Old St. Andrews



Execution of Roland Hutchings, 1942



St. Croix Courier, December 17, 1942
Hutchings Hanged Yesterday for Murder of Bernice Connors

Tom Roland Hutchings of Peterborough, England, paid the penalty for the murder of Bernice Connors at Black's Harbour last June when he was hanged at. St. Andrews early yesterday morning. He went to his death calmly, preserving to the end the silence and poise which had characterized his conduct since he was arrested at the Pennfield air station last summer while serving as a sergeant armourer with the Royal Air Force. The sentence of death was carried out at 1:50 am, Wednesday morning, and he was pronounced dead at 2:02 o'clock.

Thus the book was closed on one of the most gruesome crimes in the history of Charlotte County. The body of Bernice Connors, covered with moss to form an inconspicuous mound, was discovered on Sunday, June 7, near the Deadman's Harbor, not far from the Community dance hall where she had attended a dance the previous Friday evening. She was not seen alive after that night. The body was about 300 yards from the hall in afield. Hutchings was arrested Wednesday, June 10, and arraigned in magistrate's court at Black's Harbor the same day before Ellis A. Nason where he was charged with the murder. Preliminary hearing followed, and he was tried in St. Andrews early in October when the crown called 38 witnesses. Mr. Justice Richards presided.

The trial was completed on October 6, when the jury after deliberating 3 ½ hours found him guilty with a recommendation for mercy, and the death sentence was pronounced late that night. Evidence of the witnesses was that Hutchings was in the company of Bernice Connors when she was last seen walking up the Deadman's Harbor road the night of June 5, and that he later appeared at the dance hall with blood on his face and clothing. Hutchings himself made no statement himself at any time, and no witnesses were called by the defence.

While in solitary confinement at the county jail since his conviction, Hutchings for most of the time retained the cool, detached attitude which he had sown ever since his arrest, although as time went by with no news to indicate that Ottawa might act on the recommendation for mercy there were times when he was depressed and morose. He ate heartily and evinced considerable interest in what went on about him. Special guards maintained constant watch outside the cell. On Monday of this week it became certain that the death penalty would be carried out when officials of the remission branch of the Secretary of State at Ottawa announced that "the law was to take its course." All the arrangements had already been completed by Sheriff C. W. Mallory.

A scaffold had beer erected in the yard of the courthouse, and Camille Blanchard, official hangman for the Province of Quebec, was already on hand to carry out the execution. Hutchings' last visitors, at 1:30 am, were a chaplain and a doctor from the Pennfield station, Squadron Leader Mann and Squadron Leader Stewart, respectively. When the time came to leave his cell, Hutchings walked out unaided, but outside, turned, walked back deliberately and switched out the light, then rejoined the official party and walked with firm steps to the courtyard and up the 18 steps to the gallows. He wore a beltless R. A. F. tunic with his sergeant's stripes on the arms, and slacks. Accompanying him were Squadron Leader Stewart, his two specila guards and the hangman. The door was sprung at 1:50. Twelve minutes later he was pronounced dead.

The execution was the first to take place in Charlotte County in 63 years. The only spectators were the official group. The scene was screened from outside view by a temporary fence and a covering over the top. Medical men in atendance were Dr. H. P. O'Neill of St. Andrews and Dr. R. A. Massie of St. George. The body was buried in the Rural Cemetery at St. Andrews. The official record was completed Wednesday morning when the formal inquest was held before Dr. F. V. Maxwell of St. George.

St. Croix Courier
May 20/1948
Shiretown items—Hanging of Dowd
Few people now living in St. Andrews remember the execution of Thomas Dowd who was convicted of murdering Thomas Edward Ward, of New River on the 18th of September, 1879, but all the older folks here have heard the story many times. Jack Smith, M. P., a friend of W. A. Stuart in Ottawa, recently came across an old "Toronto Globe" which gave all the details in a full column write-up and my good friend Wes sent the paper along to me. In reading the article I was stuck chiefly at the apparently different attitude of the public of those days to such an event as compared with the reaction of the present inhabitants of St. Andrews to the recent hanging here of a young airman.

The latter incident occurred in the middle of the night with no one present except the necessary officials. The body was buried quietly with little ceremony or celebration. Not a carpenter in town would aid in the construction of the gallows and the work had to be done by the officials themselves. What thoughts this young man may have had during his last few days of life were known only to himself, to his clergyman, and to his God.

In the case of Dowd, however, elaborate preparations were made for the occasion, his execution was carried out with pomp and pretentious religious ceremony, and he was provided with a funeral worthy of a potentate. The hanging took place in broad daylight and his address to the audience in attendance might well be classed with those touching words of Mark Anthony over the dead body of Julius Caesar. Dressed in his dark trousers and vest and clean white shirt, standing there before an admiring group of spectators and holding the centre of the stage in this thrilling drama, this man Dowd no doubt felt that he was the hero of the hour. And yet hanging is supposedly a deterrent. I offer no opinion as to the value, or otherwise, of capital punishment, but I do believe that Anglo-Saxon civilization, at least has come a long way in the past seventy years.