Albert Pierrepoint lived from 1905 to 1992. He achieved an unwanted celebrity as one of Britain’s top executioners through the 1940s and into the 1950s. When executioners were vetted in Britain, they were required to be firm, polite and above all, very discreet about their work. Being an executioner in the British prison service was a well paid part time job and those men that did this ominous task had other day jobs that they could acquire release from when necessary.
Albert Pierrepoint was the third member of his family to do this dubious task. His father and his Uncle Tom also executed criminals for the prison service. By 1932, when Albert was invited to an interview, his father had been dead for some years and his mother was unhappy that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Though he got support from his Uncle Tom.
He passed the vetting board and was put on the list. Surprisingly, his first job as an executioner’s assistant was with his Uncle Tom and it was not in Britain, but in Ireland. He went as assistant with his uncle to Mountjoy prison in Dublin and assisted in the hanging of an Irish Free State criminal Patrick Dermott.
He assisted many hangings through out the 1930s and then began to be the actual hangman in 1940. He took part in the execution of over 600 criminals, but what really blew his cover as a hangman was when the war ended and many of Nazi Germany’s war criminals were publicly brought to account.
Field Marshal Montgomery met Albert Pierrepoint in London in 1945 and instructed him to be ready to go to Germany, where he would be participating in the execution of Nazi war criminals. When Pierrepoint arrived in Germany he was shocked by how many war criminals he had to execute each day. He got on with the dreadful assignment and executed more then 200 including the famous SS female concentration camp officer Imra Grese.
When he arrived back home, his discretion was blown and many who knew him were shocked to discover he was one of the nation’s hangman. He continued in his work and hung the innocent Evans of the famous Christie murders and also hung the last female to get the death sentence in Britain – Ruth Ellis.
In 1956, he retired from the prison service and moved to the sea with his wife. He believed hanging only satisfied revenge and did no good, which is strange coming from one of Britain’s executioners. He did a few t.v. interviews in the 1960s 70s and 80s, plus a book. He died in 1992 age 87. He is sometimes referred to as the last hangman, but this is not so because hangman still functioned in Britain up until 1964.