British Executions

Michael Collins

Age: 30

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 24 May 1911

Crime Location: 42 A-Block, Peabody Buildings, Glasshouse Street, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Michael Collins was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Anne Kempster 29 and sentenced to death.

He beat her about the head with a hammer and then cut her throat with a razor at 42 A-Block, Peabody Buildings in Glasshouse Street, London on 25 March 1911.

Michael Collins was a Reservist and had served eight years in the army, having been discharged as a private to the Reserve in 1908. His discharge was marked 'Very Good. No offence during last 3 months'.

He had then since done some casual work as a carman but had been unemployed since Christmas at which time he met Elizabeth Kempster.

Elizabeth Kempster was a widow with a 6-year-old child. They became intimate and later lived together for a time.

At the time Elizabeth Kempster was supporting herself and her child as a cleaner earning £1 a week.

Elizabeth Kempster later became pregnant by Michael Collins but when she found that he was not inclined to work she determined to break with him and told him so on 19 March 1911 and during the following week would have nothing to say to him.

Elizabeth Kempster's mother said that on 25 March 1911 Elizabeth Kempster came to her and said, 'I am in trouble by him. I will rather work and keep what I have got than I will have him. I shall only have him to keep, he will never work'.

She also told her mother that Michael Collins had got her two bottles of stuff to get rid of her pregnancy and it had made her ill.

The police report stated that it appeared that Michael Collins had wanted Elizabeth Kempster to marry him and had made some attempt to get Banns published.

Then, on 25 March 1911, Michael Collins borrowed 2/6 and bought a razor. He then went to Elizabeth Kempster's home at 42 A-Block, Peabody Buildings at about 6.30pm and had tea with her.

It was heard then that when she adhered to her decision not to continue living with him he struck her a severe blow on the right cheek with the thin end of a hammer, fracturing her facial bones, and probably stunning her, and then cut her throat to the bone with the razor and gashed her neck and hands.

It was also heard that he had earlier in the day told some friends that he meant to do Elizabeth Kempster and himself in.

Michael Collins later gave himself up at about 7pm at Leman Street Police Station. At the time he was quite sober and rational.

At his trial his defence suggested that he had been insane, but the claim was not supported by any evidence and it was heard that the Medical Officers at Brixton and Pentonville were clearly of the opinion that he was perfectly sane.

The jury found him guilty and made no recommendation to mercy and the Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed his application for leave to appeal.

The police report noted that Elizabeth Kempster had been a hardworking woman who had kept her home together for two years prior to her husband's death from consumption and that Michael Collins had deliberately killed her when she had wisely decided not to undertake the burden of keeping him as well as herself and her child. It concluded that it was a cruel and premeditated murder and that they could suggest no reason to interfere with the course of the law.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/120/2, HO 144/1138/207922