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Lock Ah TAM





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 30, 1925
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1872
Victims profile: His wife and two daughters
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Liverpool, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Walton gaol on March 23, 1926

photo gallery


Two Chinese Domestic Murders by H.J. Lethbridge


Liverpool, being a major port and entry point into the U. K. had a large Chinese community. Lock Ah Tam, at 54, had been a successful and well respected man who ran the European branch of Jack Ah Tai organisation for Chinese dock workers, the Chinese Progress Club and was superintendent of Chinese sailors for three steamship companies in Liverpool.

He was married with three children and had a reputation as a peacemaker, being able to sort out conflicts between dockers.

However in February 1918 while having a drink in the his club he was attacked and hit over the head by a group of drunken Russian sailors. This blow to the head, although not at the time serious enough to warrant hospital treatment, was to alter Tam's personality completely - he began to drink heavily and have violent mood swings.

His life deteriorated rapidly until on the night of the 2nd of December 1925 he shot dead his wife and his two daughters at their home, after a party. After the killings he rang the police and told them to come and arrest him.

He came to trial at Chester Assizes in February 1926 and was defended by Britain's foremost counsel, Sir Edward Marshall Hall. The defence was one of insanity due to automatism caused by an epileptic seizure brought on by the blow to the head seven years earlier. This failed, as it could be shown that Tam did know what he had done and that it was wrong, because he had telephoned the police immediately afterwards.

The jury returned a guilty verdict after 12 minutes of deliberation and tears were seen running down the face of Mr. Justice McKinnon as he sentenced Tam to die. He was duly executed by William Willis on the morning of Tuesday 23rd of March 1926.


Lock Ah Tam

Born in Canton in 1872, Lock came to England as a ship's steward. He settled in Birkenhead and became an organiser of Chinese dockyard labour, rising to a position of some importance and standing. The docks in the early twentieth century could be violent places and he was often involved in fights with sailors. During one such fight in 1918 he received a severe head injury.

After this incident his behaviour became increasingly erratic. He started drinking heavily and, in 1924, was declared bankrupt. On 1 December 1925 the family held a party to celebrate his son's twenty-first birthday. After the guests had left Lock shot his wife and two daughters. He telephoned the police and told them what he had done.

His defence, led by Sir Edward Marshall Hall, was one of insanity and suggested that the man was in a state of automatism at the time of the killing, induced by an epileptic fit caused by the head injury. This did not impress the jury and they only took twelve minutes to find him guilty and he was duly hanged at Walton gaol on 23 March 1926.



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