British Executions

Walter Horsford

Age: 26

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Jun 1898

Crime Location: Stonely, Spaldwick, St Neots

Execution Place: Cambridge Prison

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Walter Horsford was convicted of the murder of his cousin Annie Holmes 38 with home he had had connections and made pregnant.

Walter Horsford was a farmer at Spaldwick, Huntingdon and Annie Holmes lived in Stonely, Spaldwick with her three children.

After they found out that she was pregnant Annie Holmes asked Walter Horsford if she could help her get rid of the baby. Walter Horsford said that at first he didn't know what to do and was anxious that his wife who he married on 14 October 1897 didn't find out. However, he had bought a shilling worth of strychnine from the chemists on 28 December to poison rats and decided that the best way to get rid of the embaressment of having had an illegitimate child would be to kill her and so he sent her some strychnine saying that it would bring about an abortion. He sent the strychnine by letter with instructions to take 'One dose. Take as told.' The empty label which was written in Walter Horsford's handwriting stated 'Take in a little water. Tis quite harmless. Will come over in a day or two'.

Annie Holmes took the strychnine in water on 7 January 1898 and soon died but not before telling her sister that Walter Horsford had done it to her.

The police also had handwriting experts who stated that the letters and instructions where in Walter Horsford's hand.

Walter Horsford denied the murder in court but after he was convicted and in the cells waiting for his execution he confessed in a letter for his wife saying that he did it to save the embarressment to himself and his family of having had an illegitimate child and lamented that al it had caused was a greater embaressment to everyone.

Walter Horsford was held at Cambridge Prison where he was to be executed. However, at the time the prison had no means to execute him. The issue was shelved until they were certain that he was going to be executed and tenders for its construcction put out for its construction within three weeks. It was finished in the course of a week and Walter Horsford had asked what all the continual hammering was and was merely informed that there was a new building in the course of erection.

see National Archives - HO 144/273/A59699