England

The first conviction in UK based on fingerprint evidence

May 5, 1905
London, England
The Stratton brothers’ trial begins, known today as the first defendants convicted in Great Britain based on fingerprint evidence

Albert and Alfred Stratton, wearing masks made of woolen stockings (pictured), somehow convinced store owner Thomas Farrow (71) to let them in, demonstrated in court by the lack of any forced entry. The brothers beat Mr. Farrow, leaving a blood spot and trail as Mr. Farrow went after his attackers. He was beaten again, then the attackers went upstairs to beat Ann Farrow (65) and search for a cash box. Coming downstairs, the Strattons found Mr. Farrow still alive and finished him off before leaving, discarding their makeshift masks and the now-empty cashbox at the scene.

When a concerned neighbor noticed the Farrows’ store was not opened in the morning, he investigated and found the body of Mr. Farrow as well as Mrs. Farrow clinging to life. She died of her injuries at the hospital.

During investigation, Assistant Commissioner Melville MacNaghten noticed a greasy smudge on the cashbox and carefully wrapped it in paper to bring it to the Fingerprinting Bureau in Scotland Yard. The resulting positive match of the fingerprint plus circumstantial evidence against the brothers — including Alfred’s girlfriend telling police he had asked her for an old pair of woolen stockings which matched the material the masks had been fashioned from — led to the brothers’ swift conviction and execution. They were hanged May 23, 1905.

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