Tuesday 2 April 2013

Man Hanged for Killing Pregnant Wife

In 1929 John Maguire was hanged for killing his pregnant wife Ellen leading to sensational scenes outside Walton Gaol.

45 year old fish hawker John and Ellen (42) had had ten children together, whose ages ranged from 24 to just eighteen months. They lived with the youngest seven children in a tenement in Newsham Street, off Scotland Road and on 5th September John killed Ellen, who was six months pregnant, by cutting her throat and stabbing her in the back. He then calmly left the home as neighbours came round to investigate the screams, which had occurred while the youngest child was playing in the street.

Ellen was found lying in a pool of blood and rushed to hospital but she was dead on arrival and three of the couple's children were told the terrible news of what had happened when they returned home from school.

Maguire handed himself in to police that evening and made his first appearance in court the following day. He broke down, saying that he had lost his temper but that it was over in a matter of minutes and he was glad his wife hadn't suffered.

At his trial before the next Assizes the defence put forward the argument that the crime had been committed while Maguire was in a state of post epileptic automatism. However the fact that he had bought a razor and knife on the day the murder was committed suggested premeditation and a guilty verdict was returned.

After the death sentence was passed by Mr Justice Humphreys, Maguire thanked his counsel Basil Neild, saying he hoped he rose to the top of his profession. He was about to speak about other witnesses when the judge told him there was no time for speeches and insisted he be taken down.

The Home Secretary refused a request for a reprieve and the day before his execution Maguire was visited by his two oldest children. On 26th November a crowd of 250 people were at Walton Gaol and when the notice was pinned to the gates his sister Mary Hagan was heard to scream 'Oh Johnny my poor brother' and threw herself to the floor. She was helped up by four police and eventually taken away in a taxi.

The inquest heard that Thomas Pierrepoint had carried out the execution and death was instantaneous.

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