British Executions

Valeri Giovanni

Age: 31

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Jul 1901

Crime Location: British Barque Lorton, High Seas

Execution Place: Bodmin

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Valeri Giovanni was convicted of the murder of Victor Baileff and sentenced to death.

They were crew members on the British barque Lorton, a merchant ship out of Liverpool. The ship had been to Hamburg and then to Portland, Oregon. It then went to South Africa, and then Australia and then to South America. The barque had had a crew of 21 and had left Hamburg for Portland on 1 April 1900.

Valeri Giovanni was picked up as a crew member in New South Wales, Australia and Victor Baileff was picked up as crew in Durban, South Africa.

However Valeri Giovanni and Victor Baileff didn't get along.

While in South America at Caleta Buena they had a fist fight which Victor Baileff won.

The ship left Caleta Buena on 7 December 1900 bound for Falmouth with nitrate for orders. The ship sailed round Cape Horn on 8 February 1901 and when they were 500 miles off the coast of Brazil, Valeri Giovanni went to see the captain, and through an apprentice who could speak Italian, complained that Victor Baileff and other seamen kept teasing him. The master then told him to go forward and said that if it occurred again that he would see to it and put it right.

On 15 February 1901 at about 5.30am, Valeri Giovanni and Victor Baileff were on the starboard watch and the second mate put them to wash down the deck. About an hour later the mate sent Victor Baileff to the fore hatch to repair the jib sail and Victor Baileff went immediately below.

At the same time the second mate ordered Valeri Giovanni to clean out the after lifeboat. For that purpose Valeri Giovanni had to get a bucket and brush and to fetch them he went to the forecastle hold.

Five minutes afterwards the mate heard a gasping sound or cry. When he ran forward with the carpenter and went down the he saw Victor Baileff lying back in a bending position and Valeri Giovanni holding a knife over him in his right hand and his left arm round Victor Baileff's back.

The mate said that whilst they were in that position that he saw Valeri Giovanni stab Victor Baileff in the region of the heart with the knife. The mate then shouted for the captain and Valeri Giovanni at once dropped the knife and ran aft between the decks. The mate then went to Victor Baileff's assistance and found him lying on the sail that he had been mending.

When he then opened Victor Baileff's shirt he saw several stab wounds and blood issuing from them, in the region of the heart, which he said gave two or three beats and then stopped and Victor Baileff lay back dead.

The captain then armed some of the crew with revolvers and went below to the mate who picked up the bloodstained knife and handed it to him.

Afterwards Victor Baileff's body was removed to the upper deck and on examination it was found that there were eight stabs, all, with one exception, in the region of the heart.

The master then mustered the crew and secured Valeri Giovanni, keeping him handcuffed until the vessel arrived at Falmouth.

Before the body of Victor Baileff was buried at sea, the captain had it brought to the door of the donkey-room, where Valeri Giovanni was detained, and through another man, asked him whether he had anything to say. Valeri Giovanni replied, 'I don't wish to see it any more, throw it overboard'. The interpreter then asked, 'Why did you kill him with the knife?', to which Valeri Giovanni replied, 'Revenge for Caleta Buena'.

At his trial it was noted that he had been the only Italian on board the vessel and had been friendless and had had a rough time of it. However, the judge noted that the claim that he had been frightened out of his senses for fear of violence from the crew, had not the slightest foundation. The judge concluded by saying, 'I cannot suggest that it was anything but a premeditated and dastardly murder, committed on a defenceless man who never had time to cry out before he was fatally stricken'.

Valeri Giovanni was convicted of murder at the Cornwall Assizes Monday on 17 June 1901 and sentenced to death and executed at Bodmin on 7 July 1901.

see National Archives - HO 144/570/A62691