British Executions

Joseph Fletcher

Age: 40

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 15 Dec 1911

Crime Location: 76 Bostock Street, Liverpool

Execution Place: Liverpool

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Joseph Fletcher was convicted of the murder of his 38-year-old wife Caroline Fletcher and sentenced to death.

He hit her with a chair after he had been drinking at 76 Bostock Street, Liverpool on 2 September 1911.

They had been married for twenty years and had five children, a 17-year old girl, three boys and a 5-month old baby.

Joseph Fletcher was noted as being in the habit of getting drunk at weekends and frequently giving his wife black eyes. As a result, on some nights, Caroline Fletcher and the eldest daughter stayed out until Joseph Fletcher was safely in bed.

On Saturday 2 September 1911, Joseph Fletcher grumbled at the dinner that he was given. He and Caroline Fletcher later had some beer together and later went out drinking at a pub, apparently on friendly terms.

Caroline Fletcher later went home at about 9pm and after sent her two eldest children to the pub several times to fetch Joseph Fletcher.

Joseph Fletcher later came home drunk and staggering and sat talking to Caroline Fletcher on their doorstep and was said to have been annoyed because there were no matches in the house.

Caroline Fletcher later asked him to come to bed to which Joseph Fletcher told her that he would when he was ready.

Caroline Fletcher then slammed the front door and locked herself in the parlour bedroom.

Joseph Fletcher then hammered on the front door and was let in by his daughter. He then burst in the parlour door and seized Caroline Fletcher by the throat with his left hand and struck her several blows on the face with his right fist.

Their eldest daughter then got the baby from Caroline Fletcher's arms and Caroline Fletcher then escaped to the kitchen.

Joseph Fletcher followed her into the kitchen and pushed her into a rocking chair. He then picked up an ordinary chair and said, 'I'll finish you off', and struck her on the head with it. He then pulled her onto the floor and dashed the chair on her head three times as she lay on her back. A leg came off the chair and the daughter picked it up and said she rammed it into Joseph Fletcher's mouth. However, the medical evidence found no evidence of injury inside his mouth and a doctor said that the condition of his mouth was normal. The daughter said that she had tried to get Joseph Fletcher away from her mother and had pushed him over but said that he just got back up again.

Joseph Fletcher then went out and found a policeman and told him that Caroline Fletcher had fallen down the stairs.

The policeman went to the house but when he heard the daughters statement he arrested Joseph Fletcher.

As they went to the police station Joseph Fletcher said to the policeman, 'It was her own fault, we had been quarrelling all day'. The policeman said that Joseph Fletcher had been under the influence of drink when he arrested him.

When Caroline Fletcher was taken to the hospital she was already dead. Her death was stated as being due to shock from injuries to the head.

At his trial his defence pleaded insanity based on the evidence of a doctor who was an eye specialist, hypnotist and student of psychology. The doctor said that when he examined Joseph Fletcher's left pupil he found it was dilated and that that together with a scar he found on Joseph Fletcher's left temple rendered it probable that the crime was committed during an epileptoid outburst. It was also noted that there was some evidence of Joseph Fletcher having had accidents to his head and of him having suffered from headaches.

However, the jury, in agreement with the judge, rejected his defence of insanity and also refused to bring in a verdict of manslaughter on the theory that Joseph Fletcher had been too drunk to have realised that what he was doing was likely to have caused serious injury.

It was noted that since Joseph Fletcher had been in custody he had made a feigned attempt to commit suicide by scratching his throat with a buckle and on 6 November 1911 he had jumped out of bed in hospital and run his head against an iron gate.

Joseph Fletcher was convicted of murder with no recommendation to mercy and his appeal was dismissed and was executed at Liverpoool on 15 December 1911

Bostock Street has since been demolished, but once ran from Scotland Road to Great Homer Street, just to the south of Hopwood Street, through the MacDonals and Sainsburys to Buckingham Street. Some of the original cobbles can still be seen today.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/176, HO 144/1174/216087

see Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 08 November 1911

see Liverpool Evening Express - Monday 04 September 1911 (picture)

see National Library of Scotland