Date Of Execution: 7 Aug 1929
Crime Location: 68 Cannon Street, Newcastle
Execution Place: Durham
Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint
James Johnson murdered his wife Mary Annie Johnson at 68 Cannon Street, Newcastle on 12 May 1929. He cut her throat.
They lived in a tennented building at 68 Cannon Street, Newcastle in which they occupied three room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms.
In December 1928 James Johnson went to jail for 2 months for gambling and theft offences. When he got out he discovered that his wife had been cheating on him. This led to them starting to argue. It also led to tension between James Johnson and his lifes lover who later threatened to kill him in a latter, see below.
On 9 May Mary Johnson reported James Johnson to the police and whilst talking to them pulled out of James Johnson's jacket pocket a cutthroat razor which she said James Johnson was keeping for her.
On 12 May James Johnson cut his wifes throat and then turned on the gas to kill himself and their three children. However, a lodger in the same house called a neighbour after hearing a thump from within their rooms and they went to investigate. When they smelt gas they broke in and found James Johnson on a bed suffering from gas inhalation in a dazed state. Mary Johnson was found in the smaller bedroom dead with her throat cut. She was wearing a white nightgown. The children also survived.
The blood stained razor was found on a dresser in the bedroom where James Johnson was found.
When questioned James Johnson said 'Never! - my wife is not dead'.
James Johnson said that his wife had turned on the gas and then cut her own throat in a suicide bid but the court heard that when found his hands were covered in blood and that it was unlikely that she could have inflicted her throat wound herslf.
Below are two letters presented in court, the first from Mary Johnson's lover threatening to kill James Johnson and the second from James Johnson to a firend or relative.
Letter 1: Just a few lines to you cunt you dirty rotten bastard I was looking for you on Sunday on the bottom but you where not there. I have heard all about what you are going to do to me you dirty bastard well you will find me in the Royal Bar in Pudding Chair on Tuesday night that is tomorrow night and I hope you will turn up and fetch your pals and also the dirty rotten lying bastards that have been telling you a lot of fucking rotten lies about me but you dirty cunt you have got to have it out with me you can bring all your razor knives and bottles to me I will be ready for you there is a nice quiet arch there so dont forget to. what was the matter you could not say anything to me on Saturday night you rotten dirty fucking bastard you had not the fucking guts in you to speak you cunt but dont forget to come down there I will be waiting for you and bring the dirty fucker that has been telling you this stuff I will do him and all so dont forget to be there I will kill you stone fucking dead you bloody dirty bastard to accuse me of being with your wife I have my first wrong word to say to your wife yet I have always looked on her as a good sister to me but she is to good for a (torn) like you.. But you dirty minded rotten fucking lustful bastard you think everyone is like yourself every town you go to it is nothing else but looking for cunt if I was like you idle (torn) the doing you are going to get off the boys will be nothing to what you will get from me for that dirty fucking coppers letter you sent from Aberdeen about Grass the boys all know about it so you look out for them you dirty rotten bastard so I hope you will have the fucking guts to come to me well I will finish bastard.'
Letter 2: You know i have positive proof of my wife and him in bed together all night on one occassion if not more, but I have further proof that it has been going on for some time before he came to stay at my house with my wife for her own purpose you know what that was for improper purposes. My own daughters have told me about them sleeping together in the little room and she told them not to tell their father anything or they would be trashed. I only hope the scoundrel will be punished for the ruin he has done here. I cant get him as I want to and get her as well, so I am taking one out of the road. He has blackmailed her into this intrigue through threats about things that she was an innocent victim of and she has fell for it. Best of luck, Yours, Jimmy Johnson.'
see National Archives - HO 144/11357, ASSI 45/89/5, PCOM 9/276