Friday, 26 October 2012

A Touch of Class

When you peruse the annals of historical crime, one thing that is clear to see is that class, for many years, played apart in British Justice.  If you had plenty of money or privilege  you were virtually above the law.  Let us examine a couple of controversial examples.  How about the trial and execution in 1922 of pantry boy Henry Jacoby. He battered to death a wealthy woman in a hotel where he worked.  Despite his young age - 18 - and a recommendation for mercy from the Jury, he was hanged.  Now, we look at the case of Ronald True.  Convicted for a brutal murder in 1923, in this case, it was the JUDGE who asked for a psychiatric evaluation of True.  Indeed, three psychiatrists all concluded that True was insane and therefore not responsible for his actions, and so he was committed an asylum, where not surprisingly, he was a model patient.  True was the illegitimate son of an Army Officer, where the class structure was still rife. This brought accusations that laws differed for the rich and poor. True was the product of a privileged background and Jacoby was working class.

    We now turn to the case of Edith Thompson, hanged in 1923 for murder, an act carried out by her lover, Fred Bywaters.  Mrs Thompson did attempt to stop Bywaters killing her husband, but what did for her, was letters found in the possession of Bywaters.  Certain sections were put forward as evidence, that Mrs Thompson planned the murder with her lover.  What was not used by the prosecution, for obvious reasons, were the whole of the letters.  Certain sections of the letters may indicate intent, but in what context was it meant?  The judge in the case, certainly did not like the fact that a man of Mr Thompson s ` social standing, had a cheating wife, and cheating with a man many years younger than herself.  The general consensus was that she was hanged for her morals.  The letters she received from Bywaters, she destroyed, he kept hers, ultimately leading to their collected doom.  Her execution was said to have been an horrific event, in which she collapsed in the Death Cell and had to be held up on the scaffold, unconscious.  This in turn, had a huge effect on the hangman, Rochdale man, John Ellis, leading to his resignation.  Some years later, he committed suicide.