British Executions

Joseph Edwin Jones

Age: 39

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 14 Apr 1909

Crime Location: 1 Pughs Buildings, Merridale Street, Wolverhampton

Execution Place: Stafford

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


Joseph Edwin Jones was convicted of the murder of his wife Charlotte Jones 38 and sentenced to death.

He shot her at 1 Pugh's Buildings, Merridale Street, Wolverhampton on 12 November 1908.

They had been married for 20 years.

Joseph Jones was a joiner and described as a hardworking man but given to drinking bouts during which he would ill-treat his wife, Charlotte Jones. It was said that she frequently bore the marks of his violence.

In 1906 Joseph Jones was charged with assaulting Charlotte Jones but the case was first adjourned for two months and then withdrawn as he had behaved well in the meantime. He had previously been convicted of stealing opera glasses in 1904 and fined 10/- or sentenced to 14 days.

Joseph Jones violently assaulted Charlotte Jones on Saturday 7 November 1908 and she left him, going to her mother's house with three of their youngest children. Then, on the following Monday, 9 November 1908, she took out a summons and on the Wednesday, 11 November 1908 Joseph Jones was fined £1 and 8/- costs. Then later that afternoon Charlotte Jones went back to her house with her mother whilst Joseph Jones was out and collected some of her and her children’s things.

It was also heard that on 11 November 1908 Joseph Jones had gone to a pawnbrokers shop where he had tried to buy a revolver but the shop keeper had refused to sell him one because he didn't have a licence. However, at his appeal it was heard that another man had come forward to say that it was he that had gone into the shop to buy the revolver and the two people that had seen Joseph Jones in the pawnbrokers, the owner and his friend, then said that they were then satisfied that they had been mistaken.

The following morning, 12 November 1908, Charlotte Jones met Joseph Jones in the street and he asked her to return to him, but she refused, although it was thought that she had agreed to go to their house later that afternoon.

Charlotte Jones later went to the house at about 3.30pm at which time Joseph Jones was there. She was seen to enter the house and the door was then seen to be shut a little while later. Then, about ten minutes later a pistol shot was heard and then Joseph Jones came out of the house with his throat cut saying, 'See what the missus has done'.

When people went to investigate they found Joseph Jones standing in the kitchen and a bloodstained razor and a pistol were found on a nearby table. Joseph Jones was heard to say, 'What have I done'.

Shortly after Charlotte Jones was found upstairs having been shot in the head.

She was found lying dead before an open chest of drawers in which the linen was disarranged and had been shot in the head about 1.5 inches behind the lobe of the left ear with a powder and shot pistol. A ball bearing had been used as a bullet and it had penetrated inwards and upwards and fractured the base of the skull. The left side of her neck and face was also peppered with powder.

The medical evidence stated that she must have been immediately rendered unconscious and that the wound could not have been self-inflicted, even by a left-handed person as Charlotte Jones was said to be. It was also thought that based on the scattered powder marks that the pistol was fired from at least two feet away, however, it was also heard that it was impossible to say how far away it had been fired because of the uncertainty of how much powder was used. However, it was noted that there was no scorching around the wound. The police report stated that in all probability the pistol had been held close to Charlotte Jones when fired.

Examination of Joseph Jones's throat showed that he had one main cut upwards from the left to right with a smaller cut at each end and a separate rather deep wound on the right side. It was noted that his throat injuries were inconsistent with the story he later told but may well have been due to nerveless attempts at suicide.

When Joseph Jones gave a statement a week later he said that he had had words with Charlotte Jones who had then gone upstairs and that he had then sat down and had some cocoa to drink and that he then felt her come behind him and put her arms round his neck and cut his throat. He said that he then looked around but that she was gone and so he went upstairs and found her dead. He said he bent down beside her and that as he was getting up his hand came in contact with the pistol which was on a box about 3 feet and 9 inches away from her body. He said that he then came down the stairs and he caught his foot on the razor which was on the kitchen floor and that he then put the razor and the pistol on a table and went out to get assistance.

The police report said that his story was improbable in itself and in view of the evidence it was quite incredible.

The report stated that it wasn't clear where he had kept the pistol at the time of the murder, but that Joseph Jones had been seen with it two years earlier when it had been kept in a locked box. It was said that it could have been loaded from powder flasks from an open box downstairs or from others that were kept in the locked box. The key to the gun box was found in a locked writing desk and the key to the desk was later found on Joseph Jones when he was at hospital. It was also noted that a tin of percussion caps were found in the locked box and that no others were found in the house.

It was noted that Charlotte Jones must have fallen at once after being shot and that if she had shot herself that the pistol would have either remained in her left hand or fallen to her side. However, Joseph Jones had said that he had found it on a box 3 feet 9 inches away.

The police report stated that it was inconceivable that Charlotte Jones would have left her home with her children and then return to kill Joseph Jones and then shoot herself. It was also said that the fact that Charlotte Jones had refused to return to Joseph Jones was a motive for him to have killed her.

It was also said that it was probable that Charlotte Jones had told Joseph Jones that he was going to visit that afternoon to take her things away and that Joseph Jones would have known that she was coming for that purpose.

It was then thought that he had resolved to end both of their lives after she had refused to return to him but that his nerve had failed him when it came to cutting his own throat.

The jury took ten minutes to find their verdict and Joseph Jones was convicted of murder and sentenced to death with no recommendation to mercy.

He appealed his conviction, but his appeal was dismissed.

At his appeal it was heard that it had not been him that had gone into the pawnbrokers to try and buy a revolver.

He also presented witnesses that he said could prove that he could not have known that his wife was going to visit him that afternoon. A woman gave evidence to state that she heard Joseph Jones ask Charlotte Jones when she was coming home and said that she heard her reply that she would never go home again.

He also had a doctor present evidence that disputed that opinion of the prosecution doctors who had stated that his throat wound could have been self-inflicted.

At his appeal a gunmaker presented evidence stating that in his opinion the shot had been fired from a distance of 3 to 6 inches. He noted that wadding was present in the wound and he said that it wouldn't be if the gun had been fired from a distance greater than six inches. The judges also noted that even if the gun had been held at 3 to 6 inches from her head that still did not mean that it had not been Joseph Jones who had held it at that distance.

However, the court heard that it was immaterial to the case whether he had gone to the pawnbrokers or not. It was also said that there was no motive for Charlotte Jones to have committed the double crime and that if she had wanted to kill Joseph Jones then there was no reason why she did not try to do it with the same gun that she was alleged to have shot herself with.

The judges concluded saying that they were unable to see any reasonable doubt as to the justice of the verdict and his appeal was dismissed.

Joseph Jones was executed at Stafford Prison on 14 April 1909.

see National Archives - ASSI 6/44/5, HO 144/905/176425

see Biggleswade Chronicle - Friday 16 April 1909