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THE 1960s

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No individual was the last person hanged in the UK, as the last executions took place at the same time but at different prisons: Peter Anthony Allen at Liverpool and Gwynne Owen Evans at Manchester Prisons. Both were hanged on 13 August 1964. Subsequent people were sentenced to death, but they were all reprieved.

The Case Details

A 53 year old laundry van driver called John Alan West, who had worked for his firm for over 25 years, was found dead at his Workington home on 7 April 1964. West, who lived alone, had returned as normal on 6 April. Later that night, at about 3am, his next door neighbour was woken up by the noise from next door. Looking out of his window, he observed a car disappearing down the street.

The neighbour called the police, and John West was found dead from severe head injuries and a stab wound in his chest. In the house, the police found a raincoat with a medallion and an Army Memo Form in the pockets. The medallion was inscribed "G.O. Evans, July, 1961" and the memo form had the name "Norma O'Brien" on it, together with a Liverpool address. Norma O'Brien was a 17 year old Liverpool factory worker who told the police that in 1963, while staying with her sister and brother-in-law at Preston, she met a man called 'Ginger' Owen Evans. She also confirmed that she had seen Evans wearing the medallion.

48 hours after the murder, two men had been arrested and charged with West's murder. They were Gwynne Owen Evans (real name John Robson Welby) and Peter Allen. Evans was found to have a watch inscribed to West in his pocket. Evans lodged with Allen and his wife in Preston. They were both below average intelligence and both had criminal records.

Although Evans blamed Allen for beating West, he admitted stealing the watch and it became clearer as the questioning went on, that Evans had masterminded the whole incident. In his turn, Allen stated that they had stolen a car in Preston and driven over to West's house so that Evans could borrow some money from his onetime work mate.

Allen and Evans were both tried together at Manchester Crown Court in June 1964, for the capital murder of John West (murder in the course or furtherance of theft). During the trial, the judge posed the question to the jury of whether it was Allen or Evans who committed the murder. The jury found both men guilty of murder, and they were both sentenced to death by hanging.

Gwynne Owen Evans was hanged at Manchester's Strangeways Prison on 13 August 1964. At the same time, Peter Allen was hanged at Liverpool's Walton Prison. So no one person can claim to have been the last person executed in the UK.

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