British Executions

Elias Torr

Age: 52

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Aug 1899

Crime Location: Hickling, Melton Mowbray, Nottinghamshire

Execution Place: Nottingham

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Elias Torr was convicted of the murder of his 26-year-old daughter Mary Ann Torr and sentenced to death.

He shot her during a row with his wife.

Elias Torr had for some years kept a small holding at Hickling Pastures which was very near to the railway line from Nottingham to Melton Mowbray, living there with his wife and three daughters and son. There was also a farm servant at the house, aged 24 or 25.

Mary Torr was described as having borne an irreproachable character, having been highly esteemed for her participation in the religious work of the district.

On the day of the murder, 1 May 1899, Elias Torr had not been home, but came home about 4.45pm. When he came in, the servant was having his tea whilst his wife and one of their daughters was in the kitchen getting him his tea. It was noted that the son was not in the house at the time of the murder.

At once Elias Torr came in he seemed to be in a very angry and excited state and began abusing his wife, and not indirectly accusing her of being intimate with the farm servant. It was also suggested that he had been under the influence of drink at the time as well, and unable to regulate his words or actions.

His wife then went from the kitchen into an adjoining room with her daughter and Elias Torr followed them, however, Mary Torr put her hand up and slapped Elias Torr in the face, and prevented him from attacking her mother.

Elias Torr however continued to shout and eventually his wife and daughter ran out of the house and across to a neighbour’s house some 200 or 300 yards away in the hope of getting away from his violence of language and his threatening manner.

It was noted that following that Elias Torr went back to the house where the farm servant was finishing his tea, it being noted that strangely enough, things were then comparatively quiet, with the farm servant saying that Elias Torr didn't continue to abuse him or carry on in the same way he had done before.

The farm servant said that he then finished his tea and went out to milk.

It was noted that there were two guns hanging up in the kitchen, one of which was a single barrelled gun. It wasn't a breach loader, but had a nipple that required a cap for the explosion of any charge. The gun had been placed back on the beam in the kitchen on some nails by the son two days earlier, however, whilst he had taken off the cap, he had not drawn the charge.

The next that they knew was that after the farm servant went off to do the milking, Elias Torr  came out of his house and went across the fields, a distance of about 220 yards, to the field that separated his field from the field in which the neighbour’s house stood where his wife and daughters had taken refuge.

Elias Torr then went down to the hedge adjoining the garden to the house, still in an ungovernable rage, and shouted, 'Come out Mrs Torr, or I'll shoot you, come home Mrs Torr, or I'll shoot you', which it was said increased very much the alarm that his wife and daughters felt, as he had the gun with him, giving point to his terrible threat.

Elias Torr then went down to another corner of the field to get upon the Old Fosse Road close to where it crossed the Midland Line where he was seen by a man who said that when he saw Elias Torr, the gun was capped and at full cock.

The man then said, 'How are you Mr Torr?' to which Elias Torr replied, 'I'm alright, except that my missus has gone away'. He then pulled out a knife and said, 'I mean to do some execution'. However, the man didn't think that Elias Torr had been serious and said, 'Oh no, you don't, put that away' and Elias Torr put the knife away. However, he still had the gun and as they were walking along the road towards the house he heard Elias Torr call out, 'Mrs Torr come out, or I'll shoot you. Come out I have warned you'.

It was submitted at the trial that that showed that Elias Torr had had in his mind at that time, a very wicked and very savage intent, no doubt against his wife, against whom he had been directing his abuse and his threats.

Elias Torr then followed along the short bit of the road and came up to the house by the path, however the door on that side of the house was fastened and he went round to the other side of the house where there was a panel door that led into the scullery, still calling out his abuse and threats as he had been doing since he first arrived at the hedge.

When he got to the panel door he found it locked and so he battered it and broke in the panels of the door, still shouting out his abuse and threats.

He was then seen from the upstairs window standing near the door pointing the gun at it such that anyone that came down to the door would have to pass by its muzzle.

In the meantime one of the daughters had left the house and his wife and the other two daughters came downstairs and tried to get out of the other door. However, to get to the door they had to pass through the line of fire that Elias Torr had from the other door, and whilst Elias Torr's wife and their other daughter got out, Mary Torr paused when she got near the panelled door and said something like, 'You devil', or words like that, to Elias Torr, and picked up a piece of splinter from the broken door, but did nothing more with it, it not being known whether she had done so to protect herself or to knock the barrel of the gun aside.

However, Elias Torr then shot her at a distance of only five feet or so and she fell dead there and then.

It was noted at the trial that at that point in the evidence Elias Torr was noticed to be sobbing bitterly.

The court then heard that by the direction of the wound to Mary Torr that it could be shown that the gun must have been in a horizontal position and at just about the height at which the shot entered Mary Torr. It was heard that the muzzle had not been pushed through the opening in the door, but that the panels were broken such that a man standing outside would have been able to have seen perfectly well who was inside and to have been able to see perfectly well what would have been the effect upon a person inside from having fired the shot.

After Mary Torr was shot her mother and sisters came to her aid and Elias Torr went round to the other side of the house and as he passed the door, he said, 'It is the mother's fault'. When he caught sight of his wife through the window, he said, 'You know what it means now, Mrs Torr, you can do what you like when you get another man'.

When Elias Torr was questioned, he said, 'My daughter came to the door, and said something she oughtn't, and I pulled the trigger, and it was done in a moment'.

After the shooting Elias Torr went and laid down on the grass with the gun beside him and the farm servant, who had been called for, came up to him and Elias Torr said to him, 'I've shot Mary Ann, you shoot me. I am waiting for the police to come'.

When a police constable arrived at about 7pm, Elias Torr said, 'Well, I have done it this time'.

When he was charged, he said, 'I am very sorry. I did not do it on purpose', and then went on to say, 'I did not do it wilfully. I did not intend to kill her. I pulled the trigger, and settled her in an instant'.

At the trial, the prosecution noted that although he had not gone to the house with the intention of shooting his daughter, that he had gone there with murderous intent with regards to his wife and that the fact that in doing so he instead shot his daughter, still meant that it was murder. It was further noted that the fact that it was impossible to suggest that he had had any animosity against his daughter, or any motive sufficient to induce him to shoot her, that that didn't make any difference.

It was stated that the law of England was that a man was responsible for his acts, and for the natural consequences of his acts, and that if a man who knew what the meaning and the use of the gun was, discharged it, as Elias Torr had done, in the line where there was the barest possibility of his hitting the girl, and took her life, that by the law of England, and by all the principles of justice by which life was held sacred, was guilty of the crime of murder.

Elias Torr was tried for murder at the Nottingham Assizes and convicted and sentenced to death and executed on Wednesday 9 August 1899.

It was reported that Elias Torr had hoped almost up to the last moment for a reprieve, having stated that the shot that he had fired had been accidental, but was told on the Sunday before his execution that there would be no reprieve. He was said to have then been prostrate with grief for a time, but to afterwards become resigned to his fate, although he still maintained that it had been an accident.

His last words were said to have been, 'O, Lord Jesus receive my soul'.

It’s not clear where the house where the shooting took place was, but based on some of the descriptions, it has probably since been demolished and now lies beneath where the A46 southbound on-slip road is today.

see National Archives - HO 144/278/A61213

see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 29 July 1899

see Echo (London) - Wednesday 09 August 1899

see National Library of Scotland