1948 & 1964
Date of Birth:
10 December 1909
1948, Simcox murdered his second wife, and was
sentenced to death at Stafford Assizes.
However, in April 1948 the
House of Commons had passed amendment to the then
Criminal Justice Bill to suspend capital punishment for
murder for five years.
The House of Lords
overturned the amendment later in the year, but in the
intervening period the Home Secretary, James Chuter Ede
had announced that he would reprieve all condemned
prisoners until the law was settled. Between March and
October 1948 26 persons, including Simcox, were thereby
Simcox served 10 years in
jail, before being released.
1962. He was married, for the third time, in 1962
to Ruby Irene.
In 1963 he threatened his
wife with an air-pistol, but was put on probation.
His wife subsequently left
him, with the help of relatives.
11th November 1963
Simcox, armed with a rifle, went in search of his wife.
He shot her sister, Mrs Hilda Payton, fatally through
the head, before pursuing his wife to her brother's
house. There he shot them both, but they survived.
Simcox then turned the gun on himself, shooting himself
twice through the body, but he also survived.
February 1964, Simcox was again tried at
Stafford Assizes, and sentenced to death. The Homicide
Act 1957 had restricted capital murder to a limited
class of crimes, including murder with a firearm, and a
second murder committed on a different occasion from the
first. Simcox was eligible to be hanged on both grounds.
In 1948 he was sentenced "to be hanged by the neck until
you are dead", while in 1964 he was sentenced "to suffer
death in the manner authorised by law". This change in
language was provided in the 1957 Act; the old language
was considered anachronistic, as since the 1870s Britain
had employed the "long-drop" method of hanging, which
was held to cause near-instantaneous death.
Simcox's date of execution
was set for Tuesday 17th March 1964 at Winson Green
Prison, Birmingham, However, his lawyers petitioned the
Home Secretary, on the grounds that Simcox was still
severely injured from his self-inflicted wounds, could
not walk, and would probably have to be hanged in a
There was no precedent for
postponing an execution until a prisoner was fit enough
to be hanged, and there was a history of reprieving
prisoners whose executions might result in an unseemly
spectacle owing to existing injuries or infirmity.
14th March 1964 The
Home secretary announced that Simcox had been reprieved,
the sentence of death automatically being replaced by
life imprisonment; at that time there was no provision
for attaching special conditions to such a sentence,
meaning that one day Simcox might be released again.
Five months later, the
last-ever hangings in Britain took place, and in 1965
the death penalty was in practice abolished for murder.
In 1969 Simcox's wife divorced him, and the civil judge
in that case took the unusual step of recommending that
Simcox never be released.
Simcox died in Portsmouth in 1981, aged 71.
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