February 24, 1807

On February 24, 1807, in London, England, approximately 40 thousand people gathered at Newgate Prison to watch the hanging of John Holloway, Owen Heggerty and Elizabeth Godfrey. Holloway and Heggerty had been convicted for the murder of lavender-water shop owner John Cole Steele and were scheduled to hang, even though they were protesting their innocence up until the nooses were strung around their necks. It later turned out that Holloway and Heggerty were probably innocent and had been convicted upon the false testimony of a man trying to get out of his own prison sentence for an unrelated crime. Elizabeth Godfrey wasn’t innocent. She did stab her boyfriend in the eye, killing him. A hanging due to false testimony was nothing odd in 1807 London, England. What happened during the hanging was. One version of the story is that the axle of a cart trying to get through the crowd broke, and spectators started climbing on the now stationary cart for a better view. The crowd surged and people got knocked down and trampled. Thirty-one people died and over forty were injured. Did you get that? Thirty-one people died when they came to watch three other people being publicly executed. There was some cosmic jokery going on that day. Thirty-one people died when they went to a public execution to satisfy their own morbid curiosity and amusement. Total people killed at the execution on February 24, 1807? Thirty-four. Three by lawful hanging, thirty-one because some people in the crowd had to insist upon getting a better view. Stupid rubberneckers.

About Joel Byers

Born in North Georgia and educated at some very fine public institutions. Real education started after graduating from college and then getting married and raising two boys. Has the ability to see the funny and absurd in most things and will always remark on it, even if it means getting the stink-eye from his victims.
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