British Executions

Robert Upton

Age: 50

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 24 Mar 1914

Crime Location: 42 Stanley Street, Jarrow-on-Tyne

Execution Place: Durham

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Robert Upton was convicted of the murder of Charles Gribben 64 and sentenced to death.

He cut his throat at 42 Stanley Street in Jarrow on 21 December 1913.

Robert Upton was a labourer.

Charles Gribben was a caller-up and lived in a room at 42 Stanley Street. He had made the acquaintance three years earlier of a married woman who had been parted from her husband for twenty years. About 18 months earlier the woman became Charles Gribben’s housekeeper and moved in with him, living and sleeping with him at 42 Stanley Street.

However, the woman also did house cleaning for Robert Upton during the 18 months prior to the murder and regularly slept with him on Saturday and Sunday nights at his house.

About three months before the murder, Robert Upton's 14-year-old son also went to lodge in Charles Gribben's room, sleeping in the same room as them in a second bed. Then, about six weeks before the murder, Robert Upton also went to lodge there, sleeping in the second bed with his son, resulting in all four of them sleeping in the same room in two beds.

There were then constant quarrels between Robert Upton and Charles Gribben when they were drunk over the woman.

On the night of 30 November 1914 Robert Upton attacked Charles Gribben and forced him over the end of his bed. However, Robert Upton was then turned out of the room by a lodger after which Robert Upton kicked in the panel of the outside door although he later returned.

Later, on 10 December 1914, the woman, apparently finding the situation too much for her, went off to keep house for another man.

Charles Gribben acquiesced to the woman leaving, saying that he did not want her with him whilst Robert Upton was there, but Robert Upton protested and called the woman a dirty cow for leaving 'old Charlie' (Charles Gribben) in that way. Robert Upton also threatened to do for the other man that the woman had gone off to house keep for as well as for the woman and Charles Gribben rather that ether of them should take her from him.

On the night of 20 December 1914 Charles Gribben came home very drunk and rolled off his chair and Robert Upton who had also come in somewhat drunk a little later picked him up and put him on his bed.

Robert Upton's son then went to sleep but was awakened at about 3.30am on the morning of 21 December 1914 by a noise and saw Robert Upton kneeling on Charles Gribben's chest with a razor in his hand. He said that Charles Gribben said, 'He is cutting my throat'.

Robert Upton's son said that he pushed Robert Upton off but that Robert Upton renewed his attack on Charles Gribben and managed to sever all the structures in Charles Gribben's throat to the bone.

Robert Upton then went out but returned a few minutes later by which time a police constable had arrived. However, Robert Upton attempted to cut his own throat although the police constable stopped him. Robert Upton had managed to sever his windpipe and an artery but recovered in hospital.

When he was arrested, he said, 'Is that you Son, I have killed the old bugger. Give us a kiss son. I have cut my own throat and will soon die, Oh God. You dirty old Buggar Charlie, you made me do it. You have ruined me after me keeping you, you dirty old bugger. Is he alright, is he alive? Gribbin traitor. Is he dead? I wish he was. I am sorry to trouble you Sergeant, have you got the razor I done it with?'.

Later in hospital Robert Upton said, 'I have made a bad job of it, Inspector. On Saturday Charlie called me a bloody Englishman and a bloody cunt of an Englishman. I was full of drink and I jumped up in a passion and got the Razor and cut him. After that I don't know where I went to and I don't know where I cut myself. I had no clothes on. I know that and I know it was the Laddie (meaning his son) who jumped up and shouted to the man who sleeps in the next room. He shouted, 'He is cutting his throat' or something like that. Where is the woman, is she with the other man? She was with me for two years come March and old Charlie came sneaking round and took her from me. Did she get married to the other man? Her husband is alive and works here, did you know?'

When Robert Upton was brought before the magistrates he said, 'I have to say Gribbin called me an old suggar. I jumped up in the horrors of drink and went for him. That is all I can say'.

The police report noted that Robert Upton was certainly drunk when he had come home but stated that according to the evidence of the lodgers, not so drunk as not to know what he was doing. It was also noted that it was impossible to say what sort of quarrel led to the attack, which it was noted took place three hours after Charles Gribben had gone off in a drunken sleep.

At his trial, practically no defence was made and the jury made no recommendation to mercy and the Judge offered no comment on the sentence. The police described Robert Upton as a very good worker but said that he was violent when in drink, especially where the woman was concerned.

The police report concluded that it was a sordid story of jealousy and that they saw no grounds for interference.

Robert Upton was executed at Durham on 24 March 1914.

see National Archives - HO 144/1308/249449