British Executions

William Joseph Foy

Age: 25

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 8 May 1909

Crime Location: Ynysfach, Merthyr Tydfil

Execution Place: Swansea

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


William Joseph Foy was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend Mary Ann Rees 33 and sentenced to death.

He beat her at Ynysfach, Merthyr Tydfil on 24 December 1908 and then threw her down a disused furnace.

William Foy was a labourer and Mary Rees was a prostitute whose earnings he was living on.

The day before, on 23 December 1908, Mary Rees met another prostitute at Merthyr Tydvil after she had just been let out of prison after which they went to some disused works where they met William Foy and another man. They spent the day there together and in the evening went into town where the two women each got 1/- from men and stood William Foy and the other man drinks.

Later, at 10.30pm they all repaired to the works to spend the night in one of the kilns. To get to the kilns they had to cross a narrow plank that was 33 feet long by 15 inches wide, over a deep coal bunker.

They were all sober at the time and lay down in the kiln. William Foy was with Mary Rees and she said to him, 'It is not me you want, its her'. Mary Rees then got up and put her boots on and went out to another kiln. William Foy followed her and when he caught her in the other kiln he dragged her to a blast furnace which was 39 feet and 6 inches deep and threw her down.

When he went back to the kiln he said to the man, 'I am after shotting Sloppy down the hole' and then took the man there. When they got there he said, 'As sure as my mother is in the clay I shot her down the hole'. The other man said that William Foy was laughing and that he didn't believe him.

Shortly after William Foy went into town and hailed a police sergeant and said, 'I have thrown Sloppy down the hole at the old works. She told me she was going to give me away for living on her prostitution and I done for the bugger'.

The police sergeant took William Foy back to the works where they met the other man and when the other man said that William Foy ought to swing for it William Foy struck him in the chest and jaw.

Mary Rees was later found at the bottom of the pit having died from injuries resulting from the fall. Tracks were also found of a woman having been dragged from the kiln to the edge of the hole where there were signs of a struggle or violent movement having taken place.

The other prostitute said that she was released from Swansea prison on 23 December 1908 and had met Mary Rees sometime before 10am and another friend of hers. She said that they then went to the Wheatsheaf where they each had 2d of rum after which they went off to the Rainbow for half a pint of beer each. She said that Mary Rees then bought some food and they went off to the kilns at Ynisfach where they met William Foy and the other man.

She said that they then went off to the Mardy ash pit where they stayed until 3.30pm after which they all went back to the coke ovens and had some food and then all went off to the Iron Bridge. She said that the men went over the bridge and that she and Mary Rees met a man and went back. She said that after they went to the Rainbow and had half a pint of beer and then to the Red Lion, spending about ten minutes in each and leaving between 10pm and 10.30pm.

She said that they then all went off to the coke ovens which was a 15-minute walk away and up a steep incline during which they had to cross a fence and go over a plank. She said that when they got to the last coke oven but one they went in and lit a fire in a bucket and she and Mary Rees took off their boots. She said that they were there for about 20 minutes when she heard Mary Rees say to William Foy, 'It is not me you want, its her' referring to another woman. She said that Mary Rees then got up and left. She said that she was going to go after Mary Rees but said that William Foy said that he would go after her and fetch her back. She said that he was away for about 15 minutes. She said that before William Foy got up, the other man had got up and walked out. She said then that the other man got back about 5 or 10 minutes before William Foy.

She said that William Foy then told her that he had pushed Mary Rees down the hole and took the other man to go and see where he had thrown her. She said that she didn't go to see and stayed in the kiln and that the other man later came back but that William Foy went away and later came back with a policeman. She said that she heard nothing whilst William Foy had been away looking for Mary Rees.

The police report noted that the other man and prostitute said that they had heard no noise and it was suggested that William Foy might have stunned Mary Rees with a blow of his fist and then dragged her to the hole.

William Foy later said that he had had an argument with Mary Rees and that she had run up the path towards the hole and that he had followed her and caught hold of her and that she then fell in the hole accidently. The police report noted that his own statements rendered that explanation as incredible.

The jury took five minutes to find him guilty of murder.

see EOTD

see Trove

see Dundee Courier - Thursday 01 April 1909

see Western Times - Monday 10 May 1909

see National Archives - ASSI 72/35/1, HO 144/909/177565

note - picture is of Mary Ann Rees