Friday, 5 April 2013

Killed and Dumped in a Cellar

A ship's fireman was hanged in 1943 for killing a woman he was having a relationship with and dumping her body in a cellar.

28 year old Gwendoline Sweeney was separated from her husband and became a prostitute who plied her trade around the docks. On 17th August 1943 she spent the evening drinking with 26 year old marine fireman Thomas James and his friend George Dias.

After leaving the Bush hotel in St James Street Dias left James and Sweeney in Kitchen Street where they were seen to go into a bombed out house together. The following day James told Dias he was worried about Sweeney and they both went to Kitchen Street where her mutilated body was found. Dias told the police, who arrested James at his lodgings in Upper Warwick Street that evening.

When James was questioned by detectives he made an error that would go a long way to convicting him, telling them that if he had killed her he wouldn't have done it by strangulation. At this moment, the cause of death hadn't been disclosed. This led to him being charged with murder and after being found guilty at his trial he was sentenced to death. James, who the press referred to as 'coloured' at every opportunity, was hanged on 29th December.

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