British Executions

John Williams

Age: 38

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 19 Mar 1912

Crime Location: Prices Lane, Birkenhead

Execution Place: Knutsford

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


John Williams was convicted of the murder of his wife Hilda Mary Josephine Williams 39 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat in Price's Lane, Birkenhead on 19 December 1911.

They had been living apart but had met up again on 19 December and later that evening she was found dead in Price's Lane with a slashed throat. He was later arrested in a drunken state and confessed.

John Williams was a house-painter and had been convicted three times for unlawfully wounding Hilda Williams in July 1907, March 1908 and February 1909 and sentenced to 6-months hard labour each time.

He also had twelve previous convictions for drunkenness etc and in October 1909 he was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour for attempting suicide by poison.

For some weeks prior to the murder John Williams and Hilda Williams had been living apart, but on Sunday 10 December 1911 Hilda Williams visited John Williams at his lodgings and they spent the afternoon and evening together drinking and were apparently on good terms.

At about 9.30pm, John Williams, who was by then somewhat drunk, and had a bottle of whiskey on him, said that he would see Hilda Williams to the house where she was employed as a mother's help and thy set out together, by bus, travelling on the top deck.

However, Hilda Williams was later found at about 10.25pm in a narrow lane not far from her house with her throat cut to the bone.

John Williams was arrested in a street shortly afterwards. He had been shouting, 'I have murdered my wife'. He had had a noggin bottle of whisky in his hand three parts full at the time but managed to drink it before a police constable could stop him. As such, he became very drunk and could not be charged until 5am when he sobered up.

While he was in his cell, he was heard saying that the bother had been over religion as Hilda Williams was a Roman Catholic and he was a Protestant.

A bloodstained razor belonging to his landlord was found in his pocket. It was also heard that on 5 December 1911 John Williams had told an acquaintance that he had been carrying an open razor in his pocket and meant to do in Hilda Williams or her brother who he accused of causing the trouble between them.

At his trial, his defence pleaded insanity based on the fact that his sister had died in an asylum and that he had previously attempted to commit suicide, for which he was convicted and sentenced to 12 months. However, a medical officer who examined him said that he could find no trace of insanity in him.

Following that, his defence said that his conviction should be reduced to manslaughter, but it was heard that the evidence up until the time of his arrested indicated that he was quite capable of knowing what he was doing although he was drunk. It was also noted that he had been drinking heavily for some weeks.

It was also heard that it appeared that he had premeditate his attack for some days and had provided himself with the razor for that purpose.

when he was convicted and sentenced to death, the jury made no recommendation to mercy and the judge made no comment.

In the condemned cell he wrote the following message that was found on a slate after his execution:

John Williams is my name and Wales is my nation.

Llangefni is my dwelling place, and Christ is my salvation.

When I am dead and in my grave, and all my bones are rotten.

On this slate you will find my name when i'm quite forgotten.

In the midst of life we are in death.

see National Archives - HO 144/1046/185425