Monday, 14 January 2013
Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Hannah - The Armley Murder
On Saturday 27th December 1856 at York Castle, John Hannah a tailor from Manchester, met his maker at the end of Thomas Askern's rope for the wilful murder of his common law wife Jane Banham.
John Hannah was born sometime in 1836 in Ireland to William Hannah, a tailor and his wife Lelia. John was one of nine children born to his parents. On the 1851 Census, 15 year old John can be found living with his parents and siblings at 11 Warriners Buildings, Bishopsgate, Manchester.
At some time after March 1851 John started a relationship with Jane Banham, a married woman ten years his senior. Jane Banham, a dancer in a travelling corps of performers, and her children had been abandoned by her husband William when he emigrated to America. She began to live with together with John as husband and wife, baring him two children. However things between them began to sour.
Two weeks before the Christmas of 1855 Jane and John separated. Jane took the children to live with her father John Hope, a member of the same performing troupe. In the June of 1856 the company were performing in Halifax. John Hannah walked to Halifax from Manchester and pleaded with Jane's father to be able to speak with her. At first John Hope refused but John Hannah persisted until a meeting was set up between them back in Armley at in the parlour room of the Malt Hill Inn on 11th September.
During this meeting John Hannah pleaded with Jane to return to him with the children, upon her refusal John asked Jane's father to speak to her on his behalf. John Hope was reported to have said that he would, 'have nothing to do with the matter.' John Hope left John Hannah and his daughter Jane still talking in the Malt Mill Inn. Witnesses reported that at one point Jane left the Inn saying, 'I want nothing more to do with you!' It was at this point that John Hannah pulled Jane back into the parlour room. A little while later the scuffing of chairs was heard in the parlour, causing the landlady of the Inn and some patrons to investigate. They found John Hannah kneeling upon Jane grasping her throat tightly with his hand. One of the witnesses exclaimed, 'what do you mean, you rascal!' To which John replied, 'I mean murder,' before slitting Jane's throat with a razor. He then calmly got up and left the inn saying, 'I have done what I intended.'
Poor Jane staggered from the inn into the street, streaming blood from her neck. She was taken to her lodgings and medical assistance was sort. Sadly Jane passed away two hours later. Doctors remarked that it was a miracle she lived so long. John was soon found, arrested and brought to trial at York assizes on 13th December before Justice Erle. John's defence relied heavily on the suggestion that this was a case of aggravated manslaughter rather than murder due to Jane's provocation of John. Justice Erle stated that he could not find anything that was provocation by blows, and it was his opinion that Jane's refusal to live with John was not provocation at all.
The jury retired and a mere 15 minutes later found John guilty of the charge of wilful murder. Upon hearing the death sentence John fainted and had to be helped from the court.
John Hannah's father, William Hannah sent a letter to Queen Victoria pleading for John's life to be spared.
"To Her Gracious Magesty,
Manchester, December 17th 1856.
This is the humble pettion of William Hannah to Your Gracious Magesty, praying that you will spare the life of my unfortunate son, John Hannah, that is now lying in York Castle under the sentence of deth, for the murder of Jane Banham, at Amrley, on 11th September. Your humble pettioner served in the Royal Artilrey for twenty years, and was at the taking of the Flushing, in 1809 and shortly after joined Lord Wellingtons Armay, whare i was engaged in the prinsebel ingagmanets in that contary; and for my service your most Gracious Magesty granted me a shilling a day and a medal with six clasps; i also lost a son in the Canidian war, fighting against the rebels.
My unhappy son's twin brother as lastly been discharged from the 7th Royal Fusiliers at Chatham, with a pension of 8d. per day. He landed in the Crimea with the expedton, and fought with his reghment at the Alma, and at the Battel of Inkerman, and was severely wounded in the assult of the Grait Redan, and was presented with a medal and three clasps from your most Gracious Magesty. i also have a nother son that is following in the steps of his father and two brothers; he is serving in the 5th Royal Lancashire Militia. Your humbel pettioner hopes that your most Gracious Magesty will take it into your consideration the service that this familey has doen for thare Queen and contary, and spare the life of my unfortunate son, for my sake and that of his poor mother, that was with me through the Peninsular War. This is the humble and sincere wish of your humble and faithful servant, and father of my unfortunate son, William Hannah.'
Sadly the Hannah family's military service was not enough to save John from his appointment with Thomas Askern.
The execution took place at noon, some 5000 spectators turned out to watch the hanging. The bolt was drawn, John dropped and after a few struggles, fell still. John's body was left hanging until 1 o'clock when it was cut down and taken for burial in the castle grounds.