Date Of Execution: 21 Dec 1911
Crime Location: Rickmansworth Park
Execution Place: St Albans
Executioner: John Ellis
Charles Coleman was convicted of the murder of Rose Anna Gurney 49 and sentenced to death
He stabbed her to death in Rickmansworth Park on 15 July 1911 shortly after being released from prison.
Charles Coleman had many previous convictions for theft and in 1897 he was sentenced to 9-months hard labour for unlawful wounding after he cut a woman's throat. The woman had had to jump out of a window to escape him.
In February 1911 he was sentenced to 6-months hard labour for maiming a dog by cutting off its penis while it was fast to a bitch.
After being released from St. Albans Prison on 15 July 1911 he met Rose Gurney soon after and went to Rickmansworth with her. He had known her before and had once lodged in the same street as her.
They were later seen drinking at a pub and then later again seen by a night watchman together in the road at 10pm. The night watchman said that Charles Coleman had had his arm round Rose Gurney's neck but said that he lost sight of them at the style leading into the park.
Rose Gurney was found dead the next morning under a tree not far from the style.
She had several stab wounds in her chest, two of which could have been fatal. She also had nine stab wounds on her left buttock which were thought to have been inflicted after she died, and three stab wounds on her back higher up. She also had cuts on the backs of both of her hands.
When she was found her clothes were lifted above her knees, but the doctor said that he could not say whether connection had taken place.
Parcels that Rose Gurney had bought earlier on in the day when she had been shopping were found lying beside her.
The purse that she had taken out with her was not found, but one farthing was found lying under her body.
Charles Coleman was found later that afternoon in a pub about four miles away. He had a pocket knife on him that the wounds to Rose Gurney could have been inflicted with and his clothes were covered with blood, especially his right sleeve and shoulder. It was noted that some of the stains had been washed.
When questioned, Charles Coleman admitted that he had been with Rose Gurney the night before but said that he had left her talking to two men just about where the night watchman had seen him.
He later said, 'I hope they will bloody-well hang me. I am not afraid to die'.
At his trial his defence was mainly that of insanity and a doctor that had treated him ten years earlier said that he thought him of unbalanced mind and liable to fits of depression. It was also heard from his relatives that he had had an accident about eight or nine years earlier and had not been the same since. It was also heard that after attacking the woman in 1897 Charles Coleman had tried to drown himself and had on some other occasions attempted suicide.
However, the doctor at Brixton Prison said that he had been observing Charles Coleman since 5 September 1911 and found him to be sane with no delusions. He said that he found him of a degenerate type, morose and sometimes depressed, but otherwise rational.
He was found guilty with no recommendation to mercy and his appeal was dismissed.
see National Archives - HO 144/1177/216629