Dark City by Simon Read

Dark City by Simon Read

Author:Simon Read
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: The History Press


The following day, however, Home Secretary Herbert Morrison announced Jones had been reprieved. The news caused a considerable uproar, even in Jones’s hometown, where graffiti appeared on walls proclaiming, ‘She should hang!’ Hulten’s execution, scheduled for 8 the following morning, would go forward as planned despite an appeal for clemency from the soldier’s family in Boston. Massachusetts State Senator Charles Innes went so far as to ask President Franklin D. Roosevelt to intervene on Hulten’s behalf, but to no avail.

‘I’ve done everything I can – there’s nothing more to be done,’ Hulten’s wife, Rita, told the New York Times the day before the hanging, which also happened to be her 21st birthday. ‘After he’s gone, this woman can say anything she wants and there’ll be no one there to deny it.’

Back in Britain, angry readers inundated newspapers with letters and phone calls, now demanding to know why Hulten should hang when his accomplice got off. Five young women, employed by a Glasgow factory and proclaiming to speak on behalf of their many co-workers, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court and threatened to walk off the job should Hulten die at the end of a rope. Isolated in his cell, Hulten, having been weighed and measured for the drop, quietly awaited his rendezvous with the hangman. Prison officials reported that he appeared relatively unconcerned with his impending death and was ‘sleeping and eating regularly’.

The morning of Thursday, 8 March, cold and overcast, revealed a crowd of more than two hundred people outside Pentonville Prison. Dressed head-to-toe in black, Violet Van Der Elst – an author of ghost stories, aspiring politician and a vocal opponent of capital punishment – took up position outside the prison gates and led those present in a chorus of jeers as the hour of execution drew near. When she asked a guard to escort her to the prison’s gallows, she was politely rebuffed.

‘You let the girl go, but you let the man hang,’ she yelled at the prison walls, ‘It’s a damned shame!’

Van Der Elst’s protest grew increasingly desperate with each passing minute. Her request to enter the death chamber denied, she stormed across the street and climbed inside the cab of a parked dustcart. Following the orders of an enthusiastic woman, the truck’s driver gunned the engine and aimed the vehicle at the prison’s wooden gates. The daring plan, however, failed. Before the lumbering truck reached its target, a number of police officers on the scene were able to block its path with a truck of their own. The dustcart swerved, jumped a kerb and skidded to a stop. Constables swarmed the vehicle and dragged the grinning driver and an irate Mrs Van Der Elst from the cab.

‘Don’t touch me,’ she yelled as bobbies led her away.

Inside the prison, a bell tolled 9 o’clock. With two American Army officers serving as official witnesses, Karl Hulten was noosed and dropped. The noise of the commotion outside didn’t penetrate the stone walls of the execution cell, where the only sound now was the morbid creaking of the gallows.



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