British Executions

John James Alcott

Age: 28

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 2 Jan 1953

Crime Location:

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: Albert Pierrepoint


Alcott was born in 1925. His early life was rather strange. His father left home to serve in the abroad army during World War II and young John would leave home and wander around the countryside for days. During his adolescence he managed to acquire a couple of convictions for petty offences including one which earned him a spell in an approved school.

He later joined the Grenadier Guards and was posted to Germany. He claimed to experience black-outs and, following one such attack, he wandered off into the German countryside. He was joined by a Czech who was trying to reach France. One evening during their travels they stopped at a small lodging-house. According to Alcott, the night watchman there, Peter Helm, offered the pair coffee and then threw the boiling coffee over them. Alcott responded by attacking the man. The Czech then joined in and smashed Helm over the head with a fire extinguisher and and empty whisky bottle. The pair fled. They were picked up a couple of days later when they discovered that the watchman had died. Alcott was charged with murder and was tried by court martial. He was found guilty but, because his mother, as next-of-kin, had not been informed that he was being tried, he was given a pardon and freed. He was discharged from the army and returned to England.

He became a fireman and married, living in Hither Green. In August 1952 he was due to go on holiday to France with his wife. He told his wife that he was going to pick up his holiday pay, but went to Aldershot instead. He found lodgings and spent several days shopping for clothes in the town. He also visited Ash Vale railway station. Here he introduced himself to
the clerk, 28-year-old Geoffrey Charles 'Dixie' Dean, as a fellow railway worker. Alcott visited Dean on several days. One of Dean's duties was to count the money taken by the fares office before locking the money in the station's safe. It is likely that Alcott was present during one of these counting sessions. At 9pm on August 22nd a porter noticed that there was still a light on in the station office. When he looked in through the window he saw the bleeding body of Dean on the floor. Police broke down the office door and found that Dean had been stabbed over twenty times. About £168 was missing from the safe.

Police enquiries centred on boarding houses. At one of them they found a blood-stained jacket that had two bloody ten shilling notes in a pocket. In another pocket was a passport in the name of John James Alcott. The police kept watch on the house and arrested Alcott when he returned a couple of hours later. He soon showed officers where he had hidden the knife
in a chimney and turned over £109 that he had in his pockets.

Alcott's trial began at Kingston Assizes on 18th November. He claimed that he had experienced another black-out and had no idea why he had killed the man, or even why he was in Aldershot. His defense failed to convince the jury and they returned a guilty verdict. Alcott was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 2nd January 1953.