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END OF THE NOOSE; Ireland votes to end the death penalty after 47 years.

Byline: BRIAN CAMPBELL

IRELAND is set to scrap the death penalty for good - 47 years after the last state execution.

Voters will be asked on June 7 to ban it in all circumstances and to prohibit its re-introduction, even in time of war. And all references to it in the Constitution are expected to be deleted.

Ireland is the last country in the EU yet to get completely rid of capital punishment.

The Criminal Justice Act 1964 abolished the death penalty for offences other than treason, the murder of members of the government or security forces, and certain military offences.

It was finally abolished in our statute law under the Criminal Justice Act 1990, but not in our Constitution.

So as things stand, it could still be legally re-introduced.

Capital punishment for the murder of a Garda was changed to a mandatory 40-years jail term, which was fiercely opposed by the Garda Representative Association at the time.

In the past 30 years several Garda killers were given the death penalty, but had their sentences commuted.

Since 1900, 126 capital sentences were handed down. A total of 47 people were hanged for the murder of 53 victims. The last person to be executed in Ireland was Michael Manning, a 25-year-old carter from Limerick, who was hanged in Mountjoy Jail on April 20, 1954.

He was sentenced to death for the murder of Catherine Cooper, a 65-year-old nurse on November 18, 1953.

The last Irish woman to be hanged was Annie Walsh on August 5, 1925, for killing her husband. She was executed with Michael Talbot for the murder.

Justice Minister John O'Donoghue said in the Dail earlier this month: "The terrible reality of the death penalty has thankfully not been a part of our criminal law system for some time now."

The move reflects Ireland's signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, which abolished the death penalty except in times of war.

Barrister and law lecturer Seamus Breathnach details the background to the last four executions in Ireland.

Mr Breathnach, who is opposed to capital punishment, is the Director of Criminological Studies at DIT, Rathmines, Dublin.

He is also writing a series of books on Irish criminology including A Short History Of The Execution Of Women In Ireland and Irish Executions In The 20th Century, to be published by Wolfhound Press.

Rapist strangled nurse in drunken road attack

MICHAEL MANNING

APRIL 20, 1954, Mountjoy: Michael Manning, 24, for the murder by suffocation of Catherine Cooper, 60.

Manning, a carter from Lelia Street, Limerick, was the last person to be hanged in the Republic.

On November 18, 1953, he drunkenly raped and murdered Ms Copper, a nurse, on a dark country road.

Earlier in the day, he had been drinking for several hours in different pubs in Limerick.

He then made a delivery with his cart, put his horse out to graze and started off to walk home.

At Newcastle, just outside Limerick, he saw Ms Cooper walking in front of him.

He followed her for a few minutes, then he suddenly lost control and jumped on her.

Manning pulled the nurse on to the roadside and raped her.

Gardai later asked him why he did it. He replied: "Because I saw her alone."

Manning said he stuffed his victim's mouth with grass to quieten her while he raped her.

Ms Cooper, who worked in St Barrington's Hospital in Limerick, was found with her clothing torn and her underwear removed.

According to the medical evidence, her death was due to asphyxia caused by suffocation. She had also lost several teeth.

When Manning was first arrested at his home, he said: "Drink was the cause."

Manning and wife Catherine had been suffering financial difficulties and were forced to live in a caravan.

They managed to buy a home before the murder.

The couple had a child which died shortly after birth.

However, his wife was expecting another baby at the time of the murder.

But after 8am on April 20, 1954, a Mountjoy warder pinned up a notice.

It read: "The sentence of death passed upon Michael Manning was carried in to execution today."

Lover shot his mistress as she lay in bed

JOSEPH McMANUS

MARCH 31, 1947: at Mountjoy: Joseph McManus, 41, for the murder of Alice Gerrard, 26, from Co Meath.

After the murder, Gardai and priests said it was "miraculous" the unlikely pair had ever crossed paths.

Alice Gerrard lived with her mother Mary Scott in a cottage about two miles from Navan.

At that time Alice's husband Leo, whom she married in February 1942, was working in England, where he had been for some years.

Joseph McManus was born in Gortoral, Co Fermanagh, in April 1905.

In his youth he was thought to be "very wild".

As soon as he could, he left school, took up farm work, and at the end of 1923 he left to join the British army.

He returned in 1935 and worked for farmers in Fermanagh until the outbreak of war.

McManus then he took up work in Swanlinbar in Cavan. And in 1943 he got married.

A year later, in 1944, he left his wife and child in Swanlinbar and went to work as a farm labourer at Proudstown, Navan.

He stayed there until May 1945, when he started another job as a builders' labourer in Flowerhill.

He had been working for Laurence Rogers, a contractor, and had been living with him in a caravan.

Rogers kept a double-barrelled shotgun and cartridges in his home.

And every Friday he had cleaned the gun in front of McManus and other employees. It was in the course of this employment that McManus came to know Alice. They soon began an affair.

She was a woman "known to be of easy virtue," according to Gardai.

The priests and officers believed there were at least two people in Proudstown who were of "easy virtue" in 1945.

But their affair did not go well. On October 5 Alice went to bed about 11pm with her son.

At about 3am the next day, her mother Mary was awakened by the cries of the infant in the next bedroom.

She went to her daughter's bedroom, lit the lamp, and then saw Alice's lifeless body lying in the bed with her face covered in blood.

She ran to alert neighbours about what had happened.

An investigation showed that Mrs Gerrard had been shot by one discharge of a shotgun at around 2am.

There was evidence of some association between the deceased and McManus, which supplied a motive for the killing.

POISON DEATH AGONY OF WIFE

JAMES HERBERTLEHMAN

MARCH 19, 1945, at Mountjoy: James Herbert Lehman, 45, Canadian ex-soldier, for the murder of his wife, Margaret, 29, by poisoning her with prussic acid at 11 Leinster Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6.

James Herbert Lehman was born in Washington DC in 1899.

In 1941 he was stationed with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Aldershot in England but was jailed for six months for grand larceny.

It was also at Aldershot that Lehman met his third wife, Margaret Hayden, who came from Lippstown, Co Kildare.

They were married in February 1940 and while in England had two children.

In early 1942 he was discharged from the army as medically unfit and in August 1943 the Lehmans came to Ireland.

The couple lived for a few months with Margaret's parents in a labourer's cottage in Co Kildare.

They then went to Dublin where he persuaded colleagues to invest in a shop selling baby foods.

The venture failed and he opened a coffee shop instead.

On March 8, 1944, Lehman bought 150 grains of prussic acid - a deadly poison - from a chemist.

A day or so later in the presence of his shop assistant he ground up a large white crystal into a powder and placed it in a small bottle.

On March 18 his wife, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy, was observed by his landlady to be suffering from a cold. The next evening the landlady asked about Mrs Lehman's health and he said she was feeling giddy.

Just 10 minutes later, he called to her that his wife was violently ill.

She was taken by ambulance to the Rotunda Hospital and was found to be dead on arrival.

Examination of the organs revealed that she had died from prussic acid.

Lehman then failed to keep an interview with police.

And on April 14 he was discovered in Monaghan under the name of James McCague.

He was tried three times before being found guilty of murder.

Later he was sentenced to death but appealed against the conviction and sentence.

The appeal failed and the date of execution was fixed for March 19, l945.

'CHEAT' KILLED FRIEND AFTER A CARD GAME

WILLIAM GAMBON

NOVEMBER 24, 1948: at Mountjoy: William Gambon, 28, for the murder of his friend John Long, 39, an English labourer, by hitting him over the head with a bar after a card game .

William Gambon believed that John Long, his friend of five years, was very bad tempered.

But two or three times in the 18 months previous to the murder, Gambon had brought his friend to his home in Dublin from England where he worked.

They kept in touch with each other and Gambon used to meet him when he returned on holidays.

Ten days prior to the killing he had written to Gambon informing him of his needs.

Gambon met him at the boat at Dun Laoghaire.

On Saturday evening, August 21, 1948 at 6:30pm, they took a bus back into Dublin and went to Gambon's home at 5 Upper Abbey Street.

Gambon told Long that he had got married and that his wife, who was staying with pals to accommodate Long's visit, was pregnant.

He also explained that they were were in a poor financial position.

Long offered him money, but Gambon didn't like the idea of borrowing money from anyone.

As Gambon was playing cards by himself, Long got into bed because he was very tired.

Gambon said he would leave him to rest, but Long wanted him to stay on and play cards with him.

They started playing pontoon at about a shilling a time.

Gambon had pounds 5 which Long had given him for the use of the room.

After a while they began to play for higher stakes.

Long was beginning to lose, and the game didn't finish until the early hours.

By that time Long had lost about pounds 60 and was angry.

He said Gambon had cheated, that he had worked very hard for the money, and that Gambon should give it back to him. Gambon agreed to give him back half.

But he strongly denied having cheated.

Long refused to accept the half, and started calling Gambon names and he also verbally abused his wife by calling her a prostitute.

A row broke out. Long grabbed Gambon by the throat and Gambon retaliated by hitting him on the head with a bar.

When he realised what he had done, Gambon gave himself up at Store Street Garda station.

He told the authorities: "I took the bar in my hand and pushed him away from me with the bar back in the bed and after that everything went blank.

"But I am sure that I hit him over with the bar as I saw blood and the bar in my hand."

CAPTION(S):

AUTHOR: Seamus Breathnach; FINAL ACT: Mountjoy Jail was the scene of the last execution in Ireland in 1954
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 2, 2001
Words:1931
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