Date Of Execution: 25 Apr 1952
Execution Place: Liverpool
Executioner: Albert Pierrepoint
Edward Devlin and Alfred Burns, for killing a woman during a robbery in Liverpool. They claimed that they had been doing a different burglary in Manchester, and others involved in the crime supported this. A Home Office report rejected this evidence. Huge crowds gathered outside Liverpool's Walton Prison as they were executed.
One of the biggest arguments against a death penalty is that innocent people have been hanged in the past. We only have to think of individuals such as Timothy Evans, Derek Bentley and Hussein Mattan, to name but a few who were hanged, but later posthumously pardoned. In the judicial hall of infamy there are numerous examples of gross miscarriages of justice such as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Sheila Bowler, Stefan Kiszko; the list goes on and on. In Liverpool in the early 1950s, two young men were hanged for a murder in the Wavertree area, and local criminologist Keith Andrews believes the duo were innocent of the crime. First, here are the facts regarding this controversial murder case.
On the Sunday evening of 19th August 1951, a widow in her early fifties named Beatrice Alice Rimmer, left her son's house in Madryn Street, Toxteth. The time was 9.45 p.m., and Mrs Rimmer walked to the bus stop on High Park Street, accompanied by her son Thomas. In her gloved hands, Mrs Rimmer carried a bunch of flowers and an umbrella. The widow soon boarded a Number 27 bus that took her to Lodge Lane, where she stepped down from the vehicle outside the Pavilion Theatre. Mrs Rimmer then walked down Smithdown Road to her home at Number 7 Cranborne Road, arriving home around 10.10 p.m.
On the following day, Thomas Rimmer travelled to his mother's house, but before he reached the front door, Mrs Rimmer's neighbour, Jack Grossman, approached Thomas and drew his attention to the milk bottle on the front doorstep. It had been there since around six in the morning. Thomas Rimmer hammered on the door of his mother's house to no avail, so he looked through the letterbox and was alarmed to see what looked like a bundle of clothes behind the front door. Thomas went to the back of the house and climbed over the wall. The bottom kitchen window pane had been broken, yet strangely, Thomas noted that the glass shards were on the floor of the yard, outside the house. He climbed in through the broken window and found his mother in a large pool of clotted blood, just behind the front door. The umbrella was looped around her wrist and the bunch of flowers lay beside the corpse. The widow had died from an extremely violent attack that had left her with fifteen wounds. The police were baffled by the motive behind the crime, because nothing had been taken from the house, and even the gas meter was untouched. A police investigation was launched with teams of detectives working round the clock, but Liverpool Police soon reached a dead end - until Chief Superintendent Herbert Balmer suddenly claimed that a man serving time for a burglary at Walton Prison had told him who had committed the Cranborne Road murder: they were two Mancunian men; George Alfred Burns, aged 21, and 22-year-old Edward Devlin. The police alleged that Burns and Devlin had been half-way through a burglary in Manchester when they decided to travel to Liverpool to break into Mrs Rimmer's home. Old, minute bloodstains found on the coat belonging to one of the men was cited as evidence - even though it was not of the same blood-group as Mrs Rimmer. It was in fact blood from a fight in a pub. Rose Heilbron defended the Manchester men at their trial and told the jury that the evidence against Burns and Devlin was circumstantial - no one had seen them enter or leave the house. All the same, the two men were hanged in April 1952 at Walton Prison. Keith Andrews believes the real killer of Mrs Rimmer lived locally and knew the murder victim. 'Fifty years ago, two young men were, in my opinion, framed for the murder of Mrs Rimmer. I believe that even at this late stage, the identity of the true killer can still be uncovered,' says Keith, who is now researching the Cranborne Road murder. If you remember the murder, or any of the people who lived on Cranborne Road in the 1950s, please get in touch with me via the Merseymart, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org