You do not hear much about the hangmen of Great Britain, although much always centres around Albert Pierrepoint. But reading a recent article in a crime magazine written by a former prison officer who worked around jails in the condemned cell, it confirmed my long held belief that the executioner who took over the number one spot from Pierrepoint, Harry Allen, enjoyed what he did. The recent film about Pierrepoint, starring Timothy Spall, tried to humanise the hangman. But my opinion on Allen was first formed many years back when he told his story to a Sunday newspaper, after there were calls for the Conservative Government of the time, to reintroduce the rope. The way he described it, it gave the impression that he enjoyed his job. He passed judgement on two cases - Derek Bentley and James Hanratty - that he was involved in. He was assistant to Pierrepoint on hanging Bentley and said he deserved to die. I was never aware that hangmen were also judge and jury. I wonder what Allen had to say when in 1993, a pardon or partial one was granted to Bentley, after suppressed evidence came to light. Namely, the evidence of PC Claude Paine, who was never called to give evidence because he was not prepared to lie through his teeth like all the others. I bet Allen kept his mouth firmly shut on that.
In regards to Hanratty, people can scream "DNA" but I wonder how his semen found it`s way on to the panties of the victim. Could it have had anything to do with Hanratty`s offer to supply blood, saliva and semen, in order to prove his innocence? He gave a false alibi but his second alibi was proven to be true. He had been in a bed and breakfast in Rhyl, in North Wales, but his downfall was his alibi witnesses were honest, law abiding people. Which was in total contrast to the prosecution witnesses, thieves, liars, police informers, all paragons of truth and honesty. I could go on endlessly about this case but will leave it there. My view is, and one I openly expressed on one of my Criminology courses, was that Hanratty was fitted up all the way to the gallows, and on to Allen in the Execution Chamber.
The prison warder told of how Allen kept telling him and his colleagues "anecdotes" on the people he helped hang. He loved it. Legendary crime reporter "Black Prince" Nicholson said that Allen loved the publicity. I was under the impression that it was a very grim job, but it is nice to know that executing people can be fun!!!! Pierrepoint tried to keep it low key. One old hangman, Robert Baxter, was censured by the Home Office, after it was discovered he was touting for business. Baxter assisted John Ellis in the execution of Edith Thompson and hanged Guy Browne for the murder of PC George Gutteridge, another controversial case.