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Spotlight On: Albert Pierrepoint

Albert Pierrepoint

1905 – 1992

Albert Pierrepoint’s story is one that cannot be forgotten in the country’s history on capital punishment. Born in 1905, he was involved in the executions of more than 435 men and women during a career as a hangman that spanned 25 years.

Born into a family of hangmen, both his father and uncle before him were working executioners, Albert is said to have expressed a desire to follow in their footsteps from a very early age.

Pierrepoint was the executioner of many renowned serial murderers, including Gordon Cummins the ‘Blackout Ripper’ and John George Haigh the ‘Acid-bath murderer’. He was also performed the hangings of British Nazi propaganists John Amery and William Joyce, also known as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, who were sentenced to death for treason.

Following the Second World War Pierrepoint travelled to Austria and Germany to execute over 200 convicted Nazi war criminals including Josef Kramer, the Commandant of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and Irma Grese, a female SS guard.

In 1955 Pierrepoint hanged Ruth Ellis, a victim of domestic abuse, that had shot dead her abusive partner. At the time, the execution was extremely controversial and is believed to have strengthened public support of the abolition of the death penalty, which came ten years later.

Albert Pierrepoint retired as a hangman in 1956 and in the 1960s he and his wife relocated to Southport where he lived until his death on 10 July 1992, aged 87.

Pierrepoint wrote his memoir Executioner: Pierrepoint in 1974, in which he reconsidered his views on capital punishment as a deterrent, stating:

“All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment, convince me that in what I have done, I have not prevented a single murder.”

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