British Executions

Alfred Highfield

Age: 22

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 17 Jul 1900

Crime Location: Great Queen Street, London

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Alfred Highfield was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Edith Poole 19.

He cut her throat in Great Queen Street, London on 13 May 1900.

They had been seeing each other for about six years and had been engaged to be married with a wedding date set for August 1900, however, they had had an argument and Edith Poole refused to see him anymore.

Edith Poole had been a domestic servant and at the time of her murder had been a housemaid at the Temple Bar Restaurant in the Strand.

Alfred Highfield had worked at Westminster Brewery and had also worked as a barman at various public-houses in London. However, he had recently left his job at the Westminster Brewery and it was thought that he had blamed Edith Poole for that. It was said that the reason that he had given was that he could not agree with his foreman. The brewery manager said that he gave Alfred Highfield a good character and that when he was asked to give his character in a telegram that he had replied 'Highfield is honest and can work', but that a spelling error had resulted in the telegram that was received reading, 'Highfield lowest, but can work'. However, the manager said that he intended to give Alfred Highfield a good character noting that his father had been in their employment 25 or 26 years and that his people were of great respectability.

Alfred Highfield was still friends with Edith Poole's family, her parents living at 15 White Horse Alley, Clerkenwell, and he was invited on 13 May 1900 for tea at Edith Poole's sister's house at 25 Margaret Street where-upon he asked Edith Poole to go back with him, but she refused.

After tea they all went out for a walk with Alfred Highfield and Edith Poole walking together at the back of the group.

However, as they walked along Great Queen Street, near Lincoln's Inn Fields and the Freemasons' Tavern at 61-65 Great Queen Street, Alfred Highfield attacked Edith Poole with a razor and cut her throat.

Her family turned around to see Alfred Highfield kneeling over Edith Poole and pulled him off.

Edith Poole was taken to hospital but died on 22 May 1900.

Edith Poole's sister said that on the Sunday, 13 May 1900 that she had expected Edith Poole to come to dinner with her at her house at 25 Margaret Street, Clerkenwell and that she arrived at around the middle of the day. She said that after having dinner that they spent the afternoon together with her husband and that Alfred Highfield came by at about 5pm to see her brother.

She said that she didn't see him come in but later noticed that he was in her brother's room and that she called him down. She said that when he came down that he shook hands with her husband and Edith Poole and then asked her, 'Why is it that you have not seen me?', but said that Edith Poole made no reply.

She said that they then all had tea after which Alfred Highfield asked Edith Poole whether she intended to go out with him any more to which Edith Poole replied, 'We had best part'. She said that Alfred Highfield then said, 'I am done', after which they all went out for a walk noting that as far as she was aware no one had invited Alfred Highfield to come.

She said that they went off in the direction of a woman's house that lived in Milman Street, Bedford Row but said that when they got there they found that she was not quite ready to go out and so they went to a public-house at the corner of Great James Street, Bedford Row, arriving between 7.30pm and 7.45pm and all had something to drink. She noted that when they had gone from Margaret Street to Milman Street that Alfred Highfield and Edith Poole had walked together behind the rest of the group.

She said that Edith Poole had a small glass of stout and that Alfred Highfield had a glass of mild bitter and that they were all there for about 15 minutes during which time she said that Alfred Highfield and Edith Poole had been together and had been talking together and seemed friendly although she noted that she couldn't hear what they were saying.

She said that the woman from Milman Street then came into the pub and had a drink and that they stayed for another five minutes before all heading off towards Great Queen Street.

She said that as they were walking along Great Queen Street that she heard the woman from Milman Street say something and that when she turned to look she saw Edith Poole on the ground and Alfred Highfield on top of her, saying that she thought that he was punching her.

She said that they then all ran towards Edith Poole and that she asked her, 'What has Alfred done to you:' but said that she didn't reply. She said that the woman from Milman Street then pulled Alfred Highfield off Edith Poole and that she then went up to Alfred Highfield and said to him, 'What have you done? You have killed my sister', to which she said that Alfred Highfield replied, 'I know what I have done, and I don't care if I die for it'.

She said that it was dark and that they couldn't see where Edith Poole was injured but said that someone then lit a match and they saw that she had blood running from her throat and that with the help of some other people they got her to King's College Hospital where she died on 22 May 1900.

When Alfred Highfield was arrested he said, 'I know what I have done. I don't care if I die for it'. However, he later claimed that he had pulled the razor out to cut his own throat and that he had accidently cut her throat whilst she struggled to stop him cutting his own.

When he was later seen at Bow Street police station by a police inspector, he said, ‘Three weeks ago I lost my situation at the Westminster brewery Company over that girl, she aggravated me tonight, and in a fit of madness I did what I did’.

Edith Poole’s sister said that she frequently saw letters that passed between Edith Poole and Alfred Highfield, saying that Edith Poole used to show them to her. At the trial she produced a number of the letters that she found in Edith Poole’s trunk.

She read out one from Alfred Highfield dated 19 April 1900 in which he was asking Edith Poole to meet him and forgive him for what had occurred earlier, as he was sure that if he had been as sober as he was then that he would not have said what he did, as nothing wrong had ever entered his head before.

She read out another letter that was written in May 1900 in which Alfred Highfield asked Edith Poole to write to him and tell him if she really wanted to part from him, stating that he had got a job at the stores in Victoria Street and that he had been going to start at a public house, but that he had got a very bad character from the brewery.

Another letter that had been found in Edith Poole’s pocket that was dated 4 May 1900 that was written from the Excelsior, Charing Cross Road, read, ‘I have heard from your former employer (Westminster brewery) and your character is very bad, unless you can explain that, it is no good your coming here on Saturday’, and on the back of it was written, ‘I have not received a letter from you, will you write, I am out of work through my character, but it is not for long, for I do try. Yours, ALF’.

When the manager of the Westminster Brewery gave evidence he said that the letter had been transferred incorrectly by the telegraph clerk and that he had meant to give Alfred Highfield a good character. He said that the reason that Alfred Highfield had wanted to leave was because he could not agree with his foreman and that he subsequently gave him another  character to another public-house, as he had wished to help him, stating that he thought that he had written that character on 12 May 1900 but thought that it arrived after the murder. He said that he was not sure if it was sent on 12 May 1900, noting that he had sent it to the proprietor of the Corner Pin public house at Strutton Ground, Westminster.

Alfred Highfield was sentenced to death with a strong recommendation to mercy but executed about eight weeks after killing Edith Poole on 17 July 1900.

The Freemasons' Tavern at 61-65 Great Queen Street, opposite which the murder took place, was later demolished in 1909 to make way for the Connaught Rooms.

see National Archives - HO 144/281/A61924

see Murder UK

see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 10 October 2015), June 1900, trial of ALFRED HIGHFIELD (21) (t19000625-406).

see True Crime Library

see The Encyclopedia Of Executions by John J Eddleston

see Wikipedia