British Executions

Thomas Rawcliffe

Age: 30

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 15 Nov 1910

Crime Location: 1 Tylers Yard, Cheapside, Lancaster

Execution Place: Lancaster

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Thomas Rawcliffe was convicted of the murder of his wife Louisa Ann Rawcliffe and sentenced to death.

He strangled her at 1 Tyler's Yard, Cheapside, Lancaster on 6 September 1910.

They had been married for five years and had three children.

Louisa Rawcliffe was described as a decent, respectable little woman of delicate health and it was heard that they had been latterly quarrelling between themselves for some weeks prior to the murder and that Thomas Rawcliffe had been drinking.

Louisa Rawcliffe was last seen alive on the evening of 4 September 1910.

Later, on 6 September 1910 her brother called at their house and was told by Thomas Rawcliffe that Louisa Rawcliffe was 'up the street for tea and sugar'. The brother said that Thomas Rawcliffe seemed to have had some drink.

The next day, 7 September 1910 Thomas Rawcliffe summoned a police constable and said, 'I have killed my wife. I strangled her last night at 7 o'clock'.

Louisa Rawcliffe was found lying dead in bed with a baby asleep beside her. There were also two other children in a cot beside the bed.

It was found that Louisa Rawcliffe had been strangled and that there were marks on each side of her neck as if caused by fingers.

The doctor said that she had been dead for about 24 hours by the time he examined her, estimating her time of death as being about 7am on 6 September 1910.

When Thomas Rawcliffe was arrested he said, 'We made it in to die together. She had been complaining about her illness on Monday night. I strangled her then I got some poison it was rat poison I had it in a bottle and took it upstairs in a cup and drunk it. I was in the house all day yesterday I was in the house rambling about all night. I called a policeman in the house this morning and told him to come and see what I had done, I took him upstairs'.

The police report noted that there was no corroboration of his story of intended suicide or of the purchase of rat poison.

It said that he appeared to have killed Louisa Rawcliffe sometime during the night of 5 September and early morning 6 September and to have then kept his secret during the following day and night.

It was noted that his only defence was one of insanity based on a fractured skull caused by a fall when he was 3 years old. A doctor said that he found marks of that injury on his head and said that he thought that it might have affected his mental capacity. There was also evidence as to his strange behaviour given by his mother, sisters and a fellow labourer but it was described as very weak.

A prison medical officer however, said that he found no signs of insanity about him, either on the morning of the murder on 7 September 1910 or while awaiting trial.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/163, HO 144/1103/199430