British Executions

Lester Augustus Hamilton

Age: 25

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 16 Aug 1921

Crime Location: 57 Cwmdare Street, Cardiff

Execution Place: Cardiff

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Lester Augustus Hamilton was convicted of the murder of his 17-year-old girlfriend Doris Appleton and sentenced to death.

He shot her at 57 Cwmdare Street, Cardiff on 12 February 1921.

Lester Hamilton had been a coloured man from Kingston in Jamaica and a marine fireman.

Doris Appleton had lived at 57 Cwmdare Street with her mother and a younger sister. Her mother had been a prostitute and was separated from her husband, who, in 1908, had been convicted of living on her earnings.

It was stated that it was quite clear that Doris Appleton's mother, and at any rate Doris Appleton, had been carrying on their business as prostitute at the time in Cwmdare Street and that the mother had been taking part of her daughter's earning.

For the  previous 13 months, Lester Hamilton had been 'keeping company' with Doris Appleton, and cohabiting with her between voyages and sometimes taking her on board his ship in port.

Lester Hamilton later said that she had become pregnant by him and had had a miscarriage.

He also said that Doris Appleton's mother had agreed to him marrying her daughter, but had told him that he had to wait until she was 18, however, her mother denied that.

However, it was noted from a bundle of letters later found that Doris Appleton had for some time been getting money from Lester Hamilton on the plea that it was necessary if she was to keep straight in his absence and to 'keep her mother quiet'.

However, since November 1920 Lester Hamilton had been out of work, and his supply of money had run short.

Lester Hamilton said that one time in December 1920 that Doris Appleton confessed to him that she had slept with a Japanese man the night before and that he had given her £3 and that she had given £1 of that to her mother. However, Lester Hamilton said that he forgave her.

On the evening of 11 February 1921 Doris Appleton and her mother went to a bar in Cardiff, and Lester Hamilton was also there, who said that Doris Appleton told him that she had slept with a Japanese man the night before.

Doris Appleton and her mother later left the bar, but Lester Hamilton followed them to Hayes Bridge where he saw Doris Appleton get on a tram for her home, but noted that he saw a Japanese sailor that he didn't know get on the same tram.

At the inquest he said that he then went back to his lodgings and got his gun and put it in his pocket, but at his trial he claimed that he had had the gun in his pocket the whole time.

He then picked up a coloured acquaintance in the street and they went to 57 Cwmdare Street. Lester Hamilton said that when they arrived that he saw Doris Appleton and her sister with the Japanese sailor in the living room. He said that he then knocked on the back door and saw the sister let the Japanese sailor out through the front door after which she opened the back door and let him in.

Then, after accusing Doris Appleton of having deceived him, he pulled out his pistol and fired three or four shots at her, the bullets taking effect in her mouth, brain and body, and she died a few hours later.

Lester Hamilton then ran out into the street and fired his last shot at his head, wounding himself severely and was partially paralysed as a consequence.

However, Doris Appleton's sister gave a different account of what happened. She said that Lester Hamilton called to his friend and asked him to come in and that Doris Appleton had asked:

Who are you asking in? What colour is he?

To which Lester Hamilton replied:

Same colour as myself.

After which Doris Appleton said:

Do not invite that kind of man into my mother's house.

Lester Hamilton then said:

Who are you insulting.

And fired at her.

However, it was thought that the account given by Lester Hamilton was probably the more correct of the two.

After having gone out and shot himself, Lester Hamilton ran up to a passer-by and said:

Mister, mister, I have shot myself. Take me to the police station.

He then handed the man his revolver and said:

Here's the revolver. I shot myself and shot my girl at 57 Cwmdare Street.

A police constable then took him in charge.

At his trial the jury recommended him to mercy, on account, according to the judge, of provocation, but according to the news reports, on account of the sordid surroundings of the tragedy.

However, the police report noted that Lester Hamilton must have known all along that Doris Appleton was nothing but a prostitute, with it being noted that he had made use of her as such, and that it was doubted that he had ever seriously intended to marry her. As such, it was submitted that there was no provocation in any sense of the word.

The police report to the home secretary concluded:

We have heard a great deal of the trouble that is caused in Cardiff by the association of coloured men with white women and also of the evils resulting from prostitutes resorting to ships. When a man shoots a prostitute in these circumstances merely because he finds that she is carrying on with other men to make her living, I do not think that mercy can properly be shown to him. I see no sufficient reason to interfere with the sentence.

There was no interference with his sentence and Lester Hamilton was executed at Cardiff on 16 August 1921.

see National Archives - HO 144/1707/422053