British Executions

William Brown

Age: 42

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 16 Dec 1902

Crime Location: 1 Mullens Park, Mortlake, London

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: Henry Pierrepoint


William Brown was convicted of the murder of his wife Elizabeth Brown and sentenced to death.

He had kicked her to death after an evening out at the pubs.

They had been married for 22 years and had normally got along well.

On the night they were seen in one pub to be quite happy together, but at a following pub they were seen to be arguing, however, they were seen to head off home in good spirits.

The next morning William Brown called on a neighbour to say that he had found Elizabeth Brown dead at the bottom of the stairs. 

At first William Brown said that she must have fallen down the stairs but her injuries were too severe and he admitted beating her. However, he later denied making any confession and said that she had been attacked in the street and had then dragged herself home and died at the foot of the stairs.

Elizabeth Brown had got her living at a laundry.

The court heard that they had lived their life on the whole happily but that about two years before the murder that there had been a quarrel about a man but that the matter had passed over although it was said to have left an impression on William Brown.

On the night of the murder they had been out at the Mortlake Hotel and then later at the Jolly Maltman where it was said that angry words were passed.

The next that was heard was when a boy was passing their home at 1 Mullens Park in Mortlake. He said that when he was near their home that he heard a cry of, 'Murder', and that he then attracted the attention of some other boys and that one of them then looked through the window and saw William Brown kicking Elizabeth Brown.

They then called some neighbours, but as everything was by then quiet no further notice of the incident was taken.

William Brown later went out to fetch two bottles of beer and the following morning called a neighbour and said that he had found Elizabeth Brown lying at the bottom of the stairs and that he believed that she was dead.

When help arrived it was found that Elizabeth Brown was dead and that she had been dead for many hours. She was found to have sustained terrible injuries about the face and body from what was thought to have been from kicks or violence of some kind.

However, when William Brown was questioned he said that Elizabeth Brown had not got home by the time that he had gone to bed. It was heard that he had maintained that story for some time, but later said to Elizabeth Brown's sister, 'It was all through that man'. William Brown was also said to have said, 'No one saw it done'. He was also said to have made other admissions on more than one occasion to the effect that he had inflicted her injuries.

William Brown said that Elizabeth Brown must have received her injuries outside the house but the medical evidence heard stated that that would have been impossible. It was heard that five of her ribs were broken and her breastbone was also broken and that it was evidence that she had been subjected to the most terrible violence.

When the police questioned William Brown he said that he last saw Elizabeth Brown in the Mortlake Hotel where he gave her 16s.

However, in one statement he said, 'I did it. I sat in a chair and saw her fall. I thought she was in a fit and threw water over her. I intended to do it six times'.

However, at the trial William Brown denied all knowledge of the murder and changed his story to say that when he had gone to bed that Elizabeth Brown was not there and that when he had woken up he had found her at the bottom of the stairs and called the neighbours. He added that the last time he saw her was the evening before at about 9pm at home when they had a bit of a row and that Elizabeth Brown flew at him with a cup as if to strike him and that he gave her a bit of a push and that he left the house and did not return until very late and that when he returned that Elizabeth Brown was there.

When William Brown was cross-examined he said that he could not account for the different statements that he had made except that he had been so confused and worried by the discovery that his wife was dead he did not know what he was saying.

He also accused the principle witness against him of telling an untruth.

His defence said that the case against William Brown had not been made out and that it was undoubtedly still surrounded in mystery and that the charge had not been brought home to William Brown beyond doubt.

When the judge summed up and detailed the option of manslaughter, he told the jury that before they convicted William Brown of manslaughter that they ought to be satisfied that William Brown had received provocation sufficient to reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter.

However, after the jury deliberated for an hour they returned a verdict of guilty of murder and William Brown was sentenced to death.

After hearing the verdict, William Brown said, 'I have nothing to say, only that I am innocent'.

However, the judge said that he thought that no one that had heard the evidence could doubt the righteousness of the verdict.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/80/2, HO 144/684/102656

see Western Daily Press - Friday 14 November 1902

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 16 December 1902