British Executions

Joseph Deans

Age: 44

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 20 Dec 1916

Crime Location: Grey Horse Public House, Howard Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland

Execution Place: Durham

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Joseph Deans murdered his girlfriend Catherine Convery 48 who he battered to death at the Grey Horse public house in Howard Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland on 7 October 1916.

Joseph Deans had been a miner. In 1897 he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for assaulting a police officer. After his release he later went to South Africa where he worked as a gold miner for 17 years, returning to England in 1913 with sufficient means to enable him to live without working.

When he returned he had lived at 10 Howard Street which was close to the Grey Horse public house and not far from where Catherine Convery had lived in Devonshire Street and it was because of that that an acquaintance sprang up between them.

After meeting they kept company for 18 months. However, it was said that Joseph Deans seemed to be very jealous of Catherine Convery and about nine months before the murder he hit her on the head with a coal rake because she came back to her house with a soldier. However, it was also heard that Joseph Deans himself had also been hurt in the incident and that they had both had to go to the infirmary. On another occasion he assaulted her with his fists and constantly threatened to kill her.

On Thursday 5 October 1916 Joseph Deans took out a gun licence and on the same day and on the following day he tried to buy a revolver. It was heard that whilst trying to buy the guns that he asked whether one shown him ‘would kill a man', however, as he was slightly drunk the shop assistant put him off. It was heard that when Joseph Deans had been looking at the guns that he had picked up a gun with a small bore and had asked whether it would be good to kill a man and when he was told that it would not he picked up a gun with a bigger bore. It was said that the assistant had not liked his talk of killing a man and had as such given him a form that he told him he needed to complete and which required him to go to a police station to demonstrate that he had a legitimate purpose to buy the gun. It was said that the assistant had not given him the form because he felt that Joseph Deans had a legitimate purpose but instead to bring him into contact with the police who might be better placed to see what sort of person he was and why he needed a gun to kill a person.

It was also heard that on 6 and 7 October 1916 that he told acquaintances that he meant 'to do her in tonight' and then showed them a photo of Catherine Convery inside his hat.

Then, on 7 October 1916, the day of the murder, he shouted out in the street to Catherine Convery, who was with her daughters, 'You won't be alive tonight. I won't do anything while they are there. I'll do it when nobody is there'.

At about 3.15pm Joseph Deans visited a friend and shewed him a new axe and a razor and said, 'I can stand it no longer. I'll have to kill that lady tonight. The axe is for her and the razor for myself'. It was noted that the axe was very sharp and that Joseph Deans cut his thumb whilst handling it.

Joseph Deans and his friend later went to the Grey Horse public house which was frequented by Catherine Convery and Joseph Deans appeared to have followed her out of the house and then seen talking to her.

However, very shortly afterwards Catherine Convery was found in the yard of the Grey Horse public house badly wounded in the head. She had a deep scalp wound on the top of the head, a deep wound on the right side of the neck that had severed her collar bone and a deep wound on the back near the base of the brain, all of which could have been caused by the axe as described by Joseph Deans's friend.

However, it was heard that no one witnessed the attack and Joseph Deans later said that he had no recollection of the attack and his defence at the trial claimed insanity.

Catherine Convery was taken to hospital where she died on 13 October 1916.

Whilst she was in hospital she made a statement before she was in  fear of her life but by the time she was in fear of her live she was unable to make a dying deposition.

Joseph Deans was arrested on 9 October 1916. He had wounded himself with a razor and said, 'It's all that woman. She has had hundreds of pounds out of me and now she wants to toss me over'.

When he was convicted of murder the jury made no recommendation to mercy. The jury returned their verdict after a six minute retirement.

Before he was sentenced he said, 'All I have to say is I did kill the woman and I am pleased that I killed her'.

see National Archives - HO 144/1468/323522