AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at our archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1903.

A POLICE guard was put in place to stop onlookers catching a glimpse of a condemned murderer as he was led to his death at Hereford Gaol in December 1903.

William Haywood, of Yarpole, Herefordshire, had been sentenced to death at the Hereford assizes for the murder of his wife Jane, who had been brutally beaten in Lucton on July 11, 1903.

Haywood, who was said to have exhibited a spirit of bravado until the last, smoking incessantly in his final days and taking advantage of the perk of a good fire allowed to the condemned man, was said to have been visited by two lunacy experts from London.

But, the Hereford Times said, he maintained in prison the "callous demeanour which was characteristic of his general conduct through life".

"No-one seems to have felt any sympathy for him in his awful position, and there was no petition for a reprieve," the paper reported at the time.

Hereford Times: Pokehouse Wood. Picture: Google MapsPokehouse Wood. Picture: Google Maps

Haywood had worked as a road man and quarryman for Leominster District Council and had been breaking stone in Pokehouse Wood at the time of the murder.

On July 10, he and Jane had gone out to Leominster, returning home at around 1pm. Haywood had retired to the Bell Inn, where his wife later visited to ask him to return home for dinner.

Hereford Times: Bell Inn, Yarpole. Picture: Google MapsBell Inn, Yarpole. Picture: Google Maps

But Haywood was said to have been annoyed by this, and went out again after dinner dressed in his work clothes, and failed to return home that night.

Jane was said to have gone out the next morning to take him his breakfast at the quarry, but was not seen alive again.


Haywood had that morning gone to the Mortimers Cross Inn, near the quarry, where he had drunk a pint of beer and bought a pint in a bottle and a bottle of whisky before leaving.

When he returned to the pub at about 1pm that day, he was reported to be missing his hat and coat, with his shirt partly pulled out, and with a scratch on his forehead.

The landlord said his manner had been strange, and that Haywood said: "There is something the matter with my old woman, and I ought to have the doctor. She is bleeding from the ear."

Hereford Times: Mortimers Cross Inn. Picture: Google MapsMortimers Cross Inn. Picture: Google Maps

He also told a baker at the pub that he had thrown a stone at his old woman.

"Her ear is bleeding and I can't stop it," he was reported to have said.

"If the poor old ***** is dead when I get back then I will bury her in the brook."

He was later reported to have been seen pushing his wife's body in a wheelbarrow, her head hanging over the side and her legs dangling between the handles, the paper reported.

The constable was called, and Haywood, who said he had been throwing stones at the quarry and must have hit his wife with one, was handcuffed and taken to the lock-up after trying to escape to the river.

A doctor found Mrs Haywood was bruised from head to foot, had serious, deep cuts to her head, and a broken leg.

The quarry was said to be bespattered with blood, while a thick timber with splashes of blood and hair on it, and a bucket of water tinged with blood were also found in the quarry.

Haywood was sentenced to be hanged in December that year.

The gallows, constructed in the grounds of Hereford Gaol, was in such a position where it could not be seen by anyone on the roof of any surrounding building after the prison's boundary walls were raised, but it so happened that a chimney at the nearby Merton Hotel, in Commercial Road, was being repaired that week, commanding an excellent view of the gallows.

Hereford Times: Merton Hotel, Hereford. Picture: Google MapsMerton Hotel, Hereford. Picture: Google Maps

Police guards were posted at the scaffolding to prevent people climbing it to watch, while all works were halted for the hanging.

Haywood, who was due to be hanged at 8am, was led out of the gaol wearing the brown corduroy trousers and blue jacket he had worn at his trial, and walked to the gallows, where his legs were strapped and a white cap placed over his head. Death was instantaneous, the Hereford Times reported.

His executioner was Henry Albert Pierrepoint, father of Albert Pierrepoint, who later became known for executing German war criminals including Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camp guards and officials.

Haywood was buried in a plain wooden coffin covered with quicklime in the prison yard,