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Last killers to hang are back in the news

Peter Allen

Peter Allen

Preston dairymen Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen occupy an unenviable place in history as the last men to be hanged in Britain.

Next week the crime which sent them both to the gallows will be brought back into sharp focus on television to mark 50 years since the ending of capital punishment.

The story of Evans and Allen, convicted of the brutal slaying of a 53-year-old van driver in Cumbria in 1964, will be among a host of notorious murder cases featured in an hour-long documentary “Executed” on Tuesday (ITV 9pm).

While some, like Derek Bentley and Timothy Evans later became celebrated victims of a miscarriage of justice, the Preston pair went to their deaths as guilty men - albeit blaming each other for the savage blows which killed bachelor Jack West during a bungled robbery in the coastal village of Seaton.

But the controversy which surrounded their simultaneous executions in Manchester and Liverpool ensured no-one has felt the noose tighten around their necks since.

Karate expert Evans, 24, and 6ft 4ins Allen, 21, stole a car from outside a pub in Preston and drove 100 miles north to rob “soft touch” Jack West in his home. The plan backfired and he was bludgeoned 13 times on the head with a lead pipe and stabbed once through the heart. The two were soon caught and after a seven-day trial at Manchester Assizes they were sentenced to hang. Although both men were not Prestonians by birth - both moved to the town for work - a campaign was launched to plead for clemency.

A petition was launched, councillors and clergy called for mercy, the Evening Post joined in by condemning the death penalty and a vigil was held on the Flag Market. The men’s mothers even wrote to the Queen.

But all was in vain. At precisely 8am on August 13 Evans was hanged at Strangeways Prison and Allen at Walton - the last executions to be carried out in the UK.

 

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