British Executions

Robert Gadsby

Age: 65

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 18 Apr 1917

Crime Location: 3 Thrift Crescent, Waterloo Lane, Bramley

Execution Place: Leeds

Method: hanging

Executioner: Thomas Pierrepoint


Robert Gadsby was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Julia Ann Johnson 54 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat at 3 Thrift Crescent, Waterloo Lane, Bramley on 28 February 1917.

Robert Gadsby was described as bearing a good character. His wife had died about 12 months earlier and six months later he became intimate with Julia Johnson. she was a married woman with seven children of whom a daughter was married, four of her sons were serving and two younger ones lived with her.

Her husband had left her in 1914 on account of her drinking.

Julia Johnson's married daughter said that about a month before the murder that she heard her mother send Robert Gadsby away from her house as 'she did not want men coming there' and it was said that Robert Gadsby appeared to have become jealous of Julia Johnson and had accused her of carrying on with other men beside himself.

On the morning of 28 February 1917 Robert Gadsby got up early but said that he didn't feel lie going to work as he had neuralgia. At about 9am he went round to Julia Johnson's home at 3 Thrift Crescent and cut her throat with a pocket knife.

He then went off to the house of his own married daughter with whom he lived and said goodbye to them and told them that he was going to give himself up.

Robert Gadsby's married daughter gave the following timeline of events:

4.45am: She called Robert Gadsby and he came down and sat down and then said, 'I don't think I'll go to work today' and then went out of the house.

5.45am: Robert Gadsby returned home and then went back out again.

7.20am: Robert Gadsby returned home again.7.45am: Robert Gadsby went out again. Robert Gadsby's married daughter noted that Thrift Terrace was only 5 minutes from their house.

9.20am: Robert Gadsby returned and put his watch down and said, 'That is for our little boy'. He then got his purse out and said, 'That is for our other little boy'. He then went into the kitchen and washed his hands and then came out and said 'Goodbye' to his married daughter and she asked, 'What is up with you?'. Robert Gadsby then said, 'Goodbye for ever'. She then asked again, 'What is up with you' and Robert Gadsby replied again, 'Goodbye for ever'. Robert Gadsby then began to mumble, the only words being caught being, 'Doing in'. He then said, 'I'm going to the police station to give myself up'. Robert Gadsby's married daughter said that she then emptied the bowl in which Robert Gadsby had washed his hands and noticed that the water was slightly tinted red.

He then went to the police station and said, 'I have murdered my sweetheart' and handed over a bloodstained pocket-knife.

He then signed the following statement which had been slowly read over to him.

'I have been courting a woman named Julia Johnson residing off Waterloo Lane Bramley, who is separated from her husband and found out that she was acting false to me. About 9am the above date I went to Johnson's house and after some conversation, Johnson started swearing at me, at the same time ordered me out of the house. I said where shall I go. At that time Johnson was standing with her back to me. Knowing that she had been whoring with other men, I took my knife out of my pocket at the same time caught hold of Johnson and cut her throat, I did not speak to her. When I saw she was dead I locked the house door then went to 1 Park Grove, Bell Lane, Bramley, where I reside with my married daughter, handed her my watch, then washed my hands, and came here. I have been a widower for 12 months'.

Julia Johnson was found lying face down on the hearthrug at her home. Her throat had been cut to the spine from ear to ear and the fingers of her left hand were cut in line as though she had grasped the knife, the first finger being cut to the bone. There were no signs of a struggle but her face had been scratched as if by a finger nail and Robert Gadsby's neck was similarly scratched.

At the trial Robert Gadsby set up the defence that Julia Johnson had attempted to get at a table knife lying on the table and that in trying to prevent her he must have accidentally cut her throat with his knife which he had in his hand at the time to cut some tobacco. However, the police report to the Home Office stated that that was a hopeless story in view of the facts and Robert Gadsby's own statements.

However, it was noted that it might have been true as Robert Gadsby had stated in his evidence that he had only gone to Thrift Crescent to that morning to try to recover £4 from Julia Johnson and a ring that he had previously given her. Robert Gadsby had said, 'When I got it I could please myself whether I left her or not after', it being noted that he had apparently cut her throat after she had refused to refund the money.

Thrift Crescent no longer exists but was possibly opposite where Bramley Community Centre is today where Thrift Street, Thrift Place, Thrift Terrace and Thrift Row once were.

see National Archives - HO 144/1476/332553