Date Of Execution: 13 Aug 1913
Crime Location: Court 23, 5 Back 115 Bissell Street, Birmingham
Execution Place: Birmingham
Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint
Frank Greening was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Ellen Hearne 28 and sentenced to death.
He shot her at Court 23, 5 Back 115 Bissell Street in Birmingham on 6 April 1913.
Court 23 was thought to have been a brothel.
At the time, Frank Greening was out of prison on licence. In 1894 he got 5 years penal servitude for shooting a woman and in 1901 got 5 years penal servitude for nearly killing another woman by hitting her on the head with a jemmy. Then in 1906 he got 8 years penal servitude for house breaking. He also had other previous convictions for forgery, burglary and warehousebreaking.
At the time of his trial he was described as a painter.
He had been released on licence on 31 January 1913 and had gone to Birmingham. Shortly after he wrote to a friend and asked her to get Elizabeth Hearne come and live with him in Birmingham.
Elizabeth Hearne came to Birmingham on 13 February 1913 with a friend and that night Elizabeth Hearne and Frank Greening stayed at the friend’s parents’ house.
The next day they moved to a house in Rea Street and on 18 February 1913, they moved to a house in Gooch Street, where they stayed for some time. On 31 March 1913 it was noted that they had been living in Claybrook Street.
After some time, Frank Greening started to make threats against Elizabeth Hearne.
The first threat that was noted happened on the 19 or 20 March 1913 when Frank Greening said to a woman that if Elizabeth Hearne went to a certain property, a house in Ashley Street, that he would 'do her in'. However, there was a party at the house on Ashley street on 26 March 1913 and Elizabeth Hearne went to it. When Frank Greening found out he went there and threw a lamp at her causing injuries that had to be treated by a doctor.
On 31 March 1913 Frank Greening asked two women to go and live with him and Elizabeth Hearne in Claybrook Street.
On 3 April 1913, Frank Greening asked one of the women to go away with him to Coventry. However, later that day he threw another lamp at Elizabeth Hearne which hit her on the head, and the Elizabeth Hearne charged Frank Greening before witnesses with having thrown it. The wound was still on her head after her murder.
From 3 April 1913, Elizabeth Hearne moved out of the room that she was sharing with Frank Greening and slept in the attic.
Frank Greening then made another threat towards Elizabeth Hearne on 5 April 1913.
On 6 April 1913, they were all still at Claybrook Street. Between 9am and 10am the woman that Frank Greening had asked to go to Coventry with him was cleaning the grate and Frank Greening told her that there would be no need for her to do that again, Then, just before midday, the landlady came in to collect the rents that were owing and then after that Frank Greening, Elizabeth Hearne and the landlady went off to a public house on the corner of Barford Street and MacDonald Street, close to the yard where they were living.
Whilst they were in the public house it became clear that Frank Greening wanted to move out of Claybrook Street and he and the landlady went there to bring away some clothes.
Later on, whilst in the public house, the friend that Elizabeth Hearne had come from London with came in, and whilst Frank Greening and the landlady went to collect the clothes, Elizabeth Hearne and her friend stayed in the public house.
The landlady then went back to the public house and handed Elizabeth Hearne a note that Frank Greening had written. The landlady was alone at that point as Frank Greening had gone off to another friend’s house.
The landlady left the public house at about 2pm and Elizabeth Hearne and her friend left about twenty minutes later and went to No 5, back of 115, Bissell Street, Court 23.
Twenty minutes after they arrived at the Bissell Street address, Frank Greening came by. The police report stated that No 5, back of 115, Bissell Street appeared to be a brothel.
Frank Greening walked in and asked Elizabeth Hearne to go with him to his mother's house to have dinner. However, Elizabeth Hearne refused and said that she did not care about his shooter that he had on him. Frank Greening then pulled the revolver out and shot Elizabeth Hearne three or four times, inflicting fatal wounds to her stomach and body. He also fired at one of the other women, but then made off.
In court, Frank Greening gave evidence on his own behalf. He said that he had lived with Elizabeth Hearne for nine weeks and although there had been frequent quarrels, there was nothing left behind them. He said that he had frequently objected to Elizabeth Hearne going to the house in Ashley Street and had also objected to her going out drinking with the landlady. He said that on the day of the murder he had wanted Elizabeth Hearne to go with him to his mother's house for dinner but said that he had no idea that he would find her at No 5, back of 115, Bissell Street, noting that he had gone there to see one of the other women who had asked him for a revolver. He said that he was surprised to see Elizabeth Hearne at the house.
Frank Greening denied that he had ever threatened to take Elizabeth Hearne's life and denied that Elizabeth Hearne had ever complained to him about 'burying' a lamp in her head, adding that he had never struck her with a lamp. He added that three-parts of the evidence against him was manufactured. He said that he shot Elizabeth Hearne on an impulse of the moment, adding that she had known that he had a revolver on him because he had told her that the other woman had asked him for it.
The judge asked him if it was an impulse to shoot her three times, and Frank Greening replied, 'Three times I admit, no more'.
When the judge summed up he said that there was no evidence of such provocation as could reduce the charge to one of manslaughter. He said that because a woman was drunken, because she was a nagging woman and hurled taunts at a man, was not sufficient justification for him taking a revolver and killing her. The judge said that life had to be protected, even the life of a dissolute and drunken woman.
The jury retired for fifteen minutes before returning with a verdict of guilty with no recommendation to mercy.
When he was asked if he had anything to say after the sentence of death was passed, he said, 'Nothing whatever'.
He appealed, stating that Elizabeth Hearne was addicted to drink and that finding her drunk in a house of ill-repute, No 5, back of 115, Bissell Street, was a cause for provocation. However, his appeal was dismissed, and he was executed on 13 August 1913 at Birmingham Prison.
see National Archives - ASSI 13/43, HO 144/1280/240621
see Lichfield Mercury - Friday 18 July 1913