Arthur B. English

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Arthur Bartholomew English (he used the pseudonym Arthur Ellis; 1864/1865 – 21 July 1938) was a British national who was the official hangman of Canada between 1912 and 1935.


English began his role as the assistant to John Radclive, a 20-year veteran of Canadian hangings. The only official method of Capital punishment in Canada since the fall of New France was hanging. In his capacity as official executioner, English adopted the surname of the famous English executioner, John Ellis as a pseudonym. It is estimated he carried out more than 600 hangings in all of Canada's provinces and incorporated territories.[1]


English's career as Canada's professional hangman ended in ignominy following the botched execution of Tommasina Teolis at Bordeaux Prison in Montreal on 28 March 1935. She had been convicted of hiring two hit men to kill her husband.

Hanging was done by use of the long drop method. The condemned would be executed by the weight of their body snapping their neck after they fell through the gallows' trap door. However, English used a miscalculation for Teolis' weight which resulted in her dropping too far and being decapitated. This shocking event led to a huge public outcry that permanently ended his career.[2]

Although since 1 January 1870, all executions in Canada were conducted in private, members of the public could still attend upon invitation from the prison or provincial authorities. This stopped following the beheading of Teolis.[2]

Three years later, English died in poverty in Montreal on 21 July 1938.[3] He was buried at the Mount Royal Cemetery.


The Crime Writers of Canada present annual literary awards – the Arthur Ellis Awards.

In 2009 Arthur English/Ellis featured in a documentary entitled the Hangman's Graveyard. The film follows an archaeological investigation into a forgotten cemetery at Toronto's old Don Jail. Two of the individuals featured in the film were executed by English/Ellis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson, Frank W. (1972). Hanging in Canada. Frontier Books. p. 42.
  2. ^ a b Poplak, Lorna (2017). Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada. Dundurn. pp. 91–94.
  3. ^ "Hangman Ellis Dies in the City". The Gazette. 22 July 1938. p. 1. Retrieved 14 July 2020 – via