Executioner Wanted: Must Have Own Hood

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Documents released Thursday by Britain’s National Archives discussed the search for a proper hangman in the late 1930s after Thomas Pierrepoint, described as "one of Britain’s longest-serving hangmen," neared retirement age.  Apparently, officials found it more difficult than you might think to find a candidate qualified to put somebody to death.

One applicant was too "nerve-strained," and another was rejected for being "a man of loose morals," apparently something to be avoided when searching for an executioner.  Another was criticized for having a "somewhat morbid interest in the work, aroused through having a friend who carried out many executions in Arabia."  I thought interest in your work was a good thing.  Well, he’d have been disappointed anyway — in Arabia they use the sword, which is so much more exciting than just pulling some lever.  And another candidate was rejected for being "too talkative when drunk," as he was described by the assistant executioner who was filling out the evaluation form.  Sounds like maybe somebody wanted a promotion, but that’s probably the right result.  You really don’t want the last words you hear to be some drunk executioner blabbing on about the last soccer game he saw.

Mr. Pierrepont was not voluntarily retiring; questions had been raised about his work.  70 years old, he had been hanging for 37 years at a rate of about one dangler per month.  A report from one prison in 1940 suggested he was no longer fit for duty, as "he was uncertain and it was doubtful whether his sight was good."  He was kept on the job, however, partly because of the difficulty of finding anybody else, especially after WWII started.  "The Commissioners are inclined to allow Mr. Pierrepoint to continue to act," said the commissioners, but "particular attention should be paid to his technique."

Link: Reuters via My Way News