British Executions

Joseph Wren

Age: 23

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 22 Feb 1910

Crime Location: Queens Park Pit, Burnley

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


Joseph Wren was convicted for the murder of John Collins 3 and sentenced to death.

He strangled him and cut his throat on a slag heap, near Queen's Park pit in Burnley on 28 December 1909.

Joseph Wren was an ex-stoker in the Royal Navy from which he was discharged in 1908.

It was said that he had been looking for work but couldn't find any and had become depressed as a result.

In May 1909 he was convicted of larceny and sentenced to two months and then later in September 1909 he was convicted for larceny again and sentenced to three months. He also had a previous conviction for larceny in 1903 and in 1905 he had been sentenced to twelve months for striking a superior officer.

Soon after being discharged from the Navy he started keeping company with a girl who later became pregnant in March 1909, after which he bought some laudanum and tried to persuade her to take some and took some himself but with no serious result.

His girlfriend later gave birth to a child in November 1909, however, their relations had not resumed after he had been released from prison in July 1909 although he had been allowed to see his child. It was however said that he had been depressed at not being able to marry the girl as he could not provide a home.

Later, on 28 December 1909 at 5.30pm he met his brother from whom he begged for money and a cigarette and told that he would go back to goal for five or six years even if it meant murder.

Then, after leaving his brother he met John Collins who was the son of a miner. John Collins had just left his home to go and meet his mother. Joseph Wren then picked him up and carried him to a slag heap where he cut his throat to the backbone with a small table knife.

Afterwards he gave himself up to the police and said, 'I am a sailor, about a quarter to six o'clock I met a boy about 6 years of age near Queens Park. I got hold of him and carried him to the siding at Bank Hall. I then strangled him with my hands and cut his throat with my knife, there is a piece of the handle out of it. I waited there for a minute or two to see if he was dead. I then cut his throat. I wiped my hands with my handkerchief, you will find it there, I left the body on the slack heap. I then came to the police station. Outside I met an officer. I told him what I had done, I don't know what made me do it, I don't want to say any more just yet.'.

John Collins's clothes were not disarranged and there was no evidence to connect the crime with sexual passion.

When John Collins later made a statement he said 'I left Accrington about 3 o'clock yesterday, it was raining hard, when I got to Burnley, I went down to Church Street, and there met my brother, he asked me where I was going, and I said, 'I did not know.'. I was so depressed that at times I didn't know what I was doing. I had not had any food for three days, and I knew that I was going weak minded. After I had left my brother, I saw this child, I took it to the place mentioned, and strangled it, then I cut its throat with a knife. After I had done that I went back to the body three or four times and felt it. I knew then that it was dead. I then got on to Queen Victoria Road and got quietly away. A man came running after me, and I thought he had seen me doing this, but he simply asked me for a match and ran on again. I then went up to Higgin Street, and waited for an opportunity to see my own child, but could not see it. Through family troubles I really intended to make away with my child, and not the one I have done. I knew that it was impossible to get work, and marry my girlfriend, and my mind unhinged, and bad thoughts were within me. If I had seen my child and in my then condition, I would have undoubtedly taken its life. I fully understand the predicament my girlfriend was in and to save her from disgrace, I would have done anything, though really I think, I was not in my right senses. I am now fully sorry for what I have done, and hope that I shall be forgiven by the child's parents. I know what the penalty is now, and am fully prepared for it.'.

see North Devon Journal - Thursday 10 February 1910

see National Archives - ASSI 52/168, HO 144/1058/188656