British Executions

William Rooney

Age: 51

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 7 Dec 1918

Crime Location: 44 Paddington, Liverpool

Execution Place: Manchester

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


William Rooney was convicted of the murder of his sister-in-law Mary Ellen Rooney 32 and sentenced to death.

He stabbed her in a shop at 44 Paddington, Liverpool on 2 November 1918.

Mary Rooney had been married to William Rooney's brother who had been serving in France, but after he was killed in action William Rooney started to force his attentions on her, but she rejected him.

One day in September 1918 he threatened to kill her.

Later, on 1 November 1918 he saw Mary Rooney talking to a soldier in the street and in a fit of jealousy he followed her into a shop where he struck her in the neck with a knife. There was then a struggle during which he stabbed her several more times.

William Rooney had been a dock labourer.

Mary Rooney had married a man 11 years earlier and had four children with him. However, the man was killed in 1915 and a year later she married William Rooney's brother. However, he too was killed in July 1918.

After his death Mary Rooney and her children lived with her mother in Elm Grove, Liverpool. She was described as a respectable, sober, hard working woman.

William Rooney had gone to live in the same street with his mother about two years earlier and after the death of his brother he began paying attention to Mary Rooney and asked her to marry him, which was described as being 'impossible', and Mary Rooney told him that she didn't want to marry anyone.

At that time she used to help her mother-in-law with the housework, but on one occasion in September 1918, because she refused to go to the pictures with him, William Rooney threatened her with a knife. She was seriously frightened by the incident and her uncle sent her away for a fortnight. her uncle also visited William Rooney over the matter, but William Rooney pretended to know nothing about it, and said that it must have been his brother who had threatened her.

On 1 November 1918 a young soldier visited Mary Rooney and her mother.

On the following morning William Rooney and Mary Rooney had a glass of beer together in a public house and seemed to be on friendly terms. Later that afternoon at about 3pm, Mary Rooney went out to get some eggs and whilst out she met her aunt. Soon after, the young soldier came up and spoke to them and whilst they were speaking the aunt saw William Rooney shake his fist at Mary Rooney.

Shortly after that, whilst Mary Rooney was in the shop buying some eggs, William Rooney went in and when Mary Rooney asked him what he wanted, he said, 'To take revenge', and stabbed her in the neck.

Mary Rooney fell and William Rooney dragged her out, her head breaking a window on the way. Mary Rooney, however, escaped, and ran across the street, but William Rooney chased her and stabbed her several more times.

He was then overpowered and Mary Rooney managed to stagger away and collapsed in an entry.

She died about an hour later in hospital.

She had a deep punctured wound on the right side of her neck and a severe slash on the left side, both wounds severing important structures. She also had a superficial cut across the front of her throat and a deep stab wound between the fingers of her right hand and several smaller cuts on her hands.

On the way to the police station William Rooney said, 'My younger brother was killed only four months ago and I saw something last night and I stayed off work this morning and saw the same thing again'. It was thought that he had apparently been referring to the young soldier having visited and spoken to Mary Rooney.

At his trial the only defence was the suggestion of insanity based on his families bad history, and the alleged absence of motive.

However, doctors found no signs of insanity about him, and no mental defects were noted in his record.

It was noted that he had served six months in 1912 for wounding and four months in 1916 for assaulting a police constable.

Regarding the motive, it was submitted that the motive was jealousy, it being noted that William Rooney had said, 'revenge', upon Mary Rooney refusing to become his mistress.

As such, the police report to the Home Secretary stated that they saw no grounds for a reprieve or interference with his sentence and he was executed on 7 December 1918 at Manchester.

Paddington was a road that ran from Brown Hill to Holland Place but has now been fully redeveloped.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/281, HO 144/1505/372419

see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 25 November 1918