British Executions

Lee Kun

Age: 27

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 1 Jan 1916

Crime Location: 1 New Alley, Three Colt Street, Limehouse, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Lee Kun was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Clara Thomas 34 and sentenced to death.

He stabbed her to death at Pennyfields, Poplar, London on 16 October 1915.

Clara Thomas had been a sailor's prostitute and had lived with Lee Kun but when he went to sea she went to live with another man. When Lee Kun returned she told him that she didn't want to have anything more to do with him.

He later followed her back to an address in Three Colt Street and in the morning of 16 October 1916 in the back of a house at 1 New Alley he attacked her with a sheath knife, inflicting fourteen separate wound about the head, face, arms, wrists and hands.

One of the blows severed her jugular vein on the left side and she was thought to have died instantaneously.

Clara Thomas was a married woman and was also known as Elsie Goddard, however, her husband had left her about eleven years earlier and since then she had been a sailor's prostitute in Poplar and Limehouse.

After Lee Kun went to sea Clara Thomas moved in with a Russian sailor and it was thought that she had done so because she either wanted to break off her relations with Chinese sailors or just with Lee Kun in particular. She had gone with the Russian sailor to lodge at 19 King Street in Poplar on 3 October 1916 but the Russian sailor went to sea on 6 October 1916.

It was said that on 9 October 1916 that a Chinaman called at the King Street lodgings and assaulted Clara Thomas, striking her several times although it was not clear whether or not it had been Lee Kun although it was suggested that it was. However, the same Chinaman called either the following day, or the day after that and complained that Clara Thomas had been having his half-pay.

As a result of those disturbances the landlord turned Clara Thomas out of the house and she went to see her aunt on 11 October 1916, telling her that she was in fear of a Chinaman, after which she was thought to have been homeless for a few nights.

However, on Friday 15 October 1916 Clara Thomas went to 1 New Alley off Three Colt Street in Limehouse.

However, the following morning Lee Kun walked into the house whilst Clara Thomas was helping to clean the kitchen and said, 'I want to speak to Elsie'. They then went into the yard.

The landlady said that she then heard Clara Thomas scream, 'Oh, mother' and saw Lee Kun stabbing her as she lay on the ground with a knife in his right hand.

The woman then hit Lee Kun on the back of his head with a broom and managed to detain him as he was leaving the front gate until others arrived and he was arrested.

When Lee Kun was charged through an interpreter, he said, 'I have nothing to say. She was robbing money. I asked her to pay it back but she would not'.

When the police searched the scene they found a new, sharp blood stained knife under Clara Thomas skirt and a case that fitted it in Lee Kun's pocket.

At the trial Lee Kun said that Clara Thomas had inflicted the wounds herself and that he had tried to prevent her from doing so. He said that she had been trying to commit suicide and that he had endeavoured to prevent her and that so far as he knew that she must have received her wounds during the struggle. It was noted that he received two cuts on his fingers that had made him feel faint.

However, the court heard that the medical evidence regarding the number and position of the wounds to Clara Thomas meant that Lee Kun's defence could not be seriously regarded.

When the suggestion that Clara Thomas had robbed or cheated Lee Kun out of his money was considered, it was thought that it might have been true enough but that it appeared that Clara Thomas had broken off relations with Lee Kun sometime before the murder such that any injury that she might have done him, if any, whilst affording a motive, would have been too stale to have amounted to provocation.

When he was convicted Lee Kun repeated, 'I did not do it. I did not do it'.

Lee Kun appealed his conviction, claiming that the evidence at the trial had not been translated for him but his appeal was refused.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/159/2, HO 144/1443/303791