Date Of Execution: 19 Feb 1901
Crime Location: 23 Venour Road, Bow, London
Execution Place: Newgate
Executioner: James Billington
Samson Silas Salmon was convicted of the murder of his cousin Lucy Smith 32 and sentenced to death.
He cut her throat at 23 Venour Road, Bow, London on Saturday 16 December, 1900.
Samson Salmon had been lodging at 23 Venour Road while he had been working at a local chemical works. He had been there since the beginning of 1899 and had been paying 13/- a week. However, he later lost his job and began drinking and although he was allowed to stay at 23 Venour Road whilst he had no money, he became argumentative and violent and was asked a couple of times to leave and had once been thrown out.
On 10 December 1900 Samson Salmon hit several people including Lucy Smith and a neighbour and even though he had a knife they managed to throw him out. However, he later returned to the house and climbed over the wall. He was allowed to stay but the next day he said that he was going to leave and look for work away from London.
He returned on 15 December and climbed over the wall again and when Lucy Smith came out to throw some ashes away he followed her back into the house and they had an argument and he hit her and then cut her throat.
It was later heard that he had believed that the landlord had previously had an improper relationship with the wife of a lodger that had previously lodged at 23 Venour Road
Lucy Smith's husband said that Samson Salmon came to live with them in April 1900 at which time he and Lucy Smith and their little daughter were living there as well as another child cousin who occasionally lived with them.
He said that when Samson Salmon first came that they had lodgers on the first floor but that they only stayed a short time after he arrived and that they were succeeded on the first floor by another couple. However, it was the wife of the original lodgers that Samson Salmon later claimed that the landlord had had an improper relationship with, although his delusion was not clear and it only became known after the murder.
Lucy Smith's husband said that when Samson Salmon came to the house that he believed that the arrangement was for him to live there although he was not in work at the time. He said however that Samson Salmon got work after that, but not continuously.
He said that Samson Salmon went away in September to Tanbury North to find work. He noted that his relations with him had been of a very friendly character.
He said that he and his wife and the little girl slept in one room on the ground floor and that Samson Salmon slept on the same floor in a bedroom that was just off the yard behind the kitchen which was accessible by a passage at one end of which was the front door and at the other end the yard door.
He said that Lucy Smith's relations with Samson Salmon were affectionate and friendly, as were his and that there was no quarrel of any kind.
He said that Samson Salmon drank lemonade and that as far as he knew, up until September 1900, he did not take any alcohol, noting that he never saw any sign of it.
Samson Salmon returned to 23 Venour Road in October 1900 and got work until around November 1900 with the exception of two or three days. Lucy Smith's husband said that they never took any notice if he didn't meet his payments, such were the relations between them. He said that things went on like that until 10 December 1900. He said that on that morning that he went out to work as usual and that when he came back for dinner, that when he entered the house he saw Samson Salmon coming downstairs as if from the other lodger's room, noting that he looked so strange that he asked, 'What does this mean?'.
He said that he could not remember what Samson Salmon's response was, but did say that Samson Salmon called him a miserable old b--.
He said that when he went into the kitchen that Samson Salmon took up a knife and held it over his head and said that he would take one of their lives, noting that he said that more than once and gave no reason.
He later noted that Samson Salmon didn't mention anything at the time about his relationship with the wife of the previous lodgers that had been at the house before Samson Salmon arrived, stating that Samson Salmon didn't say that he had taken her a cup of tea, although he later said that he had, and that Samson Salmon didn't draw any inference from that or mention anyone’s name. He added that there was nothing in the smallest degree improper in his relations with the wife of the previous lodgers.
He said that Samson Salmon then said to him, 'I want a cup of tea', and that he replied, 'I will make it for you', but said that Samson Salmon replied, 'Lucy shall make it' and then called up to his wife to come downstairs. He said that she had been in the other lodger's room at the time and that she came down at once and put some water on the fire.
Lucy Smith's husband said that he then went out, leaving them alone but that he went back in about two or three minutes later and that when he returned he said that he heard Lucy Smith tell Samson Salmon that if he did not leave off talking she would not make it. He said that a short time afterwards she left the kitchen and went up to the lodger's room and that he and Samson Salmon were left in the kitchen.
He said that Samson Salmon commenced making words again but said that he did not remember what he said. However, he said that Samson Salmon pushed him by the arm with his hands and then slapped him in the face, but he said nothing. He said that Samson Salmon then took a knife again and lifted it up over his head and said that he would have one of their lives. He noted that that second scene lasted up to dinner-time. However, he said that Samson Salmon didn't have any dinner as there was no dinner through the upset.
He added that he didn't go back to work and kept at home for his wife's protection. He said that it struck him that Samson Salmon was very strange and thought he had been drinking whisky because he had seen some on the drawers in his bedroom when he first went into the house at 4pm, noting that it was a half-pint bottle that was about half full when he went into the house about noon.
He said that one of the lodgers from upstairs came home at 1pm, the man. He said that he went upstairs first and then came back down into the kitchen where his boots were and that Samson Salmon wanted to fight him and slapped his face with his open hand.
Lucy Smith's husband said that after that had gone on some time he said that he should not stand it any longer and that he should turn him out, and that the lodger then went out in search of a constable and one came shortly after.
He said that Samson Salmon then went away. He said that at first he went out of the house for about half-an-hour and that when he returned he let himself in with his latch key, but that he and the lodger both put their hands on his shoulders and turned him out. However, he said that Samson Salmon demanded a week's board, which was 13s, and said that he gave him the whole lot of it and that Samson Salmon then gave him his latch-key and went away.
He noted that there was also a conversation about a week's notice about the middle of the passage at about 6 or 7pm.
He said that sometime after that he had been in the wash house when he heard something like the rippling of falling stones in the back yard and said that when he went into the kitchen he heard a noise in the back yard and that when he went to see that he saw Samson Salmon on the wall just above the water-closet. He said that he asked, 'What are you doing here?', but noted that he didn't remember what Samson Salmon said, but said that Samson Salmon then jumped off the wall, noting that there was some old barbed wire fencing that ran along the top of the wall.
He said that he then went back into the house by the back door and that Samson Salmon followed him into the passage and said that he was going to sleep in the house, or rather that he would sleep in the cellar and that he then went down to the cellar.
He said that his manner was the same as usual. However, he said that he called the lodger down and whispered to him and that as a result they sent for a constable a second time to whom they spoke to after which they went into the cellar and told Samson Salmon that he could lie as quietly in his own bed, meaning in his own room, and he left the cellar and went upstairs to his room.
He said that Samson Salmon told him that he could lock him in his room, which he did, stating that he turned the key upon the outside of the door and took it out, adding that he remained there that night, and was quiet.
He noted that he had asked Samson Salmon at about noon about the whisky, stating that he called his attention to a bottle of whisky and said, 'What does this mean?', pointing to the bottle with the spirit in it.
He said that he got up at about 5.16am the following day, 11 December 1900, and that as he passed Samson Salmon's door that he asked for some water and said that he took him some and unlocked the door.
He said that Samson Salmon wanted to know where Lucy Smith was and said that he told him that she was not in, stating that as a fact, she had not stopped there that night. He said that she had gone to sleep at a cousin's in Canal Road, noting that that had been arranged after Samson Salmon had come back to the house.
He said that Samson Salmon told him that he felt bad.
He said that he then left him and went back to his room at about 7am, although he said that he asked Samson Salmon if he wanted a cup of tea and that he said that he did and he fetched him one. He said that when he brought him the tea he said, 'You had better bring Lucy round', or something to that effect, 'and let us have it out, and bring all the witnesses you like'. He said that he told him that he didn't want any witnesses, but said, 'I will go and fetch her', and that he then went to Canal Road and made some communication to her and that they then returned to Venour Road and that Lucy Smith followed him into the kitchen.
He said that Samson Salmon was there and that he asked her how she was, or something of that kind, to which he said he thought she replied, 'Pretty well', but could not remember.
He said that Samson Salmon kept on talking and bringing up things, as if he was trying to annoy them, but said that they took no notice of it.
He added that he thought that he threatened Lucy Smith and himself as well as their little daughter and that he would have one of their lives, noting that that kind of talk lasted about an hour.
He said that he went into the back yard and that Lucy Smith remained in the kitchen.
He said that Samson Salmon left at about 11am, and appeared to be sorry and was crying, noting that he thought that he said he was sorry but that he was not sure. He said that he said good bye to Lucy Smith and seemed to be sober.
He said that on Wednesday 12 December that he went to work and came back for dinner as usual and that at about 12.45pm Samson Salmon knocked at the front door and told him that he had passed the night on a barge and asked for a change of clothes and something to drink. He said that he got him some lemonade and left him on the pavement outside, adding that he told him that he could not come into the house any more to sleep.
He noted that Lucy Smith was with him then and that he said he would have one of their lives and then said goodbye to them and then asked if he could kiss Lucy Smith and he said that he could and he kissed her and showed some tears, and went away.
He said that after Samson Salmon left that he went off to work, going along Harford Street, and said that he overtook Samson Salmon and walked by his side and asked him not to come to the house again. He said that he told him that he should go to the powder mills in Waltham, and try to get work there, noting that he knew that he had been employed there a short time before.
He said that when he then left him he said, 'Don't come again, on account of the children', and that Samson Salmon said, 'No. no', referring to his daughter and another little child they were taking care of.
He said that on the Thursday, 13 December 1900 that he received a letter that his wife read to him, and that he then threw it into the fire. He said that it came from Samson Salmon and bore the Waltham postmark on the envelope. He said that the writer said he would let them know how he got on and that it had ended, 'I do not know how to sign myself'.
He said that on the Saturday, 15 December 1900 that he left for his work as usual.
He noted that from the Wednesday to the Saturday, another cousin of his wife had occupied Samson Salmon's bedroom for three nights.
He said that he returned home for breakfast at about 8am. He said that he opened the door with a latch-key, and walked towards the kitchen, and said that as he reached the steps leading to the room Samson Salmon had occupied, Samson Salmon came towards him and said, 'Fetch a policeman'. He said that as he then looked through the kitchen door that he saw Lucy Smith lying flat upon the floor on her back, in what seemed to be a pool of blood.
He said, 'What have you done it for?', and said that Samson Salmon replied, 'It is all through you'. He said that he then left the house, and returned with a constable and took him into the kitchen. He said that Samson Salmon was sitting on a chair near to where Lucy Smith was still lying.
He said that a second constable was then said to be requisite, and that he went out for him and said that a doctor came soon afterwards.
He said that he was then told that Lucy Smith was dead.
He later identified a knife as one of their knives that Lucy Smith would lay on the table, but said that he did not know the clasped one that was also found.
He later said that he thought that Samson Salmon and Lucy Smith had known each other as children and that they had grown up together.
He added that he had never had reason to complain of Samson Salmon's conduct before 10 December and that he had never before noticed anything strange in his manner.
He noted that one Sunday morning in October that Lucy Smith told him that she took a razor from him as she thought he was going to cut his throat. He said that he saw him afterwards quietly lying on the bed and that a little time afterwards Lucy Smith told him that he had asked for the razor and then smashed it up before her. He added that Samson Salmon had told her that a member of the family had died in a lunatic asylum.
One of the lodgers said that she had gone to 23 Venour Road in May 1900, at which time Samson Salmon had been living in the house. She said that on 10 December 1900 that she heard Samson Salmon call Lucy Smith a foul name and that Lucy Smith then came upstairs into her room crying. She said that Samson Salmon followed her and sat down. She said that soon after Samson Salmon had been in the kitchen he got up and smacked her face three or four times, noting that Samson Salmon was mad drunk. She said that Samson Salmon said that if he had a revolver that he would shoot the pair of them.
She said that she then asked Samson Salmon why he had struck Lucy Smith and said that he told her that if she interfered he would serve her the same. She said that he tried to get him to go to bed but that he would not and said that the first man who came into the house he would black his eyes. She said that Lucy Smith then asked him what her husband had done that he was going to do that for and said that Samson Salmon said that he would show him when he came in and that he then took a bottle of whisky out of his pocket, pulled the cork out, and threw the contents in Lucy Smith's eyes.
The woman said that Lucy Smith cried and that she then asked him why he had done that and said that Samson Salmon then put the bottle back in his pocket and then smacked Lucy Smith in the face with his open hand.
She said that Samson Salmon then asked for a knife but said that she told him that she didn't have one.
She said that she then went down to answer a knock at the door and was followed down by Lucy Smith whilst Samson Salmon stayed sat on the box in the kitchen.
The woman noted that she paid someone that had called for the rent and that Samson Salmon then called them up to him and that they went upstairs again to find Samson Salmon still sitting where they left him.
She said that Lucy Smith then noticed a table-knife on the table, with a piece of brown paper over it, noting that it was not there when they went downstairs and that it was normally kept in the dresser-drawer.
She said that Lucy Smith's husband then came in to dinner at about midday, noting that they had been with Samson Salmon from about 10.30am to 12 midday. She said that when he came in that Samson Salmon rushed downstairs, saying that he was going to black his eyes.
She said that Samson Salmon and Lucy Smith's husband then went into the downstairs kitchen whilst she stopped upstairs with Lucy Smith. She said that her husband then came home for dinner and that Lucy Smith spoke to him and that he then went downstairs, after which she could hear them expostulating and saw Samson Salmon strike Lucy Smith's husband in the passage.
She said that a constable was then fetched and Samson Salmon was put out.
She noted that she thought that she saw Lucy Smith's husband give Samson Salmon half a sovereign and then saw him come back and ask for another four shillings.
She said that Saturday 15 December 1900 that her husband went to work at about 6am, but that she didn't get up.
She said that she then heard Lucy Smith scream at about 7.30am. She said that it was just a scream and that as she was not feeling well she listened. She said that she was too ill to go out of the room, but then got out of bed but heard nothing more. She said that she then got dressed and went outside her room at about 7.55am and that afterwards Lucy Smith's husband came in and that she heard him ask, 'What are you here for?', and then heard Lucy Smith's husband rush out of the house after which the police arrived.
She said that after the police arrived that she heard Samson Salmon call Lucy Smith a b---y wh---e.
She noted that previous to that that she had always found that Samson Salmon respected Lucy Smith, stating that he had seemed to have always been an inoffensive man. She added that his condition at that time appeared to be due to something besides the actual consequences of drink, which was why she had used the expression, 'mad drunk'. She said that she had never seen anybody even under the influence of drink in such a state before, stating that he had apologised for assaulting her husband, and said he was sorry, in the passage, and that he had seemed sorry, but was then violent again.
The other lodger, the woman's wife, said that he was a barge builder at that on 10 December 1900 that he had come home for his dinner to find his wife and Lucy Smith in the kitchen and Samson Salmon downstairs the worse for drink. He said that Lucy Smith said something to him and he went downstairs and that he then met Samson Salmon as he came in from the back yard with an ordinary table-knife in his hand. He said that he asked him what he was going to do with it but that he made no reply and went into the kitchen.
He said that he followed him and that Samson Salmon then asked him what he meant by asking him about the knife and said that he told him that he thought that it was rather dangerous for him to have one in his possession.
He said that they then tried to persuade him to go into the bedroom and that after a while he went in there but didn't remain there for very long.
The barge builder said that he then went upstairs and that when Samson Salmon came out that Lucy Smith came down and that he then heard Lucy Smith's husband call out for him and that when he went downstairs he saw Samson Salmon strike Lucy Smith and her husband with his open hand and then call Lucy Smith names and threaten to do for them.
He said that Samson Salmon then went into his bedroom again and then came out and the same thing was renewed and that Samson Salmon then struck him, stating that it appeared intentional but that afterwards Samson Salmon said he was sorry for what he had done and asked him to shake hands, which he did.
He said that Samson Salmon then went into his bedroom again and that they then got Lucy Smith out of the house after which Samson Salmon came back out of his bedroom.
He said that Lucy Smith's husband then asked him to lend him 10s, which he did, after which Lucy Smith's husband then gave it to Samson Salmon and then gave him another 3s.
He said that he then turned Samson Salmon out of the house, Lucy Smith's husband and a constable being present at the time.
The barge maker noted that he saw a bottle of whisky in the kitchen which he said Samson Salmon took into his bedroom with him.
However, he said that Samson Salmon came back between 3.30 and 3.45pm, letting himself in with a latch key and that they went for a constable again at 5.30pm. He noted that Samson Salmon had been turned out at about 3.45pm and that when he returned at 5.30pm that he got over the back way.
He said that at first Samson Salmon went down into the cellar but that Lucy Smith's husband eventually persuaded Samson Salmon to go into his bedroom where he was locked in.
He said that he next saw Samson Salmon on Saturday 15 December 1900 in the morning. He said that he went off to work at 6.05am and returned at about 8am and found the door wide open. He said that he then met his wife in the kitchen and that Lucy Smith's husband came in with a policeman and that he followed them into the back room where he saw the body of Lucy Smith lying on her back in a pool of blood.
He said that when the police constable asked Lucy Smith's husband, in Samson Salmon's hearing, who had done it that Lucy Smith's husband said, 'That man did it', pointing to Samson Salmon who was sitting on a chair in the kitchen about 2 or 3 feet away of Lucy Smith, noting that Samson Salmon didn't appear to be agitated. He said that Samson Salmon then said, 'I did it, and I will swing for it', and was quite calm and he thought quite sober. He said that he thought that Samson Salmon had killed Lucy Smith out of spite.
When he was cross-examined, he said that when he had gone into the kitchen he had gone in to protect Lucy Smith and her husband and that he was only there for a couple of hours. He noted that he saw Samson Salmon's behaviour and his condition and thought that he appeared to be mad drunk. He said, 'He was like a madman. His condition was unusual, he was very violent. I cannot say I have ever seen any man under the influence of drink behave so'.
The police constable that arrived at 23 Venour Road at about 8am on 15 December 1900 said that he found Lucy Smith dead in the back kitchen, lying on her back on the floor with a lot of blood there and Samson Salmon sitting on a chair by her side. He said that Samson Salmon was calm and quiet and that when he asked who did it Samson Salmon, said, 'I did it, and I will swing for it'. He said that they then took Samson Salmon to Bow Road police station in a cab.
A doctor, a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, said that he arrived at 23 Venour Road at about 8.05am and found Lucy Smith lying on her back in the kitchen, fully dressed, noting that her clothes were not displaced. He said that she had a large severe gash in her throat, almost from ear to ear and that she was quite dead.
He said that there was a pool of blood on her left, and another on her right, that had come from the wound, and noted that all the tissues of the vessels were divided right down to the spinal column and that there were three or four indentations in one of the vertebra.
A divisional surgeon at Bow who was also called out to 23 Venour Road following the murder said that he later examined Samson Salmon in the dock at Bow Road Police station and found that he was morose, quiet and dejected and said that he didn't speak. He said, 'I examined the accused in the dock, he seemed strange and dejected, he did not appear to realise the gravity of his position'.
Other evidence was heard at the trial that related to Samson Salmon's uncle who died from brain disease. his father said that Samson Salmon was one of eight children and that two of the children had been born deaf and dumb. He said that Samson Salmon lived with him until he was 18-years-old at which time he went into the marines.
Another relative said that she had married Samson Salmon''s father's brother and had ten children with him, three of whom died from paralysis in infancy and six who were born dead. She said that her husband had been sober and kind until a change came over him and that for three years he got worse and worse, and it was found necessary to remove him to an asylum. He said that he had been fond of one of their children, a 10-month-old infant, until the change came over him and one day she found him standing over it with a table-knife, stating that she had it out of his hand before he had time to do anything and that he had looked silly and that she thought he was going to kill the child. She said that he had always been rubbing up knives and would take one to bed and that he was eventually removed to an asylum where he stayed from June 1895 to August 1899, but that after his discharge he got worse again and was taken back to the asylum in February 1900.
The father of the child that died from brain disease said that the child had been 12-years old and was mischievous and troublesome and later sent to a reformatory but that he later had a fall and died in Hereford Infirmary where it was discovered that he had had a brain disease, noting that his death certificate stated that his death had been due to tuberculosis of the brain.
However, a doctor that examined Samson Salmon said that he saw him on 4 and 7 January 1901 and discovered no evidence whatever of insanity. He said that he seemed to be suffering from no delusion and that there was no history of epilepsy and that in his opinion his mind on 15 December 1900 was perverted from the effects of drink after a long abstinence and trouble combined and that he thought that he would have known the quality of any acts that he did. He added that he saw nothing to make him think that he would have not known that the act he had committed was wrong.
When he was cross-examined, he said, 'The first time I saw him was about three weeks after the crime, the only direct evidence I can give is from what I saw of him on January 4th and 7th. I looked out for any possibilities indicating insanity, not especially for delusions. I talked to him about his act. if there are any delusions they generally come out. I should say the act was the act of a man whose mind was perverted by insanity or by drink and trouble combined. I know the prisoner was accusing the husband of having improper relations with a lodger. I have seen the letter from the prisoner; I consider it unreasonable to a certain extent. I see that it does not make sense, but that bears out my supposition that his mind was confused by drink. I think he was under the influence of drink when the act was done to a certain extent. I do not mean he was drunk in the ordinary sense of the word, but that his mind had been altered and warped by the effects of drink.
I think that, looking at his history and his mental condition, on the 15th his mind was not in its normal condition. There is insanity, quite apart from any delusions at all, which may take a homicidal course. It may come on and go off very suddenly.
I do not know Dr Luff's book on Medical Jurisprudence. I agree that changes take place. I do not understand what he means by 'The first alteration is the change of temperament'. I agree that emotions change, and persons may acquire a dislike or hatred for persons they were formerly attached to, especially when the insanity comes on slowly. Impulsive insanity is implied in cases where the patient is driven to acts of violence, he being for the time overpowered. The characteristic feature of that form of insanity is an uncontrollable impulse to take life, and the impulse is frequently directed to those who are dearest, but they do the act through some delusions. There must be insanity in the minds of persons doing acts like that, but I think there must be delusions at the back of it, and there must be a motive. If a person has a bad disposition, that must be taken into consideration, and it was so by me. I think that the majority of cases in which the persons give themselves up and confess to the crime are cases in which the act has been committed by an insane person.
Syphilis may be the cause of insanity if it affects the brain. I know the prisoner has been complaining of pains in his head, and I know he was discharged from the Marines suffering from syphilis, which had not been cured. Syphilis was apparently the cause of the insanity of his uncle. If a man with a tendency to insanity in his family leads a sober and quite life, he may get through life without it developing. There have been cases in which people undoubtedly insane have committed crimes, although no trace of delusions have been found. I remember the case of Dr Powell. I saw him at Broadmoor. No trace of insanity was found in him.
I know Dr Savage's book. I agree that in impulsive insanity there is oftentimes very little to be found wrong with the patient before or after a crime has been committed, but I believe careful investigation would always show that there was a change.
I have made a special study of insanity for something like 35 years, three years at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where I was assistant medical superintendent. I always make an absolutely impartial inquiry. I should be unwilling to accept an act as an insane act in which no trace of insanity could be found either before or after'.
Samson Salmon was convicted at the Old Bailey on 29 January 1901 and executed on 19 February 1901 at Newgate.
It was reported that when he was told of the date of his execution he had said, 'The sooner it's all over the better'. At his execution he was said to have offered no resistance to the hangman and to have remained gloomy and sullen to the last.
His execution was noted for having been the first during the reign of King Edward VII.
Venour Road has since been demolished but was just south of Mile End Road where the park is today, west of Burdett Road. It went right through the eye of the pond in the park.
see National Archives - HO 144/568/A62391
see Old Baily Online
see Globe - Tuesday 19 February 1901