British Executions

Walter Davis

Age: 37

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Jul 1909

Crime Location: 19 Farrer Street, Middlesborough

Execution Place: Wakefield

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


Walter Davis murdered his girlfriend Esther Harriet Richards 54 and was sentenced to death.

He battered her to death at 19 Farrer Street, Middlesbrough on 20 March 1909.

Esther Richards was married but had started to see Walter Davis behind her husband’s back.

Her husband was a gas worker and in 1907 they had lived in Northallerton where her husband had worked at Shotton Collieries, coming home to see her at the weekends. However, when he returned from work in September 1907 he found that Walter Davis had moved in as a lodger. Esther Richards told him that Walter Davis, who was using the name Fred Evans, was her cousin, which was untrue.

It was said that Walter Davis and Esther Richards were living together as man and wife and that later on, while Esther Richards's husband was at work, they moved away to Leeds and Ilkley.

It was said that Walter Davis was of a jealous disposition and they had frequent quarrels and that he would threaten to kill Esther Richards if she had anything more to do with her husband.

However, in 1908 Esther Richards returned to her husband in Middlesbrough.

Walter Davis continued to see Esther Richards and would go there for his meals when her husband was away. Then, later, whilst she was living in Garrod Street, at her request, Walter Davis took up lodgings in the same house.

About seven weeks before the murder, Esther Richards and her husband moved in to 26 Farrer Street, either because they had wanted to get rid of Walter Davis or because Esther Richards had complained to her husband about Walter Davis's conduct.

However, Walter Davis continued to visit her at 26 Farrer Street and then later lodged there without them knowing.

Esther Richards and her husband then moved to 19 Farrer Street, but Esther Richards invited him to come and lodge with them there too, which he did, and for the four weeks before the murder they all lived in the same house together sharing their meals.

Walter Davis was seen to leave the house by the back door on the morning of 30 March 1909 at 9am and was not seen again until he was arrested near Blyth on 17 April 1909.

Esther Richards was found at 11am in her bed dead with her clothes drawn over her head which had been battered in. The police later found a blood stained hammer in a cupboard in the living room.

Walter Davis said that on the day of the murder, after Esther Richards's husband and another lodger had gone off to work, he had left Esther Richards and gone off to the Post Office and said that when he returned he found Esther Richards dead in bed.

When he was found he had blood stains on his clothes and said that he had got them after having a nose bleed on the day of his arrest.

When Walter Davis was questioned he said that he had gone out to buy chops and whisky and that when he returned he found Esther Richards dead and that he became afraid and went off. He said that he couldn't remember where he had bought the chops and whisky and it was noted that they were not found at the house.

Walter Davis also denied having any immoral relations with Esther Richards, saying that she was an invalid and that he waited upon her.

Esther Richards's husband said that he had no idea that Walter Davis had been seeing his wife. He said 'There are people in Middlesbrough who think that I knew all about what was going on. I didn't. I was blind. If I had known I would have gone for him like a mad dog, but I was ignorant'.

The police report stated that there was evidence that Esther Richards was afraid of Walter Davis's jealous temper and that she had suffered from his violence and that there could be little doubt that he had killed her because she had refused to leave her husband.

At his trial the Worcestershire Police gave Walter Davis a bad character. They said that he had been married at 16 years of age and had three children who he had never properly supported and had a previous conviction for neglecting them from 1905. They stated that Walter Davis had not worked since 1907 and that he didn't appear to have done any steady work and seemed content for the most part to live upon Esther Richards and her husband.

see National Archives - HO 144/916/180183