Date Of Execution: 15 Dec 1908
Crime Location: Stoney Stainton Road, Coventry
Execution Place: Warwick
Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint
Harry Taylor Parker murdered Thomas Tompkins 61 at a bakehouse on Stoney Stainton Road, Coventry on 26 August 1908.
He hit him with a heavy oak post with nails sticking out of the end because he had a grudge against him.
In court, he said 'I went there with the intention of settling him, and if I had known he was not done for I should not have left him. I should have finished him without going away.' He also said that he should have done the other one to, referring to the owner of the bakehouse.
Thomas Tompkins was a baker’s assistant and it was his duty to open the bakehouse each morning at 5am, to knead the dough and commence the baking. He was found at 7.30am lying on the floor of the bakehouse with serious injuries and died at 8.30am.
Four or six years earlier Harry Parker had married but his wife left him. She then went to work for the owner of the bakehouse to clean and work in his house. Harry Parker then went to the bakehouse and claimed that the owner had harboured his wife and Harry Parker then assaulted him by throwing dirt at him for which he was summoned for assault and fined 5/- but served 7 days in default.
A while later the bakehouse owners fowls and vegetables were stolen and a brick thrown threw his window while he was at work but Harry Parker didn't seem to have been suspected at the time.
Around the time of the murder the bakehouse owner said that he thought someone had been sleeping in the bakehouse without permission and that he had been followed.
Thomas Tompkins had been working in the bakehouse for about 4 or 5 years.
On 16 August 1908 Thomas Tompkins said that lately he had found Harry Parker on the bakehouse premises early in the morning when he had got there for work and that one morning Harry Parker had threatened to do him in with a thing like a hedge stake which he had behind him. On that occassion Thomas Tompkins said that he had got rid of Harry Parker but said that he was then afraid to go into work alone.
Harry Parker was seen wondering around early in the morning looking melancholy by a man whose job it was to go around and wake people up for work.
On the morning of 26 August 1908 Thomas Tompkins had gone to the bakehouse as usual at 5am but when he got there he found that Harry Parker had already got there and had climbed in over the wall and was waiting for him there in the yard. Thomas Tompkins had then ordered him off the premises but Harry Parker hit him with the piece of wood and then left.
Harry Parker said that he got up at 5am after having slept under some trees. He said then at some stage he sat down on some bricks near the bakehouse but was told to go away by Thomas Tompkins who he admitted that he had hit with an old post. He said he could tell he had hurt Thomas Tompkins as he was very quiet. He said that he had been in a rage because he was out of work and had gone to the bakehouse to quarrel with the owner but instead he hit Thomas Tompkins.
The fatal wound had been caused by a nail projecting from the wood.
The judge said the jury had to decide whether Harry Parker had intended to kill Thomas Tompkins or cause him grievous bodily harm and pointed out the lack of motive as he described the grievance as more a fancied grievance even if there was a grievance there at all. The judge said that if Harry Parker had intended to commit murder he would have taken a weapon with him instead of picking up a rotten bit of wood at the bakehouse adding that he did not think that anyone could expect that such a blow could result in death and that if there had not been any protruding nails there would have been no major consequence. The judge also said that Harry Parker had been surprised to find out that Thomas Tompkins had died indicating again that it was not his intention to kill him and that he was not waiting at the bakehouse for Thomas Tompkins as Thomas Tompkins had arrived before Harry Parker and had dough on his hands from mixing it.
After retiring for an hour and 40 minutes the jury returned the verdict of guilty of wilful murder.
see Leamington Spa Courier - Friday 27 November 1908
see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Friday 04 September 1908
see Western Times - Wednesday 25 November 1908
see Evening Telegraph - Friday 04 September 1908
see National Archives - ASSI 13/38, HO 144/894/172534