Letter: Public killing

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The Independent Online
PUBLIC Hanging did not end in 1783 as you state in 'The List' (7 November). The last public execution was in 1868. My grandmother was one of the spectators.

When I was a small boy my grandmother (1862-1945) told me that as a little girl 'sitting on my father's shoulders I saw a dark-haired man in a white shirt and brown trousers hanged'. Recently I found that her childhood memory was accurate.

On 26 May 1868 Michael Barrett was hanged in public outside Newgate Prison in the City of London. The crowd became very excited and 19 were trampled to death or suffocated in the resulting disorder. Political reaction to the disaster forced the abolition of hanging as a public spectacle.

Michael Barrett, a Fenian bomber, had been convicted of causing death by explosion during an attack on Clerkenwell Prison in an attempt to free Fenian prisoners, an event you covered in 'Rear Window', 31 October.

Brian Cullen

Teddington, Middx