Annie Drinkall - The Last Woman to be Sentenced to Death in Sheffield - November 1955

"However great the sorrow, sadness and tribulation, our law says that human life is sacred" - Mr. Justice Oliver - Sheffield Assizes 17the November 1955 

Upper Hanover Street Sheffield 1981 

All the reports apart from one are from the Yorkshire Post And Leeds Mercury

The first appears on Saturday 9th July 1955 and refers to an appearance in court the previous day Friday 8th July 1955. The accused was a 40 year old mother Annie Drinkall who was  charged with the murder of her Year old daughter three days earlier.  

Annie was remanded in custody for one week

The next report is dated Saturday 16th July 1955 and refers to Annie's second appearance in Sheffield's magistrates court.

Given the gravity of the charge, the magistrates committed Annie for trial at the next Sheffield Assizes. In the interim Annie was remanded in custody. The trial did not take place until four months later. This report appeared on 18th November 1955

The case not surprisingly made the national press. This report is from the Manchester Guardian dated 18th November 1955. 

Prior to the 1957 Homicide Act, any person found guilty of capital murder received a mandatory death sentence. The fact that the Crown Prosecutor said that the case was "tragic in some degree" and the fact that the jury added "a strong recommendation for mercy" to the verdict was immaterial to the sentence Mr. Justice Oliver had to pass by law - the sentence of death .

"The sentence of this court is that you will be taken from here to the place from whence you came and there be kept in close confinement until 7th December, and upon that day that you be taken to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may God have mercy upon your soul."

The phrase that he used in the summing up - 

"However great the sorrow, sadness and tribulation, our law says that human life is sacred" 

seems to demonstrate some muddled thinking. If our law states that human life is sacred why is he sentencing someone to die!

Annie was then sent to the condemned cell to await her execution by hanging. A delay covering three Sundays between sentencing and execution was all the law stipulated.
The noted author Steve Fielding explains the reasoning behind the three Sundays rule
"It was felt to allow enough time for any new evidence to come to light, the convict to make his peace with his or her God and also to not prolong the inevitable wait to die."
An appeal might hold things up for slightly longer - but not by much. "In 1908 the appeal system was introduced, but the vast majority of appeals were rejected. It normally shifted the execution date back by approximately two weeks."

The press went quiet until 1st December 1955 when it was reported that Annie was not going to lodge an appeal and so her fate hinged on the Home Secretary of the time, Gwilym Lloyd George, younger son of former Liberal leader David Lloyd George, the younger son of former Liberal leader David Lloyd George


It must be remembered that Gwilym Lloyd George had been placed in a similar position a few months earlier when he steadfastly refused to act on the many appeals that were made on behalf of Ruth Ellis. There was a large groundswell of public opinion about the conduct of the case but this was ignored by the Home Secretary who found no grounds to interfere with the process of law. Ruth Ellis was hanged by the neck in Holloway Prison by Albert Pireepoint on 13th July 1955.

It was only two days before the hanging that Annie was reprieved. This is from the Yorkshire Post And Leeds Mercury dated Monday 5th December 1955


No reason for the reprieve was given. Annie was still guilty of murder and her sentenced was commuted to life imprisonment. But like many persons who were reprieved Annie did not serve life. In fact it was one of the peculiarities of the system that reprieved murderers often served relatively short sentences of ten years or so. I am not sure how long Annie remained in jail but on 24 May 1969 at Sheffield Register Office Annie married Ronald Brocklesby Walsh(191121 Jun 1971 Sheffield, Yorkshire West Riding, England). Annie was 54 years old. Ronald was the widowed husband of Annie's sister Alice who had died the previous year. Sadly their marriage was short-lived as Roland died in 1971.

Neither Roland or Annie are buried with the victim little June Drinkall. She is buried with her grandparents in Sheffield's Abbey Lane Cemetery. 


Reference:ASSI 87/76 Description: MURDER AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE: Drinkall, Annie

Date: 1955 Held by: The National Archives, Kew Legal status: Public Record Closure status: Closed Or Retained Document, Open Description Access conditions: Closed For 75 yearsClosure criterion: Not used at this dateLord chancellor's instrument: LCI 41 - Series containing both closure and accelerated opening instrumentsLCI signed date: 1975 June 01 Record opening date: 01 January 2031

Births Jun 1954 DRINKALL June DRINKALL Sheffield 2d 229

Deaths Dec 1955 DRINKALL June 1 Sheffield 2d 299

DRINKALL, Charles Alfred (Retired, age 65). Died at 234 Albert Road; Buried on May 4, 1950 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 8375, Section O of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
DRINKALL, June (~, age 13 months). Died at Back of 43 Leavygreave Rd; Buried on July 12, 1955 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 8375, Section O of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.
DRINKALL, Martha Mary (wife of Charles Alf, age 53). Died at Royal Hospital; Buried on April 20, 1938 in Unconsecrated ground; Grave Number 8375, Section O of Abbey Lane Cemetery, Sheffield.

Births Jun 1915 Drinkall Annie Shaw Sheffield 9c 1247

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page Marriages Mar 1906 

DRINKALL Charles Alfred Thorne 9c 961 Shaw Martha Mary Thorne 9c 961


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