British Executions

George Cunliffe

Age: 28

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 25 Feb 1913

Crime Location: 72 King Street, Plymouth

Execution Place: Exeter

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


George Cunliffe was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Kate Butler 26 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at 72 King Street, Plymouth on 8 November 1912.

George Cunliffe was a stoker and had served in the navy between 1907 and 1912 when he was discharged to the reserve. His character on ships ranged from Good to Very Good.

George Cunliffe had met Kate Butler, who was a Plymouth prostitute, in 1911 and used to spend his week-ends ashore with her. After his discharge, George Cunliffe stayed with Kate Butler for a fortnight and then got work on the Maine Hospital Ship until 21 October 1912 after which he again went back to stay with Kate Butler.

On 1 November 1912, George Cunliffe had been drinking heavily and asked Kate Butler for some money. She pawned some of her jewellery and gave him the money, but he was not satisfied and smashed some ornaments and burnt a blanket.

Kate Butler then ran into her sister's room, but George Cunliffe followed her and knocked her down saying, 'I'll do for you, you bloody fat gutted cow'. However, it was heard that they later made up and slept together that night.

The next day, George Cunliffe was locked up for being drunk and disorderly and on 4 November 1912 he was sentenced to five days.

When he came out of prison on 8 November 1912, he went to the house that Kate Butler had lodged but found that Kate Butler and her sister had moved to another house close by.

George Cunliffe was heard to say that if he didn't get his fare to Wigan, he would do for Kate Butler, her sister and another woman. He then got his razor from his landlady and had a shave and then went off to find Kate Butler with his razor in his pocket.

When he found Kate Butler she was in bed. George Cunliffe was quite sober and asked her to give him his fare to Wigan, but Kate Butler said that she didn't have any money and also told him that he could not stop with her and advised him to go to the docks and to get a boat.

Kate Butler then got up and started to dress when George Cunliffe seized her by the throat and savagely attacked her with his razor, cutting her throat right round her neck through the carotid artery and jugular. He also slashed her from the neck to her shoulder blade to the bone, on the left side of her abdomen above the groin, on both of her wrists to the bone and cut several of her fingers and then stabbed her in the breast and in the right side of her abdomen.

It was thought that Kate Butler had struggled violently.

The doctor said that he thought that the minor wounds had been inflicted first.

After killing her, George Cunliffe then superficially cut his own throat and was found lying on top of Kate Butler.

At his trial, George Cunliffe claimed insanity, but he was convicted of murder with no recommendation to mercy.

see National Archives - HO 144/1251/233976