British Executions

Joseph Spooner

Age: 42

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 14 May 1914

Crime Location: 64 Oliver Street, Liverpool

Execution Place: Liverpool

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Willis


Joseph Spooner was convicted of the murder of his three-year-old daughter Elizabeth Alice Spooner and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at the rear of 64 Oliver Street in Liverpool on 26 February 1914 and she died in hospital the following day, 27 February 1914.

Joseph Spooner was a dock labourer and had served in the Army. He was married and had five children.

About six years earlier his wife had separated from him on account of his drinking habits and around that time, 1908, he was bound over for attempting suicide. However, he and his wife later got back together, but in December 1913 she left him again and summoned him in January 1914 for child cruelty and she obtained a separation order and 12/- a week.

At the time of the murder Joseph Spooner had been sleeping at a lodging house since 15 February 1914 and the manager of the lodging house said that he was drunk every night. The police report noted that it appeared that Joseph Spooner had been drinking very heavily for some time and was sodden in drink and had probably been drinking on the morning of the murder.

However, Joseph Spooner only paid 6/- under the order and on the morning of 26 February 1914 he met his wife at the Police Court where she was taking out a summons for arrest, but he soon went off to avoid having it served upon him.

It was noted that Joseph Spooner was fond of his children and often went round to see them and buy them sweets. After leaving the Police Court he went to Oliver Street where his wife and family were living with his wife's sister and called Elizabeth Spooner out. She went out to see him readily as he had bought sweets for her the day before.

At the time it was 11.30am and Joseph Spooner was already under the influence of drink. He then took Elizabeth Spooner to a shop and bought her more sweets and then took her to the WC in the yard of the house next door to the one in which his wife lived and cut her throat with a knife.

Elizabeth Spooner was found at about 12 noon in the yard lying on her back. She was still alive and was taken to the Infirmary, but she died the following day. She had two deep wounds on the left side of her neck, but no important structures had been cut and her death was due to shock. It was noted that there were no signs of outrage or any other injuries.

When Joseph Spooner was arrested at 2.20pm and charged he said, 'I don't know what made me do it. I threw the knife in a midden'.

At his trial, Joseph Spooner insisted on pleading guilty and no evidence was given and there was no recommendation to mercy.

The police report noted that although Joseph Spooner had been drinking, that he had know well enough what he was about. It was also noted that there was no doubt that he could not have committed the murder if he had not been drinking heavily. The report stated that he was a man of indifferent character and that the cruel murder of his child seemed to have been due to a desire to be revenged upon his wife and recommended no interference with his sentence.

It was also noted that Joseph Spooner seemed to prefer death over a long prison sentence, which was the only other possible alternative.

He was executed at Liverpool on 14 May 1914.

see Western Daily Press - Friday 15 May 1914

see National Archives - ASSI 52/223, HO 144/1313/251192

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 05 March 1914