Ancient & Modern
History of Theosophy in
Theosophists against the Death Penalty 1928
The Murder of Dai Lewis
Two men were hanged for the murder of
Dai Lewis in 1928. These executions still arouse
movement for the abolition of the Death Penalty
in which local Theosophists played a leading role.
Dai Lewis was a well known Welsh welterweight boxer. Back in 1927, the pursuit of his profession didn't provide him and his family with an adequate living. To augment his income, he rented chairs, tables, blackboards and other accessories used by the horse racing fraternity.
Occasionally Lewis would become overly ambitious and rent his equipment in locations at the track he knew very well were traditionally the territories of his competitors. On such occasions, Lewis stood to get at least a bad beating.
untoward happened that night. Next day, Lewis was back at the races, operating
as usual. That evening, he went to the Blue Anchor Pub on
Suddenly, a group of men, including John Rowlands and William Price, approached Lewis. Other men moved up behind him. Lewis, no shrinking violet and well aware of what was happening, raised his arms to defend himself.
Both groups of men crashed into Lewis, knocking him to the ground. As he struggled to rise, a knife blade flashed in the dark. One swipe and Dai Lewis' neck was slashed open. The group hesitated for a moment, looked at the fallen man and ran off into the night.
Prostitutes who had witnessed the event were the only ones to rush to Lewis' aid. They tore at their clothing and made a crude bandage in an attempt to stem the blood pouring from Lewis' wound. Minutes later, an ambulance was at the scene. Attendants ministered to Lewis, who was near death. He was rushed to the Royal Infirmary, where surgeons worked at stitching the wound, but there was no way of stopping the vast quantities of blood Lewis was taking into his
Police were called. They stood outside Lewis' door in case the critically wounded man would be able to speak and identify his attackers. While Lewis fought for his life, a telephone call came in to the reception office at the hospital. The caller inquired about Lewis' condition. Before revealing any information, the nurse receiving the call insisted on the caller identifying himself. The man hung up. A short time later, the nurse received a second call, which she thought was from the same man. Once again, when pressed to identify himself, he hung up.
The nurse became suspicious and informed police. Tracing equipment was utilized to intercept all incoming calls to the reception area. The man phoned again and the alert nurse was able to keep him on the line long enough for the call to be traced. It had originated from a local hangout, the Colonial Club.
Police were there in minutes. They took John and Edward Rowlands, Daniel Driscoll, John Hughes and William Price into custody. All five were charged with the attempted murder of Dai Lewis.
Investigating officers were advised that Lewis was not expected to live through the night. The five accused men were driven to the dying man's bedside. Lewis, who had been told that there was no hope of recovery, was able to comprehend what was going on and was able to speak. In a weak voice, he said, "I do not know how I have been injured. I do not remember how it happened. There was no quarrel or fight. I did not see anyone use a knife."
He stared up at the five faces peering down at him. He continued, "Ed, you had nothing to do with it. We've been the best of friends." To Daniel Driscoll he said, "You had nothing to do with it either. We were talking and laughing together, my dear old pal." Those were the last words spoken by Dai Lewis.
was a professional athlete and something of a local hero, his death caused much
excitement. Over 25,000 people lined the streets of
A few days later, John Rowlands admitted it was he who had slashed Lewis' neck. He claimed Lewis had attacked him with a knife. In the struggle, Lewis' neck had been slashed.
Edward Rowlands claimed he and Daniel Driscoll had walked out of the Blue Anchor, observed the fight from a distance and had run off when the crowd dispersed. Driscoll told the police the same story in an independent interview. There was no evidence whatever that John Hughes had participated in the attack. As a result, he was released, but the Rowlands brothers, Driscoll and Price remained in custody and stood trial for Lewis' murder.
The proceedings lasted only three days. The Rowlands brothers and Driscoll were found guilty and sentenced to hang. Price was acquitted.
Immediately after the trial, there were many who expressed the belief that Edward Rowlands and Daniel Driscoll were innocent. No concrete evidence had been introduced at the trial to conflict with their stories that they had been at the scene but had not taken part in the crime. Eventually, several petitions with a total 250,000 signatures was forwarded to officials, imploring them to review the verdict. An appeal was heard and dismissed.
John Rowlands, the confessed knife wielder, went mad under the pressure of the proceedings. He was declared insane and incarcerated in Broadmoor.
For the first and perhaps the only time in the history of crime, eight members of the original jury which had convicted the Rowlands and Driscoll issued a statement. They said that Edward Rowlands and Daniel Driscoll should not receive the death sentence. This plea was answered by the Home Secretary, who stated, "No regard can be paid to expressions of opinion by individual members of the jury by which a person has been convicted."
On the night
before their execution, both men declared they had nothing whatever to do with
Lewis' murder. In the morning, as 5,000 individuals milled about the
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