British Executions

Frederick Holmes

Age: 44

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 8 Mar 1916

Crime Location: 13 Clifford Street, Manchester

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Frederick Holmes was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Sarah Woodall 28 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at 13 Clifford Street in Manchester on 8 December 1915.

Frederick Holmes had been a plasterer.

Sarah Woodall was married but had been living apart from her husband for the previous four years and it was thought that she had been working as a prostitute and to have been living with Frederick Holmes for the last two years.

Frederick Holmes had been convicted of living on immoral earnings in 1905, 1907 and 1908 and of assaulting women in 1909 and 1911.

About a month before the murder they had been living at 64 Higher Ardwick when one night Frederick Holmes had opened the door to a man who had been going home with Sarah Woodall and he assaulted him, kicking and biting him. However, Sarah Woodall drove him out and she and the man slept together.

On 24 November 1916 Frederick Holmes and Sarah Woodall moved to 13 Clifford Street where they took a room.

The landlady said that she last saw Sarah Woodall alive at about noon on Tuesday 7 December 1916.

She said that their door was locked on the Wednesday and on the Thursday, 9 December 1916 that she entered the room and found Sarah Woodall dead on the bed. She said that Sarah Woodall was half undressed and covered by the bed clothes.

Her throat had been cut on the right hand side down to the spine. She was also bruised about the head and there was a cut on her forehead to the bone.

It was thought that she had been dead for between 24 and 36 hours which suggested that she had been killed not earlier then Tuesday night.

Frederick Holmes slept on the Wednesday night with another prostitute and was arrested on the Thursday.

When he was arrested he said, 'It is all right. I could see it coming. How long is it since you found her? I could not have kept away from her much longer. I was going to have a drink and I might have given myself up. It is no use running away. Read the charge again. No malice aforethought. You can cross those two words out'.

When he later asked what day it was and was told 'Thursday' he said, 'How's that, I've been drinking these last three weeks. It must have been Monday I was with Alice in the Ludlow. We'd been drinking together and went home friendly. She put her arm around me in the street. After we got in the house there was the usual haggling. She's a very jealous woman. I think I did it with a razor that I saw on the cupboard at the end of the sofa. I've got the razor here in my pocket. (He felt his pocket but produced nothing). I couldn't believe she was dead. I went out next morning about 11. I didn't go back to the house. I stopped with the other prostitute. You know her. She works at a laundry in Wilton Street. I was going to give myself up tonight. I'm a bit dazed'.

In his evidence he made out that Sarah Woodall was a violent woman and very jealous. He said that on the Monday night when 'the accident' happened they were nagging and quarrelling and that Sarah Woodall struck him with some instrument and that he struck at her right and left.

He said that he prayed with her as she died and slept that night by her body. He afterwards hid the razor. He went on to say that he slept in the house on the Tuesday but it was thought more probable that it was on that night that the murder was committed and not on the Monday as he said, it being further noted that the landlady said that she last saw Sarah Woodall alive about midday on the Tuesday.

The police noted that it was impossible to accept Frederick Holmes's version of what happened.

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. There was no recommendation to mercy and it was noted that he was a man of bad character and that there seemed to be no possible grounds for interference.

He was executed at Manchester on 8 March 1916.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/249, HO 144/1448/308338