British Executions

William Alfred Hancocks

Age: 35

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 9 Aug 1905

Crime Location: 7 Old Priory, Birkenhead

Execution Place: Knutsford

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Billington


William Alfred Hancocks was convicted of the murder of his daughter Mary Elizabeth Hancocks 15 and sentenced to death.

He stabbed her in the forehead at 7 Old Priory, Birkenhead on 23 March 1905 after threatening to murder his wife and afterwards ran out of the house and threw himself into the River Mersey. He had been drinking at the time.

Mary Hancocks had visited her parents and while she was left alone with William Hancocks one evening cries were heard by the neighbours who went into their house and found Mary Hancocks lying across the bed and William Hancocks lying with his head on her arm. Mary Hancocks said that William Hancocks had been trying to choke her. William Hancocks then threatened his wife with a knife and ordered Mary Hancocks to go to her room and mind the children.

William Hancocks then followed her into her room and shortly after Mary Hancocks came staggering out bleeding from a wound to her head.

William Hancocks then ran out of the house and attempted suicide by drowning in the River Mersey.

Mary Hancocks was taken to hospital but died a week later.

William Hancocks said that he must have been mad as he thought so much of Mary Hancocks.

He said that his wife was the cause of it as she was always asking for money.

At his trial his defence stated that William Hancocks had been very drunk and might have stumbled and fallen on Mary Hancocks with his open pocket knife in his hand which then penetrated her skull. He was found guilty but with a recommendation to mercy based on the fact that he was drunk.

Mary Hancocks was a domestic servant.

William Hancocks had only one arm and was said to have been a bigamist and at his execution left letters for both of his wives. Prior to his execution he had a final interview with his two step-sisters which lasted an hour at the end of which he broke down. On the morning of his execution he awoke after a sleepless night and had a hearty breakfast and smoked his pipe. He walked to the scaffold with his head erect and the trace of a smile on his lips. He died without a struggle.

He had formerly played for Southampton Football Club.

His execution disproved the prophecy of the little old woman of Birkenhead who had said that no man of that town would ever perish on the scaffold.

Old Priory was off Priory Street near Ivy Street and was approximately where Graham Plumbers Merchants is today.

see National Archives - HO 144/794/131163

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 12 August 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 12 August 1905

see Cornishman - Thursday 27 July 1905