British Executions

William Lane

Age: 47

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 12 Aug 1902

Crime Location: Tividale, Staffordshire

Execution Place: Stafford

Method: hanging

Executioner: William Billington


William Lane was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Elizabeth Dyson 67 and sentenced to death.

He cut her throat on 26 June 1902 in Tividale.

They had been drinking in a number of pubs and seemed in good spirits, however, after as they were walking along a road between Dudley and Rowley just before midnight William Lane cut Elizabeth Dyson's throat. He had said that it was part of a suicide pact but that after cutting her throat that he had changed his mind.

In court he later said that he had been insane at the time but he was convicted.

Elizabeth Dyson was a professional pianist, although it was thought in a small way.

William Lane was an ex-policeman, having served with the Bradford police for 11 years and married but had deserted his wife about 18 months earlier and had been living in different parts of the country with Elizabeth Dyson after they developed an intrigue together.

However, around March 1902 William Lane returned home to his house in Poplar Avenue in West Bromwich and about two weeks before the murder he brought Elizabeth Dyson to live with him and his wife and two sons. However, the situation caused quarrels which culminated in a stand-up fight between William Lane and his eldest son on the evening of 21 June 1902 in which they both used knives, but apparently without inflicting any very serious injury to each other.

Subsequently to the quarrel, William Lane's wife and two sons then left the house leaving William Lane and Elizabeth Dyson there alone until 23 June 1902 when William Lane sold off some of the things and then left the house.

From 23 to 26 June 1902 they occupied lodgings together but did not occupy the same sleeping apartment.

On 26 June 1902  they were not heard of until between 6pm and 7pm when they had refreshment at the Vine Inn at Brierly Hill, about 5 miles from the scene of the murder.

They left the Vine Inn at 7pm, both sober, and that 11.10pm they were heard quarrelling, with William Lane being heard to say to Elizabeth Dyson, 'Come along the b-----y road', at some point on the way to Gipsy Hill.

Soon after, at 10.20pm he was seen pulling her along the Dudley Road in the direction of Gipsy Hill.

Then, at 11.40pm, a man and a woman that was in his company, heard a woman scream twice, saying, 'Oh God!, Oh God!', and then gurgling and making a moaning sound. When they went to investigate they saw William Lane kneeling over her with a knife in his hand.

William Lane then said to them, 'I believe I have killed this lady. She had made me do it. Fetch the police. I will not move a yard'.

Another man then came along and after a preliminary question, William Lane said to him, 'I have done it and I have intended doing it sometime'.

The man then went on to say that when the police constable arrived and approached William Lane that William Lane said to him, 'I contemplated doing this sometime'.

It was noted that William Lane had had some drink, but that he was not drunk.

Another witness came along and asked William Lane why he had done it and said that William Lane replied, 'Because she keeps following me about, a statement that was corroborated by the constable that was at the scene.

The constable said that when he warned William Lane, William Lane replied, 'Yes, I have killed her. I have contemplated it for some time. I know she is dead. I was waiting for you to come. I would not run away'.

The constable reiterated the consideration that William Lane had not been drunk and said that William Lane had had drink but was not drunk and that he smelt of drink but that he was very quiet and not at all nervous.

When William Lane was taken to the police station he asked another policeman whether he could wash his hands and then showed them a cut on his thumb on his left hand and said, 'She was carrying the hand-bag. She took the knife out of the bag and stabbed me in the hand. I took the knife off her and gave her one with it. I could not bear to hear her moan. I gave her two more stabs and finished her. It is a bad job but cannot be helped now'.

Later, before the Coroner, William Lane made a long statement saying that he and Elizabeth Dyson had agreed to commit suicide together and that he had cut her throat first at her wish, but had not had the nerve to cut his own after.

At his trial, his plea was insanity, or that if he was responsible for his actions that Elizabeth Dyson had given him such provocation that he was in a frenzy and did not intend to do the deed.

The trial judge suggested that William Lane should be kept under observation to determine the state of his mind after which the medical officer for the prison reported, 'For a few days after his reception he was somewhat restless, depressed and suffered from insomnia, but he quieted down and has since slept well and appeared brighter. He is naturally of a nervous and excitable temperament but has behaved in a rational and sensible manner and he can discover no symptoms of insanity about him'.

At his trial at the Staffordshire Assizes William Lane pleaded guilty, but his defence asked the judge to accept a plea of not guilty on the grounds that he was not responsible for his actions at the time of the murder. However, the judge asked for some time to consider the matter and continue with some other cases and when William Lane was later brought back he pleaded not guilty.

However, he was convicted of murder on Tuesday 22 July 1902 and sentenced to death and executed on 12 August 1902.

see National Archives - ASSI 6/37/4, HO 144/581/A63544

see Tamworth Herald - Saturday 26 July 1902

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 25 July 1902

see Rugby Advertiser - Tuesday 12 August 1902

see County Advertiser & Herald for Staffordshire and Worcestershire - Saturday 26 July 1902