British Executions

Edward Hopwood

Age: 45

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 29 Jan 1913

Crime Location: Fenchurch Street, London

Execution Place: 1913

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint

Source: http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/

Edward Hopwood was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Florence Alice Bernadette Silles 34 and sentenced to death.

He shot her in a taxi-cab in Fenchurch Street, London on 28 September 1912.

Edward Hopwood was an undischarged bankrupt and the managing director of Commerce Limited which was in liquidation.

In 1900 he was sentenced to 15 months for attempted false pretences and later recovered damages from a newspaper that made up the facts of the case.

He was married and had three children, but for some years seemed to have lived apart from his wife.

He met Florence Silles in April 1912 at which time she had been performing at a music hall in Manchester in the name of Dudley.

Florence Silles was a widow and had one child. Edward Hopwood seemed to have more or less kept Florence Silles for some months, staying in hotels with her, and was said to have been generous to her. It was thought that Florence Silles had not known that Edward Hopwood was married and that she had hoped that he would marry her.

When Florence Silles was not going about with Edward Hopwood she lived with a married sister in Ilford.

However, they had an argument on 17 September 1912 whilst they were at Florence Silles's sister's house after it transpired that a cheque of Edward Hopwood's had been dishonoured and inquiries about it were being made. There was a scene and Florence Silles said that she had been very foolish and said that she would go back to her work in the halls and they parted.

Edward Hopwood was said to have been very jealous of Florence Silles and on and about 23 September 1912 he watched for her at Liverpool Street Station and bribed porters etc there to watch for her and follow her if they saw her going to Ilford with men.

On 26 September 1912, Edward Hopwood bought a Webley Scott automatic pistol. It had a 5-cartridge magazine and a 7-9lb pull, which was noted to have, of course, required a separate pull for each shot.

On 27 September 1912 Edward Hopwood stayed in Southampton, from where he sent a telegram to Florence Silles in the name of a Dublin tobacconist that Florence Silles knew, and who was a High Sheriff of the City, asking her to meet him at 7pm at the Holborn Restaurant on 28 September 1912. The Dublin tobacconist was a man that Florence Silles had known from before she had met Edward Hopwood.

Florence Silles replied to the telegram saying that she would be delighted to keep the appointment.

The next day, Edward Hopwood sent another telegram to Florence Silles at the Holborn Restaurant purporting to be from the Dublin tobacconist, saying that he was grieved to hear that she had been carrying on with a young man and advising her to do the right thing and marry him.

After that, Edward Hopwood sent a telegram to himself at the Golden Cross Hotel saying that it was important for him to meet Florence Silles, who he referred to as Miss Flo Dudley, which was a name she had been using at the time, at the Holborn Restaurant that night.

The police report noted that Edward Hopwood obviously suspected that Florence Silles would not meet him if he asked her to do so and so adopted the telegram ruse to effect their meeting, and that it succeeded.

Before going to the Holborn Restaurant, Edward Hopwood called at the Golden Cross Hotel where he wrote a Will, which was unwitnessed, in which he left, 'The balance of £1,000 to the son of his erring sweetheart Flo Dudley who had deserted him'. It was noted that o the back of the Will he wrote a message which pointed to suicide.

When Edward Hopwood went to the Holborn Restaurant, he first ascertained that Florence Silles had been given the second wire that he had sent as the Dublin tobacconist, and then presented himself to her.

It was noted that Florence Silles seemed to have accepted the situation, for the time being, and she remained sat with Edward Hopwood talking and drinking until about 10pm when they went to the Holborn Viaduct Hotel where Edward Hopwood whiskies and sodas and Florence Silles had plain Apollinaris.

It was said that Edward Hopwood had not been drunk but that he had appeared confused.

After that, they got into a taxi at 11.45pm to drive to Fenchurch Street for a train to Ilford. Edward Hopwood sat on the off seat whilst Florence Silles sat in the rear seat.

However, whilst in Fenchurch Street the taxi driver heard three shots and when he stopped the taxi and got out and opened the near side door, Florence Silles fell into his arms.

The taxi driver said that Florence Silles then said, 'Mind cabby he has got a revolver and has shot me take me to a hospital'.

The taxi driver and a police constable then attended Florence Silles and after two or three minutes, two more shots were heard in the cab and Edward Hopwood then got out.

Florence Silles was taken to Guy's Hospital where she died a few minutes after admission.

She had two wounds. The first bullet had entered through the lobe of her right ear, grazed the base of her skull, and then passed out behind her left ear. It was noted that that wound was not fatal. The second bullet had entered her back about 5 inches below the right shoulder blade, had broken the 4th right rib and had then lodged in her heart, and had been the cause of her death. It was noted that there had been no singing of her coat and that the second shot was thought to have been fired from at least 9 inches from her.

At Edward Hopwood's trial it was claimed that the shots had been fired whilst Florence Silles had been struggling with Edward Hopwood in order to prevent him from shooting himself. However, the police report stated that the police felt that the evidence was conclusive and that the second shot had been inflicted intentionally by Edward Hopwood and could not have been fired as he had said whilst Florence Silles struggled with him for the revolver. The police report stated that they felt that it was quite clear that Edward Hopwood had fired the first shot at Florence Silles's head and that as she had then fallen forwards or attempted to escape by the door he had let drive at her back and killed her.

After shooting Florence Silles, Edward Hopwood had shot himself twice. The first shot was a glancing shot that had slightly wounded himself on each eyebrow, but the second shot had reached the bone and had caused concussion and some unconsciousness.

Whilst in hospital he Edward Hopwood said, 'She pressed my hand and got the dose it was an accident for her but not for myself'.

At his trial he claimed that whilst in the taxi he had announced his intention of shooting himself to Florence Silles and that she had tried to prevent him and that he had shot her by accident. He said, 'The beastly thing kept going off'. However, the police report noted that that was absurd as the pistol had a heavy pull and said that a distinct action of the finger was necessary for each shot, noting that the gun did not act like a Maxim as Edward Hopwood had suggested.

The police report noted that the position and direction of the wounds, probably both of them, but certainly the fatal wound to Florence Silles's back, negated Edward Hopwood's defence, stating that it was a deliberate murder and attempted suicide by a man who was determined that if Florence Silleswas no longer for him, that she should be for no one else.

Edward Hopwood was found guilty of premeditated murder by the jury, a verdict that the judge approved, and there was no recommendation to mercy and no grounds for interference with the sentence.

see National archives - CRIM 1/136, HO 144/1229/228792