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Today in history by Tommy Finlayson

1 APRIL
An execution took place in Gibraltar on the 1 April, 1889. José Xerri, Maltese, had been sentenced to death on the 11 March for the wilful murder of Amabile Spiteri the previous Christmas Eve. The Gibraltar Chronicle described the occasion thus:

At 8 o’clock precisely the prisoner marched with a firm step to the scaffold, attended by the Reverend Fathers Cabello, Fariñas and Zarb, the last named reciting the prayers of the Church, which were repeated in distinct and firm tones by the prisoner, who exhibited the greatest fortitude.

The executioner did his work skilfully, and death was instantaneous. After the bolt had been drawn the black flag was hoisted on the Moorish Castle Flagstaff to indicate that the sentence of the law had been carried out.

The execution took place in the presence of the Justices of the Peace, who performed the Sheriff’s duty, the Police and Prison Authorities, representatives of the local Press and a few others who were admitted by ticket.

The body, after hanging for an hour, was viewed by the Coroner and a Jury, who returned the usual verdict. The body was afterwards buried within the precincts of the Prison.

The last execution before this one had taken place on the 3 May, 1886, when Francisco Contreras Castillo, a Spaniard, had been hanged for the murder of Sapper Nettleton.

Since the year 1830, and including the execution of Xerri, eleven persons had been hanged in Gibraltar for murder, and one for piracy. Of these, seven were soldiers sentenced by General Court Martial for murder, one (in 1830) by the Court of Admiralty for piracy, and the remaining four for murder by the Supreme Court.

The last execution in public was that of Private George Shaw, 7th. Fusiliers, who was hanged in Casemate Square in 1862.

The 1 April, 1813, saw the publication of El Cronista de Gibraltar, the first local newspaper published in Spanish, and printed at the Garrison Library Printing Office.

In 1901, Greenwich Mean Time was adopted in Gibraltar, whilst the 1 April, 1929, marked the Golden Jubilee of the Reverend brother P C Murphy, Christian Brother, who had been engaged in the education of Gibraltar well-to-do youths at the Line Wall College for nearly forty years.