Date Of Execution: 12 Dec 1916
Crime Location: Efford, Plymouth
Execution Place: Exeter
Executioner: John Ellis
Frederick Brooks was convicted of the murder of Alice Clara Gregory 12 and sentenced to death.
He strangled her in Efford, Plymouth on 19 June 1916.
Frederick Brooks was a soldier and a native of West Bromwich and it was said that from about the age of 14 he seemed to have spent his time tramping the country with spells in the workhouse or prison. He had two convictions at West Bromwich for throwing bricks through windows which it was said he apparently did to get locked up.
Around November 1915 Frederick Brooks enlisted but in December 1915 and again in March 1916 he got three months hard labour for throwing bricks through windows in Plymouth and it was found that he had only done about one month's duty with his regiment.
In December 1915 he called at the house of Alice Gregory's mother in Alexandra Road in Plymouth, the wife of a ticket collector, and asked for and got a nights lodging. He had said that he had been delayed on the railway and could not reach his camp that night. He called again in March 1916 and on 14 June 1916 and stayed the night in the same way. On each occasion he had breakfasted with the family.
Alice Gregory's mother had two children, Alice Gregory who was 12½ and a younger one. However, it was noted that Alice Gregory looked probably two years older and was comely.
On 19 June 1916 at about 10.30am Frederick Brooks called at the school where Alice Gregory was and persuaded the mistress to let him take Alice Gregory to show him the way to a place at Mutley. Saying that he had been sent by Alice Gregory's mother and that she had allowed him to take her. Her school had been on the opposite side of the road to her house. It was heard that the mistress had allowed Alice Gregory to go with Frederick Brooks after she found that Alice Gregory knew him.
They were soon after seen heading off towards Compton.
However, later that afternoon Frederick Brooks told a constable in Bedford Street that he had killed a girl and would show them where to find her. He said, 'I must have been off my head or in a fit of temper for a minute or two. She was dead when I left her'.
The police then went with him and found Alice Gregory in the corner of an inner field some distance from the high road. She was on her back with her legs close together and her arms at her sides. She had an abrasion on her windpipe and had been strangled. Frederick Brooks told the police, 'I put my hands round her neck (at the same time showing how he did it) and when I took them away she was dead'.
It was said that Alice Gregory had not been violated but that the grass was pressed down for a space of 12 feet by 6 feet at the place where she was found as though there had been a struggle.
The doctor found some bruises on her legs but thought that they were of older date than the 19 June 1916. However, her mother said that she had washed Alice Gregory all over on 17 June 1916 and had not noticed any bruises then.
At his trial his defence pleaded insanity, but in support of the plea there was only the evidence of Frederick Brooks's brother that Frederick Brooks had had some sort of convulsions in early infancy and fits and had sometimes been strange in his conduct since.
He appealed, stating that he had killed her whilst temporarily insane, but his appeal was refused. The judge said, 'It is certainly right to say that it is an extraordinary case and no reason is suggested for this murder of the child. No ground can be found in the evidence for his having led the girl away or for his having strangled her as he undoubtedly did. It may very well be that the Home Secretary may think it right to take that into account in any application made to him to have further enquiry, but as far as this court is concerned, we can only refuse the application'.
see National Archives - HO 144/1467/323001
see Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 20 December 1916