Who was the last man to be executed in Leeds?

Armley Prison has a grisly history as a place of execution.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 21st March 2018, 11:19 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st March 2018, 4:40 pm

The Victorian jail began hanging prisoners in 1864, when it took over West Riding execution duties from York Castle. Ninety-four criminals were hanged in its history, an average of only one per year.

The last man to face the noose was Zsiga Pankotia, a 31-year-old Hungarian national who had murdered a wealthy market trader called Jack Eli Myers, 50, during a burglary at his home on Chelwood Avenue, off Street Lane in Roundhay. Eli returned home unexpectedly during the burglary and the pair fought before Pantokia stabbed him to death. His defence was that the businessman had died because of a weak heart, but he did not appeal his sentence. He was executed in June 1961.

There was only one public execution outside the jail, the double hanging of two murderers in 1864. As many as 100,000 spectators turned out to watch. Double executions were occasionally held until they were outlawed in 1954 because of the extra emotional suffering they caused to the victims. The last one at Armley was in 1932.

Only one woman was ever executed in Leeds - Emily Swann in 1903. She and her lover, John Gallagher, were hanged together for the murder of Emily's husband William Swann.

The most notorious criminal executed there was Charles Peace, who was hanged in 1879 for the murders of a policeman and his alleged lover's husband. He had been on the run several times and committed violent crimes in cities across Britain.

One of the saddest cases was in 1920, when 28-year miner Edwin Sowerby, from Crofton, near Wakefield, was hanged. He had killed a 19-year-old woman called Jane Darwell after she ended their relationship. When he saw her at a village dance, he walked up to her and cut her throat. Sowerby pleaded insanity caused by his experiences serving in World War One, but this was rejected and he was executed not long after the murder. He reportedly took a photo of Jane to the gallows with him.