British Executions

William Broome

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 24 Nov 1910

Crime Location: 22 High Street, Slough

Execution Place: Reading

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


William Broome was convicted of the murder of Isabella Wilson 70 and sentenced to death.

He asphyxiated her at 22 High Street in Slough on 15 July 1910.

He was an ex-soldier having left the army in December 1907 after which it did not appear that he had a settled occupation.

Isabella Wilson lived alone and kept a small shop selling second-hand clothes at 22 High Street.

About two years earlier William Broome's parents and his five sisters went to live next door to Isabella Wilson at 20 High Street where they sold Singer Sewing Machines, and William Broome had moved in about 6-months later, although a year later he moved to Reading and then went to London.

During the six months after leaving Slough, William Broome had cohabited with a woman who worked as a cashier. She earned about £1 a week and kept William Broome to a greater extent. However, she asked him to marry her, but he refused and so, shortly before the murder, she stopped living with him although she still kept company with him.

William Broome's family also all left Slough about a month before the murder. Whilst they were living on the High Street they had all been quite friendly and were all constantly in and out of Isabella Wilson's shop.

William Broome said that he had only spoken to Isabella Wilson twice, but the police report stated that they believed that he knew her well and noted that at any rate she must have known him well enough by sight.

Isabella Wilson was found dead on the evening of 15 July by friends lying dead on her floor beside a soda in her room behind the shop. A cushion was tied tightly over her head and it was determined that she had died through suffocation. Her hands were also tightly tied together on her chest by ribbons round her wrists and her feet appeared to have been secured by string which was broken. She had a considerable bruise under her left jaw and a broken wound near her ear, with the lobe being torn. She also had a wound a little higher on her cheek and her finger nails were blood stained and one was broken, indicating that she had made a desperate resistance.

Her pocket which she carried under her skirt in front had been ransacked and her purse lay empty beside her. There was also a roll of paper which appeared to have contained 21 coins.

William Broome initially denied the murder, but later admitted it, stating that he had not intended to murder her, but only rob her. However, the police report stated that it must have been known to him when he planned the robbery that Isabella Wilson would recognise him and that his only chance of escaping detection would have been to silence her forever as a witness.

Isabella Wilson was also described as a second-hand wardrobe dealer and it was said that her shop consisted of four rooms, two up and two down. Isabella Wilson was a widow, but up until 1907 her late husband's sister had lived with her, until she herself married a retired coal dealer and went to live in Chalvey.

Isabella Wilson was found shortly before 8pm on 15 July 2010 by two friends that called to see her. When they arrived they found the shop door partly open which was unusual, although the shop itself looked normal in appearance. However, they also found that the door leading from the shop to the inner room was nearly closed which was most unusual and something that they themselves had never seen before. The friends were husband and wife, the husband being 70-years old and quite feeble. It was heard that the husband had to exert the whole of his strength to force the door open as it dragged on the carpet at the bottom so much that it was almost, if not quite, impossible to close it. Then after opening the door, they saw Isabella Wilson lying on her back with her feet towards the door alongside the sofa. Her dress had been thrown up, exposing a large pocket such as was worn by costermongers, that Isabella Wilson wore tied round her waist and in which she carried her money. They also saw that her hands were crossed and tied very tightly together at the wrists by means of two silk neck ties that belonged to Isabella Wilson. They also saw that a cushion had been tied very tightly over Isabella Wilson's face and mouth by means of an ice wool wrap which Isabella Wilson always wore around her neck.

The husband then felt Isabella Wilson's hands and determined immediately that she was dead and went for a doctor that lived nearby.

As the husband went for the doctor, his wife removed the cushion from Isabella Wilson's face and saw that the left side of her head bore marks of violence and that there had been bleeding.

When the doctor arrived, he examined Isabella Wilson and concluded that she had been murdered and sent for the police.

Amongst the items examined by the police, they found a roll of paper that was said to have been used to hold £20 in gold that Isabella Wilson was said to have been in the habit of carrying. 18 or 19 distinct imprints were found on the paper roll with an impression on the end the exact size of a gold sovereign.

It was also found that a gent's silver open faced Geneva watch, that Isabella Wilson had always carried in her bosom and attached by a lady's silver albert and a black cord, which was passed around her neck, was also missing and that the albert had been broken.

When the upstairs was searched it was found that it didn't look like it had been disturbed other than a tin trunk that had been in the back room that had been carefully picked up and placed on the bed such that the dust on the lid of the box showed no signs of disturbance.

Police found 30/- in silver in an open drawer in the front room that had not been taken.

They said that there was nothing in the house that could afford any clue as to the murderer, and that no fingerprints or weapon of any description with which the injuries could be inflicted could be found.

However, the police said that they were aware that William Broome and his family had resided next door at 20 high Street which they had used to exhibit their sewing machines, being accredited agents for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. They said that they also knew that William Broome had resided at the address for some time and knew of him as of a quarrelsome and violent disposition, especially when in drink, and as a result they had been called to the house before to restrain him.

Then, during their investigations the police caused enquiries to be made to ascertain whether anyone had been seen to enter or leave Isabella Wilson's shop, resulting in a news agent from William Street and a couple from the Western Inn on William Street both saying that they had seen William Broome on that day.

It was heard that the position of William Street in relation to the High Street was very important as it was the nearest route between 22 High Street and the railway station, which was a five-minute walk at the outside.

The couple from the Western Inn said that William Broome had come in at 12.40pm on 15 July 1910 and paid three pennies for a bottle of ale. He was served by the landlord who did not recognise him at first, but when his wife entered the bar she recognised him straight away and pointed him out to her husband. They said that William Broome stayed in the bar for about 8 to 10 minutes and said that when he left they were surprised to find that he had left three parts of his glass of beer unconsumed.

After leaving the pub William Broome met the newsagent who was standing outside his shop which was on the opposite corner of William Street and Curzon Street and who he had known for the past 12 or 18 months.

After that, William Broome proceeded towards the High Street where he was seen by a policeman between 12.30pm and 1pm. He was also seen by another person crossing the High Street but the person said that he didn't attach much importance to his movements and didn't recall the time.

Soon after, the police decided to try and find William Broome and ascertain his movements on the 15 July 1910, his object in coming to Slough and whether he was implicated in the murder.

However, it took some time before they could find out the name of the firm that had removed the furniture belonging to William Broome's family. It was said that the name of the company that had moved the furniture had been noted as Millard Bros by a policeman that had seen the furniture being loaded. When they called Millard Bros they found that the carman was out and they had to wait until he returned from a moving job in Watford. However, when he returned they found out that the furniture had been removed from 20 High Street in Slough to a downstairs flat at 4 Drayton Road in Harlesden on 24 June 1910.

The police then went to Harlesden where they rendered every possible assistance and began to keep observation on 4 Drayton Road without attracting attention. Soon after they saw the father enter the house shortly before midnight and then later saw two of the daughters enter and leave. They said that there was a good light burning in the front room and noted that fortunately the Broome family had omitted to close one of the venetian blinds which enabled the police to look into the room. The policeman in charge said that as such he was able to see into the room and determined that William Broome was not in there.

The police later arranged for other officers to keep watch on the flat as well as hiring a front room from which they could continue observation although they noted that the latter was not later required.

The next day, on 17 July 1910 at 4.30pm, a Sunday, it was reported that a person answering William Broome's description had been seen coming out of 4 Drayton Road to visit a shop and then return. The policeman in charge then personally undertook the observation along with another policeman who was well acquainted with William Broome and with the  help of a caretaker they took up observation at a nearby church on the corner of Drayton and St Mary's Road from where they could see 4 Drayton Road.

They then saw William Broome and his sister leave 4 Drayton Road at 5.45pm and then walk towards them and then turned into St Mary's Road which gave them a good chance to look at them. They were heading towards Harlesden Police Station which was at the other end of St Mary's Road and the police then overtook them and then addressed William Broome.

The policeman said to him 'I am a police officer, I believe your name is William Broome?', and William Broome said 'Brooks'. The policeman then said 'Well, you are the man I want to see. A very serious thing has happened, and it is necessary that I should ask you to give an account of your movements during the past three or four days.'. William Broome then said, 'All right, I have done nothing'. The policeman then said that they would go to the police station and take a statement and William Broome replied, 'All right, I was down at Scotland Yard on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 last about a taxi-cab.'. The policeman asked, 'Do you own a taxi-cab' and said that William Broome replied, 'No, but I have got a licence'. The policeman asked, 'What licence' and William Broome replied, 'A motor licence'. The policeman asked, 'Do you mean a taxi-cab licence?' and said that William Broome replied, 'No a motor licence, I took the papers down on Friday morning to get a taxi drivers licence, but I was too late. I handed them in after 10 o'clock and they told me I should have to go another morning. I went down on Saturday morning and was examined, but failed to pass'. The policeman said that by then they had arrived at the police station and then said, 'You say that you were down at Scotland Yard on Friday morning. What were you doing during the remainder of the day?', and said that William Broome replied, 'I was messing about, but I went to the Royal, Holborn, that evening, No I didn't, I went to the Hippodrome'.

When they got to the police station William Broome made a statement, but he denied the murder and denied being in Slough on the 15 July or at all that week.

During the interview the police said that they observed that William Broome had two parallel scratches about three inches long on his right cheek extending from his nose towards his ear. When the police asked him how he got it he said, 'The scratches on my right cheek were done last Saturday by the man I had a few words with outside the Britannia public house, Camden Town. It was a blow given me during the scuffle, and my eye has been discoloured. The man who did it employs a man I know to collect bets for him in and around the lavatory outside the Britannia. The man is about 30 years of age, 5ft 7in, hair ginger, dirty shabby appearance, and wears a cap. The man who actually assaulted me is 40 years of age, 5ft 6in, complexion, hair and moustache dark, stout build, dressed in brownish coloured jacket suit, black bowler hat. I have handed him bets as well as the other man, but I do not know his name or where he lives. It was immediately outside the Britannia public house the scuffle took place and I think it was about 9 o'clock. I hit him in the stomach, but did not mark his face as far as I know'.

When the police question him further about his background William Broome said that he had served eight years in the army and had left in December 1907 and then gone to live with his parents in Reading. He said that he had later left Slough to better himself at which time he had had between £40 and £50 which he always carried with him, stating that it was all in gold other than the exception of two £5 notes, one of which he said he had changed in a booth at the Ascot Races and the other he had changed at the York Hotel in Waterloo. The police noted that although he had practically lived off of that money for six months, he said that he still had £20 left in gold in his portmanteau.

The police then had a doctor examine the scratches on his face who said that he thought at they had been done by fingernails and were three days old. William Broome claimed that they had been caused by buttons from the cuff of a coat but the doctor said that they had not been caused in the manner that William Broome had described.

The police then examined his room and where he had been lodging at 146 Albany Street and found 19 sovereigns and 2 half-sovereigns folded up in a clean envelope in his portmanteau. They also found a pair of well-worn brown boots under which they found blood in the insteps of the right boot. They also found a linen collar which was wet and looked as though someone had endeavoured to remove a stain.

When the police spoke to the woman that William Broome had been living with they found out that she said that she had spent the afternoon with him on 14 July at which time he did not have scratches on his face. She said that they had arranged to meet up on the Friday evening but that William Broome sent her a postcard saying that he could not see her on the Friday evening but said that they met up on the Saturday, 16 July 1910 at 11.25pm at Camden Tube Station at which time she saw the scratches on his face. She said that he told her that he had got them whilst boxing, being scratched by a boxing glove. She said that she also saw that he was wearing a new pair of black shoes that she had never seen before.

The police report later stated that it was determined that William Broome had bought the shoes between 4.15pm and 4.45pm at the shop of W Coulson 15 Tottenham Court Road on 15 July 1910. It was also determined that he had visited a chemist’s shop at 155 Praed Street between 1pm and 3pm and had his scratches dressed with Witch Hazel and a little boracic powder. He was seen by two people in the chemist but they both failed to pick him out in an identity parade although one of them swore in the dock that he had been the man they had treated.

The police also stated that William Broome had bought a bottle of Sulphur Skin Lotion from 42 Oxford Street by a man that picked William Broome out from eight others. However, he was unable to say whether it was 14 or 15 July that William Broome had bought it. The police further noted that before the man was interviewed, he had been approached by Pierron and Ellis, solicitors, who were engaged to defend William Broome. However, when the till rolls were later examined it was found that the sale had been made, along with another item, on 15 July 1910. It was also noted that it was not without significance that when William Broome had bought the Sulphur Skin Lotion he had said that he required something to hide the scratches. It was also noted in the police report that William Broome might have tied Isabella Wilson's hands together after she had scratched him to stop her doing it again.

The police later went to Camden Town but failed to trace the book makers that William Broome had mentioned, however, they found two timekeepers employed by two omnibus associations who were on duty outside the Britannia public house from 8am until 2pm on 16 July 1920 and said that both timekeepers had said that they did not see or hear of any fight or disturbance that morning.

The police report stated that they were unable to find the silver watch, even after extensive enquiries at pawnbrokers, jewellers, antique dealers etc and suggested that William Broome might have thrown it from a train into a river.

When the police examined the train timetables they found that there were four trains that left Slough after 1pm and arrived in Paddington before 3pm. The police noted that William Broome was seen in Slough at about 12.40pm and that his face was treated at the chemist’s shop in Paddington between 1pm and 3pm.

It was also heard that William Broome had sent his girlfriend a postcard on 15 July 1910 saying that he could not see her that day. It had a 3.45pm postmark and had been posted from Edgeware Road.

The police also noted that although William Broome had £20 in gold, the exact amount that Isabella Wilson was known to carry, it was found that his girlfriend was often lending him small sums such as 2d or 3d at a time to purchase a glass of beer or a packet of cigarettes.

The police report stated that it was agreed by all who knew the facts that William Broome was the man that committed the murder and that he had done it through dire necessity for the sake of the money Isabella Wilson was known to carry.

William Broome later admitted to murdering Isabella Wilson in a later petition. In their report to the Home Secretary regarding the prospect of a reprieve the police noted four points against him:

His denial of having been at Slough that day although he had been seen by several people who knew him.

19 soverigns and 2 half-soverigns were found in a fresh envelope in his portmanteau. The coins corresponded with the marks on the paper found.

He purchased a pair of shoes for 10/6 that evening although he had been very hard up before that. Isabella Wilson doubtless had loose cash in her pocket besides the rolled up £20.

Blood stains were found on the heel under the instep of the right boot of the pair he was wearing on 15 July 1910.

William Broome was sentenced to death without any recommendation to mercy and was executed.

see National Archives - ASSI 13/40, HO 144/1091/195477

see Murderous Monday

see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 23 July 1910