Date Of Execution: 12 Jul 1910
Crime Location: Carters Yard, 60 Oakwell Gate, Gateshead
Execution Place: Durham
Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint
Thomas Craig was convicted of the murder of Thomas William Henderson 22 and sentenced to death.
He shot him at Carters Yard, 60 Oakwell Gate in Gateshead on 26 March 1910.
Thomas Craig had been a miner in Spennymoor and had been keeping company with a mill hand who lived in Barnard Castle where Thomas Craig's militia trained.
However, in November 1904 Thomas Craig was convicted of the rape of a 15-year old girl and sentenced to 7-years penal servitude. In his defence for the rape he had used an alibi but in his petition, he had admitted the offence but had pleaded that the girl had excited him.
The mill girl had promised to wait for Thomas Craig to come out and up until October 1909 they had corresponded in that sense. However, around 1906 the mill hand had met Thomas Henderson and in September 1909 they began keeping company with each other. Then, in October 1909 the mill hand wrote to Thomas Craig in friendly terms who was at the time in Portland, to tell him that she was going to marry Thomas Henderson.
The letter was shown in evidence and it was noted that Thomas Craig had taken pains to erase the important words from the letter. Thomas Craig then wrote a letter to the mill hands sister inquiring whether the news was true and when he replied and said that it was he wrote a threatening letter to the mill hand on 4 January 1910, which was also seen in evidence. It was heard that the letter, before being sent from the prison that Thomas Craig was in was first sent by the Governor there to the Chief Constable of Durham County who then handed it to the mill hand, fully warning her of its purport.
Then on 5 February 1910 the mill hand married Thomas Henderson and they went to live in Gateshead where, it was noted, there was a separate police force. It was heard that the Gateshead Police had no knowledge of the receipt by the mill hand of the threatening letter and that it was probable that the Durham County police were unaware of her removal.
It was also heard that the mill hand only told Thomas Henderson about the letter after they became married. However, when he found out, he didn't think that Thomas Craig would carry out his threats, but they arranged that the mill hand should lock the door when he was out and it was heard that she was in the habit of doing so.
Thomas Craig was released on Licence on 24 March 1910 to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society in London and later reported himself to the police at Darlington at 3am on 25 March 1910.
Later that afternoon he called at the mill hands house in Barnard Castle and asked the mill hands sister where the mill hand was. He was crying at the time, but his sister refused to tell him. Thomas Craig then said that he would find her and said that if she didn't speak to him then she would take the consequences, and that if he met her husband first that she would then have no husband to go home to. Thomas Craig then went off, telling the sister that he was going to Darlington.
The next morning, 26 March 1910, Thomas Craig learnt at Newcastle from some workmen that Thomas Henderson and the mill hand lived in Gateshead and he wrote down their address which was that of Thomas Henderson's mother. He then told the workmen, 'If I had known the game that was going on I would have twisted his damned neck', meaning Thomas Henderson's neck.
Then, before leaving Newcastle Thomas Craig bought a revolver. It was noted in the police report that the sale of the pistol without a statement from the police was a breach of 5.3 of the Pistols Act 1903 and that they intended to make a prosecution in regard to that after the capital case was over.
Then, in the afternoon of 26 March 1910, Thomas Craig called at Thomas Henderson's mother's house saying that he was a friend of the mill hands from Barnard Castle and Thomas Henderson's mother took him to Thomas Henderson's flat.
When Thomas Craig arrived at Carters Yard where Thomas Henderson and his wife lived they were both at home in the kitchen. The mill hand recognised Thomas Craig and told him that she was married to Thomas Henderson and then Thomas Henderson offered to shake Thomas Craig's hand, but Thomas Craig refused and asked the mill hand why she had thrown him over to which she replied, 'Because I love my husband better'.
At that point Thomas Henderson stood on a chair to nail up a picture that had fallen and Thomas Craig shot him in the back, just beneath the right shoulder blade. Thomas Henderson then fell from the chair, and after making some attempt to save his wife, he ran out into the street. Thomas Craig then forced about 4 or 5 shots at the mill hand, chasing her around the table. the first shot hit her in the left breast, and then another struck her in the back but was turned by her corsets.
Thomas Craig then ran off and escaped arrest.
Thomas Henderson had been shot in the lung and he died about an hour later.
Thomas Craig was later arrested on 16 April 1910 after a long search, sleeping in a barn in Northumberland, covered in hay. When he was arrested he had his revolver fully loaded in his trouser pocket.
When he was cautioned for the murder he said, 'I did not mean to kill him. I only meant to wing him. I intended to kill the mill hand.'. He also later said, 'I meant to make my way back to shoot her. I also meant to shoot the judge, but I could not find out where he lived when I came out of Portland.'.
When he was brought before the justices he said, 'I didn't mean to kill the man. I intended to kill the mill hand and then myself. The reason I didn't kill myself was because I didn't see her drop'.
Thomas Craig was convicted of the murder but with a recommendation to mercy. However, the judge said that it was difficult to account for the jury's recommendation and that he could not confirm it.
The police report stated that Thomas Craig had deliberately determined to kill the mill hand and that the fact that she had not waited for him could not be deemed provocation that could mitigate the penalty. It also referred to marked passages in a letter that Thomas Craig had written to a friend whilst awaiting trial which it said showed what a callous ruffian he was and stated that it he were to be reprieved then he could never be released without risk, and even if he were in prison he would be a danger to warders and others and as such it was said that it was clearly a case in which the law should take its course.
The marked passages in the letters referred to read 'the 5 shooter the dam thing was too little that’s why I lost heart pea shooter it was a fateful place where that chap got hit it was a lucky shot she had a steel jacket on that’s why it never took effect on her she was the one if it had not been for them dam rotten corsets of hers she would have been in his place.'. Further on the letter read, 'I got it right enough off that justice he would have been a darling if I had got hold of him I would have given him the strate cut'.
see National Archives - HO 144/999/127363