British Executions

John Sullivan

Age: 43

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 18 May 1904

Crime Location: SS Waiwera, South Atlantic

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


John Sullivan was convicted of the murder of Dennis Lowthian 17 and sentenced to death.

He battered him to death on board the SS Waiwera on the high seas on 18 May 1904 whilst the ship was between Montevideo and Teneriffe.

The Daiuera was a trading vessel trading between London and New Zealand. Dennis Lowthian was a deck boy and John Sullivan was an able seaman.

John Sullivan said that Dennis Lowthian had been aggravating him and had said that there would be murder.

After the ship had left they for New Zealand John Sullivan and Dennis Lowthian had been on the most friendly terms but during the voyage Dennis Lowthian made accusations against John Sullivan and from then on they were less friendly. Later John Sullivan assaulted Dennis Lowthian and was imprisoned in New Zealand for it. After he was released there were constant quarrels and John Sullivan threatened Dennis Lowthian.

He later struck Dennis Lowthian over the head with a hatchet killing him whilst Dennis Lowthian had been talking to the Quartermaster. As Dennis Lowthian was attended to John Sullivan stood by and said 'You don’t want a doctor, he's dead enough. I knocked his brains out; what ought to have been done to him long ago'.

After killing him John Sullivan threw the hatchet over board.

After killing Dennis Lowthian, John Sullivan was put in irons. When he was searched they found a letter in his pocket which read 'This is my last declaration in this world, as I am about to take the life of Lowthian, and should give some reason for it. I have been better than a father or mother to him. In return he called me names, and gave me no peace'. it also contained allegations against Dennis Lowthian.

After he was arrested he said 'I am sorry I did it'.

After he was sentenced to death and asked if there was anything he wanted to say he said 'Yes, I consider my lord the judge summed up this case as though he had a personal spite against me, and went to sleep while my advocate was pleading for my life'.

see Essex Newsman - Saturday 11 June 1904

see Western Times - Friday 03 June 1904

see London Daily News - Friday 10 June 1904

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 23 June 1904