The Berryman murders Garvagh

John Berryman.
On the 20th of August 1908, John Berryman was hanged for the murder of his brother and his sister-in-law after a fall out over shares on a farm. William Berryman was the oldest brother and in 1906 he married Jane Turner from Ballinameery. Before the marriage, things had been fine between the brothers. They had equal shares on a prosperous farm near Garvagh. After the wedding, John sold his shares to William on the understanding he continued to live and work on the farm. The relationship between the two brothers soured and John regretted selling his share and arguments on the matter became frequent.

On Wednesday 18th March the brothers were sitting in the kitchen eating a meal that Mrs Berryman had prepared. Suddenly John attacked William with a hammer and beat him around the head. William sustained a fractured skull and as he lay dying on the floor, John left the house. Nancy Doherty who had been passing heard Mrs Berryman shouting at John that he had killed his brother. Frightened by what she had heard, Doherty then ran back to Garvagh. John returned to the house and then killed Mrs Berryman with the same hammer. He then went to the home of John Wallace and told him what he had done.
He was sentenced to death at the Londonderry Assizes and during his time in the condemned cell he told friends how he had a bitter argument with the couple on the day of the murders. He acknowledged his guilt and said the couple had constantly provoked him. He was hanged on the morning of the 20th of August by Henry Pierrepoint.
Grandmother with baby Berryman the only child of its  murdered parents
The Pierrepoints of England.
The first to become an executioner was Henry Pierrepoint, a married man from Huddersfield. In 1901 at the age of 25 he assisted Billington at Newgate prison. He acted as assistant executioner until he received his first appointment of number 1 in 1905. However due to his drinking habits he is reputed to have been replaced by Ellis. In his time as executioner he was present at the following hangings in Northern Ireland.
22.12.1904 Joseph Fee at Armagh.
20.8.1908 John Berryman at Londonderry.
19.8.1909 Richard Justin at Belfast.
Henry on occasions had been assisted by his brother Thomas. Thomas was eventually to become the number 1 hangman and he visited Northern Ireland on a number of occasions.
8.8.1928 William Smiley at Belfast.
8.4.1930 Samuel Cushnan at Belfast.
31.7.1931 Thomas Dornan at Belfast.
13.1.1932 Eddie Cullins at Belfast.
7.4.1933 Harold Courtney at Belfast.
6.9.1942 Thomas Williams at Belfast.
Thomas conducted more executions in Belfast than any other executioner.

The most famous hangman of the 20th century was Albert Pierrepoint, son of Henry. Those he dispatched were notorius criminals such as John Christie, Ruth Ellis, Timothy Evans and Derek Bently. He also hanged some of those who were responsible for running the German concentration camps during the second world war. Although he carried out executions in the Republic of Ireland he only visited Belfast on two occasions to assist his uncle Thomas to hang Courtney and Williams.


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