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William Augustus Lacey

Kill Total: 1 Kill place: Wales
Kill date:  6th July 1900 Victim(s): Pauline Lacey
Date of Birth: unknown Marital Status: Single






Just before Christmas 1899, a man named Augustus O'Connor, who hailed from St Martin's in the West Indies, joined the S.S. Flintshire at San Francisco which in due course docked at Hull. From Hull, O'Connor travelled to Swansea where his Welsh wife Mary Ann waited for him.

There had been another man on that ship with O'Connor. William Augustus Lacey was a native of Kingston, Jamaica and he too had been in the British Isles before. A well travelled man, he had spent time in the United States before he came to Liverpool from New York ten years earlier. From there he moved on to Merthyr where he worked in a local colliery and where he first met O'Connor. The two men became close friends before Lacey moved on again, this time to Pontypridd where he fell ill. After recovering in the workhouse infirmary, Lacey returned to the States where he remained until the S.S. Flintshire brought him back to Britain.

O'Connor's wife had originally been named Mary Joseph and her family lived at 38 Hoo Street, Port Tennant. Mary and her children had been staying with her parents whilst her husband was at sea, but they now moved to lodgings at 16 Maritime Terrace and Lacey also moved in at the same address. There was, however, another daughter living at home, 19 year old Pauline, who had already given birth to a child which had died when it was five months old. Pauline was now free of that relationship and through her sister and of course her brother-in-law, she met Lacey, who was ten years her senior, and found that there was an instant attraction between them. When it became plain that her parents did not approve of this liaison, Pauline ignored their wishes and, on Easter Tuesday, 1900, she married William Lacey at Swansea registry office. Soon afterwards, the newlyweds moved to Pontypridd where Lacey had found work for himself as a labourer at the Tymawr Colliery.



By all account, Pauline Lacey was a beautiful woman and this in turn caused her husband to become a very jealous man. Even when the couple were courting, he had gone so far as to say to Mary O'Connor that he was worried about someone else paying attention to her and added "If I don't have her, I'll have the rope for her." This, allied to the fact that Lacey was known to have a very short temper indeed, had been the cause of Pauline's family's disapproval of the match but now that they were married, there was nothing for it but to make the best of things.

Largely because of Lacey's jealousy, there were constant rows between him and his new wife. He and Pauline had first gone to live together at Maritime Terrace, a house owned by William and Georgina Webb where Lacey had lived prior to his marriage and where he brought Pauline, once the knot had been tied. After two months though, the constant quarrelling between them caused Georgina to give Lacey notice to quit and as a consequence, the Laceys took two rooms, one upstairs and one down, at 21 Barry Terrace, where they moved on 22nd June.

Lacey's new landlady, Catherine Vaughan, was soon a witness to many more arguments between Lacey and Pauline. These rows seemed to reach a pitch on Wednesday, July 4th when a letter arrived for Pauline from her parents. Delivered with the 5.00pm post, the letter, which Pauline read out to her husband, made it clear that there was a place for her at her parent's home if things got too bad between her and Lacey, one passage stating that the door was open for her now, as it always had been.

There were other reasons for the constant harsh words between Pauline and Lacey besides his insane jealousy of her. Lacey worked on the night shift at the colliery but he had last been to work on July 3rd, no doubt thinking that his attractive wife might be seeing other men whilst he was working. By July 5th, Lacey had missed three nights work and this too led to yet another argument, Pauline accusing him of being lazy. It was 11.00pm that night by the time the Laceys went to bed but even then the argument continued. Catherine Vaughan had retired somewhat earlier but through the partition wall which divided her bedroom from that of the Laceys, she could hear them shouting, and the sounds of some kind of scuffle taking place. It was only when Catherine knocked on the wall and asked them to be quiet that things finally calmed down.



The next morning, Friday 6th July, Lacey and Pauline came downstairs at 9.30am and immediately the quarrel started afresh. As they ate breakfast together, Pauline again referred to Lacey missing work for three consecutive nights and pointed out that there wouldn't be much in the form of wages to draw on Saturday. After half an hour of this, Catherine Vaughan had had enough and went to a neighbour's house for some peace and quiet, leaving Pauline alone in the house with her husband.

It was sometime between 10.45am and 11.00am when Catherine heard shouting coming from her house, and another neighbour, Mrs Clee, came to tell her that something terrible was happening. Returning home, Catherine opened her front door, fully expecting to find yet another argument in full swing but instead, she found something much more terrible to behold. Pauline Lacey lay on her back in a pool of blood, her clothing open at her breast. Of Lacey himself there was no sign so Catherine closed the door behind her and returned to her neighbour's house.

Emily McKenny lived at 11 Barry Terrace and after hearing from Catherine what had happened, she went with her back to number 21. Together the two ladies made a more careful examination of the scene and saw that Pauline's throat had been cut. On the floor, near Pauline's body, lay a closed razor, the black handle of which was covered in blood.

William Lacey meanwhile had walked to the police station where he found Constable David Evans in the charge room and announced "I have come to give myself up for killing my wife." Evans cautioned Lacey and then put him into the cells whilst he went to 21 Barry Terrace to check the story for himself. Having seen Pauline's body, Evans returned to the station where he charged Lacey with murder. In reply, Lacey said "She told me yesterday morning that she will not live with me no more." He went on to say that Pauline had suggested she might be happier with the man who had been the father of her baby and intimated that when he came home from work, she would be gone. Pauline had also claimed that he had been intimate with her sister, Mary Ann O'Connor but there was no truth in this. Both of the O'Connors were jealous of him and Pauline, and were fearful that they would do better in life. Lacey continued "I loves (sic) my wife to the ground she walks. Before any man would have the benefit of her I would rather see her lying in the ground, likewise myself. I did it like a man and gave myself up."


On July 7th, the inquest on Pauline Lacey opened at Pontypridd before Mr Edmund Bernard Reece. The jury began by going to view the body in situ and upon their return to court, Lacey was brought in. The dead girl's parents remained at the back of the courtroom throughout the hearing, obviously distressed as the evidence was given, though Lacey himself appeared calm and collected throughout.

The first witness was Mary O'Connor who after giving evidence of identification, outlined the history of the relationship between Lacey and her sister. Mary also told of her last visit to Barry Terrace when Pauline had been in her room upstairs. Mary asked Lacey if she might see her and he called her twice before she finally came down. There was obviously some kind of atmosphere between Pauline and Lacey because Pauline did not speak and Lacey sat by the front door, acting in an unpleasant manner. Finally, Mary denied that there had even been anything improper between her and the prisoner.

Catherine Vaughan told the court of the constant arguments between Pauline and Lacey and said that Pauline had complained to her more than once that her husband had struck her. Pauline had also said that she wanted to return to her parent's house, but wanted to take Lacey with her. Mr Joseph was a foreman at the spelter works and had suggested that he might be able to find Lacey a job there which would pay better than his work at the colliery. Lacey had simply refused to go. Catherine's final testimony was that on July 3rd, she had seen a fight between Lacey and Augustus O'Connor, during which Lacey had pulled out a razor. According to Catherine, this altercation had taken place because Lacey had seen O'Connor kissing Pauline on the doorstep when she called round to visit Georgina Webb.

Constable Evans told the court of Lacey's appearance at the police station when blood had been observed on his hands and singlet. A statement Lacey had made was then read out. It began "On Friday morning I rose from my bed. My wife was lying in bed awake. I says to her 'I'll go down and get you a cup of tea.' I went down. I went to Mrs Vaughan's kitchen and drew some tea. I went back to my room and poured out to her a cup full and likewise myself. Before I took it to her I first had mine. She come down before I took it up to her. I says to her 'Sit down, here's a cup of tea for you.' She said she would not drink a cup of tea that I had made."


The statement went on to say that Pauline told him that her heart was full owing to what she had heard about him and her sister. She believed the story, was ashamed and could not hold her head up in the street again. Lacey denied again that there was any truth in the story and suggested that they should go away to the Rhondda. Pauline said she didn't want to go and would rather he killed here as she didn't want to live if he had been with her sister. At this, Lacey had fallen to his knees and begged her to stay with him but Pauline had lain down on the floor in the corner and asked him to kill her. He told her he couldn't do such a terrible thing, went to where she lay and held her and petted her. Pauline stood up at this point, closed the door, took of her shoes and again asked him to kill her. Only now did he notice that she had his razor underneath her arm but before he could do anything, Pauline opened it out and cut her own throat. Once more Pauline lay on the floor but she was not dead and begged him to finish her off. Finally he took the razor from her and did as she had asked before walking to the police station and giving himself up. As these details were read out, Lacey grew upset and a tear was seen to roll down his cheek.

After medical evidence had been given, the final witness was Mary Clee who lived at 20 Barry Terrace, the house next door to the Laceys. She stated that at 11.00am on July 6th, she had been standing at her front door when she heard screams coming from number 21. Going to the door she heard Pauline shout "Oh Lacey, don't!" and afraid that Lacey was beating his wife, ran to fetch her mother. The two ladies went back to the door of number 21 together but everything was now quiet. After a few minutes, a man they had subsequently identified as Lacey, came out of the house and walked a few yards down the street, buttoning up his coat. He then broke into a run and dashed off towards the town centre, looking over his shoulder a few times as he ran. Looking through the window of 21 Barry Terrace, Mary Clee saw Pauline lying in a pool of blood and her mother then went to fetch Mrs Vaughan.



Having heard all this evidence, the jury had little trouble in returning a verdict of wilful murder against Lacey. Later that same day he made his first appearance at the police court when the proceedings were adjourned to July 11th, when the case for the Director of Public Prosecutions was outlined by Mr W.R. Davies. Here, Lacey gave evidence on his own behalf, repeating his story of finishing Pauline off when she had first cut her own throat, but now the story was elaborated upon.

According to this new version of events, Lacey claimed that he had not seen his razor for a full week before Pauline died. When she brought it out of her waistband, she had lashed out at him with it and cut his breast. At this point in his testimony, Lacey opened his shirt and showed the courtroom a cut on his chest. By this time, Lacey was crying bitterly and fell to his knees in the dock so that he was hardly visible from the rest of the court. He then began to pray and when he had finished, climbed to his feet and struck the bench violently with his hand whilst shouting "No! I am not guilty. I have not done it with a clear conscience, not of my own free will. It never came across my mind to do it. Since my sister-in-law came to live to (sic) Pontypridd I have not had a day's peace. She asked me to do it and I did it. Oh I loved my wife. I love her now and I love the ground where she is."

Lacey went on to say that God knew he was not guilty and if he had murdered Pauline wilfully, then why had he not made any attempt to escape? At one stage he shouted "I have never killed a moth. How could I kill a woman." Despite this impassioned outburst, which appeared to move many of those in court, he was still committed for trial at the next assizes. Meanwhile, it was also on July 11th that Pauline Lacey was laid to rest at Swansea, her body being taken by the 6.27am train from Pontypridd.

Lacey faced his trial at Swansea on August 2nd, 1900, before Mr Justice Grantham. The case for the prosecution lay in the hands of Mr S.T. Evans and Mr R.E. Vaughan Williams whilst Lacey was defended by Mr W. Bowen Rowlands and Mr A.C. Thomas.



In addition to the witnesses already referred to, the prosecution called Lacey's former landlady, Georgina Webb. She said that she had never heard Lacey threaten his wife but she did see him strike her. Pauline though had not been afraid to retaliate and lashed out with a fish kettle which lay to hand. At this, Lacey smacked Pauline's face, took his razor from a drawer and put it into his pocket before walking out of the house, saying that he was going to drown himself. On another occasion, Georgina said she complained to Lacey about the constant quarrelling, to which he replied that if she interfered with his wife he would "....jamb her head on the fire."

Emily McKenny again told of viewing the body after the attack but also spoke of an event on July 2nd when Pauline and Lacey had come to her house and stayed for supper. Whilst they were there, Pauline had called her husband lazy and talked about going back to live with her parents. This annoyed Lacey who said he would do for her if she did and drew his finger across his throat to emphasise the point. The next day, Emily had seen Lacey fighting with his brother-in-law, O'Connor, though she did not notice the prisoner brandishing a razor. Emily did recognise the black handled razor produced in court, saying that Lacey had often used it to shave himself in her presence.

Medical testimony was given by Dr Howard Davies who had attended the house at 21 Barry Terrace at 11.00am on July 6th. Pauline lay on her back in the front room, her head towards the window. Her throat was cut from ear to ear and this severed her windpipe and all the large blood vessels on both sides of her neck. The wound in the throat showed more than one cut and there were other superficial cuts on the left cheek, lower jaw and chest. There were also cuts to Pauline's left little finger and the back of her right wrist, which might well have been defence wounds. Dr Davies was unable to say if any of these wounds might have been inflicted by Pauline herself but stated that the number of superficial injuries might indicate a scuffle of some kind though it was impossible to say who might have been holding the razor at the time the scuffle took place. Having said that, Dr Davies also reported that when he attended the scene, he saw no obvious signs of any scuffle having taken place in the room.



At 2.00pm, the court adjourned and Lacey's barrister, Mr Rowlands, consulted with him to see if he wished to step into the witness box to give evidence on his own behalf. Lacey said he wished to do so and gave his testimony after the court had reconvened. Lacey told much the same story as before, telling the court that the man he had considered as his bosom friend, Augustus O'Connor, had sought to cause trouble between himself and Pauline by telling her that he was involved with her sister. Pauline had believed Augustus and become very depressed and suicidal. He now denied taking any part in the death of his wife. He had not finished her off and had only said this at the police station and before the magistrates because he was excited and did not know what he was saying. Pauline had taken her own life and he was not involved in any way.

The jury had now heard two versions from Lacey about what had taken place inside the front room at 21 Barry Terrace and after a short deliberation, they decided that this was not a case of suicide and that Lacey had deliberately killed his wife. The death sentence was passed and Lacey was returned to Cardiff jail, only arriving there at 2.00am on August 3rd.

Less than three weeks later, despite strenuous efforts to obtain a reprieve, William Augustus Lacey was hanged at Cardiff by James and William Billington. A crowd of several thousands gathered outside the jail to wait for the hoisting of the black flag which marked the first Welsh execution of the century.