WILLIAM GRIFFITH was the first man to hanged in the new Beaumaris prison. He was condemned to death for the attempted murder of his wife, Mary Griffith.
He had been separated from his wife but one night, the 2nd of April 1830 he went to the house in Newborough where she resided with her daughter. He must have become violent as his daughter ran out to summon a neighbour’s help.When they returned to the house Griffith had left but his wife was found with her head beneath the fire grate, and covered with the hot coals. He had also tried to strangle her and force a stick down her throat. She was very severely burned and wounded, but still alive.
After his trial, where he was found guilty, he was taken to the new prison, and his wife visited him. Frequent visitors were also the clergy, The Rev. H D Owen the Gaol’s Chaplain, and the Rev. Mr Hughes of Beaumaris. All their efforts were in vain however, as he ‘died as he had lived, without any manifestation of Christian feeling or even of manly firmness’.
While he was incarcerated he was observed to be mentally disturbed, and on the morning of his execution while he had been left alone for a few minutes, he tore up the wooden bench on which his bed was placed, and used it to jam the door of his cell shut. This gave him but little time, as the door was at length forced open, and he was secured. Uttering the most agonising cries and groans he continued to struggle, and attacked the executioner until he was pinioned and brought to the gallows.
An immense crowd had gathered to watch Griffith die, and many believed that the death penalty should not have been passed since he had not actually killed his wife. Local men would not work on the scaffold, so labour was brought in from Liverpool. The executioner was from Chester.
The execution cost a total of £61.12.0 (£61.60).