Vivian Teed - the last man hanged in Wales.

 

With special thanks to Monty Dart for researching this case from contemporary newspaper reports.

 

It seems odd that the case of the last man to be executed in Wales and the first to be condemned under the provisions of the Homicide Act of 1957 in the Principality should attract so little public attention.  Not even a photograph of Vivian Frederick Teed has been able to be located.  In 1958 in England and Wales there were a total of nine death sentences of which just four were carried out, including Teed’s.

 

24 year old Vivian Frederick Teed of Manor Road, Manselton, Swansea was charged with the murder of 73 year old William Williams who ran the sub Post Office and tobacconists shop which was part of his home at 870 Carmarthen Road, Fforestfach in the suburbs of Swansea on the evening of Friday 15th November 1957.  The crime was discovered the following morning when post office employee 21 year old Margaret John could not open the door and on looking through the letter box and saw Mr. Williams lying in the hall.  She called the police who forced the door and discovered Mr. Williams’ badly beaten body, the skull fractured from multiple hammer blows.  Examination of the crime scene revealed some size 6 bloody footprints in the hallway and also a woman’s silk stocking under the body.

 

Teed was arrested three days later, initially denying any involvement in the crime, claiming to have been with his girlfriend on the night in question.  Police found blood on his jacket, trousers and shoes.  In a statement Teed said “I went to Fforestfach on Friday night.  I went to the Post Office about seven.  When I knocked at the door Mr Williams answered it.  I was rather surprised, because I did not expect an answer. My idea was to find out if anyone was in and then get in by the best possible means.  The first thing I did was to push him back.  Then he started yelling and struggling with me.  There was a hammer in my pocket which I had brought in case I had to force an entry. I knew that if I struggled with him too long somebody would hear and come and investigate, so I pulled the hammer out of my pocket and hit him.  But instead of knocking him out as I expected, he continued to struggle, so I kept on hitting him, so as to get away as he had a hold on me.  In the end, he fell to the floor and dragged me down with him.  Then he went quiet.  He was still groaning like, and I took some keys out of his pockets and tried them in the Post Office door from the passage.  I left the keys in the keyhole.  There were a lot of keys, but I dropped some.  I went and tried all the drawers to see if there was any money.  I had a look around like.  He was still moving and groaning, and then he started as if to get up.  I didn’t want him to see me, so I switched off the light and made for the door.  Then I thought it would be better to leave the light on so that someone would see it, probably a constable on the beat, and go and check up.  I wanted this so that he wouldn’t lose too much blood.  Then he started to get up again.  He had been struggling to get up all the time, but he couldn’t get a footing.  It was too slippery in the blood.  The last thing I saw he was up on his knees.  Then I left by the front door.  I meant to leave the door open, but there was someone outside posting a letter, so I slammed the door as anyone would, leaving the place.  That’s all I want to say.”

“I did tell someone about it at the café in Cwmbwria.  I think his name is Ron. (it was one Ronald Thomas Franklin Williams) I didn’t intend to do the old man any harm. I didn’t even intend to touch him or do what I did.”  Teed then admitted searching the Post Office for money and also to wearing women’s silk stockings over his hands to avoid leaving finger prints. 

 

Teed was committed for trial by local magistrates on November 19th and duly appeared at Cardiff before Mr. Justice Salmon on the 17th and 18th of March 1958.  He was prosecuted by W L Mars Jones and E P Wallis Jones and defended by F Elwyn Jones and Dyfan Roberts.

 

The headlines in the Western Mail in its report of the proceedings stated “Man driven to kill postmaster of 73 says QC.”  Teed’s defence was that he was suffering from “impaired mental responsibility”, and had been driven to the “terrible deed” by a force beyond his control, Mr. Elwyn Jones, Q.C. told the jury “The defence is not that this man did not kill the unfortunate postmaster.  That tragic fact is true.  The defence is that when the accused did it he was suffering from abnormality of the mind which impaired substantially his mental responsibility for what he did when he killed the postmaster.”  If the jury accepted this defence said Mr Elwyn Jones, they could not convict Vivian Teed of murder. Quoting the 1957 Homicide Act he told them “The law says that in such a case you must bring in a verdict of manslaughter.  He may be a most dangerous man because of his abnormality” said Elwyn Jones.

 

Mr Mars Jones said that some “27 hammer blows were identified on Mr. Williams”, In August, Teed had worked for three days in the Post Office. The alert was raised by Miss John when she arrived at work on 16th November.  The police were called and found a hammer, the shaft broken, near the body, which was later traced back to Teed’s father, having been taken from his tool box. 
Bloody footsteps could be seen leading to the side door.  In court Detective Inspector L.D. Foster, attached to the Cardiff Forensic Science Laboratory said that the pattern on the heel of a shoe belonging to the man in the dock was identical to a print found in the home of Mr. Williams.  Foster said he had compared impressions of Teed’s shoes with prints found on the linoleum in the dead man’s hallway.  The pattern visible on a photograph was identical with a tracing he had made of an impression from one of the shoes.  “In my opinion the impression on the lino could very well have been made by this shoes” he said.  Mr Emlyn Glyndwr Davies, principal scientific officer at the Forensic Science laboratory said in evidence that blood samples had been taken in the hallway of the Post Office and also from the jacket, trousers, shirt, shoes and socks worn by Teed. “There were many bloodstains in the hall, and blood smears were on a key in the door leading to the Post Office premises and on an exterior door.  A mat in the hall was heavily bloodstained and on it were fragments of bone.”

 

Donald Douglas James Teed, brother of the accused said that he hadn’t seen his brother at home, he didn’t see him until 9.30 pm, in the local pub.

 

Mr Douglas Glaze, the hospital officer at Swansea Prison said that he had kept notes in the hospital record book on Teed’s behaviour whilst he was on remand at the prison.  Consulting the book he noted that he had described Teed as “a dangerously jealous man who needs careful watching.”  On one occasion it was alleged that Teed had told a visitor “I hit him because he was holding me, but I didn’t mean to murder him.”  His outbursts seemed to coincide with visits from his girlfriend, Mrs Beryl Doyle.

 

Dr Eurfyl Jones, consultant psychiatrist at St David’s Hospital, Caernarvon, said he regarded Teed as a “psychopathic personality.”  One of nine children brought up in Swansea, Teed had been evacuated to a country village during the war.  He joined the RAF when he was 19 but had soon gone absent without leave.  He had received a three year prison sentence and later a 2 year sentence both for assaults prior to the murder of Mr. Williams.

 

On questioning from Mr. Mars Jones, Dr. Jones said that he believed Teed knew what he was doing, but he was suffering from “mental illness.”  He considered that mental abnormality substantially impaired twenty four year old Teed’s mental responsibility when he killed Mr. Williams, he further stated that his remorse for his actions was “imperceptibly shallow.”

 

Dr. M.A.B. Fenton, Senior Medical Officer in charge of Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Leyhill and Fairfield prisons said that in his opinion Teed was not suffering from any abnormality of the mind.  He disagreed with Dr. Eurfyl Jones’ statement, saying that in his opinion Teed did not have a psychopathic personality.

 

On Tuesday March 18th 1958 the jury of ten men and two women deliberated for four and a half hours, twice failing to reach a unanimous verdict whilst Teed waited in a cell for their decision. After two and a half hours the Justice Salmon advised them “Your duty as citizens is to give a verdict in accordance with the evidence and nothing else.”  Having failed to agree the second time, hope for Teed was raised.  The Judge summoned both prosecuting and defending counsel to his chambers.  He then addressed the court, saying that he had received a communication from the jury.  This stated that in the view of one member of the jury the prosecution had not proved that Teed had not substantially impaired responsibility for his acts.  He said that “the remainder of the jury are quite convinced that the prosecution have proved this matter. It is my duty to remind you that as far as impaired responsibility is concerned, it is not for the prosecution to prove that accused had not diminished or impaired responsibility.”

 

For Teed to receive the death sentence in 1958 the jury had not only to be convinced that he killed the victim but also that the murder met one of the five criteria specified by the previous year’s Homicide Act (see end note).

 

Forty minutes later the jury emerged for the third time. Teed was called to the dock to hear their verdict: guilty of capital murder in the furtherance of theft.  He rose and gripped the rail of the dock as Mr Justice Salmon, put on the black cap and pronounced sentence of death, telling him he that he would “suffer death in the manner authorized by law”, as the new wording of the death sentence had become since the passing of the Homicide Act of 1957.  As Teed was taken to the cells he gestured and smiled to friends in the crowded public gallery. 

 

Teed was returned to Swansea prison and placed in the Condemned Suite.  Whilst there he would have been examined by a panel of three Home Office appointed psychiatrists and also been given an electro-encephalograph.  Obviously no signs of insanity of brain damage/malformation were found as this would have led to an automatic reprieve.

 

A 16 page petition for mercy signed by a thousand people was collected and forwarded to the Home Secretary. Teed’s appeal was heard in London by Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice sitting with fellow judges Hilbery and Donovan and was dismissed on April 21st.  The appeal judges did not find the evidence of mental illness proven.  On May 3rd the Home Secretary, Richard Austen Butler, announced that there would be no reprieve and the law would take its course three days later.

 

Only a dozen people and two policemen were standing outside the gates of Swansea prison at 9 a.m. on Tuesday the 6th May 1958.  At that moment Vivian Frederick Teed was facing his executioner, Robert Leslie Stewart who was assisted by Harry Robinson. He was the third man to be hanged since the passing of the 1957 Homicide Act.  Under a new rule, no notice of execution was posted on the main doors of the prison, this was to prevent a crowd gathering when executions were carried out. 

 

Teed had been executed for the murder of sub-postmaster William Williams and one of those outside the prison gates that day was his namesake and childhood friend, Mr. William Williams of Fforestfach, who said “I have come here to have the satisfaction of knowing that justice has been done.”

The Homicide Act of 1957.
This Act became law in March of 1957 and classified murders as capital or non capital and also introduced the notion of diminished responsibility into English law. Under the Act there remained five categories of murder for which the death sentence was still mandatory, viz:

  • Murder committed in the course or furtherance of theft.
  • Murder by shooting or explosion.
  • Murder whilst resisting arrest or during an escape.
  • Murder of a police or prison officer.
  • Two murders committed on different occasions.

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