Syd Dernley

Syd Dernley

British executioner
Date of Birth: 29.12.1920
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Syd Dernley
  2. A Double Life as an Executioner
  3. Controversy and Dismissal
  4. The Room of Horrors
  5. Legacy and Demise

Biography of Syd Dernley

Syd Dernley, also known as the "last British executioner," was born in Mansfield, England. Originally a welder by trade, Dernley had always been fascinated by detective novels and aspired to become an executioner. His childhood dream became a reality when he was appointed as an assistant executioner by the Home Office in 1949. This marked the beginning of Dernley's double life.

A Double Life as an Executioner

While working as a welder at a local coal mine, Dernley secretly participated in over 20 hangings as an assistant executioner. His dedication to his craft led him to strive for perfection and minimize the suffering of those condemned to death. In fact, Dernley and his mentor Albert Pierrepoint set a record for the fastest execution, completing the process in just seven seconds in 1951.

One of the most controversial cases in Dernley's career was the hanging of Timothy Evans in 1950. Evans was later found to be innocent, and his conviction was posthumously overturned in 1966. The investigation revealed that John Christie was the likely culprit. Dernley's involvement in this case and others left a lasting impact on him, as he grappled with the consequences of his actions.

Controversy and Dismissal

In April 1954, the Home Office dismissed Dernley from his position as an assistant executioner. The official reason given was his involvement in the distribution of pornographic materials. Dernley believed that his dismissal was a result of a careless comment he made about the size of a hanged criminal's penis in London in 1953.

After his dismissal, Dernley led a quiet life, working on his memoirs titled "The Hangman's Tale: Memoirs of a Public Executioner," which he began writing in 1984. The book, published in 1989, garnered significant attention and shed light on Dernley's experiences and the nightmares that haunted him.

The Room of Horrors

Throughout his years as an executioner, Dernley collected a macabre assortment of memorabilia. In his bedroom, which his wife referred to as the "room of horrors," he kept three functioning gallows and a guillotine with a blood-stained blade. A decapitated mannequin lay on the guillotine, adding an eerie touch to the collection.

The room also housed numerous mementos, including a peephole from a death row cell, a wooden sign announcing executions outside a prison, and a vast collection of newspaper clippings, death sentences, reports, and lists of all executions held in the United Kingdom. Notably, Dernley possessed a Nuremberg folder containing photographs of Nazi war criminals hanged with ropes expertly tied in the British style.

Legacy and Demise

In 1994, Syd Dernley was the last living executioner in the United Kingdom. However, his life came to an end on November 1, 1994, when he suffered a fatal heart attack in his home in Mansfield. Dernley's memoirs and his curious collection of execution paraphernalia left a lasting impact on the public's perception of capital punishment and the dark world of executioners.