The life and times of the last man hanged in Birmingham
Oswald Augustus Grey was a Jamaican immigrant. He was 20 years old when he was executed and 19 when the crime for which he was convicted took place.
To talk to people who lived in the city at the time, or to scour the nostalgia forums that proliferate online, is to discover an episode that has almost entirely disappeared in terms of public remembrance. This book unearths something of a place and a society that allowed a young life to become expendable and forgotten. The Birmingham in which this happened is both alien yet familiar.
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Lives are precious and when someone is convicted of a murder they need and should be afforded the best defense hoping that there might have been a misjudge of character. But, when racism, prejudice and a wrong assumption come into play, plus a prosecutor who rolled over the defense, and a young 19-year-old young man named Oswald Augustus Grey was sent to his death but was he guilty? Accused of killing Thomas Arthur Bates during a robbery at his newspapers shop. Grey felt on the number 8 bus. Picked up four days after this incident in relation to claiming he stole a gun and was pit on an identity line up where Cecilia Gibbs said he was the man she saw at the Throughout this account of events that led to the execution of Grey, the author presents a startling history about the bulk is Britain’s post war hangings conducted by Albert Pierrepoint who continued the occupation of his father and uncle Henry and Thomas. Thomas presided in 261 occasions and Henry 75 and Albert 169. Oswald Grey the subject of this book his ultimate moments entrusted to Henry Allen who acted has an assistant to Pierrepoint on several occasions and with Grey’s demise he stated officiated in some capacity in 80 executions. Continues with how some were instructed to keep prisoner’s calm. There was Hanratty convicted of murder of Michael Gregston and for the attempted murder and rape of Valerie Storie. He expands on where and when plus how long it took to complete the process of his arrest to execution. He adds the length and times of trials of others and adds that Grey’s lasted a mere five days. Nobody took up his cause and he was a Jamaican baker and reading further we learn that his world was loose and dysfunctional. Other trials were longer and received more attention from the public. Pages 13-14 explains more. The author tried sketch something of a backdrop against which Grey’s time in Birmingham was played out. Piecing together the details of his life was quite demanding and frustrating. At the time there were many seeking jobs, and most did but not Grey. Having failed to make any mark during his shortened life, he had until now , been condemned to his memory being deemed equally insignificant. The author wants to put it right. He goes on to explain the issues faced by PM Tony Blair and his poor judgments affecting his opinions about the labour movement and page 53 it’s elaborated. He goes on to talk about his own family namely his father, positions in government and more and how it affected his childhood. The author requested to see the files on Grey but was turned down when asked to see the court papers that resided in the National Archive at Kew, and you won’t believe the frustration and fact he was denied and why. The request was denied, and it was claimed difficult to imagine that the mental health of ant surviving family members, who had already experiences shame and trauma some 60 years ago. The haphazard and sometimes lurid material available about Grey’s crime , his demise if Bates , access to official material could provide reliable and convincing accounts to counteract the prevailing inaccuracies. Finally, all will be revealed, relatives of Grey or his father have become untraceable. It’s more about a forgotten Black life and the notes covering what happened in the few hours it took to dispense justice to a Black boy in Birmingham at the same time remain unreachable. The author in Chapter 6 talks in detail about his arrest, trial and conviction and why a bewildered Oswald never had a chance. He details exactly why racism and prejudice are factors and initial reports of the murder along with the significance of the 8 buses. The entire incident, arrest and lack of hope and compassion for this unfortunate young man plus an attorney who tried to get the conviction reversed shows the poor judgment of all involved the fact he was living on National Assistance and the prosecution reveled in his role as he entertained the court by dissecting Grey’s chaotic claim about his movements and actions on the afternoon of June 2. You hear his voice, but the recounting is disjointed and difficult to believe yet Grey seems confused, and someone came forward to defend him but somehow that was negated. Read pages 63-66 the trial, the summations , and the conviction. shop[. Four other people said he was not seen at the shop. Who lied? Why did he confess? Did he understand what was happening and was he coerced by the police? Grey said he had given the gun to his friend called the Mover who returned it at 10 PM on June 2, after murder. However, his friend said this was not rue and had two people say they were with him from ten in the morning until ten at night. Dolores Kennedy and his sister Barbara. He claimed it was two other people his father and someone named Phyllis Shields at the time of the murder on Church Street. However, they could not be sure of the times and the owners of the café where grey said he handed over the gun to mover said he was not there that day. The result was he was sentenced to death, but author Jon Berry chronicles the time and places and events that led up to his death sentence and explains the prejudice and racism of the times in Lea Bank, Edgbaston, Birmingham. This book is about a boy whose life has been forgotten. Indifferent officialdom , careless record keeping, and wanton rescuing colluded in maintaining this shameful invisibility. It recounts how sone came from the Caribbean and exercised the same right as someone moving from Newcastle to London. It explains the poor judgment of the Home Secretary, Theresa May and migration status and issues. Finally, the author relates his conversations with Charlie Williams a tireless fighter in a range of anti-racist causes. They discussed death in custody, and he relates a current episode, the facts of which turn out to be familiar to Charlie. Going back to Oswald Grey and comparing it to George Floyd whose public execution at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman made an impact in millions and still does. They reflect on the moment on the grim irony that although a young Black Man in Birmingham may not risk a state sponsored death carried out with chilling rituals that echo past centuries, he may as the author states, be fatally endangered when encountering premises built for his ostensible protection. Other cases are sited but in conclusion the author relates and reminds us that every life matters and more that a Black boy killed in Birmingham is soon fades from our memory. As every Brunei of a certain she that he spoke to, the horrific and awful tale of Oswald Grey was unknown to Bishop Joe who just arrived from Jamaica in 1968z he guessed about Grey’s short life and the picture painted us dispiriting. A young Black boy was the victim of an egregious injustice. He was confused, short of money and prospects living in a dingy bedsit, is it entirely plausible that he went into the shop owned by Thomas Bates on that evening in June 1962 shakily pointing a stolen pistol that changed the lives of two families? Was he so desperate for a few quid? He was not robbing the Deadwood stagecoach or was he the people’s champion and the book does not claim him as such. This book is, not an attempt to rescue a hero, but merely to save the memory is a boy who walked the same streets and the author, caught the same buses, and who at least deserves the respect, recognition, and more importantly to remember him and his unhappy existence and all that it prompts all of us to reflect on. Oswald Augustus Grey: Your Life Matters. I agree and hope others will read and reflect on the times, the unfairness, and racism and provide some heartfelt outpouring for him and others. You the reader decide: was he wrongly accused? Why didn’t anyone become his champion? This is a brat book to enlighten everyone about what happens when a 20-year-old Jamaican immigrant is executed and 19 when the crime took place. Author Jon Berry creates a powerful book questioning whether justice or injustice took place and how both blended. Brutish Necessity straightforward, hard hitting and powerful. ~ Fran Lewis - Just Reviews, https://tillie49.wordpress.com/2022/09/17/brutish-necessity-2/
Brutish Necessity shines a light on a wretched and forgotten episode in Birmingham’s history, telling us about the roots of racism which are still all too evident today. ~ Adrian Goldberg. Broadcaster and filmmaker, Personal contact
A big city at the start of the sixties, when the whole world was on the brink of cultural change. A big city actively demolishing its pre-war past and trying to construct a post war future. A city where new arrivals from a broken empire were challenging old certainties. Birmingham in 1962 was a place of uneasy compromises which, at the same time, was exploding with the vibrancy of new cultures, new music, the tastes and smells of other worlds. Set in this volatile environment, Brutish Necessity tells a tragic true story which also shines a light on a whole era and an entire chapter of British history. Beautifully written by Jon Berry, Brutish Necessity does justice to the story of an injustice without scoring points or banging drums. At times, funny and poignant, you feel the pulse of the city as you read, and perhaps begin to understand more about the present by learning from the past. Some things have changed, some things have stayed the same. Brutish Necessity goes some way to explaining how and why. ~ Steven Knight - film director and creator of Peaky Blinders, Personal contact
Sharp, enthralling and unfiltered, “ Brutish Necessity” is a fascinating story that deserves to be heard. ~ David Lammy MP, Personal contact
Brutish Necessity makes the revealing but sadly unsurprising connection between white society’s careless disregard for one Black boy in 1960s Birmingham and others who live in the city 60 years on. It has much to tell us about the enduring nature of racism and how much still needs to be done to counter it as together we work towards a more just society for all. ~ Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, National Church Leadership Forum - A Black Christian Voice , Personal contact