British Executions

Ronald Roberts

Age: 28

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 10 Feb 1943

Crime Location: 2G Brig Street, Barrow-in-Furness

Execution Place: Liverpool

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


Ronald Roberts murdered Nellie Pearson 37 who he battered and stabbed at 2G Brig Street, Barrow-in-Furness on 5 October 1942.

Nellie Pearson worked for the Midland Clothing Company Club and her job was to go from home to home collecting payments. Her last customer was the woman who lived at 2G Brig Street where at the time Ronald Roberts was staying. she had been a member of the Club for about 2 years. On 5 October 1942 she called at the address to make a collection where he beat her to death. Her normal collection time was between 4-4.30pm on Mondays. When the woman was at work she would give the money to Ronald Roberts to give to Nellie Pearson.

He told police making enquiries that he had been out at the cinema at the time but they found her body behind a camp bed that he had placed in an alcove several weeks earlier. When police found her she had been dead 2-3 days. She had been stabbed in the neck and hit on the head with a hammer. The cause of death was a slow haemorrhage. the neck wounds were caused several hours after the head wound and it is thought that he inflicted them when he thought that she was not quite dead.

He had also removed her knickers and cut her blouse and rolled her skirt up to her waist although it is not known why.

The court heard that he had been short of money before the murder and had planned it to steal her takings. It was thought that he had planned to murder Nellie Pearson on 28 September but he had been foiled when Nellie Pearson met the woman who lived in the flat on the stairs making it unnessessary for her to go to the flat where Ronald Roberts was waiting for her.

The woman who lived at 2G Brig Street was living seperate to her husband and shared the flat with Ronald Roberts who had been there for 2 years. she also had a son who lived with her in the flat as well. They pooled their money together to pay household expenses and the rent. The woman slept in the big bedroom, her son in the small bedroom and Ronald Roberts slept in the kitchen or the living room.

The woman said that Ronald Roberts had put the camp bed out 2-3 weeks before the murder after complaining of pains in his legs. The prosecution said that he put the camp bed out as part of his plan to kill Nellie Pearson who he was going to hide beneath it. At first he had started sleeping on the floor on some cushions but later used the camp bed which he would put in the corner of the big bedroom after he had finished sleeping in it.

The woman said that on 27 September Ronald Roberts told the woman that he had got a coupon up in the Unity pool and was waiting for a cheque. At first he said he had won £4. 4. 0. but later told her that he had got 2 lines right and had won £8. 8. 0. On 2 October he told the woman that he had been to McAleese's  but they could not change the cheque and so he had gone to Hill's and they were going to change it for him.

On 5 October 1942 the woman got home t 5.10pm and found the door locked and so she sat on the stairs and waited for Ronald Roberts to return. She said that when they went inside his hands seemed to be shaking and his nerves seemed bad. the woman noticed that the cards were on the table and so she asked if Nellie Pearson had been and Ronald Roberts said 'No, I've been to the pictures', or something like that. the woman said that she saw that Ronald Roberts had £6 in his hand and he said that he had been to the shipyard. They then had some tea and after Ronald Roberts gave the woman £1 and then tey went to the pictures. When they went out Ronald Roberts locked the door and the woman asked how her son would get in and Ronald Roberts said that they would be back before him. When they got back they went out the the Royal.

The next day on 6 October the woman went out to work and when she came back for lunch she found Ronald Roberts cutting up soap, a mauld soap which was a disinfectant and when she got home that evening she found that he had cleaned the living room, mopped the floor and made the beds so she had nothing to do. Later that night the woman went to her sisters and when she got back she went to bed.

The next day on 7 October  the woman went to work and after she got back they went out to the Royal with some friends and then to a Dance where Ronald Roberts brought drinks and paid for the party into the dance.

The next day on 8 October the woman went to work and was visited at dinner time by her sister and friend who told her that Nellie Pearson was missing and that the last place she had been due to visit was 2G Brig Street. That night they went out to a dance and when they got back the police arrived shortly after at 9.05pm. They spoke to the woman and then asked to be left alone with Ronald Roberts and so she left the flat. Ronald Roberts said that he had left the pictures early but he said he had not seen Nellie Pearson and he showed them the cards which were unmarked. The police said they were not satisfied and asked if he had any objections if they searched the flat and Ronald Roberts said no. Using hand torches they searched the flat and found Nellie Pearson hidden behind the camp bed concealed in a recess.

Ronald Roberts was charged with murder and in court claimed insanity but was found guilty and executed on 10 February 1943.

see National Archives - ASSI 52/538, PCOM 9/964, DPP 2/1085

see True Crime Library