Date of Birth:
Just before Christmas 1899,
a man named Augustus O'Connor, who hailed from St Martin's
in the West Indies, joined the S.S. Flintshire at San
Francisco which in due course docked at Hull. From Hull,
O'Connor travelled to Swansea where his Welsh wife Mary
Ann waited for him.
There had been another man on that ship with O'Connor.
William Augustus Lacey was a native of Kingston, Jamaica
and he too had been in the British Isles before. A well
travelled man, he had spent time in the United States
before he came to Liverpool from New York ten years
earlier. From there he moved on to Merthyr where he worked
in a local colliery and where he first met O'Connor. The
two men became close friends before Lacey moved on again,
this time to Pontypridd where he fell ill. After
recovering in the workhouse infirmary, Lacey returned to
the States where he remained until the S.S. Flintshire
brought him back to Britain.
O'Connor's wife had originally been named Mary Joseph and
her family lived at 38 Hoo Street, Port Tennant. Mary and
her children had been staying with her parents whilst her
husband was at sea, but they now moved to lodgings at 16
Maritime Terrace and Lacey also moved in at the same
address. There was, however, another daughter living at
home, 19 year old Pauline, who had already given birth to
a child which had died when it was five months old.
Pauline was now free of that relationship and through her
sister and of course her brother-in-law, she met Lacey,
who was ten years her senior, and found that there was an
instant attraction between them. When it became plain that
her parents did not approve of this liaison, Pauline
ignored their wishes and, on Easter Tuesday, 1900, she
married William Lacey at Swansea registry office. Soon
afterwards, the newlyweds moved to Pontypridd where Lacey
had found work for himself as a labourer at the Tymawr
By all account, Pauline Lacey was a beautiful woman and
this in turn caused her husband to become a very jealous
man. Even when the couple were courting, he had gone so
far as to say to Mary O'Connor that he was worried about
someone else paying attention to her and added "If I don't
have her, I'll have the rope for her." This, allied to the
fact that Lacey was known to have a very short temper
indeed, had been the cause of Pauline's family's
disapproval of the match but now that they were married,
there was nothing for it but to make the best of things.
Largely because of Lacey's jealousy, there were constant
rows between him and his new wife. He and Pauline had
first gone to live together at Maritime Terrace, a house
owned by William and Georgina Webb where Lacey had lived
prior to his marriage and where he brought Pauline, once
the knot had been tied. After two months though, the
constant quarrelling between them caused Georgina to give
Lacey notice to quit and as a consequence, the Laceys took
two rooms, one upstairs and one down, at 21 Barry Terrace,
where they moved on 22nd June.
Lacey's new landlady, Catherine Vaughan, was soon a
witness to many more arguments between Lacey and Pauline.
These rows seemed to reach a pitch on Wednesday, July 4th
when a letter arrived for Pauline from her parents.
Delivered with the 5.00pm post, the letter, which Pauline
read out to her husband, made it clear that there was a
place for her at her parent's home if things got too bad
between her and Lacey, one passage stating that the door
was open for her now, as it always had been.
There were other reasons for the constant harsh words
between Pauline and Lacey besides his insane jealousy of
her. Lacey worked on the night shift at the colliery but
he had last been to work on July 3rd, no doubt thinking
that his attractive wife might be seeing other men whilst
he was working. By July 5th, Lacey had missed three nights
work and this too led to yet another argument, Pauline
accusing him of being lazy. It was 11.00pm that night by
the time the Laceys went to bed but even then the argument
continued. Catherine Vaughan had retired somewhat earlier
but through the partition wall which divided her bedroom
from that of the Laceys, she could hear them shouting, and
the sounds of some kind of scuffle taking place. It was
only when Catherine knocked on the wall and asked them to
be quiet that things finally calmed down.
The next morning, Friday 6th July, Lacey and Pauline came
downstairs at 9.30am and immediately the quarrel started
afresh. As they ate breakfast together, Pauline again
referred to Lacey missing work for three consecutive
nights and pointed out that there wouldn't be much in the
form of wages to draw on Saturday. After half an hour of
this, Catherine Vaughan had had enough and went to a
neighbour's house for some peace and quiet, leaving
Pauline alone in the house with her husband.
It was sometime between 10.45am and 11.00am when Catherine
heard shouting coming from her house, and another
neighbour, Mrs Clee, came to tell her that something
terrible was happening. Returning home, Catherine opened
her front door, fully expecting to find yet another
argument in full swing but instead, she found something
much more terrible to behold. Pauline Lacey lay on her
back in a pool of blood, her clothing open at her breast.
Of Lacey himself there was no sign so Catherine closed the
door behind her and returned to her neighbour's house.
Emily McKenny lived at 11 Barry Terrace and after hearing
from Catherine what had happened, she went with her back
to number 21. Together the two ladies made a more careful
examination of the scene and saw that Pauline's throat had
been cut. On the floor, near Pauline's body, lay a closed
razor, the black handle of which was covered in blood.
William Lacey meanwhile had walked to the police station
where he found Constable David Evans in the charge room
and announced "I have come to give myself up for killing
my wife." Evans cautioned Lacey and then put him into the
cells whilst he went to 21 Barry Terrace to check the
story for himself. Having seen Pauline's body, Evans
returned to the station where he charged Lacey with
murder. In reply, Lacey said "She told me yesterday
morning that she will not live with me no more." He went
on to say that Pauline had suggested she might be happier
with the man who had been the father of her baby and
intimated that when he came home from work, she would be
gone. Pauline had also claimed that he had been intimate
with her sister, Mary Ann O'Connor but there was no truth
in this. Both of the O'Connors were jealous of him and
Pauline, and were fearful that they would do better in
life. Lacey continued "I loves (sic) my wife to the ground
she walks. Before any man would have the benefit of her I
would rather see her lying in the ground, likewise myself.
I did it like a man and gave myself up."
On July 7th, the inquest on Pauline Lacey opened at
Pontypridd before Mr Edmund Bernard Reece. The jury began
by going to view the body in situ and upon their return to
court, Lacey was brought in. The dead girl's parents
remained at the back of the courtroom throughout the
hearing, obviously distressed as the evidence was given,
though Lacey himself appeared calm and collected
The first witness was Mary O'Connor who after giving
evidence of identification, outlined the history of the
relationship between Lacey and her sister. Mary also told
of her last visit to Barry Terrace when Pauline had been
in her room upstairs. Mary asked Lacey if she might see
her and he called her twice before she finally came down.
There was obviously some kind of atmosphere between
Pauline and Lacey because Pauline did not speak and Lacey
sat by the front door, acting in an unpleasant manner.
Finally, Mary denied that there had even been anything
improper between her and the prisoner.
Catherine Vaughan told the court of the constant arguments
between Pauline and Lacey and said that Pauline had
complained to her more than once that her husband had
struck her. Pauline had also said that she wanted to
return to her parent's house, but wanted to take Lacey
with her. Mr Joseph was a foreman at the spelter works and
had suggested that he might be able to find Lacey a job
there which would pay better than his work at the
colliery. Lacey had simply refused to go. Catherine's
final testimony was that on July 3rd, she had seen a fight
between Lacey and Augustus O'Connor, during which Lacey
had pulled out a razor. According to Catherine, this
altercation had taken place because Lacey had seen
O'Connor kissing Pauline on the doorstep when she called
round to visit Georgina Webb.
Constable Evans told the court of Lacey's appearance at
the police station when blood had been observed on his
hands and singlet. A statement Lacey had made was then
read out. It began "On Friday morning I rose from my bed.
My wife was lying in bed awake. I says to her 'I'll go
down and get you a cup of tea.' I went down. I went to Mrs
Vaughan's kitchen and drew some tea. I went back to my
room and poured out to her a cup full and likewise myself.
Before I took it to her I first had mine. She come down
before I took it up to her. I says to her 'Sit down,
here's a cup of tea for you.' She said she would not drink
a cup of tea that I had made."
The statement went on to say that Pauline told him that
her heart was full owing to what she had heard about him
and her sister. She believed the story, was ashamed and
could not hold her head up in the street again. Lacey
denied again that there was any truth in the story and
suggested that they should go away to the Rhondda. Pauline
said she didn't want to go and would rather he killed here
as she didn't want to live if he had been with her sister.
At this, Lacey had fallen to his knees and begged her to
stay with him but Pauline had lain down on the floor in
the corner and asked him to kill her. He told her he
couldn't do such a terrible thing, went to where she lay
and held her and petted her. Pauline stood up at this
point, closed the door, took of her shoes and again asked
him to kill her. Only now did he notice that she had his
razor underneath her arm but before he could do anything,
Pauline opened it out and cut her own throat. Once more
Pauline lay on the floor but she was not dead and begged
him to finish her off. Finally he took the razor from her
and did as she had asked before walking to the police
station and giving himself up. As these details were read
out, Lacey grew upset and a tear was seen to roll down his
After medical evidence had been given, the final witness
was Mary Clee who lived at 20 Barry Terrace, the house
next door to the Laceys. She stated that at 11.00am on
July 6th, she had been standing at her front door when she
heard screams coming from number 21. Going to the door she
heard Pauline shout "Oh Lacey, don't!" and afraid that
Lacey was beating his wife, ran to fetch her mother. The
two ladies went back to the door of number 21 together but
everything was now quiet. After a few minutes, a man they
had subsequently identified as Lacey, came out of the
house and walked a few yards down the street, buttoning up
his coat. He then broke into a run and dashed off towards
the town centre, looking over his shoulder a few times as
he ran. Looking through the window of 21 Barry Terrace,
Mary Clee saw Pauline lying in a pool of blood and her
mother then went to fetch Mrs Vaughan.
Having heard all this evidence, the jury had little
trouble in returning a verdict of wilful murder against
Lacey. Later that same day he made his first appearance at
the police court when the proceedings were adjourned to
July 11th, when the case for the Director of Public
Prosecutions was outlined by Mr W.R. Davies. Here, Lacey
gave evidence on his own behalf, repeating his story of
finishing Pauline off when she had first cut her own
throat, but now the story was elaborated upon.
According to this new version of events, Lacey claimed
that he had not seen his razor for a full week before
Pauline died. When she brought it out of her waistband,
she had lashed out at him with it and cut his breast. At
this point in his testimony, Lacey opened his shirt and
showed the courtroom a cut on his chest. By this time,
Lacey was crying bitterly and fell to his knees in the
dock so that he was hardly visible from the rest of the
court. He then began to pray and when he had finished,
climbed to his feet and struck the bench violently with
his hand whilst shouting "No! I am not guilty. I have not
done it with a clear conscience, not of my own free will.
It never came across my mind to do it. Since my
sister-in-law came to live to (sic) Pontypridd I have not
had a day's peace. She asked me to do it and I did it. Oh
I loved my wife. I love her now and I love the ground
where she is."
Lacey went on to say that God knew he was not guilty and
if he had murdered Pauline wilfully, then why had he not
made any attempt to escape? At one stage he shouted "I
have never killed a moth. How could I kill a woman."
Despite this impassioned outburst, which appeared to move
many of those in court, he was still committed for trial
at the next assizes. Meanwhile, it was also on July 11th
that Pauline Lacey was laid to rest at Swansea, her body
being taken by the 6.27am train from Pontypridd.
Lacey faced his trial at Swansea on August 2nd, 1900,
before Mr Justice Grantham. The case for the prosecution
lay in the hands of Mr S.T. Evans and Mr R.E. Vaughan
Williams whilst Lacey was defended by Mr W. Bowen Rowlands
and Mr A.C. Thomas.
In addition to the witnesses already referred to, the
prosecution called Lacey's former landlady, Georgina Webb.
She said that she had never heard Lacey threaten his wife
but she did see him strike her. Pauline though had not
been afraid to retaliate and lashed out with a fish kettle
which lay to hand. At this, Lacey smacked Pauline's face,
took his razor from a drawer and put it into his pocket
before walking out of the house, saying that he was going
to drown himself. On another occasion, Georgina said she
complained to Lacey about the constant quarrelling, to
which he replied that if she interfered with his wife he
would "....jamb her head on the fire."
Emily McKenny again told of viewing the body after the
attack but also spoke of an event on July 2nd when Pauline
and Lacey had come to her house and stayed for supper.
Whilst they were there, Pauline had called her husband
lazy and talked about going back to live with her parents.
This annoyed Lacey who said he would do for her if she did
and drew his finger across his throat to emphasise the
point. The next day, Emily had seen Lacey fighting with
his brother-in-law, O'Connor, though she did not notice
the prisoner brandishing a razor. Emily did recognise the
black handled razor produced in court, saying that Lacey
had often used it to shave himself in her presence.
Medical testimony was given by Dr Howard Davies who had
attended the house at 21 Barry Terrace at 11.00am on July
6th. Pauline lay on her back in the front room, her head
towards the window. Her throat was cut from ear to ear and
this severed her windpipe and all the large blood vessels
on both sides of her neck. The wound in the throat showed
more than one cut and there were other superficial cuts on
the left cheek, lower jaw and chest. There were also cuts
to Pauline's left little finger and the back of her right
wrist, which might well have been defence wounds. Dr
Davies was unable to say if any of these wounds might have
been inflicted by Pauline herself but stated that the
number of superficial injuries might indicate a scuffle of
some kind though it was impossible to say who might have
been holding the razor at the time the scuffle took place.
Having said that, Dr Davies also reported that when he
attended the scene, he saw no obvious signs of any scuffle
having taken place in the room.
At 2.00pm, the court adjourned and Lacey's barrister, Mr
Rowlands, consulted with him to see if he wished to step
into the witness box to give evidence on his own behalf.
Lacey said he wished to do so and gave his testimony after
the court had reconvened. Lacey told much the same story
as before, telling the court that the man he had
considered as his bosom friend, Augustus O'Connor, had
sought to cause trouble between himself and Pauline by
telling her that he was involved with her sister. Pauline
had believed Augustus and become very depressed and
suicidal. He now denied taking any part in the death of
his wife. He had not finished her off and had only said
this at the police station and before the magistrates
because he was excited and did not know what he was
saying. Pauline had taken her own life and he was not
involved in any way.
The jury had now heard two versions from Lacey about what
had taken place inside the front room at 21 Barry Terrace
and after a short deliberation, they decided that this was
not a case of suicide and that Lacey had deliberately
killed his wife. The death sentence was passed and Lacey
was returned to Cardiff jail, only arriving there at
2.00am on August 3rd.
Less than three weeks later, despite strenuous efforts to
obtain a reprieve, William Augustus Lacey was hanged at
Cardiff by James and William Billington. A crowd of
several thousands gathered outside the jail to wait for
the hoisting of the black flag which marked the first
Welsh execution of the century.