British Executions

Walter Martyn

Age: 23

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 12 Dec 1911

Crime Location: Crimble Woods, Heywood

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Walter Martyn was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Edith Griffiths 25 and sentenced to death.

He strangled her during an argument at Crimble Woods, Heywood on 28 September 1911. Crimble Woods was also known as Plumpton Woods.

They had been keeping company for about 12-months.

Edith Griffiths had been engaged to marry another man two years earlier and about three months before Walter Martyn and Edith Griffiths started keeping company Edith Griffiths gave birth to an illegitimate child.

For about a fortnight before 28 September 1911 Walter Martyn had lodged in the house of Edith Griffiths's stepmother at 113 Adelaide Street in Haywood.

Walter Martyn worked at the Black Bull Hotel where he had been since July 1911 as a general handy man.

They went out together at about 8pm on the night of 28 September 1911. Later, at about 10.40pm, Walter Martyn told his employer at the Black Bull Inn and then later the police, that Edith Griffiths had given him the slip and that he had then found her with another man who ran off. He said that when he went to her he thought that she was dead.

When a search was made at the location detailed by Walter Martyn, about a mile and a half from her home, Edith Griffiths was found lying head-downwards at the bottom of a bank in a wood about 19 yards from a footpath. Her body was carefully wrapped up in a shawl and a handkerchief that Walter Martyn had been using was found tied very tightly round her neck.

Death was given as strangulation.

There were bruises on her left temple that might have been caused by a fall and on the footpath there were signs of a struggle. The police also found a piece of necktie belonging to Walter Martyn on the footpath.

Later on 30 September 1911, Walter Martyn made a statement to the police in which he said that he had told Edith Griffiths that he was thinking of going to work for a contractor at Prestwich to which he said that Edith Griffiths upbraided him for leaving her and said that she would get another chap, saying, 'him from Liverpool' and that he had replied by saying, 'You will have nobody else but me', and seized her by the throat and pushed her down on to the path and held her there. He said that he then tied his necktie round her throat but said that it broke when he pulled it tight. He said then that he thought that someone was coming and so he dragged her down the bank and then tied his handkerchief round her neck and waited with her body until about 10pm.

At his trial he added to his story by saying that after Edith Griffiths had told him that she would go with another man they had remained friendly. He said then that Edith Griffiths suggested that they had connections and that when he refused she accused him of having been with another girl and having caught a complaint from her. Walter Martyn said that that so enraged him that he got hold of her, saying that he was 'intending to frighten but not hurt her'. The police report later stated that if that were true then he would have put it in his statement to the Police on 30 September 1911. When questioned about it, Walter Martyn said that he didn't like to mention it.

He was convicted of murder at his trial with a strong recommendation to mercy on the grounds of his temperament and the provocation he had received.

A doctor stated that Walter Martyn had a villainous temper and that on one occasion had apparently pretended to swallow some carbolic acid.

However, it was noted that he had been quite sober on the night and a medical officer stated that he could find no signs of insanity about him.

The judge commented that he thought that the recommendation to mercy was probably the result of a compromise amongst the jury with one juryman who was not convinced that Walter Martyn had done it intentionally. He said that if the recommendation to mercy had been based on his youth that he thought that it would have been more intelligible. However, the police report stated that as Walter Martyn was 23-years old, a recommendation based on youth, according to Home Office precedent, would not have been sufficient grounds for interference.

The police report to the Home Secretary stated that there was no evidence of premeditation and that the initial attack seemed to have been carried out on impulse but noted that the actual killing was deliberately carried out, as shown by the two attempts to make sure of her death, first with the necktie, and then with the handkerchief.

The police report stated that the plea of provocation rested upon Walter Martyn's words alone and that he had not been consistent, and that even if either story were true, that it was not thought that the provocation suggested would have been sufficient.

The police report concluded that the case seemed to fall within the class of murders of defenceless women for whose protection the repressive power of the death penalty must be maintained and that they suggested that the law should be allowed to take its course.

Walter Martyn was executed on 12 December 1911 at Manchester Prison.

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 22 November 1911

see National Archives - ASSI 52/179, HO 144/1177/216648