British Executions

John George Thompson

Age: 38

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 10 Dec 1901

Crime Location: 122 Milling Street, Gateshead

Execution Place: Durham

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


John George Thompson was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Maggie Ann Lieutand 33.

They had lived together although she was already married to someone else. However, their relationship broke down and Maggie Lieutand refused to have anything to do with him.

John Thompson bought a gun and went to where Maggie Lieutand was living with a friend at Milling Street, Gateshead on 17 September 1901.

When he got there he asked Maggie Lieutand to come back to him but she refused and he forced his way into the house and shot her in the shoulder. However, Maggie Lieutand ran out of the house and across to 122 Milling Street and tried to shut the door, but John Thompson chased her and put his foot in the door to stop her from shutting it fully but couldn't open it and so he put his gun in through the gap and shot at her, hitting her in the arm and once in the head killing her.

He then sat and waited for the police to arrive.

Maggie Lieutand was married but had been living apart from her husband and had made the acquaintance of John Thompson around Easter and had lived with her until about a month before her death when they quarrelled and separated and she went into lodgings with another woman who was also living apart from her husband and it was thought that they were probably leading an immoral life.

The first time that John Thompson went to their lodgings was on Friday 13 September 1901 at about 9pm and told them that he wanted to stay with them but Maggie Lieutand treated him coldly and subsequently went with her friend to the theatre at Newcastle. It was thought that he had followed them as they saw him three or four times in the course of the evening but didn't speak.

It was noted that there was a slight discrepancy over when they next met, with Maggie Lieutand's friend saying before the Coroner that they next saw John Thompson on 16 September 1901 in the morning when they were posting letters, saying that he wanted to speak to Maggie Lieutand but that she didn't wish it, it being noted that the dates in the judges notes were not that clear. She said that after Maggie Lieutand told John Thompson that she didn't want to speak to him that John Thompson said that she was a drunkard and threatened to knocker her head through the wall.

Maggie Lieutand's friend said that they saw John Thompson later in the day and tried to avoid him but said that he was waiting for them at the corner of their street and came up to them, and in spite of their remonstrances, forced his way into their house. However, she said that they then pulled and pushed him out and that John Thompson and Maggie Lieutand were then on the street and that John Thompson then put his hand into his pocket and took out a revolver and fired.

Maggie Lieutand's friend said that she bade Maggie Lieutand to fly for her life to the opposite house, the door of which was open, which she did after which she and the woman in the house tried to shut the door against John Thompson, however, he managed to push the door partly open and, according to the evidence of a man, he got his left hand round the door and fired twice after which he forced the door open and went in and took Maggie Lieutand in his arms.

He said that all Maggie Lieutand said was, 'Don't Jack, I love you'.

Maggie Lieutand died later at 4pm the following afternoon.

The police investigation found that between 9am and 10am on 16 September 1901 that John Thompson had bought a revolver at a shop in Newcastle-on-Tyne and at 1pm that he bought 50 cartridges.

At the trial his defence said that he had been suffering from syphilitic insanity. However, that claim was rebutted by the evidence of the prison surgeon, who considered him to have bene responsible for his actions, as did a medical superintendent at the Durham County Asylum.

It was noted that John Thompson had suffered from severe headaches and some seven years earlier had received an injury to his head from the fall of a heavy spanner, and all the doctors admitted that there was a tenderness in his head, especially over the left temple.

It was also heard that, in addition to his headaches and the blow on his head, that John Thompson had told the doctor that for the previous six months that he had been feeling unwell and that during that time that he had drunk much more than was his habit.

However, the police report noted that John Thompson had claimed that he could not remember much from the day of the murder and stated that it seemed to be a suspicious circumstance that John Thompson remembered breakfasting with his mother on the morning of the murder at about 8.30am, but declared that he remembered nothing else that happened that day, on which, the evidence showed, he had bought the pistol between 9am and 10am, therefore almost immediately after his breakfast and then the cartridges at about 1pm after which he must have gone almost at once to the street where Maggie Lieutand lived and then waited for her to arrive at a little after 2pm. It was further noted as suspicious by the police in their report that John Thompson could not say how long he had been in prison, and yet gave a very coherent account of many other details of his career. The report stated that it was hard to believe that his utter failing of memory was genuine and that it looked like pretences of insanity rather than the real malady.

It was noted that the jury recommended John Thompson to mercy, but that it was not known on what grounds. It was also noted that the judge made no remarks and that it would be useful to ask the judge upon what ground he understood the jury based their recommendation to mercy, and whether he desired to offer any observations upon that recommendation, or upon the medical or other aspects of the case.

The police report stated that it might also be useful to ask him what opinion he formed in regard to the manner in which the two shots were fired after Maggie Lieutand escaped to 122 Milling Street.

The police report stated that it appeared from the evidence that John Thompson  had got his left foot in the door and then put his left hand through the door with the revolver in it. It was said that he had got it in up to his elbow about three parts of the door up and that after the first shot he got further in with half his body inside and that he had then got right inside the door and it had closed.

The police report stated that according to John Thompson's account that it seemed probable that the first shot across the way, the second shot in reality, might have been fired at random, whereas, before firing the last shot that he might have got his face inside the door sufficiently to had taken aim.

The police report noted that it was also determined which of the three shots had been the fatal shot, stating that the first shot, which had been fired when Maggie Lieutand had been struggling with John Thompson on the pavement at 121 Milling Street, had hit her over the right ear, whilst the second shot had effected the wound under her arm pit, possibly fired at random, it being noted that neither of those shots were of very serious consequence.

It was then noted that the fatal shot was the third shot fired once John Thompson had got inside the door sufficiently to take aim, and as such making it his purpose all the more deliberate.

However, the police report noted that in any case, his purchase of the revolver and cartridges on the day of the murder, his persistent following if her, and him firing three shots at her at close distances, made his determination to kill or do serious bodily harm absolutely clear.

John Thompson was convicted at the Durham Assizes on 25 November 1901 and executed at Durham by William Billington and John Billington in Durham on 10 December 1901.

see National Archives - HO 144/574/A63011