The last execution

13 August 2014

The murder of John Alan West on 7 April 1964 was the crime which led to the last time a death sentence was executed in the United Kingdom. West was a 53-year-old van driver for a laundry when he was killed by Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen who had gone to rob him at his home in Seaton, Cumberland. Both murderers were unemployed and had a history of petty crime. They were arrested and charged within two days of the crime. At trial, each one blamed the other but the jury found both responsible. Use of the death penalty had been declining and the decision not to reprieve the two came as a surprise with both sentenced to death.

Both appealed the sentence, with the appeal heard by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Parker of Waddington, Mr Justice Winn and Mr Justice Widgery on 20 July. Judgment was given the following day dismissing the appeal and the date for the execution of the death sentence was set at 13 August.

By law, the Home Secretary had to decide whether to advise the Queen to exercise the prerogative of mercy and commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. Out of forty-eight death sentences passed since the 1957 Act, nineteen people had been reprieved. Only two executions had taken place in 1963 and none in 1964.

On 10 August, the Home Office sent out letters announcing that the Secretary of State had “failed to discover any sufficient ground to justify him in advising Her Majesty to interfere with the due course of law” in both cases. Gwynne Owen Evans was hanged by executioner Harry Allen at Manchester’s Strangeways Prison at 08:00 on 13 August 1964. At the same time, Peter Allen was hanged at Liverpool’s Walton Prison by Robert Leslie Stewart. These were to be the last two hangings in Britain.

© 2024 Family Wise | Privacy Policy | Website created by: stellasoft