Canada

Last man publicly hanged in Canada, executed for killing of father, brutal murder of stepmother

December 7, 1869
Goderich, Ontario
Nicholas Melady (alt. spelling: Mellady) is hanged for the murder of his father and step mother

On June 19, 1868, the bodies of Nicholas Melady Sr. and his wife Ellen were found murdered in their bed. The date of their deaths was estimated to have been nearly two weeks before their discovery.

Nicholas Sr. was given an easier death, having been dispatched with a single gunshot wound to the head. Ellen, however, experienced much more pain. According to the Ottawa Daily Citizen, “the mother presented a spectacle of butchery that was horrifying in the extreme. In addition to half-a-dozen bullet holes to the head, a deep cut was found in her throat running parallel with the windpipe; and her entrails were torn out, exhibiting a healthy male fetus some months old.” The Citizen speculated “the fact of her being in the family-way” had brought the wrath of her stepchildren, particularly due to a long-standing feud between the children and their father caused by his second marriage.

The Buffalo Express elaborated on some of the details of the murder: “the bodies were found in their bedroom, the husband with a gunshot wound in his head, which appears to have killed him instantly, and the wife with a gunshot wound in the head, which might have stunned her but could not have caused her death; the head was split open evidently by a blow from an axe, the throat bore a deep cut, lengthwise, not across, and the head was so badly smashed that when it was moved the sharp edges of the skull grated in such a manner as made the bystanders shudder, and some of those attending to the body were forced to leave the room. One of her hands was nearly severed from the body, and numerous bruises were found on the body. The apartment was literally deluged with blood, and bore more the appearance of a slaughter pen than a bedroom. On the floor were an empty gun, the stock broken and the barrel bent; an axe, the blade and helve of which were covered with crested blood and hair; and a bar of iron resembling the handle of a frying pan, bent nearly into the shape of a letter S.”

Because of the known feud between Melady and his children, Nicholas Jr. and several of his siblings were arrested, though most were released relatively quickly. The wife of a detective was placed in the jail with Nicholas and his sister, Alice, who had also been arrested under suspicion of the murder. After seeing her around the jail often, Nicholas began to trust the informant and eventually confessed to the murders, leading to his conviction. On the eve of his execution, Melady wrote a letter to the editor of the Buffalo Express further emphasizing his role in the murders.

Melady was hanged publicly, and has the distinction of being the last person publicly executed in Canada.

Sources:

  • “Execution for Murder.” Buffalo Express [Buffalo, New York]. December 9, 1869
  • “The Melady Murderer.” Ottawa Daily Citizen. April 2, 1869

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