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MURDER IN THE PORT

1 - MATTHEW FRANCIS

Newport Gazette  9th August, 1859

THE NEWPORT MURDER

"The Court opened at nine o'clock and was densely crowded in every part by spectators anxious to hear the trial of the murderer and to get a sight of him. A great number of ladies occupied the gallery and the benches, and on either side of the Judge there was also a sprinkling of the softer sex.

Matthew Francis 26, tailor and haulier from Pillgwenlly, was placed at the bar charged with the wilful murder of his wife Sarah Francis at Newport on the 12th March, last. A long statement was made by the prisoner in which he admitted cutting his wife's throat with a razor before witnesses. The defence turned on the fact that the accused was very much in love with his wife, and that he had no intention of taking her life, but was provoked by the lashing of her tongue, and that therefore there was no malice aforethought. The Learned Counsel then proceeded to lay down the law relating to murder, when His Lordship interposed and said that no provocation could justify the use of such a weapon as a razor, unless the provocation was by blows, or some personal violence used by the person upon whom the murder was perpetrated.

The jury retired, and shortly after returned to find the prisoner guilty of Wilful Murder. The Judge put on the black cap and after admonishing the prisoner, and charging him to look to the saving of his soul during the short time he had left in this world, pronounced the sentence of death by hanging. The prisoner ejaculated something on being removed which we understood to be, "I deserve it; I killed her."

N.G. 13th August, 1859

Matthew Francis

The friends of the condemned man had an interview with him on Monday last in the presence of the officers of the gaol. The unhappy man has made several attempts to destroy himself, and thus deprive the Law of its victim - once by suffocation. He now acknowledges his sentence to be just, and is considered to be now in a proper frame of mind to meet his doom."

N.G. 27th August, 1859

The Execution of Francis

In front of Monmouth Gaol at nine o'clock on Tuesday morning, the fog was so dense that the gallows could not be seen except at a very near distance. The roadway to the Gaol was thronged with a crowd on the whole consisting of young men from the collieries in the Forest of Dean. There was also a large number of women present, with infants in their arms. The frivolous behaviour, the jests of the men, and thoughtless noise of the children, were exceedingly at variance with the appearance of the unfortunate man, dangling before them in the convulsive agonies of death, as a puppet to amuse their morbid fancies.

The prison bell having tolled for a short time Francis appeared on the scaffold dressed in a round jacket and light coloured trousers, supported between turnkeys, Carter and Williams. He appeared utterly exhausted, mentally and bodily. The executioner, Coalcraft, having put a white cap on the criminal's head, and adjusted the rope, Francis clenched his hands as if in prayer, the bolt was withdrawn, and at the same moment his hands fell to his side, he shuddered convulsively about for five minutes, and all was over. The sun broke out, but the poor man was ever blind to its rays. The body after hanging for about three quarters of an hour, was then cut down by the executioner and was buried within the Gaol at two o'clock.

Matthew Francis was one of twelve persons (all men) executed publicly in England and Wales in 1859. He was the last person to be executed in public at Monmouth. Executions took place at Usk in private from 1859 up until 1922.

24 March 1910

Thomas Clements (alias Butler) aged 62 was hanged at Usk for the murder of Charles Thomas 82 and Mary Thomas 72 who he battered to death at Tank Cottage, Bassaleg, near Newport on 11 November 1909.

It was cited that Butlerís motivation was to steal Mr. Thomasí recently drawn pension savings but, irrespective of the body of evidence supporting this motive, Butler was hanged at Usk prison by Ellis & Pierrpoint on 24th March 1909 after a two day trial earlier in February...
The inquest into the Mr. & Mrs. Thomas deaths was held in the lounge of the Tredegar Arms and presided over by one Rev T G James, Director of Education, and the Chairman of the Coronerís jury was the well respected John Basham. During the proceedings, Basham questioned whether there was evidence that the coins found on Butler were indeed from the Mr. Thomasí newly acquired pension. Strangely, the inquest concluded that this question was not relevant to the Coronerís inquiry.