Date Of Execution: 18 Mar 1902
Crime Location: Lion Hotel, Westbury, Shropshire
Execution Place: Shrewsbury
Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint
Richard Wigley was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Eliza Mary Bowen 28 and sentenced to death.
He cut her throat at The Lion Inn, Westbury, Shropshire on Saturday, 30 November 1901.
Richard Wigley was a slaughterman and married but had separated from his wife and had started to see Eliza Bowen, having first met her around 1898 or 1899.
It was known that around June 1900 that Eliza Bowen had gone to live at a certain man's home and that whilst there she had started to become very close with Richard Wigley and that sometime later Richard Wigley had procured lodgings in Shrewsbury for Eliza Bowen. At the time the reason he gave for doing so was in order that Eliza Bowen might have a place where she could mend her clothes and get her things in order before moving on to another situation. It was noted that that there was no doubt that during the time that Eliza Bowen had been in the lodgings that Richard Wigley had been a frequent visitor.
However, on 12 August 1901 Eliza Bowen moved back to the Red Lion Inn at Westbury and later tried to end the affair.
On 30 November 1901 Richard Wigley walked into The Lion Inn public house where Eliza Bowen worked and cut her throat with a butcher’s knife.
He had lived ten miles away in Shrewsbury and it was heard that he had got up early and walked the ten miles in order to kill her. When he arrived her was served several glasses of drink by Eliza Bowen and it was said that they had been on friendly terms.
However, he was next seen with his arms around her and Eliza Bowen was heard to cry out, 'Man, what do you mean?', after which she said something to a servant about fetching a policeman, but she succeeded in releasing herself and no officer was sent for.
However, shortly after that Eliza Bowenwent from the bar to fetch some wine and on her return Richard Wigley met her and put his left arm tightly round her neck and with his right hand drew a knife from his pocket and opened it in front of her face. At that stage a servant girl ran off for help and got a blacksmith. However, by the time the blacksmith arrived Eliza Bowen was found to be reeling on the doorstep with blood gushing from a terrible wound that extended all across the front of her throat.
Eliza Bowen was said to have then staggered back and fallen dead in the passage.
Richard Wigley then came out and said, 'I've done it, lads, for love'.
When he was arrested by the police he said, 'I have killed that little woman. It's all for love. I loved her and nobody else shall have her'.
When he was examined by the Prison Surgeon his mental condition was said to have been normal.
The start of the police report to the Secretary of State read, 'The present case is another instance of the old and sad story with which in varying circumstances the Home Office has again had to deal in these murder cases: an illicit intrigue between 2 parties, the woman changes her situation, finds the old relations irksome, repels the man, a rival appears on the scene - drink, jealousy, murder'.
It was heard that the defence put forward at the trial of insanity was not only not proved, but it was disproved.
When Richard Wigley was asked to plead whether he was guilty or not guilty, he replied, 'I don't know, I did not know what I was doing that morning', to which the judge replied, 'That is a plea of not guilty'.
However, he was found guilty at the Salop Assizes at Shrewsbury and hanged at Shrewsbury Prison on 18 March 1902 by Henry Pierrepoint and John Ellis.
The execution was notable for being Henry Pierrepoint’s first hanging as chief executioner.
see National Archives - ASSI 6/37/3, HO 144/576/A63141
see Shropshire Star
see Northern times and weekly journal for Sutherland and the North - Thursday 06 March 1902