British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
|Home - Spying - The 1916 Easter Uprising - Roger Casement - Times Report|
The following report appeared in "The Times" newspaper on 4 August 1916, and is an account of Casement's execution at London's Pentonville Prison on the previous day. It also includes an account of the subsequent coroner's inquest; a procedure that followed any death in a prison.
The Times Report
A Traitor's Record
IRISH BRIGADE FOR EGYPT
Roger David Casement, sentenced to death for high treason, was hanged in Pentonville Prison at 9 o'clock yesterday morning. Shortly before execution he was received into the Roman Catholic Church.
By 8 o'clock a crowd had begun to assemble in Caledonian Road, which runs in front of the gaol, but it was never very large. About 150 people, chiefly women and children from the immediate neighbourhood, stood on the footpath and fixed their gaze on the prison walls, and when the breakfast hour at the various local works arrived, probably another 100 spectators put in an appearance. Many of these were munitions workers. The tramway and omnibus traffic was in no way impeded. The passengers, like the crowd, turned their eyes towards the prison buildings. The only intimation to the outside world that the execution had taken place was by the striking of the minute bell, but the street noise was so loud that its first note was not generally heard. It reached the women munitions workers, however, for they at once rushed off to work again. Near to where they had stood was a group of workmen, who on hearing the bell raised a cheer. Five minutes afterwards the crowd had disappeared, and the street resumed its normal appearance.
About half an hour after the sentence had been carried out, the usual official notices were posted outside the main doors of the prison. The first was a "Declaration of the Sheriff and others," that judgment of death was executed on Roger David Casement in their presence, and it was signed by R. Kynaston Metcalfe, Acting Under-Sheriff of London; O. E. M. Davies, governor of the prison; and James McCarroll, Roman Catholic priest of the prison. A second was in like terms, but it was signed by A. R. Preston, Under-Sheriff of Middlesex. A third notice was the certificate of the surgeon, P. R. Mander, that he had examined that body and found that Roger David Casement was dead.
THE DISPOSAL OF THE BODY
The inquest on Casement's body was held by Mr. Walter Schroder, in the prison, shortly before noon.
Mr. Gavan Duffy, who appeared on behalf of the relatives, formally identified the body, and said that he could not state Casement's age exactly, but he was between 50 and 60. His general health was sometimes very bad. Asked what was his last known address in this country, the witness said he preferred not to make it public. He therefore wrote it down and handed it to the Coroner.
Mr. Duffy then asked if he might make a statement in reference to the burial.
The CORONER: The order for the burial is issued by me and handed to the governor. As to any matter in reference to the burial of the body beyond that, any application must be made to the authorities.
Mr. Duffy: I appreciate that, sir, I have applied to the Home Office for permission to have his body. I consider it a monstrous act of indecency to refuse it.
The CORONER: On that I cannot express any opinion.
Mr. O. E. M. Davies governor of the prison, and Mr. J. F. Style, acting chief warder, gave evidence of the execution of the sentence. The former, in reply to Mr. Duffy, said that Roman Catholic priests were present and they performed the rites of burial of their Church.
Dr. P. R. Mander, senior medical officer of the prison, said that death was instantaneous.
Mr. Duffy: I understood that the doctor has had the prisoner under observation for a month, and I want him to say whether, as a result of the observation, he can say whether there is any truth in the suggestion of insanity, which has been made in the Press.
The Witness: I saw no evidence of insanity.
The jury then returned a formal verdict of "Death due to execution."
"A WILLING AGENT OF GERMANY"
FRESH EVIDENCE OF TREACHERY
The following official statement has been placed at our disposal:
All the circumstances in the case of Roger Casement were carefully and repeatedly considered by the Government before the decision was reached not to interfere with the sentence of the law. He was convicted and punished for treachery of the worst kind to the Empire he had served and as a willing agent of Germany.
The Irish rebellion resulted in much loss of life, both among soldiers and civilians; Casement invoked and organized German assistance to the insurrection. In addition, though himself for many years a British official, he undertook the task of trying to induce soldiers of the British Army, prisoners in the hands of Germany, to forswear their oath of allegiance and join their country's enemies. Conclusive evidence has come into the hands of the Government since the trial that he had entered into an agreement with the German Government which explicitly provided that the brigade, which he was trying to raise from among the Irish soldier prisoners might be employed in Egypt against the British Crown. Those among the Irish soldiers, prisoners in Germany, who resisted Casement's solicitations of disloyalty were subjected to treatment of exceptional cruelty by the Germans; some of them have since been exchanged as invalids and have died in this country, regarding Casement as their murderer.
The suggestion that Casement left Germany for the purpose of trying to stop the Irish rising was not raised at the trial, and is conclusively disproved not only by the facts there disclosed, but by further evidence which has since become available.
Another suggestion that Casement was out of his mind, is equally without foundation. Materials bearing on his mental condition were placed at the disposal of his counsel, who did not raise the plea of insanity. Casement's demeanour since his arrest, and throughout and since the trial, gave no ground for any such defence, and indeed was sufficient to disprove it.
FEELING IN IRELAND
It is probable that the execution of Roger Casement will be violently denounced in Ireland. The appeal for his reprieve had been largely signed, and it was supported by Cardinal Logue and other Roman Catholic prelates. Most of the signatories had no sympathy with Casement's crime. Their position was that enough blood had been shed in the rebellion, and that the pardon of Casement would have had a good effect upon public opinion in this country.
The Nationalist Press demanded his reprieve, partly no doubt because the Nationalist Party must always keep an eye on Irish-American opinion.
It is quite certain, however, that if Casement had been reprieved the Nationalist Press would have hastened to compare that clemency with the severity of the executions in Dublin, and would have raised a new campaign against Sir John Maxwell. Nothing that the Government could have done with Casement would have satisfied the whole of Ireland.
The character of the tribunal which is to conduct the public inquiry into the case of Mr. Sheehy Skeffington has been well received by Nationalists. Sir John Simon is persona grata to the party, and Lord Justice Molony and Mr. Denis Henry are much esteemed as lawyers and citizens by all classes in Dublin.