British Executions

William George Thomas Charles Austin

Age: 31

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 5 Nov 1907

Crime Location: 5 Cranbourne Terrace, Oxford Road, Clewer, Windsor

Execution Place: Reading

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


William George Thomas Charles Austin was convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Unity Annie Butler and sentenced to death.

He strangled her at 5 Cranbourne Terrace, Oxford Road, Clewer, Windsor on 16 July 1907.

William Austin was a brewer’s labourer and lodged with Unity Butler's family. Her body was found under his bed at his home in Windsor. He denied any intimacy with her.

Unity Butler's father said that Unity Butler was 13 years and 7 months old and his only child, and that she had attended St. Stephen's Girls' School about 300 yards from her home. He said that William Austin had been lodging with him for a good many years and that he was some relation to his wife. He said that William Austin occupied the middle bedroom which was one of three bedrooms, and that beside him, his wife, William Austin and Unity Butler, no one else lived in the house.

Unity Butler's father said that Unity Butler went off to school at 1.30pm on 16 July 1907 and that shortly after he went out, leaving his wife and William Austin in the house. He said that when he returned at about 3pm he stayed in for about an hour and said that William Austin was the only other person in the house. He said that he later returned at 5.30pm and saw William Austin cleaning his boots. He said that William Austin left the house a little after 6pm but that he came back soon after and got his bicycle. He said that he himself went back out at about 7pm and came back home at 10pm. He said that during the time that he was in the house he saw no one else in the house other than William Austin.

He said that William Austin should have been at work and that it was unusual for him to be in the house.

Unity Butler's father said that he didn't miss Unity Butler, who he thought was with her mother who he knew had gone to her sisters', until 11pm when he asked his wife where she was. They then searched for her outside and later found Unity Butler's dress in William Austin's room and then found her body under William Austin's bed. When she was found she had a handkerchief in her mouth. There was also a cord tied tightly around her neck. The police found a small bruise on her right forearm and indications that she had been raped.

Unity Butler's mother said that she had gone to her sister's at 2pm and that she came home at about 10pm or 11pm. She said that her husband was at the gate and they began searching for their daughter outside. She said then that a man suggested they search William Austin's room and she took a candle and went in and said that she saw Unity Butler's skirt under William Austin's bed.

Her death was stated as being due to asphyxia or strangulation.

The next day a police superintendent opened William Austin's box and found a pair of boots, a hat and some underclothing belonging to Unity Butler.

A friend of Unity Butler said that she had gone home with her from school and had left her at the gate.

A German tailor said that his son called his attention at 4.30pm to two screams that came from 5 Cranbourne Terrace. The tailor said that afterwards he went on with his work. When the judge asked the tailor to describe the screams he said they were as though she could hardly breathe. When the judge asked him why on earth he didn't go to find out what the matter was, the tailor said that he thought that the screams were those of a woman quarrelling with her husband. The judge then asked him if he thought his business was so important as to prevent him from going when a female was screaming and the tailor said that he thought he would not interfere in the business.

William Austin was later arrested at Fifield Cross Roads, about four and a half miles from the scene of the murder at about 9.30 on 17 July 1907. The police found a note on him that read, 'I am very sorry for what I have done. I think it is the best plan to do. So I have done it. I am in the water and she is on my bed, where she have been many a time when you was out, and it have play on my mind so much I think it is the best plan to do. I told you that being down on me I should have revenge. Goodbye and God bless you all. I hope pray God will forgive me, and now perhaps you can look after your husband instead of another man. Bless her, I help to make her unbenothing to you husband don't know half what you and me have done, and young Une have come and mess me about when you have been put out so I thought it the best plan to do in case she was to let it out I should get into trouble, and she would be let off, so good bye everybody, and I hope we shall meet again. I hope pray God will forgive me'.

When William Austin was in his prison cell on the evening of 17 July 1907 he said, 'I can't sleep. I am quite done up. I don't know what made me do it. She came in and started sneering at me. I told her to leave off, but she didn't do so. I told her it would be the last time that we would do it. I was afraid if she said one word to them that I should get six years. She is very fast, and would get anyone in trouble. I was in the front room when she started again. I lost my temper, and took hold of her. She screamed the house down and I thought she would tell, so what could I do? I carried her upstairs, and was up there with her when her father came in. I don't know how I did it. They have often kept me awake until four o'clock in the morning. I haven’t had any sleep for three nights. They were always rowing. It was soon after four when I did it'.

In court her parents denied that Unity Butler was fast. Her father said that she was not fast and that she was a good little girl who was respected by everyone and that there was no truth in the charges against her.

Unity Butler's mother said that she knew nothing about William Austin not sleeping, adding that he had made no complaint to her. She also said that they were not down on him. She said that William Austin used to come home from work and read in front of the fire and said that she always thought that he treated Unity Butler well and that there was nothing to raise her suspicions. She said that William Austin used to sit at the window and watch everyone who went along and that he used to stare at people.

In court, a doctor from Windsor agreed, when questioned, that rape was a form of insanity and that lunatics made allegations of immorality against others.

After he was convicted of murder he said, 'I am willing to die if I have done it. I don't know I have done it. I can't believe I've done it'.

see National Archives - HO 144/867/158038

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 15 October 1907

see Dundee Courier - Friday 19 July 1907

see Lichfield Mercury - Friday 18 October 1907

see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 27 July 1907