The secrets of Britain’s most notorious executioner are set to be revealed after a notebook detailing all of his executions is unearthed in a locked space outside a house.
Albert Pierrepoint kept a pocketbook throughout his 25-year career, during which he executed around 600 people, including notorious murderers and Nazi war criminals.
In his notebook, the hangman wrote meticulous notes on each individual who met their fate in the dreaded hangman’s noose.
He jotted down details across eight columns, including name, age, height, weight, date and place of execution.
The Yorkshire-born executioner also gives details of the types of neck of his subjects, which were either “normal, strong or slender”.
Albert Pierrepoint executed 400 people during his more than 20-year career as an executioner
The executioner wrote down minute details of each person who died in his noose
Pierrepoint used the details he recorded to calculate the height of the drop needed for the kill
The country’s chief executioner, Pierrepoint was the third in his family line to take up the deadly profession after following in the footsteps of his father Henry and uncle Thomas, both of whom were also executioners.
The Yorkshireman grew up with dreams of continuing the family’s career, once writing: “When I leave school, I would like to be the official executioner.”
He imposed the death penalty from 1932 to 1956 and carried out hundreds of executions.
The executioner was summoned to Germany after World War II to bring justice to Nazi war criminals.
The executioner reportedly believed that a “higher power” had chosen him for the “sacred” act of hanging.
It is believed that Pierrepoint had his notebook in his possession during his executions and that he referred to it when he wrote official reports.
Use this information so that he can calculate the correct fall height to achieve the fastest and cleanest death for the condemned man or woman.
The executioner, who had a second job as a green grocer, is believed to have given the books to the Lord’s daughter.
In retirement, the former hangman ran his wife Annie’s pub in Southport, Merseyside, before his death at the age of 87 in 1992.
His wife reportedly asked some questions about her husband’s job. When she was called to do the hanging, Pierrepoint simply told her, “I won’t see you for a few days.”
Pierrepoint later published his autobiography in 1974, nine years after Britain had abolished the death penalty, in which he admitted that he did not believe in the death penalty.
It is said to be a deterrent. I can not agree. There have been murders since the beginning of time, and we will continue to look for deterrents until the end of time, Pierrepoint wrote.
If death was a deterrent, I might be expected to know. I’m the one who finally encounters them, guys and girls, working men, grandmothers.
I was amazed to see the courage with which they took this walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, nor did it deter them when they committed what they were convicted of.
“All the men and women I encountered at that last moment convince me that in what I did I did not prevent a single murder.”
However, the executioner was hailed as a hero once his identity was revealed.
The Executioner’s Notebook is expected to fetch £12,000 when it is sold at auction in May
Notable killers including “Acid Bath Murderer” John Haigh are listed in the books
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain, is recorded as 5-foot-2 in the book
William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda during the war, is included in the Pierrepoint book
Pierrepoint’s notebook is expected to fetch £12,000 when it goes under the hammer at SAS Auctions in Newbury, Berkshire on May 11.
The macabre notebooks were revealed by his daughter Divine during a recent move out of her home and are now up for sale.
The historical pocketbook, entitled Details of the Executions, is being sold alongside photographs of Albert Pierrepoint and his father.
The seller, whose name was not disclosed, knew Pierrepoint as “Uncle Albert” and mentioned him as a “mild-spoken, gentle and quiet” man who had “a lot of fun” and was “always eager to play football in the garden”.
“These items are too precious and unique to be left in a drawer,” said the seller.
There is already a generation that believes hanging in this country happened thousands of years ago, rather than relatively recently.
“After the Queen’s death, I decided to sell it because I feel very strongly that history could be lost if it is not preserved.”
Among those included in the little book are some of Britain’s most notorious criminals before, during and after the Second World War.
Among them was the infamous traitor William Joyce who, as Lord Haw-Haw, broadcast Nazi propaganda during the war.
Pierrepoint Joyce was executed on January 3, 1946 at Wandsworth Prison in London.
The “acid bath killer,” John Hay, who was convicted of killing six people between 1944 and 1949, is also listed in Pierpoint’s book as Rillington Place Strangler John Christie.
Ruth Ellis, who was the last woman to be executed in Britain, is another notable name included in the executioner’s notes.
Pierrepoint opened a pub in Southport, Merseyside, with his wife, Anne, after his retirement
Al-Jallad later said that he was against the death penalty in his autobiography
She was hanged at Holloway Prison in July 1955 for shooting her lover outside a pub in Hampstead, northwest London.
The names of Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley also appear. The two men were convicted of separate murders only to be posthumously pardoned.
Their cases played a major role in the abolition of the death penalty in Britain in 1965.
SAS specialist Adam Englott said: ‘This is an exceptional piece of British history and a real insight into the life of one of Britain’s last executioners.
The notebook provides us with an opportunity to read and understand the intricacies of this most exotic profession.
Getting the drop height just right was a bit of a science. The heavier the person, the shorter it should be.
If they fell too hard, there was a chance their heads would explode. If they didn’t fall hard enough, they’d be stuck there, choking to death.
This was the notebook he had with him when he was doing his prison work. He later wrote The Official Ledger and no doubt used these very notes.
“It is a very rare and unique piece of history which is very unusual.”
Albert Pierrepoint’s most famous victims
Of the 600 victims who suffered at the hands of the executioner, some notable exceptions stand out.
Pierrepoint hanged more than 200 war criminals from Germany and Austria and many other high-profile murderers.
During World War II, the executioner hanged 15 German spies, as well as American soldiers convicted of capital offenses in England.
He was later sent to Hamelin in Germany to carry out the execution of 11 officers at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Between 1948 and 1949, he traveled to Hamelin several times and killed 226 people, often more than 10 in a single day.
Back in the UK, he executes Theodore Church, the last person to be hanged for treason after defecting to Italian and German intelligence in the war.
But he was not chosen to carry out the executions at the Nuremberg trials, and was replaced by amateur American sergeant John C. Woods.
Photos later emerged suggesting he did such a bad job with one victim that it took him 20 minutes to die.
In August 1949, John Hay who was known as the “acid pigeon killer” was hanged.
Hay was convicted of killing six people by using sulfuric acid to dispose of their bodies.
Gordon Cummins, The Blackout Ripper, is hanged by Pierrepoint after killing four women and attempting to kill two others during the Blackout of World War II.
Other notable victims included Lord Haw-Haw, a Nazi propagandist in the United Kingdom who was convicted of treason in 1945.
Welsh model Ruth Ellis killed her abusive husband David Blakely, a racing driver, in 1955.
The case received a lot of public interest and a petition of 50,000 signatures was delivered to Gwilym Lloyd George, the Home Secretary, asking for a reprieve.
He refused to grant it, and Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom.