Woman hanged for murder 100 years ago may finally win pardon
A woman hanged for murder 100 years ago despite a lack of serious evidence may receive a pardon after her conviction was referred to Criminal Cases Review Commission.
The case of 29-year-old Edith Thompson has been described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.
It began when her lover Frederick Bywaters, 20, stabbed her husband Percy to death on October 3, 1922, in London’s West End.
The attack took place as the married couple walked home from the theatre in Piccadilly Circus and Bywaters said Mrs Thompson did not know he had been planning the attack.
But love letters between the pair were used by the prosecution including passages where Mrs Thompson wrote of wanting to be free of her husband and own she fantasised about poisoning him.
Campaigners say Mrs Thompson was judged on her affair, rather than any role in the murder of her husband, with the judge Mr Justice Shearman criticised for being biased in favour of the prosecution.
Both Mrs Thompson and Bywaters were hanged on January 9, 1923.
The Ministry of Justice turned down an application for a pardon last year, but the process was renewed after solicitors representing Thompson’s heirs complained.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “After careful consideration, the deputy prime minister [Justice Secretary Dominic Raab] has referred this case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to investigate any potential miscarriage of justice to provide closure to the family of Edith Thompson.”
The decision was praised by Rene Weis, emeritus professor at University College London, who has spearheaded a campaign to rehabilitate Mrs Thompson since the 1980s.
He said: “The original verdict was, to say the least, very dubious, and the case we made was a very rational, reasonable one.”
His views were echoed by writer Harriet Madeley, whose play Edith is inspired by the case.
St John's, Forton, hosted the amazing play 'Edith' last night. Staged by @Crowded__Room, it told the story of #EdithThompson, put on trial for inciting her husband's murder in 1922. This play used real court transcripts to re-examine the trial. Details: https://t.co/HCb4gSEzLG pic.twitter.com/PXRqTnvVDd
— Portsmouth Diocese (@CofEPortsmouth) March 8, 2023
She said: “There were so many things wrong with this trial... it should not be allowed to stand because the judge was so clearly biased against her. He made it his business to prejudice the jury against Edith.”