British Executions

Frederick Albert Robertson

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 27 Nov 1913

Crime Location: 12 Saratoga Road, Clapton, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Frederick Albert Robertson was convicted of the murder of his three children Nellie Kathleen Robertson 2, Frederick Ernest Robertson 2 and 10-month-old Beatrice Maud Robertson and sentenced to death.

It was thought that he had probably asphyxiated them at 12 Saratoga Road in Clapton, London around 28 June 1913.

Frederick Robertson killed them and buried them in the basement at 12 Saratoga Road. Their bodies were later found after neighbours complained about the smell coming from somewhere in the house.

Frederick Robertson was a relief stamper and only had one leg.

In June 1913 he had been living with his wife and three children in Millfields Road in Clapton along with another couple who were lodging with them.

On 21 June 1913, they all moved to 12 Saratoga Road in Clapton, occupying the ground floor, with the other couple occupying one of the rooms.

However, on 24 June 1913, Frederick Robertson's wife was admitted to Homerton Infirmary and on the following day the wife of the married couple looked after the children while Frederick Robertson went to work.

On 28 June 1913 Frederick Robertson talked about getting his children into a Salvation Army House. It was heard that he had previously tried to get them into the workhouse but had been refused because he had been in regular employment.

Frederick Robertson was thought to have called at the Salvation Army Office on 28 June 1913 and inquired about someone to come and attend to his children at 8/- a week, but he didn't arrange anything definite.

It was also found that Frederick Robertson had gone with the wife of the couple who lodged with him to the police station with reference to some gas meter trouble at their previous address. However, the police report stated that the visits appeared to have been intended as a blind.

Later that night, Frederick Robertson told the wife of the couple who lodged with him to put his children to bed in their clothes as the Salvation Army man was going to call for them to take them to a Home. The wife said that she put them to bed and then went out at about 8pm, leaving Frederick Robertson in the house.

It was noted in the police report that the children were never seen alive again.

When the lodgers returned at about 11.30pm, Frederick Robertson told them that the Salvation Army man had called and had taken the baby, Beatrice Robertson, and was going to call for the twins in the morning.

The following morning 29 June 1913 at about 9am, Frederick Robertson told the lodgers that the Salvation Army man had called for the twins at 6am. He explained to them that the man had brought clothes for them and then taken the children, leaving their old clothes behind.

He also told his mother and wife that the children had been taken away by the Salvation army and wrote to his wife on 15 July 1913 saying, 'You will be glad to hear the kiddies are getting on all right and they are happy'.

Frederick Robertson then gave up his tenancy of 12 Saratoga Road on 12 July 1913 and moved into rooms at 26 Dame Street.

However, on 27 July 1913, a tenant of an upper floor flat at 12 Saratoga Road complained about a bad smell and when a workman examined the cellar, he found loose bricks in the wall there. Then, when he removed them, he found the bodies of the three children in the space beneath the kitchen floor.

It was found that the three bodies corresponded exactly, as regards to age as shown by teeth, with Frederick Robertson's three children.

Nellie Robertson and Frederick Robertson had been wrapped up in parts of blankets and Beatrice Robertson had been wrapped up in brown paper.

After two doctors examined the children’s bodies, they concluded that the children had probably died from suffocation or strangulation. The doctors found openings on their necks that might have been incisions, but no traces could be found of bleeding and it was thought that the marks were probably due to decomposition.

The blankets were later identified by the wife of the couple that had been lodging with Frederick Robertson at 12 Saratoga Road as having been on the children's cots and a corresponding piece of one of the blankets was later found at Frederick Robertson's room at Dame Street.

The police found that the loose bricks in the cellar wall had been fixed up with plaster of Paris. They also found a pad of paper from the Daily Telegraph dated 28 May 1913 which had been used to spread the plaster on in the cellar. When they went to Dame Street, they also found some plaster of Paris wrapped up in part of the Daily Telegraph newspaper dated 28 May 1913 outside his room.

It was also found that Frederick Robertson had given pink overalls that the elder children had been wearing when the lodger had put the children to bed, to his mother sometime after he had left 12 Saratoga Road.

Frederick Robertson was arrested on 25 July 1913, the same day the children were discovered in the cellar, and when he was asked where his children were, he said, 'I left them in Clapton in the street. I abandoned them. I left them in the street near Homerton Workhouse some time ago'.

It was noted that for some months Frederick Robertson had been walking out with an 18-year-old girl who was employed by the same firm that he worked for. When the girl gave evidence, she said that Frederick Robertson had once asked her whether she would marry him if he were free and said that she replied that if he were free that she would. She told the Coroner at the inquest that no impropriety had occurred between them. She also said that Frederick Robertson had once said that he didn't care whether his wife came out of the infirmary alive ot not. She said that on 25 July 1913, when Frederick Robertson was evidently afraid that he had been found out, that he had said, 'Well, whatever I have done, think I have done it for the best'.

At his trial Frederick Robertson didn't give evidence and he was convicted of the murder of his children and sentenced to death, with no recommendation to mercy.

The police report stated that there could be no doubt whatever that Frederick Robertson had murdered his three children and observed that they thought that he had murdered them to rid himself of the burden of them.

see National Archives - HO 144/1292/244281

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 31 July 1913