Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans were the last people executed in the UK. Both men were hanged at the same time on 13 August 1964 but at different prisons; Allen at Liverpool and Evans at Manchester.
Subsequent people were sentenced to death, but they were all reprieved.
A 53 year old laundry van driver called John Alan West, who had worked for his firm for over 25 years, was found dead at his Workington home on 7 April 1964. West, who lived alone, had returned as normal on 6 April. Later that night, at about 3am, his next door neighbour was woken up by the noise from next door. Looking out of his window, he observed a car disappearing down the street.
The neighbour called the police, and John West was found dead from severe head injuries and a stab wound in his chest. In the house, the police found a raincoat with a medallion and an Army Memo Form in the pockets. The medallion was inscribed “G.O. Evans, July, 1961” and the memo form had the name “Norma O’Brien” on it, together with a Liverpool address. Norma O’Brien was a 17 year old Liverpool factory worker who told the police that in 1963, while staying with her sister and brother-in-law at Preston, she met a man called ‘Ginger’ Owen Evans. She also confirmed that she had seen Evans wearing the medallion.
Forty-eight hours after the murder, two men had been arrested and charged with West’s murder. They were Gwynne Owen Evans (real name John Robson Welby) and Peter Allen.
GWYNNE OWEN EVANS
Gwynne Owen Evans, real name John Robson Walby, was born on 1 April 1940 at Maryfort, Cumberland.
PETER ANTHONY ALLEN
Peter Anthony Allen was born on 4 April 1943 at Wallasey, Cheshire. In 1961, Allen married Mary I. Hannett.
Evans was found to have a watch inscribed to West in his pocket. Evans lodged with Allen and his wife in Preston. They both had criminal records.
Although Evans blamed Allen for beating West, he admitted stealing the watch and it became clearer as the questioning went on, that Evans had masterminded the whole incident. In his turn, Allen stated that they had stolen a car in Preston and driven over to West’s house so that Evans could borrow some money from his onetime work mate.
Allen and Evans were both tried together at Manchester Crown Court in June 1964, for the capital murder of John West (murder in the course or furtherance of theft).
During the trial, the judge posed the question to the jury of whether it was Allen or Evans who committed the murder. The jury found both men guilty of murder, and they were both sentenced to death by hanging.
On 21 July 1964, the Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed appeals by Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Own Evans. Allen was represented by Mr. F. J. Nance and Mr. R. G. Hamilton. Evans was represented by Mr. Guthrie Jones, QC, and Mr. Morris Jones.
The Daily Herald newspaper, 12 August 1964, that there were two petitions being circulated in Preston, where both Allen and Evans lived. A petition requesting the Home Secretary recommend clemency had “… more than 1000 signatures”. There was another petition, with 108 signatures, asking for the executions to go ahead and the return of capital punishment for all murders.
Tory Councillor Joseph Holden, who leads the pro-hanging campaign, said last night: “Many people will be sorry if they ever see the abolishment of capital punishment.”
The Rev. W. G. Grimes, curate of Preston parish church, who was one of the reprieve petition organisers, said: “This whole pro-hanging campaign is one of hate and danger.”The Daily Herald newspaper, 12 August 1964 (The British Newspaper Archive).
Gwynne Owen Evans was hanged at Manchester’s Strangeways Prison on 13 August 1964. At the same time, Peter Allen was hanged at Liverpool’s Walton Prison.
The Liverpool Echo newspaper, 13 August 1964, contained the following announcement.
A Home Office announcement later said: “The sentences of death passed on Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans at Manchester Crown Court on July 7 were carried out at Liverpool and Manchester at 8 a.m. to-day.”
In Bristol, opponents of hanging stood silent and bareheaded outside Bristol Cathedral this morning in a 5-minute vigil as the executions were taking place. Mr. George Gummer, secretary of the Bristol branch of the Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, who took part in the demonstration, said afterwards: ” These were two sick young men, and some other method than legalised murder must be found to deal with people like them.”
A small demonstration against capital punishment was held at Leeds, when 18 people held a half-hour vigil In City Square, underneath the monument of the Black Prince.Liverpool Echo newspaper, 13 August 1964 (The British Newspaper Archive).