Edith Thompson was a married lady aged 29 when her love for another man got her into trouble. She fell in love with Frederick Bywaters, a 22 year old steward on a cruise liner.
2nd October 1922 she was on her way home along the Belgrave Rd, Ilford, Essex, after a trip to the theatre with her husband, when a man rushed out of the darkness and stabbed her husband, Percy, to death. The assailant was heard to shout out “Why don’t you get a divorce you Cad”. Edith was heard to cry “Don’t oh Don’t”. Edith told police that she had no idea who the attacker was, but, her neighbours were more forthcoming, telling police about the affair that Mrs. Thompson had been having.
Freddy Bywaters was duly tracked down and taken to Ilford police station. In Freddy’s locker they found no fewer than 83 love letters from Edith, 49 of which were eventually used as evidence at the trial. Some of the letters discussed poisoning Percy, and one even discussed the fact that Edith had put ground glass into his food. One of the letters from Edith to Freddy said “be jealous so much that you will do something desperate”.
Against the advise of her solicitor Edith took the witness box at her trial. Her counsel later said “She spoiled her chances by her evidence, she was a vain woman and an obstinate one”.
11th December 1922, When the jury went out, they took only two hours to come to their decision. The verdict returned was ‘Guilty’. The jury decreed that Edith Thompson should hang, as well as Bywaters. When she heard the verdict she screamed, ‘I am not guilty. Oh God, I am not guilty!’
9am on 9th January 1923, They were both hanged at the same time.. Freddy at Pentonville by executioner William Willis, Bywaters went to the gallows a true gentleman, keeping his composure, but still claiming Edith was innocent.
Edith was hanged at Holloway by John Ellis, she had to be drugged and dragged to the gallows.
Edith Thompson’s body was buried in Holloway Prison cemetery where it remained until 31st March 1971, when it was transferred to un-consecrated ground near Woking in Surrey. Freddy Bywaters’ body remains buried at Pentonville.
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