British Executions

John Simpson

Age: 21

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 28 Nov 1881

Crime Location: Sir Walter Scott Inn, Preston

Execution Place: Strangeways

Method: hanging

Executioner: unknown


John Simpson murdered his sweatheart Ann Ratcliffe 16. He took her into the Sir Walter Scott Inn in Preston and cut her throat with a razor on 3 August 1881.

John Simpson worked in Preston in the office of a firm of solicitors and at the time of the murder was occupied in the District Registrar for marriages.

Ann Ratcliffe was the daughter of a publican in Preston. Her mother was dead.

John Simpson became a frequent visitor to the pub and engaged himself to Ann Ratcliffe but the father forbid the marriage and banned John Simpson from coming to the inn. However, they continued to meet clandestinely as many times as three times a day.

Ann Ratcliffe was soon in the family way and later about six weeks before the murder he filled out a form for Ann Ratcliffe to give to her father consenting for their marriage but he refused to sign it. Around that time John Simpson had been heard in a corridor asking Ann Ratcliffe if she had anymore money and Ann Ratcliffe was heard to reply 'No, I cannot always be robbing my father'.

About a fortnight later John Simpson asked Ann Ratcliffe to present the form again to her father and this time he signed it.

On 29 July John Simpson went to get shaved at a place called Weights where Mr Weights shaved him. When John Simpson arrived mr Weights had three razors but when he left he had only two.

John Simpson and Ann Ratcliffe were to be married on the morining of 1 August but John Simpson had made some false statements and the marriage was delayed. On 3 August 1881 they went to the Sir Walter Scott Inn in Preston where they ordered two lemonades and went into the best room. The maid serving them took them two bottles of lemonade and later went to see how they were doing as they were quiet and found them sat together in the room near the window. Ten minutes later she heard the sound of breaking glass and rushed to the room to be met by Ann Ratcliffe who was rushing out with her hands clutching her throat. The maid went in to the room and saw John Simpson sat at a table with the razor on the table and blood over it and his hands.

Ann Ratcliffe fell dead on a rug.

The maid went to get the landlady and when she came in she asked John Simpson 'Why was this done' and John Simpson said he did not know.

The razor was later identified as the one stolen from Mr Weights and a letter was presented in which Ann Ratcliffe was supposed to have said that if her father prevented them meeting that she would do away with herself.

The defence said that there was no motive for the crime and that even if John Simpson had cut Ann Ratcliffe's throat that he was clearly of an unsound mind.

John Simpson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. A judge dissallowed the press from witnessing his execution.

see Northampton Mercury - Saturday 06 August 1881

see Alnwick Mercury - Saturday 12 November 1881