British Executions

Joseph Jones

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 21 Feb 1918

Crime Location: Valentine Place, Blackfriars Road, London

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Joseph Jones was convicted of the murder of Oliver Gilbert Imlay 24 and sentenced to death.

He beat him with a policeman's truncheon during a robbery in Valentine Place, Blackfriars Road, London on 8 November, 1917.

He had carried out the robbery with two other men who had between them lured Oliver Imlay, a Canadian soldier and a companion into Valentine Place where they had then all set about the two soldiers with the intention of robbing them.

One of the accomplices, an Australian soldier, later turned King's evidence and it became clear that it was Joseph Jones that had attacked Oliver Imlay whilst the other accomplice had attacked the other soldier.

Following the attack the other Canadian soldier, Oliver Imlay's friend, was taken to King George's Hospital in Stamford Street where he was found to be suffering from concussion and several large scalp wounds although he had no fracture of the skull and was conscious but in a dazed condition. The doctor said that his injuries were rather severe and had been caused by a blunt instrument, such as a truncheon, and that he had been in a dangerous condition for several days.

Joseph Jones's two friends were arrested on 25 November 1917 at about noon and when they were told that they were to be taken to Kennington Road police station where they would be charged with the murder of Oliver Imlay the man that turned King's evidence said nothing whilst the other man said, 'Murder? Murder? I am not connected with that murder'.

Joseph Jones was arrested later that day at 7.30pm after which all three men were placed together and Joseph Jones was charged. When he was charged he made no reply.

On the evening of 23 November 1917 a police inspector received a telephone message after which he went to Rochester Row police station where he saw the man that turned King's evidence. When he saw him he said to him, 'I understand from the officer (alluding to another inspector there) that you  are desirous of making a statement to me in connection with a case of murder' to which the man replied, 'Yes, I have made some sort of a statement but I cannot write it down as I should like. I can tell you much better if you will write it down'.  He then made a statement which was used in part to prosecute Joseph Jones although he was himself convicted of robbery and sentenced to seven years.

The soldier that Oliver Imlay had met on the night  he was murdered and had been with him when he was killed had only just met him earlier that night.

A friend of Oliver Imlay that had known him for about two years, having met him in London, Ontario, said that Oliver Imlay had been at the Bearwood Convalescent Hospital in Wokingham at the same time that he was, noting that Oliver Imlay had been out to France. The friend said that on 3 November 1918 that he had a pass for a day whilst Oliver Imlay had a pass for ten days leave.

He said that on Saturday 3 November 1918 that he and Oliver Imlay travelled up to Waterloo together, noting that he saw Oliver Imlay draw £10 pay in the morning, and that they afterwards went to the station.

Oliver Imlay's companion, a private in the 87 Canadian Grenadiers, the reserve of which was based at Bramshott Camp near Guildford said that he met Oliver Imlay for the first time on the night of Thursday 8 November 1917 at the YMCA hut in Waterloo Road sometime around 6pm and that shortly after they left the hut together and went up the street towards the Union Jack Club where they turned left and walked down the street some distance and then turned into a public house, but could not say where the public house was, noting that he had never been there before.

He said that they later left together and met the Australian soldier who was later sentenced to ten years for assaulting them. They said that the soldier had been in uniform and said something to them about having no money and said that they all then went to get some coffee at the soldiers suggestion, going to a coffee stall nearby where they had some coffee and cakes which were paid for by Oliver Imlay.

He said that they then told the soldier that they were going back to the YMCA and that the soldier told them that he would cross the Blackfriars Bridge and go along the front and then cross back over Waterloo Bridge. He said that they then went over Blackfriars Bridge and along the Embankment and then onto waterloo bridge where they met another Australian, that being Joseph Jones and the man who turned King's evidence, who had two girls with them, one of whom he later identified at the trial.

He noted that neither he nor Oliver Imlay had ever seen Joseph Jones and the other man before. He said that the Australian soldier that they had been with then stopped and spoke to the two other men, but said that he didn't hear what they said.

He said that Joseph Jones then asked him and Oliver Imlay where they were staying that night and said that they both replied 'at the YMCA' where they had booked a room, and that Joseph Jones then suggested that he knew a better place where they could get some beer and they agreed to go there.

He noted that the two girls had gone on a little further and stopped when the soldier that they had been with earlier spoke to his two other friends.

He said that the five of them, the men, then all walked into Waterloo Road, noting that he thought that they went passed the Union Jack Club and then turned left down a very dark place. He said that they went some way down the alley, stating that Joseph Jones went ahead of them and then stopped and said, 'This is the place'. He said that at that time he had been walking with the first Australian soldier and that Oliver Imlay was a little behind him, he supposed with the other man.

He said that he didn't notice Joseph Jones go to any door. He said that Joseph Jones said that he hadn't any money and couldn't go in without having some, noting that he said that to him, at which point he was standing ahead of him and that he then gave him half-a-crown and Oliver Imlay also gave him something, but said that he didn't see what it was. He further stated that he couldn't say whether Joseph Jones's other two friends gave him anything.

He said that Joseph Jones then walked round to the back, at which time he said that Oliver Imlay was a little to his right and a little back and that Joseph Jones's other two friends were behind him, noting that he could not say whether they were also behind Oliver Imlay.

He said that after Joseph Jones had got to the back that he heard a dull blow and that he then turned to his right and saw Oliver Imlay fall, noting that he seemed to fall forwards on to his face. He said that he was then hit on the back of the head himself, to the right, and that the blow knocked him down and that he thought that he fell on his knees. He said that he tried to get up but that he got another blow on the back of the head, which he said seemed like a kick from a boot.

He said that he couldn't remember anything else until he met the police in the street. He said that he was then taken to St Georges Hospital by two soldiers and put to bed.

He said that the following morning he saw Oliver Imlay in bed at the hospital, noting that he was unconscious.

He said that he had had £7 in treasury notes on him at the time in his pay book and about 7/- or 8/- in silver besides and that he had not seen his pass or warrant card since 8 November 1918 and didn't see his pay book until it was in the possession of the police.

A night watchman employed by Pascall & Sons in Blackfriars Road and Valentine Place said that on the night of 8 November 1918 that he had been on duty in the warehouse in Valentine Place from 9pm to 4am and that between 11 and 11.30pm he heard a scuffling of feet in Valentine Place and that he opened the window on the first floor and looked out and saw five men who he took to be Australian soldiers. He said that it was very dark at the time and that the five men were in front of a pair of gates, 'Saunder's Gates'. He said that the gates were not quite opposite the window that he was looking out of, noting that as he was looking out of the window that they were to his left, about 20 feet up and 5 paces across. He added that the window that he was looking out of was at about the middle of the building.

He said that he couldn't distinguish whether there had been a civilian amongst the men. He later noted that he had assumed that they were Australians because they had been wearing capes and had Australian headdress.

He said that he then heard one of the men shout out, 'Now' and that one of the Australians, a man wearing an Australian hat, struck a man standing near the gate and the man fell backwards into the gateway and that he heard the man strike the ground.

He said that he then shouted, 'What are you doing there?'.

He said that he only saw one man struck. He said that he then shouted again and thought that he shouted 'What's your little game there' and that he saw two men run off towards the direction of Waterloo Road whilst another man went off towards Blackfriars Road.

He noted that when the man was knocked down that he saw one of the other men stoop over him whilst another man stood in front.

He said that when the men ran away that he made his way to the entrance and spoke to the other watchman and then went up to where he had seen the man knocked down. He noted that to reach Saunders Gateway that he had to pass Percivals Gateway.

He said that he then found a man lying in Sunders Gateway on his back with his head in the gateway and his feet in the road and that on the kerb there was a pool of blood.

He said that he then went towards Blackfriars Road and whistled for the police and that a policeman then came from Blackfriars Road and he spoke to him and took him to where he had left the man lying.

He said that as they did so they passed Percival Gateway at which point he noticed another soldier leaning against the gatepost and said that he thought that he was the first injured man, but couldn't say and didn't speak to him. He said that when he got to Saunders Gateway that the man he'd seen there earlier had gone. However, he saw a cap there and picked it up and gave it to the policeman, but couldn't say whether it was a soldiers cap, noting that it was a soft cap. He said that there was also some money on the ground and that he picked it up and put it in the cap.

He said that from the time that he left the man in Saunders Gateway until he came back was only 3 or 4 minutes. He added that Saunders Gateway was about 50 to 60 yards from Percivals Gateway.

He said that when he found the man gone from Saunders Gateway he went back to Percival's Gateway but found that the man that he had seen there previously had also gone.

He noted that there was a lamp about halfway between Saunders and Percival's Gateways and that on the same side of the road as Pascall's Buildings that there was a lamp that had been alight that night. He said that he had only been about 5 or 6 yards from where the men were and that the nearest lamp was about 10 yards from him to his left. However, he noted that the lamps were half-darkened and only gave out a very diffused light.

The trial took place at the Old Bailey between 14-15 January 1918.

Soon after it opened, the Australian soldier that turned Kings Evidence withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to robbing Oliver Imlay and his companion. After his plea was accepted the prosecution announced their intention of putting him in the witness box. He was later sentenced to 7 years.

When he gave evidence the following day, he said that he left the house in the Borough with Joseph Jones, but didn't know that he had a truncheon. He said that they walked the two Canadians to Valentine Place, off Blackfriars Road, the two men having been promised whisky. He said, 'Suddenly Jones pushed me aside with his left hand and I saw him strike Imlay with a stick. There was a dull thud, and Imlay fell. The other man then knocked Oliver Imlay's companion down with his fist, and Jones bent over Imlay and searched him, and I assisted. I took his pay book and papers and some money, including a 10s note. By that time Oliver Imlay's companion was trying to get up, and Jones hit him on the head with a truncheon. He again tried to rise to his feet, and Jones struck him a second time. A third time he rose, and the other man kicked him in the face'.

The other man was acquitted of murder, but found guilty of robbery with violence and was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude.

Joseph Jones was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was executed at Wandsworth Prison on the morning of Thursday 21 February 1918.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/171/2

see "The Murder Of A Canadian Soldier." Times [London, England] 16 Jan. 1918: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 13 July 2013.

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 21 February 1918

see Larne Times - Saturday 19 January 1918

see Forest Hill & Sydenham Examiner - Friday 18 January 1918