British Executions

Gilbert Oswald Smith

Age: 35

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 26 Nov 1912

Crime Location: Rockstowes, Dursley

Execution Place: Gloucester

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


Gilbert Oswald Smith was convicted of the murder of his wife Rosabella Smith 30 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat in Rockstowes, Dursley on 21 July 1912.

Gilbert Smith had served in the Army from 1894 to 1902 and was discharged with a good record. He later married Rosabella Smith in 1907, however, he was addicted to drink and they lived unhappily. They had no children.

On 3 August 1911, Rosabella Smith took out a summons for cruelty, but it was settled out of court.

Later, on 9 July 1911 at 1am, Rosabella Smith called the police to her house and said that Gilbert Smith had tried to strangle her, and she took out a summons, but again it was settled out of court.

About eight or nine weeks before her murder, at about 10.30pm, Rosabella Smith went to the house of her neighbour and asked to be allowed to stay with them as she was afraid that if she stopped with Gilbert Smith that there would be murder. She then stayed with the neighbours up until the time of her murder.

Whilst Rosabella Smith was staying with her neighbours, Gilbert Smith would sometimes visit and occasionally slept in the house, but not with Rosabella Smith.

Gilbert Smith had been working at Marsh Farm in Ulney and on Saturday 20 July they were due to do haymaking, but they couldn't because of the wet weather so he was paid 15s and went off to the Dursley fete where he met his wife and several friends.

At the fete he had had been drinking and was on bad terms with Rosabella Smith who he tried to persuade to come back and live with him, but she refused.

Whilst in a refreshment tent Rosabella Smith accused Gilbert Smith of plotting to waylay her but he denied it asking her who had told her that saying that her sister was behind all such stories. When alone Rosabella Smith said that her husband had been giving her a cursing all day and had told her what he was going to do to her that night.

After the fete they all went to the Star inn in Dursley. Rosabella Smith went with a friend to do some shopping before going to the pub and had bought some items. Later, Rosabella Smith asked a friend to go outside taking her parcel so that she could leave without making it look like she was going home and she would then collect her parcel from her friend and head off home thus slipping away and escaping Gilbert Smith.

After leaving the pub between 10-11pm with a friend, Gilbert Smith was quite drunk and was heard walking down the street complaining that his wife had given him the slip saying that, 'Some morning you'll find that I've made a job of it. I shall do for her and myself'. The friend said he shouldn't say such things, but said that Gilbert Smith kept repeating it.

When Rosabella Smith got home she explained that her husband had threatened her.

The next morning Rosabella Smith set out to her work as kitchenmaid at the Union but went back in after seeing Gilbert Smith waiting outside in the street. She then asked her neighbour to walk with her and together they went out again. However, Gilbert Smith met them both in in the street after they had gone a few yards and cut her throat from ear to ear with a razor. Gilbert Smith then went behind a hedge and made a serious attempt to cut his own throat, severing his windpipe, but missing the big arteries.

At his trial the defence claimed that he had been suffering from insanity based on a vague family history of epilepsy and a considerable amount of evidence that Gilbert Smith had suffered from fits as a boy as well as during later periods in his life. However, it was heard that there was no evidence that he had had a fit that morning and it was known that he had threatened Rosabella Smith and a letter found in his pocket showed that the murder was premeditated.

see National Archives - ASSI 6/47/3, HO 144/1234/229728

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 03 August 1912