British Executions

John Vickers Amos

Age: 35

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 22 Jul 1913

Crime Location: Sun Inn, Bedlington

Execution Place: Newcastle

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


John Vickers Amos was convicted of the murder of Andrew Barton 40, George Bertram Mussell 30 and Sarah Ellen Grice 33 and sentenced to death.

He shot them whilst he was being evicted from the pub that he ran, the Sun Inn, Bedlington, on 15 April 1913.

John Amos was formerly a miner and had been to the United States several times and on 27 January 1913 he was engaged by the owner of the Sun Inn to manage it.

His wages were 30/- a week and he also received 5% of the takings. He had paid a £30 deposit as a guarantee of the stock and was to receive 4% on that sum.

However, a month later during a stock take the owner found a deficit of £7 and a further stock take on 6 April 1913 showed a deficit of £45. 19. 5. and the landlord said that he decided to get another manager for the pub and engaged a former chauffeur.

On 12 April 1913 the owner wrote a letter to John Amos pointing out the deficit in stock and said, 'Evidently you are running the Sun Inn for yourself'. He then said that he would be calling on the following Tuesday, however, in his letter he did not actually give John Amos notice.

The owner then went to the Sun Inn on 15 April 1913 at about 10.30am and had words with John Amos and told him that he was to get out. He said that John Amos told the owner that he wanted his £30 deposit back, but the owner told him that that would depend on the stock.

Soon after the owner had arrived and had words with John Amos, the new landlords, husband and wife, and another couple who were experienced landlords and who would initiate the new landlords in the business turned up.

The wife of the new landlord, the chauffeur, was Sarah Ellen Grice, one of the three people that John Amos shot that day.

Shortly after the other people arrived, John Amos's wife came down the stairs with a shotgun and John Amos asked her what she was doing with it, and she told him that she was going to give it to a certain man for shooting practice. The police report noted that she in fact had seemed to be anxious to get it out of the pub, but John Amos stopped her and took it back upstairs again.

The gun was a Winchester magazine shot gun carrying eight cartridges.

The owner, the new landlords and the other couple then spent the morning taking stock and the owner settled up with John Amos, giving him 30/- for wages, 30/- in lieu of a week's notice and 2/6 commission on two days takings.

At about 2pm, John Amos sent his son out to buy 25 shotgun cartridges.

The owner said that he thought that John Amos appeared likely to 'cut up rough' and said that he had told him that he had 'something upstairs which would shift the lot of them', and so he went to get PC George Mussell to come to the Inn shortly after 2pm to keep John Amos in order.

When PC George Mussell arrived, he asked John Amos whether he had any firearms in the house, but John Amos replied, 'No, you may search the house'.

Whilst the stock take was going on in the cellar and furniture was being removed from upstairs, John Amos said to a servant girl that had previously been employed at the Inn, 'Do you think I am going to the States to work hard for the owner to take my money from me?'.

Soon after, at about 3pm, apparently without any warning, John Amos fired two shots at PC George Mussell inside the Inn, hitting him in the neck and shoulder and killing him. He then shot Sarah Grice in the head as she took refuge in the cellar. She fell down the steps and died soon after.

The owner of the Sun Inn ran off to the police station and stayed there.

John Amos then seemed to hang about outside the Sun Inn looking for the owner. When a neighbour spoke to him, he replied, 'The owner is the one that I want'. He then added that he would have a cartridge left for himself.

John Amos then let the wife of the experience pub landlord couple go with two children after she appealed to him.

When his wife spoke to him, John Amos told her to get out of the way or he would shoot her as well.

Sergeant Andrew Barton then came to the Sun Inn and asked John Amos to put down his gun, however, John Amos shot him in the heart and as he swung round he shot him again in the back.

John Amos then lit a cigarette and went off into some fields.

A search was later made for him and he was found in a culvert. The police fired two shots at the culvert and John Amos then shouted out, 'I will surrender' and then came out saying, 'Where am I?'. He had been hit by a few pellets in the forehead. When he came out he had left his gun in the culvert. There were four cartridges still left in the magazine of the gun and one in the breach when he came out. It was noted that the cartridge in the breach was wet and that the cap was dinted as if it had misfired, and it was thought that John Amos may have attempted suicide.

At his trial John Amos's defence claimed insanity, but there was no evidence to support that. John Amos said in court that he had been in a mine explosion in America and that that had affected his health.

He also professed to have no recollection of the shootings or any of the incidents connected with it.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death with no recommendation to mercy.

The police report stated that John Amos had a strong motive to kill the owner and it was said that he would have shot him if he had come across him. The report noted that the murder of three innocent people may raise some doubt as to John Amos's complete sanity, but stated that as regards to the Police, John Amos had no doubt shot them to prevent them from disarming him before he had attained his revenge on the owner. The police report stated that the killing of Sarah Grice seemed to have been a wanton act of blind rage.

He was executed on 4 July 1913.

see Bedlington

see National archives - HO 144/1278/240202

see BBC