Francis Forsyth

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Francis Robert George Henry James Forsyth
Born 1942
Died (1960-11-10)10 November 1960 (age 18)
HMP Wandsworth, London, England
Criminal penalty Death by hanging
Criminal status Executed
Conviction(s) Murder

Francis Robert George Henry James 'Flossie’ Forsyth was a British criminal who became one of the youngest prisoners to be executed in a British prison in the 20th century. He was just 18 years old when he was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by Harry Allen (assisted by Royston Rickard) on 10 November 1960 for the murder of Allan Edward John Jee on 25 June 1960.

One of his accomplices, 23-year-old Norman James 'Flash' Harris, was executed at Pentonville Prison on the same morning by Robert Leslie Stewart (assisted by H. F. Robinson).

The murder[edit]

Forsyth, a road worker, and Harris, an unemployed driver, were part of a gang which also included Christopher Louis Darby (aged 20, a coalman) and Terence Lutt (aged 17, an unemployed labourer). On the night of 25 June 1960, at about 11.17 p.m., they set upon 23-year-old engineer Allan Jee on a footpath at the bottom of James Street, Hounslow, Middlesex, kicking him unconscious while attempting to relieve him of his money (a ten-shilling note which was all the money Jee had on him was missed) and leaving him bleeding from head injuries. Jee, who had been walking home after an evening with his fiancée, Jacqueline Herbert, was about 20 yards from his home when he was attacked; he had become engaged on the previous day. He suffered a fractured skull during the attack and died from his injuries two days later at the West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, having suffered a cerebral contusion.[1]

A witness, Anthony Cowell, who was standing at the other end of James Street, was able to give police a detailed description of four young men running from the scene of the crime; it was a friend of Forsyth's, Kevin Cullinan, who informed the police on 18 July 1960 that Forsyth had been boasting about his part in the attack. Furthermore, he gave the police the names of three young men - Harris, Darby and Lutt - whom he had seen with Forsyth in a coffee bar on the night of the attack. The four young men were arrested two days later; in the course of the police investigation into the murder, traces of Jee’s blood were found on Forsyth’s ‘winkle-picker’ shoes and trousers.

At the time of the murder, Forsyth was on bail for having assaulted two police officers at Heathrow Airport and had been detained in an Approved School.

The trial[edit]

It became clear at the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey that Lutt had been the one to strike the first blow upon Jee but that the kicking had been administered by Forsyth. Only Darby claimed to have used no violence upon Jee; for that reason, the charge against him was reduced to one of non-capital murder.

Pathologist Dr. Donald Teare testified that Jee had been kicked five times in the head by the gang.

Three of the gang - Forsyth, Harris and Lutt - were found guilty of capital murder. Both Forsyth and Harris were sentenced to death by Mr Justice Winn on 26 September 1960 under the 1957 Homicide Act, which defined murder in the course of robbery as a capital crime (although nothing had actually been taken in the course of the assault). As a minor, Lutt was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure (he would serve 10 years), while Darby was found guilty of non-capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Execution[edit]

The appeals of both Forsyth and Harris were dismissed in October 1960. A petition for clemency containing around 3,000 names, including such prominent names as The Earl of Harewood, Donald Soper, Gilbert Harding, Kingsley Amis and J. B. Priestley, was turned down on 8 November 1960. The executions took place two days later, at 9 a. m.. Forsyth was given a ’drop’ of seven feet and two inches.

Forsyth – whose girlfriend Margaret Caitlin (he claimed) was expecting his child in January 1961[2] - was the last 18-year-old to be hanged in Britain (the last teenager to be executed in Britain - 19-year-old Anthony Miller - was hanged in Glasgow just over a month later, on 22 December 1960). Only three other eighteen-year-olds were executed in Britain in the 20th century (Henry Julius Jacoby in 1922, Arthur Bishop in 1925 and German POW Armin Kuhne in 1945); the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933 fixed the minimum age for a prisoner to be hanged at 18 years.

On the morning of 10 November, 20-year-old Victor Terry, a friend of Forsyth's, heard about the executions on his car radio. One hour later, he shot dead a security guard at a bank in Worthing, West Sussex in the course of a robbery. Terry was to claim at his subsequent trial that he was possessed by the spirit of the American gangster 'Legs' Diamond. He was found guilty of capital murder and hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 25 May 1961, on the same gallows upon which Forsyth had been executed just over six months earlier.[3]

Bibliography[edit]

  • John J. Eddleston, The Encyclopedia of Executions, p. 895, John Blake ISBN 1-84454-058-8

References[edit]

External links[edit]