Date Of Execution: 22 Mar 1949
Crime Location: Sherwood Borstal Institution, Nottingham
Execution Place: Lincoln
Kenneth Strickson 21 was convicted of the murder of Irene May Phillips 46 and sentenced to death.
Kenneth Strickson was an inmate at the Sherwood Borstall Institution whilst Irene Phillips was the second matron there.
Irene Phillips was found with 16 lacerations to her skull along with gross damage to her brain and her spine was dislocated. It was said that most of her injuries had been recieved while she was on the ground.
He had beaten her to death in the vestry of the institution chapel.
When she was found she was still alive and was taken to the hospital but died later in the afternoon without regaining consciousness.
When he was questioned he said 'I don't know why I did it.'.
He was born in Grantham on 27 February 1927 but his parents seperated when he was about a year old from which point he was brought up by his grandmother. Four years later his father died whilst serving a prison sentence and his mother remarried.
Kenneth Strickson went to a number of elementary schools in Grantham and first came to the attention of the police at the age of 12 when he stole a bicycle. However, on that occasion no action was taken as the owner dclined to prosecute.
Later he went to live with his mother and step-father but after a while it became apparent that he was unwelcome and no properly cared for and he was then sent to an orphanage through the medium of a Church Army home. However, he only stayed at the orphanage for a couple of months before he absconded and went back to Grantham where he lived with his grandmother.
In 1940 he appeared before a court charged with stealing a handbag and was committed to an approved school. However, he also absconded from the approved schooland was later charged with housebreaking and larceny and returned to the approved school.
He was later released on licence in 1943 to take up work at a farm but was unsuccessful and was returned to the school. Later in November 1943 he was placed in employment in Torquay but later dismissed in February 1944 after he was caught stealing a registered letter and was returned to the approved school.
Later in March 1944 he was placed in employment at a hotel but in July 1944 he committed a theft and absconded.
The headmaster of the approved school described him as dishonest, untruthful and unreliable.
He went on to commit various offences of housebreaking and larceny and in October 1944 appeared at the Exeter Quarter Session where he was committed to a borstal institution for three years.
He was released from the borstal instuution in August 1946 and then joined the army but in October 1946 he absented himself without leave from his unit and stole a purse and contents from a dweling house.
Later in April 1947 he was charged with theft from gas meters and again committed to Borstal for three years and was sent to Sherwood Borstall Inistitution where he murdered Irene Phillips.
A fellow inmate at the Borstal said that on the day before the murder that Kenneth Strickson had told him that he had made some remark to Irene Phillips about her bust and that she had told him that that it was a good job that she was broad-minded otherwise he might have regretted the remark.
The fellow inmate then said that on the following morning, 19 November 1948 Kenneth Strickson told him that he was going to the chapel to have a go at the matron to see what he could get out of her. The fellow inmate said that he told Kenneth Strickson 'If you go doing that sort of theing you will get yourself three years' and said that Kenneth Strickson replied 'If I get as far as that, I will go the rest of the way'. The fellow inmate said that he then asked Kenneth Strickson what he would do if Irene Phillips screamed and said that Kenneth Strickson said 'If she does scream, I will cosh her over the head'.
The police report concluded that if the fellow inamtes evidence was to be beleived that the crime appeared to have been premeditated adn to have had a sexual motive. However, the medical evidence stated that there was no sign whatsoever of a sexual assault having been committed.
It had been Kenneth Strickson's duty on the morning of 19 November 1948 to assist in the cleaning of the Chapel and in [articular to assist Irene Phillips in removing the vestments from the alter an the Chapel into the vestry and to replace them with other vestments which were necessary for the next service. However, at 10.15am Kenneth Strickson had been unable to find Irene Phillips as she had gone to her quarters outside the walls of the institution.
Irene Phillips returned to the Borstal at about 10.30am and collected Kenneth Strickson and took him to the Chapel and into the vestry.
Later, at about 11am another inmate at the institution said that he had gone to the Chapel in search of Irene Phillips and when he couldn't find her in the Chapel he went to the vestry and found the door locked. He said that he called out for Irene Phillips but got no reply but said that he heard what sounded like heavy breathing Chapel.
Kenneth Strickson left the vestry and Chapel and went to the gatekeeper and asked to be able to go outside to join a building party that was working on a site just outside the main wall of the institution, but the gatekeeper refused and told him that he needed to get a pass from the Chied Officer. Kenneth Strickson then went to see the Chief Officer and said 'Will you go to the Chapel sir, I have killed the Matron'.
In his statement, Kenneth Strickson said 'I was cleaning the Chapel, I couldn't go any further with my cleaning until the Alter Cloth had been removed, so I went downstairs. Matron was out. I asked a woman where Mrs. Phillips was and was told she had gone to her quarters. I helped the Kit Boy until she returned. We then went to the Chapel and removed the Alter Cloths and then we went to the vestry which I swept out. I asked for some hymn books. She said that the print was too small but she bent down to get them. I put my arm round her neck and threw her to the ground. She said 'Don't be silly, you will lose your discharge'. She kick with her heels on the vestry floor. I picked up a chair and began hitting her about the head. When the chair was broken I took another chair. I took her keys, locked the vestry and put the keys in the table drawer in the Chapel. I then went to the front gate and asked to see you as I thought you might be at home. The officer wouldn't let me out so I went to find another man but he was busy with an Officer and so I went to the Chief Officer.
At his trial his defence sought ot obtin a verdict of guilty but insane. However, doctors for the defence carried out an electro-encephalogram examination of him and concluded that there was no evidence of insanity.
He was found guilty of murder without any recommendation to mercy and sentenced to death.
see National Archives - HO 45/23930