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Christopher Simcox




Kill Total:


Kill date:

1948 & 1964

Kill Place:





maintenance fitter
Victim: First Wife ? Hilda Payton






Stafford Assizes
Case No:  








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1948, Simcox murdered his second wife, and was sentenced to death at Stafford Assizes.

However, in April 1948 the House of Commons had passed amendment to the then  Criminal Justice Bill to suspend capital punishment for murder for five years.

The House of Lords overturned the amendment later in the year, but in the intervening period the Home Secretary, James Chuter Ede had announced that he would reprieve all condemned prisoners until the law was settled.

Between March and October 1948 26 persons, including Simcox, were thereby reprieved.

Simcox served 10 years in jail, before being released.

1962. He was married, for the third time, in 1962 to Ruby Irene.

1963 he threatened his wife with an air-pistol, but was put on probation.

His wife subsequently left him, with the help of relatives.

11th November 1963 Simcox, armed with a rifle, went in search of his wife. He shot her sister, Mrs Hilda Payton, fatally through the head, before pursuing his wife to her brother's house. There he shot them both, but they survived. Simcox then turned the gun on himself, shooting himself twice through the body, but he also survived.

February 1964,  Simcox was again tried at Stafford Assizes, and sentenced to death. The Homicide Act 1957 had restricted capital murder to a limited class of crimes, including murder with a firearm, and a second murder committed on a different occasion from the first. Simcox was eligible to be hanged on both grounds.

In 1948 he was sentenced "to be hanged by the neck until you are dead", while in 1964 he was sentenced "to suffer death in the manner authorised by law". This change in language was provided in the 1957 Act; the old language was considered anachronistic, as since the 1870s Britain had employed the "long-drop" method of hanging, which was held to cause near-instantaneous death.


Simcox's date of execution was set for Tuesday 17th March 1964 at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, However, his lawyers petitioned the Home Secretary, on the grounds that Simcox was still severely injured from his self-inflicted wounds, could not walk, and would probably have to be hanged in a wheelchair.

There was no precedent for postponing an execution until a prisoner was fit enough to be hanged, and there was a history of reprieving prisoners whose executions might result in an unseemly spectacle owing to existing injuries or infirmity.


14th March 1964 The Home secretary announced that Simcox had been reprieved, the sentence of death automatically being replaced by life imprisonment; at that time there was no provision for attaching special conditions to such a sentence, meaning that one day Simcox might be released again.


Five months later, the last-ever hangings in Britain took place, and in 1965 the death penalty was in practice abolished for murder.

In 1969 Simcox's wife divorced him, and the civil judge in that case took the unusual step of recommending that Simcox never be released.

Simcox died in Portsmouth in 1981, aged 71.




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