British Executions

Charles Scott

Age: 28

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Nov 1899

Crime Location: South Place, Windsor, Berkshire

Execution Place: Reading, Berkshire

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


Charles Scott was convicted of the murder of Eliza O’Shea and sentenced to death.

He stabbed her and cut her throat from ear to ear on 3 September 1899 at their home at 39 South Place, Windsor.

When he was arrested, he said, 'I stabbed her first with a knife, and cut her bleeding throat from ear to ear with a razor'.

Charles Scott had been a glass blower. Eliza O’Shea had been employed at a laundry.

Eliza O’Shea's sister, who also lived in South Place said that Eliza O’Shea had been a married woman but that her husband had been away in India, serving in the army and that she had been living with Charles Scott for several months. She said that when Charles Scott was sober he acted all right, but when he was in drink he acted most cruelly towards her.

She said that on 2 September 1899 at about 4.30pm, she had been at home and was called by Eliza O’Shea to come across to her house. She said that she had been leaning out of one of the windows and Eliza O’Shea had exclaimed to her, 'O, do come down, he has broken my nose'. She said that she then saw her standing at her door with her nose 'all on one side' and bleeding very much.

She said that Charles Scott was in the house, he standing at one door and Eliza O’Shea at the other. She said that they stood for a minute or two and then began to quarrel and fight again, with Charles Scott using foul language towards Eliza O’Shea. She said that Eliza O’Shea then picked up a tea canister and struck Charles Scott with it and that he then threatened to cut her throat before the night was out.

She said that Eliza O’Shea then threw Charles Scott's tools in the fireplace.

She said that another sister then bathed Eliza O’Shea's nose whilst she attended to the wound on Charles Scott's forehead.

She said that they then let off quarrelling and that Charles Scott put his hat on and went out. Before he left, Eliza O’Shea told him that he had ruined her, adding, 'You tried to murder one poor woman before, and so you will serve me'.

She noted that she picked up two knives that had been lying on the floor and took them back to her house.

She said that later that same evening she had been in the Globe public house with Eliza O’Shea and her other sister where she later left her at about 10.50pm, that being the last she saw of her. She said that on her way home she met Charles Scott and her brother-in-law in Oxford Road standing at the corner near the Prince of Wales public house. She said that Charles Scott had been under the influence of drink at the time, but not drunk.

She said that she noted that her brother-in-law's hand was bandaged and she asked him what the matter was with it, but he didn't reply, however, she said that Charles Scott said, 'We have been fighting up street, and have been to the infirmary to have our wounds dressed'.

She noted that Charles Scott also told her that he would do for her before the night was out.

She said that she saw the body of Eliza O’Shea the following morning.

She noted that Eliza O’Shea would take her own part if a man hit her, stating that on one occasion she hit her husband with a cup and bit him on the leg whilst he had been squeezing her head between his legs.

She denied that Eliza O’Shea had told Charles Scott that she had put three men in hospital and would send him there before the day was out.

A police constable said that he had been on duty on the evening of 2 September 1899 with South Place being on his beat. He said that at about 10.30pm he saw Eliza O’Shea and her other sister in Oxford Road and that the other sister said to him, 'Will you look round South Place, as there might be a bother tonight'. He said he later visited South Place at 10.45pm and found everything quiet and a few minutes later saw Charles Scott who was under the influence of drink, judging by the way he was walking.

He said he saw him again at midnight in the door of his house with Eliza O’Shea and that each of them wished him goodnight.

He said he visited South Place twice more, the first time at 12.25am at which time everything was quiet, but on the second visit he heard voices at 39 South Place, but could not hear what was being said, but thought that they had been making up after a quarrel.

He later noted that he knew Eliza O’Shea, but not very well, and had never heard of her being thrown out of a public house.

A woman that lived at 38 South Place said that she saw Charles Scott leave his house at about 9.30pm or 9.45pm, noting that as he did so, Eliza O’Shea, who had been standing at her door threw a stone at him and that she heard Charles Scott say, 'I shall be glad to get away from a dirty ---- like you'.

She said that she went to bed at about 11pm and was later awakened by a scream at about 1.15am, noting that her bedroom adjoined 39. She said it was a slow scream and she heard Eliza O’Shea say, 'You won’t injure my life', which was followed afterwards by a heavy fall. She said that judging by the sounds she thought that Eliza O’Shea had been chased round the room and had fallen down the stairs and that she heard nothing more and went to sleep.

Another police constable said that at about 3am on Sunday 3 September 1899 he had been standing outside the police station when Charles Scott came up to him. He said that he said, 'Hullo Scott, what's up with you?' and that Charles Scott replied, 'Where’s all the policemen up our way?'. He said that he asked why and Charles Scott said, 'Come inside and I will tell you'. He said that they then went into the charge room and Charles Scott said, 'I have killed my old woman. Its right. I meant to do it. I told her I would'.

Another police constable then asked him whether he understood what he was saying and Charles Scott said, 'I stabbed her first with a knife, and cut her bleeding throat from ear to ear with a razor'.

The police then went to 39 South Place where they found a light burning and the front door unlocked and when they went in they found Eliza O’Shea at the foot of the stairs, just inside the door, lying in a pool of blood with a large gash in her throat and life extinct.

The police noted that Charles Scott's tools were scattered about the fireplace and the house was in a state of great disorder.

Charles Scott later said:

I did it in cold blood. She defied me to do it. I had two knives and a razor in my pocket all day. I have not made a mistake. She won't trouble anybody any more. I would have cut my head off, only my neck is too large.

Charles Scott was later convicted at the Reading Assizes on 11 November 1899 and sentenced to death.

Following his sentencing he wrote another statement:

I first became acquainted with Eliza O'Shea in October 1898. I had previously known her a neighbour for some years. My first acquaintance was formed in public houses where I often met the deceased she being then strongly addicted to drink. Previous to her marriage with O'Shea she had been the mistress of another man who is the father of her three children. Constant quarrelling led O'Shea to desert her and the man who was the father of the children would return to her at intervals.

He finally left her for good and at this time I have seen her in the deepest poverty and distress and often assisted her to the necessaries of life, through which acts she induced me to live with her. At times we progressed well together but when she gave way to the drink her conduct was of the most violent and dangerous kind. I have severe cuts and scars in dangerous places which were inflicted by her when under the influence of drink. A jealous madness seems to have possessed her at these times she would use any weapon at hand and has inflicted severe injury on others when in her drunken state.

This woman was a terror to the whole neighbourhood in which she lived. The police can testify to her dangerous conduct in Windsor for years past, on one occasion being in custody for a savage assault on her own sister. Such had been her conduct during the whole of the time I had lived with her and I had fully determined to leave her the following week.

On the day previous to the crime being committed she came to me at the Dukes Head and struck me violently in the face on the landlord remonstrating with her she likewise assaulted him. He blew his whistle for the police and had they arrived she would have been given in charge and so prevented this. She followed me home and for no reason whatever again struck me with some blunt instrument causing a wound of a serious nature over the left eye, the scar is still plainly visible.

I then left the house and did not return till 11 o'clock. When I arrived she refused to allow me to go upstairs . Her repeated assaults were beginning to tell on me and to save further interference I threw myself down on the floor of a spare room (used as a workshop) to sleep and had not laid down an hour before she came in and violently kicked me in the side. There upon I jumped up and we scuffled together and the knife and razor were on the floor with the tools which were scattered about. She picked up the knife and attacked me with it, stabbing at me and causing me to fear she would fatally injure me. In a maddened frenzy of passion I seized the razor with which I committed the act such a thought had never previously crossed my mind it was done in the heat of intense passion brought about by her aggravated assaults from which I could not escape.

On my trial the police constable stated in evidence that I told him I had carried a razor and knife about all that day with the intention of doing it. This is the grossest perjury as I never spoke to him in regard to anything of the kind and had I premeditated such an act I should not have carried such weapons with me all day while in a drunken condition nor should I have acted as I did afterwards.

In conclusion I can only say that it is the greatest wonder considering her desperate and vicious nature that she did not stand in my present position, as it is only by the merest chance she escaped.

The object of this statement is to lay before you the bare facts and to solemnly state before God and man that this act was not premeditated. It was done in a moment of frantic excitement of self-protection and I severely ask God’s forgiveness for it.

However, he was executed at Reading on 28 November 1899.

South Place has since been demolished, but the route of the street is still marked by the path, just south of the flats between Charles Street and Alma Road.

see National Archives - ASSI 6/34/3, HO 144/279/A61447

see Dover Chronicle - Saturday 09 September 1899

see Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 09 November 1899

see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 09 September 1899

see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 09 September 1899

see Illustrated Police Budget - Saturday 09 September 1899, p11

see National Library of Scotland