British Executions

William Edward Slack

Age: 47

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 16 Jul 1907

Crime Location: Highfield Road, Chesterfield

Execution Place: Derby

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


William Edward Slack was convicted of the murder of 40-year-old Lucy Wilson and sentenced to death.

He attacked her with a hatchet in Highfield Road, Chesterfield on 18 March 1907.

Lucy Wilson had been a cleaner and had worked at a theatre where her husband was a check-taker who would take people to their seats. Up until the day of her murder her husband knew nothing about her relationship with William Slack.

She had been seeing William Slack for two years and immoral relations had existed between them from the first night that they had met although Lucy Wilson's husband was not aware of it. Her husband also said that he was unaware that their child was not his.

William Slack himself was married but had separated from his wife some time beforehand.

William Slack was a painter and at the time was working with others at a house on Avondale Road in Chesterfield. He had lived at 10 Shipley's Yard in Salter Gate.

On 18 March 1907 William Slack went to meet Lucy Wilson in his dinner hour outside the theatre where they had a conversation. They met again later in the afternoon where he was working and had another long conversation.

When he had left at dinner time he had told the foreman that he was going off to get 15/- that was due to him from a man at Eastwood Works in Tapton and when he returned he had said that a woman was coming with the money, described Lucy Wilson, and asked to be told if anyone saw her coming along. However, it wasn't thought that money was the motive for the murder and that his statements were probably excuses.

A quarter of an hour later William Slack left his work and met up with Lucy Wilson again and went along Highfield Road which was a quiet street.

They were seen by a postman at about 5pm who passed them in the street who then heard a chopping sound like someone chopping wood and when he turned around he saw William Slack striking Lucy Wilson, who lay in the street, with a hatchet on the head.

The postman then shouted for assistance and another man came and then William Slack threw the hatchet over a garden wall. He had hit Lucy Wilson five or six times with the hatchet, one blow cutting her jugular vein, another penetrating her spinal cord and another fracturing her skull.

After he attacked her with the hatchet he said, 'She has been and brought me from my work this afternoon wanting money. She has been the ruination of my life'.

A coachman that also saw the murder said that William Slack said that he would give himself up and agreed to go along with him and that William Slack pushed the perambulator and commented on the fact that the baby was his.

When he was charged with her murder he said, 'That's right. I did not think of it before till I got to my work. A man who kills a woman is not fit to live. I told her at dinner time today against the theatre that if she came up I should cut her head off and that I should have no more to do with her'.

When he was remanded in the Police Court he said, 'We have been going together several months. I didn't go with the forethought of killing her. I tried to frighten her. I told her that if she did follow me to my work I. I struck her. She said, 'There's your bloody bastard', and I didn't deny it. Of course, everyone knows it's my child'.

At his trial, he said that Lucy Wilson had wanted him to go to Coventry with her and that the object of their meetings was that she wanted to get a decisive answer from him as to whether he would go or not. He said that she had told him that if he didn't go away with her that she would drown herself. He said that in Highfield Road, when he would give her no reply, she took hold of his coat and called him and his wife abusive names which provoked him into attacking her. He said that his wife had been very good to him and that it had made him feel indignant and that he had heard a ringing in his ears like a storm and so he attacked her.

It was said that it wasn't clear what the motive was but that it did appear that Lucy Wilson had provoked William Slack in some way, although it was also heard that he had had a hatchet in his coat pocket that he didn’t need for work and that he had a history of being a violent man. It was noted that on a previous occasion, because of a groundless suspicion, he had attacked and almost murdered a Police Constable, and for that he was convicted of his attempted murder and sentenced to seven years Penal Servitude. It was also noted that whilst in prison for that offence he had carried out a furious attack on a fellow convict and that after he was released his wife had to leave him on account of his violence.

When he went into the dock he pleaded not guilty in a firm tone.

He was executed at Derby on 16 July 1907.

see National Archives - HO 144/859/154022, ASSI 13/37

see Empire News & The Umpire - Sunday 30 June 1907

see Derbyshire Times - Saturday 23 March 1907