The Man They Couldn’t Hang

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A policeman in Sydney, Australia died in 1803 from wounds inflicted by thieves the he had discovered while they were stealing a desk that contained a bag of silver and gold coins.  Shortly afterward, one of the thieves, Joseph Samuels, was arrested with some of the stolen coins in his pocket.

Because of his bad reputation, he was charged and convicted for the murder of the policeman, However, Samuels claimed that he won the coins while gambling.  He even produced witnesses who testified that was he hopelessly drunk at the time of the murder and was several miles away from the scene of the crime at the time that it took place.

Because the police used forceful methods in their interrogation, Samuels signed a confession to the robbery even though he stoutly denied that he participated in the murder.  However, he still maintained his innocence saying that he was only an accomplice in the robbery, but that a man named Isaac Simmonds was the murderer.  Nevertheless, he was hastily found guilty and sentenced to death.

Isaac Simmonds was also arrested and was being held, but he refused to confess.  Hoping to shock him into cooperating with the police, the provost marshal instructed the police to escort him to Samuels’ execution so that he would be forced to witness it and hopefully decide to come clean.

On the day of Samuels’ execution, a horse drawn cart was brought in so that he could be hung when the cart was taken out from under him.

When Samuels was escorted to the gallows, he was given the opportunity to address the crowd that had gathered for his execution.  He admitted that he participated in the robbery but swore he had no part in the murder.  He calmly announced that the real murderer was standing in the crowd under police guard and stated that his name was Issac Simmonds.

As soon as Samuels made his accusation, Simmonds began to shout in order to drown out his words. Nonetheless, upon hearing Samuels’ speech, the crowd began to demand that he be released and that Simmonds be tried for the murder.  As the crowd rushed forward, a guard jabbed at the horses, spurring them to lumber off and leave the condemned man to hang.  As it turned out, the rope broke and Samuels fell to the ground.

The guards surrounded Samuels until the hangman could prepare a second rope.  By then the crowd was close to rioting, but the provost marshall, out of a sense of duty, had the semiconscious man hoisted up and back into the cart.  By then, he was so weak that he had to be sat upon a barrel on top of the cart.

The noose was placed around his neck and a hasty order was again given to perform the execution.  However, this time the rope began to unravel until Samuels’ feet could touch the ground, keeping him from being strangled.

By now, the crowd was convinced that they were witnessing a case of divine intervention and a cry went up to cut him down. And cut down he was, only to have yet a third noose placed around his neck.

This time the rope broke just above Samuel’s head which finally convinced the provost marshall to grant Samuels an immediate reprieve.  The official was very skeptical and tested the rope only to discover that there was no physical defects leading him to agree with the crowd that there was indeed divine intervention at work.

Isaac Simmonds was evenually brought to trial and hanged for the policeman’s murder.  Unforrtunately, Samuels returned to this old wasy and before long was imprisoned again.  While in jail, he and several other inmates stole a boat and escaped to sea.  Nothing more was ever heard from him and he was presumed drowned.

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