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Syd Dernley (29 December 1920 – 1 November 1994) was dubbed, as also has been Albert Pierrepoint, "the last British hangman", although in fact he was not (this title belongs jointly to Harry Allen and Robert Leslie Stewart). More accurately, he was the last surviving hangman, following the deaths of both Pierrepoint and Allen in 1992. He was a welder by trade, but was appointed assistant executioner by the Home Office in 1949, and participated in 20 hangings until he was replaced in 1954. Execution by hanging continued in Britain until 1964.
In 1950 he assisted Albert Pierrepoint in the hanging of Timothy Evans for the murder of his family, although Evans was pardoned posthumously in 1966 when it was discovered John Reginald Halliday Christie was probably the killer, as Christie's murders all carried a similar modus operandi to the deaths of Evans's family.
On 8 May 1951, Pierrepoint and Dernley escorted convicted murderer James Inglis to the gallows immediately adjacent, and hanged him without delay — the fastest hanging on record, taking only seven seconds from the time he was removed from his cell until his fatal 'long drop'.
On 27 April 1954, Dernley was removed from the Home Office Official List of Assistant Executioners. Dernley claimed that no reason was given for his removal but he suspected it was because of a crude comment he had made about the size of the penis of a hanged man, John Kenneth Livesey, after he had been executed at Wandsworth prison in London on December 17 1952. Pierrepoint had alluded to such an incident (without mentioning Dernley by name) in his own autobiography. However, the real reason for Dernley's removal from the list was undoubtedly because in 1954 he had been convicted at the Nottinghamshire Quarter Sessions of publishing obscene material. The court sentenced Dernley to six months imprisonment plus a fine of £50, with costs of £25 awarded against him. Dernley's criminal conviction and subsequent imprisonment constituted firm grounds on which to dismiss him.
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