The death penalty was abolished in Britain back in 1965, but up until a few years before the last hangmen were still at work in Her Majesty’s Prison Service. One of these and probably the most prolific was Albert Pierrepoint whose life was the subject of a 2005 film starring Timothy Spall. Born the son of an executor in 1905, Pierrepoint followed in his father Henry and uncle Tom’s footsteps and executed between 435 and 600 people during a 25-year career.
Pierrepoint hanged over 200 war criminals including Nazi officials from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp such as Irma Grese and Josef Kramer.
Where other notable executions were serial killers John Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer and Gordon Cummins, the Blackout Ripper.
Pierrepoint’s record was 17 executions in one day, admitting it made his arm ache.
So precise was the hangman that it would take him only a maximum of 12 seconds to execute, from entering the condemned man’s cell to releasing the trapdoor in the execution chamber.
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Aside from being lead executor from 1940 onwards, Pierrepoint was a pub landlord and huge fan of boxing.
Through the sport, he ended up becoming great friends with champion London boxer, wrestler and film stuntman Chick “Cocky” Knight, who spent some time as one of Princess Margaret’s bodyguards at Kensington Palace.
In fact, in one instance, he took on two thugs beating up a police officer outside the Royal residency during the early 1960s.
Express.co.uk spoke with Chick’s great-nephew Andy Scott, the author of a new book called London’s Loveable Villain: The True Story of Chick ‘Cocky’ Knight’s Colourful Life, about his socialising with Pierrepoint.
Scott said: “Albert watched a lot of boxing. Now I’m assuming he would have seen Chick fight given the amount of time he was down in London on his ‘business’, as he referred to it.
“But he also took in a lot of boxing matches around the country too.”
The boxer, who was also a triple lifesaver, would even stay over at Pierrepoint’s home when he had a fight nearby in the North.
The author continued: “They regularly met whenever Chick was fighting up in Manchester; he’d stay at Albert’s pub up in Hollinwood.”
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Scott added: “Obviously it was a very close relationship because Albert apparently sent a very touching letter upon hearing of Chick’s passing in 1967.
“And he sent a Christmas card every year to Chick, which was a picture of Albert behind the bar of his pub Help the Poor Struggler.”
The two would also bond over their love of cigars, while Pierrepoint went on to become an Inspector for the British Board of Boxing Control after he’s given in the job of being hangman and executioner in 1956.
While in the 1960s, he and his wife moved to Southport to run a pub there before he published his 1974 autobiography.
The hangman’s autobiography was called Executioner: Pierrepoint, in which he argued that capital punishment was not a deterrent.
Although in a 1976 interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, he admitted his views actually changed every day.
Pierrepoint died aged 87-years-old in 1992 in the nursing home he’d spent the last four years of his life.
London’s Loveable Villain: The True Life Story of Chick ‘Cocky’ Knight’s Colourful Life is out now and can be purchased here.
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