England · Executions · Female Killers

Couple hanged for beating death of woman’s husband

December 29, 1903
England
Lovers Emily Swann and John Gallagher are executed for the murder of Swann’s husband

Emily was married to William Swann who was known in the community to be in the habit of beating his wife. On June 6, William hit Emily enough to give her two black eyes which she initially hid with her shawl. She visited a neighbor’s home to show her injuries and complain of her treatment, while her lover, John Gallagher, was also visiting the neighbor. He became enraged and stormed to the Swann household with the intent to harm William as he had Emily. Neighbors heard Gallagher yelling at William, saying “If he can’t kick a man he shan’t kick a woman” as Emily encouraged Gallagher to “give it to that bugger.” After the struggle ended, neighbors saw Emily and Gallagher leaving the home holding hands, the Swann home disheveled, and William’s body on the ground. Reports stated William died from head wounds, had suffered four broken ribs, and received 20 other injuries.

Emily was arrested immediately while Gallagher remained on the run for two months before he was apprehended. At trial, Emily claimed she had no direct part of the murder though Gallagher stated she had hit William with a poker, which was accepted as truth. The judge found no sympathy for Emily’s constant abuse at the hands of her husband nor the fact both defendants had been inebriated at the time of the killing. Both were convicted of murder on December 9 and hanged next to one another on December 29.

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