Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Man They Couldn't Hang

On September 23, 1803 a silly bugger named Joseph Samuels ignored legal advice and insisted on pleading guilty in Sydney's Criminal Court to breaking into a house and pinching a writing desk that contained, of course, a large sum of dosh.

On September 26 Samuels was chauffeured to the gallows with another prisoner, Hardwicke, who was given one of those catch-your-breath last minute reprieves, but alas, there was none for Samuels.

Or so it appeared.

The first attempt to hang him and the rope snapped in the middle, leaving poor old Samuels face down eating dirt.
Of course he was helped to his feet and given support until the hangman trotted back with another rope.

The second attempt saw the rope immediately unravel, leaving Samuels only slightly hanging with his legs trailing on the ground.
He was unconscious when they scraped him up off the ground while the hangman got a little more exercise racing off for another rope.

Third time lucky, right?

The rope broke right beside his neck and sent him sprawling, still unconscious from the second try, into the dirt.
The Provost-Marshal couldn't stand this another second and hightailed it to Government House to whisper sweet nothings in the authorities ears. Scarcely had he left than he came scurrying back with the oh-so-sarcastically-unexpected news that Samuels had been granted a reprieve.

The rope was tested later that day with seven 56 lb weights.
It held.
They cut one strand with the weights in place.
It still held.
They cut two strands with the weights in place.
It still held and defied explanation of why a much lighter Samuels couldn't be hung.

Silly bugger Joseph Samuels didn't have his poor judgement shaken by the three attempts to hang him; only 3 years later he nicked off with eight other convicts in an open boat they pinched from Newcastle and none were ever seen again.


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