Catherine Murphy (counterfeiter)
Catherine Murphy was an English counterfeiter, the last woman to be officially sentenced and executed by the method of burning
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

 in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...


Catherine Murphy, along with several co-defendants, including her husband, was charged with coining in London, judged guilty and sentenced to death. She was executed at Newgate prison
Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison was a prison in London, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London. It was originally located at the site of a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777...

 on March 18, 1789, for coining
To counterfeit means to illegally imitate something. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product...

. Her co-defendants, including her husband, were executed at the same time by hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

, but as a woman, the law provided that Murphy should be burnt at the stake.

She was brought out past the hanging bodies of eight men and made to stand on a foot high, 10-inch-square platform in front of the stake. She was secured to the stake with ropes and an iron ring. When she finished her prayers, executioner William Brunskill piled faggots of straw around the stake and lit them. According to testimony given by Sir Benjamin Hammett, then Sheriff of London, he gave instructions that she should be strangled before being burned. She was, reportedly, tied with one rope around her neck, after which the platform was removed from under her feet and 30 minutes passed before the fire was lit, and thus, she was not actually burned alive. Whatever the case, Catherine Murphy remains the last person to have been sentenced and at least officially executed by the method of burning. In part through the efforts of Sir Benjamin Hammett, who took the execution of Murphy as an example when he criticised the execution of burning, burning as a method of execution was abolished the next year, by the Treason Act 1790
Treason Act 1790
The Treason Act 1790 was an Act of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain which abolished burning at the stake as the penalty for women convicted of high treason, petty treason and abetting, procuring or counselling petty treason, and replaced it with drawing and hanging.Identical...

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