Date Of Execution: 7 Jul 1903
Crime Location: Mersea Road, Colchester, Essex
Execution Place: Chelmsford
Executioner: William Billington
Charles Howell was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Maud Luen 19 and sentenced to death.
He cut her throat on Whit Monday night 1 June 1903 in Mersea Road, Colchester after she rejected him.
They had been seen to be walking together earlier but had separated, Maud Luen being left crying. She later went to a pub with a friend and because she was crying the friend took her out of the pub to go for a walk but Charles Howell followed them.
Charles Howell then went up to them down St Botolph's Street and into Mersea Road where he caught them up by the lamp near the Knopps Factory at the junction with Portland Road and asked Maud Luen to forgive him and then put his arm around her and asked her for a kiss and then cut her throat.
When he had gone up to her he had said 'Will you forgive me Maud?', and she had replied 'Yes, willingly, if you will go away'. He then said 'Kiss me, Maud' and she kissed him and he then drew out a razor and cut her throat from ear to ear. She cried out, 'Oh, my God!' and fell down dead. He then said to her friend 'I have done for Maud'.
A picket who was passing then took Charles Howell to the barrack room and he was then arrested.
Earlier that evening Charles Howell had said to a bugler, 'I will see that that woman does not live till morning'.
When he was arrested and gave a statement he said 'I do not care about anything except my poor old mother. It will be the death of her'.
Charles Howell and Maud Luen had been seeing each other for about three months.
Charles Howell had been a private in the Suffolk Regiment and was a native of Bungay.
A woman that had known Maud Luen for the previous three months said that she didn't know where she lived but that she frequently saw her in the town, sometimes alone but frequently with soldiers. She said that she recalled seeing her at about 9.40pm or 9.45pm on the Whit-Monday outside the Standard public house in Mersea Road at which time she was sobbing bitterly.
She said that in order not to cause any commotion she asked her to go into a folly leading from Mersea Road and said that when they got in that Maud Luen drew her attention to Charles Howell. She said that they had been standing by the water pipe on the left side of the folly and that Maud Luen was standing with her back to it.
She said that Charles Howell stood behind her at the top of the steps and was quite close to them and could hear every word that Maud Luen said.
She said that she then pressed Maud Luen as to why she was crying and said that Maud Luen said, 'That man wants to take liberties with me and I will not let him'. She said that Maud Luen then looked at Charles Howell and that she too turned and saw him, noting that he was alone.
She said that Maud Luen continued to cry and that they then walked down the steps into Mersea Road together and that Maud Luen then asked her if she would ask the soldier to go away which she said she did but said he didn't go away. She said that she then told him that if she didn't go away that she would have to give his name to the police and said that he replied, 'That's all right'.
She said that Maud Luen then asked her if she would walk with her as far as the Woolpack to which she said, 'Yes' and that they then began walking off down the Mersea Road.
She said that she didn't notice Charles Howell following them until they got to the photographers, Schofields, noting that she then noticed that he was not far behind them and that he could hear what Maud Luen was saying. She said that she then told Maud Luen that Charles Howell was still following them and that Maud Luen then said, 'I do not want that man. He is old enough to be my father'.
She said that they continued to walk down the road and that as they got a little further where the lamp was by the Knopps Factory that Charles Howell came up from behind and said, 'Will you forgive me Maud' and that Charles Howell replied, 'I willingly forgive you if you go'. She said that Charles Howell then asked Maud Luen to kiss him which she said she did and that Charles Howell then said, 'Maud you are the only girl I love' and that Maud Luen then cried out, 'Oh my God' and that she then saw something bright in the left side of her throat.
She said that Maud Luen then clutched hold of her and then immediately fell. She noted that Charles Howell had been standing by Maud Luen's side when she saw him cut her throat.
She said that Charles Howell then turned and went up Mersea Road.
The murder was seen in part by a sergeant in E Company of the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment stationed in Colchester. He said that on the evening of 1 June 1903 he had been going up Mersea Road with his wife with their bicycles which they were pushing and that they met Charles Howell with two women. He said that they were talking loudly but that he didn't hear what they were saying and that he then gave his bicycle to his wife and turned round to see what the disturbance was.
He said that he then saw Charles Howell with his arm around Maud Luen, heard someone shout and then saw Maud Luen fall.
He said that it had looked as though Charles Howell had had his left arm raised at the time but that he didn't notice his right arm.
He said that Charles Howell then said to the other woman, 'Come here, I have done for Maud' and then went off down Mersea Road and that the other woman then started screaming and said, 'He has killed her'.
He said that he then followed Charles Howell down the road and called to the Picquet which was between the Woolpack Inn and the Cross Keys where a lance sergeant was in charge and that they then put Charles Howell under arrest and took him to the guardroom and that they later handed him over to the civil police.
He said that when he had looked at Maud Luen she had not at that time been dead.
A policeman that had been talking to Charles Howell whilst on the train to Chelmsford after his committal on 9 June 1903 said that they had been talking about a man that had had an accident and said that when he asked Charles Howell how it had happened Charles Howell said that it was through drink and then went on to say, 'Some of them want to say this is through drink, but they will find it out at their cost, on the 17th inst. I was as sober as I am now. This is about the quickest job had, done on the 1st, tried on the 17th, hung on the 25th, that is my poor old mother's birthday. The doctor says she was not a virgin, if he had seen her last March he would have thought she wasn't too, I had to have my balls all slung up'. The policeman then asked Charles Howell whether he was all right now and said that Charles Howell replied, 'Yes, while I am off the drink if not I should have a tear in his eye'.
The policeman said that Charles Howell then kept on talking about the venereal disease and said that he had to ask him to change the subject as he didn't want to hear so much about it'.
At the trial Charles Howell's defence raised the plea of insanity noting that there was an absence of motive and that Charles Howell had made no attempt to flee after. The defence also noted Charles Howell's family history which it was said contained examples of insanity.
When the judge summed up he noted that the majority of murderer's who were dealt with before the courts had some taint of insanity about them, usually brought about by drink and then said that if a man were to be excused from crime simply because one of his great-grand parents had been in an asylum that scarcely any convictions would take place and that a dangerous state of affairs would be brought about. He then told the jury that there was no evidence of insanity, but that that matter was for them to decide.
However, the jury found him guilty on 25 June 1903 after 13 minutes deliberation with the recommendation that an inquiry be made into his mental condition. However, two medical experts from the Home Office who visited Charles Howell after his conviction failed to find any trace of a mental disorder about him.
Charles Howell was executed at Chelmsford on Tuesday 7 July 1903.
Whilst in the condemned cell Charles Howell shared the condemned pew during the prison service with Samuel Dougal who was convicted of the murder of his partner and it was noted that after Charles Howell was executed and the bell rung that that caused Samuel Dougal to become quite distressed about his own forthcoming fate. Samuel Dougal was himself later executed on 14 July 1903.
see National Archives - HO 144/712/109157
see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 16 January 1904
see Western Times - Saturday 20 June 1903
see Norwich Mercury - Wednesday 24 June 1903
see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Wednesday 10 June 1903
see Derby Daily Telegraph - Saturday 20 June 1903
see Dundee Evening Post - Tuesday 07 July 1903
see Bradford Daily Telegraph - Monday 06 July 1903