British Executions

John William McCartney

Age: 40

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 29 Dec 1915

Crime Location: 30 Brass Castle Hill, Pocklington, York

Execution Place: Wakefield

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


John William McCartney was convicted of the murder of his bigamous wife Charlotte Kent 29 and was sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at 30 Brass Castle Hill, Pocklington, near York on 9 September 1915.

John McCartney had previously married in 1899 to a woman who he left in 1912 and who was still alive at the time of the murder.

He later met Charlotte Kent and was living with her in Hull when he enlisted in the 10th East Riding Regiment in May 1915 as a cook.

At the end of June 1915 they arranged with a woman in Pocklington that Charlotte Kent should lodge with her, saying that Charlotte Kent was his wife and that he was in a camp close by and would visit her there.

Later, on 17 July 1915, John McCartney and Charlotte Kent bigamously married, but it was thought that it was only done in order to obtain a separation allowance for her.

The landlady said that he pair got on all right at first, but that John McCartney became jealous and accused Charlotte Kent of drinking and going with other soldiers.

It was heard that on 25 July 1915, John McCartney caught Charlotte Kent by her throat and dragged her round the kitchen table and down the passage and that on other occasions he had assaulted Charlotte Kent in the same way. It was also noted that on one occasion Charlotte Kent had slapped John McCartney on the face for saying that she had been drinking with other men.

On 9 September 1915, at about 6.15pm, John McCartney went to the lodging house from the camp. It was said that Charlotte Kent was apparently afraid of him and she would only agree to go with him on an errand to a nearby shop if a daughter-in-law of the landlady went with them.

It was said that when they got back, Charlotte Kent went upstairs to her room, followed by John McCartney, but then ran down again. John McCartney had wanted to stay the night, however, the landlady wouldn't let him, mainly because she knew that Charlotte Kent didn't want him to.

It was said that John McCartney then either got a room elsewhere, or pretended to, and then tried to persuade Charlotte Kent to go with him to it, kissing her, but she refused.

At the time, Charlotte Kent was sitting by the fire, and John McCartney then said, 'You wont! Then take that', and he seized her and cut her throat with his razor. He then cut his own throat.

The landlady then ran out.

It was said that Charlotte Kent then appeared to have staggered or to have been dragged by John McCartney to the front door where she was soon after found on her back, dead. It was noted that her head had been almost cut off and that it was not thought possible that she could have moved from the kitchen to where she was found in that condition.

Her neck had been systematically carved through.

John McCartney's razor was found in the kitchen and it was thought that he might have finished his work there and to have then removed her body to the door, or, possibly more likely, that he cut her head off in the passage and then returned to the kitchen and flung the razor down.

After killing Charlotte Kent and then cutting his own throat, John McCartney made his way to a neighbour’s house where he asked for a drink of water and then collapsed.

He was then taken to the infirmary where he remained until 15 October 1915 when he was removed to Hull Prison.

At his trial his defence was one of 'impulsive insanity', based on the fact that he had had an uncle who had committed suicide and another who had died in an asylum. However, the medical reports stated that there was no sign of insanity

John McCartney further stated that he had no recollection of the events leading up to the murder, the crime itself, or for some time after it. However, the police report added that it was noteworthy that on 30 October 1915, nearly two months after the murder, that John McCartney disputed the landlady's statement that her daughter-in-law had accompanied him and Charlotte Kent to the shop on the evening of the murder.

John McCartney was convicted of her murder and sentenced to death with no recommendation to mercy.

He later appealed his conviction on 14 December 1915, but his appeal was dismissed.

He was executed at Hull Prison on Wednesday 29 December 1915. He was the last person to be hanged there.

He was also known as Harry MacDonald.

see National Archives - HO 144/1443/304127