British Executions

Charles Richard Thomas Watkins

Age: 54

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 30 Jul 1901

Crime Location: 138 Old Road West, Gravesend, Kent

Execution Place: Maidstone

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Charles Richard Thomas Watkins was convicted of the murder of his Brother-in-Law Frederick William Acland Hamerton 46.

He shot him during an argument at William Hamerton's home at 138 Old Road West, Gravesend on Friday 5 April 1901.

Charles Thomas had married Frederick Hamerton's sister in January 1900 but they separated after only five weeks and his wife went back to live with her brother Frederick Hamerton.

A deed of separation was later drawn up but Charles Thomas later fell behind with the payments and received a summons to appear at court. After the hearing on 1 April 1901 Charles Thomas and Frederick Hamerton had an argument during which threats were made.

The next day Charles Thomas bought a revolver and 50 rounds and on 5 April he went to 138 Old Road West and when Frederick Hamerton opened the window they started arguing and  Charles Thomas then shot Frederick Hamerton three  times.

After the shooting Charles Thomas went across the road to sit down and have a cigarette while he waited for the police to arrive.

Evidence showed that there had been a long history of drink and family quarrels. When Charles Watkins and his wife married in January 1900 she was then in the family way by him and she gave birth to the child in June 1900.

They only lived together for about six weeks and in February 1900 a deed of separation was drawn up whereby Charles Thomas agreed to pay her 10/- a week and undertook not to molest her.

After leaving him, his wife lived at various places and finally went to live with her brother, Frederick Hamerton.

She had to summon Charles Thomas three times under the deed of separation and got judgement each time, the last time being 2 April 1901.

It was heard that Charles Thomas had been very excited and annoyed at the result of the action on 2 April 1901 and at his wife's having got an order for the arrests of maintenance. He also threatened Frederick Hamerton and said that he would knock the life out of him. He followed Frederick Hamerton and there was an altercation in the street. Charles Thomas and Frederick Hamerton faced each other. Charles Thomas had a loaded cane in his hand and he said to a police constable. 'Do you see this cane here, I have got it loaded and if he attempts to interfere with me I mean to let him have it'. 

However, they parted without coming to blows.

After the case was over Charles Thomas said to the man whose house his wife had been confined in and who still had charge of his baby, 'I will have my revenge', twice.

On the evening of 2 April 1901 Charles Thomas was in an excited state in the Jolly Sailor, and again on the following evening, 3 April 1901 when he produced a revolver, which he showed to various people and boasted about it, saying the government had provided him with it.

He had bought the revolver in London on the afternoon of 3 April 1901.

On the morning of 5 April 1901 it was said that Charles Thomas must have taken the revolver out of his box and fired it off, either accidently, or in order to try it, because when he soon after came downstairs from his room, he said to his landlady, to account for the noise, that he hoped he had not frightened her, as he had dropped something. However, his landlady said that when she went into his room she found it to be full of smoke, and when the police later examined the room they discovered that a bullet had been fired through the lid of his chest and had entered the wall behind it.

Charles Thomas arrived opposite William Hamerton's home at 138 Old Road West in the middle of the day at about 2.30pm with his revolver in his pocket, and was seen on the opposite side of the road before crossing over, muttering to himself.

Frederick Hamerton then opened his window and told Charles Thomas to go away and Charles Thomas then put his hand in his pocket and took out the revolver and fired, the bullet striking Frederick Hamerton in the chest and inflicting a fatal wound.

Charles Thomas then afterwards fired two more shots that struck the pillars of the window. He said that he had been firing at Charles Thomas, but it was said that whether he had been firing at William Hamerton or his wife, did not seem certain.

It was noted that Charles Thomas had been perfectly sober at the time, and that when the police arrived he called their attention to that fact.

After his arrest, Charles Thomas was examined by the superintendent of Kent County Asylum on behalf of the Treasury, who stated that he had found no trace of insanity, however, he noted that Charles Thomas had at one time seemed to have had some thoughts of playing a part, and feigning loss of memory. The doctor added that he found a terrible history of intemperance and violence, which was represented by a list of Charles Thomas's previous convictions that was put together, amongst which showed convictions for damage to Frederick Hamerton's properties, damage to another house where his child had been living, as well as attempted suicide.

It was also heard that Charles Thomas had threatened to shoot the landlord of the Pilot public house in Greenwich Marsh in 1888, and was found by the police with a double barrelled loaded gun across his knee. When he gave up he said, 'I won't harm you but I meant shooting the landlord'. For that he was bound over to keep the peace.

At his trial Charles Thomas claimed that Frederick Hamerton and his wife had been tormenting him at the window and there was a good deal said about a little black doll being danced at Charles Thomas in the window, but a woman that had been there explained that she had made it for Charles Thomas's baby and was really showing it to those present.

There was also evidence heard that Charles Thomas had got the notion that there was an improper relationship between William Hamerton and his wife and that he was doubtful that they were brother and sister. That suspicion was reflected in the evidence of a man with whom his wife had lodged that he had been to see on the morning of 3 April 1901, the day he bought the revolver later in the afternoon, it being noted that the man had said that Charles Thomas had then been under the influence of drink.

Charles Thomas was convicted of murder at the Kent Assizes and sentenced to death on Friday 12 July 1901.

There was no recommendation to mercy by the jury and it was said that it appeared to have been a bad and premeditated murder, the outcome of vindictiveness and of a violent and unrestrained temper, which the judge agreed with, and there was no interference with his sentence.

He was executed at Maidstone on Tuesday 30 July 1901 by James Billington. He was said to have comported himself with great fortitude on the day of his execution and to have walked firmly to the scaffold, having dressed with studious care. He made no confession and his death was instantaneous.

see National Archives - HO 144/571/A62757

see Western Times - Saturday 13 July 1901

see Liverpool Weekly Courier - Saturday 03 August 1901