chapel to where they were sitting and that she said, 'Here you are Fred, that's what you asked me for', and that she handed him something in a brown paper parcel. He said that Frederick Preston said, 'All right' and that the package fell on the ground, noting that he didn't know if he took it or dropped it.

He said that he saw Eliza Mears then begin to walk away and that Frederick Preston followed her and said, 'Liza is it to be like this' and she said 'Yes' and continued to walk on. He said that just before she got to the lamp that Frederick Preston took something from his right pocket and struck Eliza Mears on the head, causing her to fall after which he hit her two or three times more on the head. He said that it was opposite the gate of the chapel that he struck her.

The man said that he then picked Eliza Mears up and Frederick Preston ran away, saying, 'You drove me to it, I'll suffer all now'.

He said that Eliza Mears was lying straight out and bleeding very much and was insensible.

The murder was also witnessed by another man that had lived opposite Frederick Preston. He said that he had been standing at the corner of Daintry Street on the chapel side by the waste land by the lamp opposite the Board School playground at about 10pm when he saw Eliza Mears going towards her home and Frederick Preston following up behind about three yards.  He said that Frederick Preston then struck Eliza Mears with something that he took out of his pocket causing her to fall after which he hit her about three more times, as near as he could tell, on the head.

He said that Frederick Preston then threw something down and that he soon after picked it up and put it in some paper.

When the weapon was picked up it was found to have been a hammer.

Eliza Mears had had four wounds to her head and was taken to Hackney Infirmary where she died on 19 July 1899, never having regained consciousness.

Her post mortem examination found that her skull had been fractured.

Frederick Preston was arrested on 10 July 1899 on a charge of attempting to murder Eliza Mears, and when he was charged, he said, 'Yes, I did it. I am very sorry for it. I would sooner kill myself than her'. He later said, 'It was not my intention'.

At his trial, his defence stated that there had been a quarrel between them just before he hit her and that he had struck her on a sudden impulse and without any intention of doing her any serious harm.

However, he was convicted of murder and executed on 3 October 1899 at Newgate.

Most of Daintry Street has been demolished and redeveloped, but the upper end still exists, although redeveloped, and is now called Daintry Way.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/56/10, HO 144/278/A61341

see Islington Gazette - Monday 17 July 1899

see Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 17 September 1899

see National Library of Scotland