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Killer ‘should never have hanged’ - QC

Gwynne Evans
Gwynne Evans
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Lawyers claim one of the last two killers to be hanged in Britain – Preston dairyman Gwynne Evans – should never have gone to the gallows.

A BBC investigation into the murder of van driver Jack West in April 1964 has concluded Evans would have escaped the noose if his defence team at the trial had lodged a plea of diminished responsibility.

Evans, 24, who had serious psychological problems and was termed “completely childish,” was convicted, along with workmate Peter Allen, of bludgeoning and stabbing 53-year-old Mr West to death during a robbery at his address in Cumbria. But when the pair came to trial at Manchester Assizes, Evans’ lawyers made no attempt to argue he was not fully responsible for his actions – a defence which, if successful, would have spared him the death penalty.

Criminal lawyer John Cooper QC told the BBC: “Evans was a vulnerable individual. And the vulnerable individual was sent into court, into trial without the proper defence put forward for the jury to consider.” He said he had no hestitation saying Evans had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Evans and Allen were the last two people to be hanged in Britain – the death penalty was suspended in 1965 and abolished in 1969.

Both men were not born in Preston, but came to the town to work. In debt, they stole a car and drove the 100 miles up to Seaton, Cumbria, intending to rob Mr West who was known to Evans and considered a “soft touch.”

They were executed at exactly 8am on August 13, 1964, Evans in Manchester and Allen in Liverpool.