seven year old Perry was a soldier who returned home from fighting in
the Middle East and murdered the Cornish family, forty seven year old
Walter and his wife Alice who was forty three, and their two children,
Alice who was fourteen and Marie aged five, at Forest Gate, east London.
Perry knew the family as Mrs Cornish was his step father's sister. He
lodged with them for a while until he was asked to leave following a
row. On 28th April, as he was passing the house, Mrs Cornish invited him
They were soon arguing again until Perry picked up an axe and beat
her to death. He then waited for each member of the family to return
home and systematically killed them. He also stole money and valuables
from the house.
Perry pleaded insanity at his trial, and it was alleged
that he was insane after being beaten and tortured at the hands of the
Turks while a prisoner during the war. He had seventeen previous
criminal convictions, including violence.
Found guilty at the Old Bailey
on 27th May, sentenced to death by Mr Justice Darling, Perry was hanged
by John Ellis and William Willis on the 10th July 1919 in Pentonville.
Henry Perry (aka Beckett)
July 10, 1919
Lodger from hell, Henry Perry, aka Beckett was
done for wiping out his landlord and the family, who had so
trustingly and unsuspectingly taken him in.
Perry murdered the Cornish family – made up of
Walter, mum, Alice, plus daughters Alice and Marie – all in cold blood.
At a time when post-traumatic stress was coming to
the fore post-World War I, ex-army man Perry proposed a whole litany of
war sufferings in his defence. This included a bastinadoing sesh, (where
the soles of his feet were whipped), after which his captors whacked him
on the head with a rifle butt before holing him up in a Turk jail, then
there were the head injuries thanks to shrapnel embedded in his brain.
He also put it down to hearing voices in his head
that had told him to commit the murders. But no-one bought shell-shock
as a defence, because he had previous.
While he hadn’t committed murder before that point,
he had chalked up as many as 17 convictions before he’d gone off to war.
According to Clive Emsley’s extremely specific round-up
entitled ‘Violent crime in England in 1919’, the actual trial prosecutor,
Percival Clarke, is said to have remarked ‘The war has done great good
for some persons, it has taught them discipline, and made honest and
honourable men of people who started badly. But the brutalities of war
may have made more vicious a person who was vicious before’.
And it was this damning indictment that secured the
quadruple murderer his guilty verdict and he was hanged at Pentonville
for his crimes, aged 36.