The Stackpooles – a family affair.
Twenty year old James Stackpoole was due to receive an inheritance of £65 a year from the estate of a deceased uncle when he came of age (twenty one) in May of 1853, an amount that would have made him the wealthiest member of his family at the time. Under the terms of the will his uncle, Thomas, would receive this inheritance in the event of James’ death.
A plot was hatched by James’ relatives,
sister Honora and cousins
Richard and Bridget, who were married to each other, together with uncle Thomas
to kill James. Accordingly the young man
was invited to Thomas’ home in Blanealiga, near Miltown Malby in
At the house the constable arrested Bridget, Honora and her husband Tom, John Halpin and a servant girl, named Flanagan. He and magistrate Mr. Morony, arrested Richard Stackpoole the next day. Mr. Morony cautioned Richard to say nothing to incriminate himself but Richard wanted to talk and said : “I will tell you, I may as well tell the truth; I hear they are (metaphorically) hanging each other; I will save my own neck.” Mr. Morony told him he could not offer him a plea bargain and that he could make any statement he wanted at the inquest but that anything he did say could be used in evidence against him.
The Coroner, Mr. Francis O’Donnell, held a formal inquest on James which returned a verdict of murder and placed the responsibility for the crime on the four family members, who were committed for trial.
Their cases were heard by the Crown Court
Constable May described the details of the arrest which were corroborated by Mr. Morony the magistrate who described the statement Richard gave to him.
Mr. O’Hea led Richard’s defence and cross examined the various witnesses. He made an eloquent closing speech to the jury before Mr. Justice Perrin summed up. The jury retired for about an hour returning to find Richard guilty of wilful murder. He seemed completely unmoved by the verdict. Bridget and Honora were tried the following day on the same evidence and both convicted. Thomas was too ill to face trial with the others at this time and his trial was deferred to the next assizes.
All three were sentenced to death at the end of the Assizes on Saturday the 26th of February and transferred to Ennis Gaol to await execution. Here they were attended by Roman Catholic clergymen and began to take interest in religion and acknowledge the gravity of their crime.
The executions were set for
At about they
were brought out from the Gaol accompanied by officials and clergymen and
mounted the platform where they prayed together. The usual preparations were made and the drop
fell at around 12.40. According to the
report in the Clare Journal & Ennis Advertiser, Bridget died without a
struggle while Richard “lingered” for a few minutes. Their hooded bodies were left to hang for an
hour. At Honora was led to the gallows to undergo
the ultimate punishment of the law. She
too died without a struggle, becoming the last woman to be publicly hanged in
All three bodies were buried within the prison later in the day.
Thomas Stackpoole was initially reported to be recovering from the illness that had prevented his trial but relapsed and later died in prison before the start of the next assizes .
This seems to be a crime of pure greed typified by almost reckless stupidity. The murder was committed in the presence of the servants and the children and little or no effort was made to destroy the evidence of a particularly brutal crime.
Strangely the previous female execution at
Ennis had many similarities. Thirty two
year old Bridget Keogh was hanged with one of her brothers, Patrick Howe, for
the axe murder of Arthur O’Donnell on