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UNDATED -- A drawing depicting the area where deputy warden Richard Stedman was killed by prisoner Garry Barrett. The inmates who were in the room are identified by their numbers. Barrett was No. 135.Photograph by: Library and Archives Canada, Postmedia NewsEDMONTON — Garry Barrett had finished his breakfast and was smoking his pipe when the hangman came.
"Are you ready?" the hangman asked.
Barrett said yes.
When he stood up, the hangman led Barrett out of his cell and toward the scaffold that had been set up in the prison hallway. Barrett climbed the steps, and stood on the trap, the noose tied around his neck.
"Gentlemen, I am going to be hanged, but I killed the deputy warden in self-defence," he said. "Had I not done so, my flesh would not be the food for vultures."
He started to say more but the priest began reciting the Lord's Prayer, and the hangman gave the signal.
It was a long, slow death. The noose wasn't properly tied, and the knot slipped out of position when the trap was sprung. The hangman twice began to cut down the body, but both times the doctor stepped in because Barrett wasn't yet dead. He was finally declared dead of strangulation 15 minutes later.
Newspaper reporters who watched the hanging wondered about the amateurish execution — and about the identity of the masked executioner.
The sheriff of the Alberta Institution had said the executioner was the well-known hangman John Radclive, then told others it was Jack Holmes, another experienced hangman based out of Regina.
Some of those who watched didn't believe either hangman was at the scene.
Reporters had been unable to find Radclive or Holmes at any of the city's hotels, and noticed that no one had seen the hangman come in or out of the prison. They also noticed the hangman's shoes were the exact same kind of regulation footwear worn by guards at the institution.
"It is pointed out that although the executioner wore a mask and false moustache, he strongly resembled one of the guards as near as could be determined from a partial facial view," wrote an Edmonton Journal reporter.
Others found it odd that, immediately after the execution, the hangman cut the noose into small pieces, and gave out bits to the jail guards as souvenirs.
But the sheriff wasn't concerned with questions about the hangman's identity or problems with the execution.
That day, he sent a telegram to Ottawa confirming that the sentence had been carried out.
"The execution of Garry. R. Barrett has taken place without a hitch."
Barrett was sentenced to die in June 1908, after being convicted of murdering his 10-year-old stepson at the family's log cabin near Prince Albert, Sask.
Barrett had been in a jealous rage and was about to shoot his common-law wife, when the boy threw himself in front of the gun. Testifying at his trial, Barrett claimed the shooting was an accident, and said the family were "just as peaceful as ever" when the gun went off.
"It was me that done it, but it was an accident," he said. "It was a self-cocker and it went off."
The other children said Barrett shot the boy on purpose.
"There was no accident about it," said one of the little girls, Ethel Margaret. "I seen him turn and shoot my brother."
While Barrett awaited execution, some in the community lobbied the government for clemency, arguing that the boy had actually died from improper medical treatment, and would otherwise have survived the gunshot. An area archdeacon who wrote to the minister of justice on Barrett's behalf also noted that Barrett's anger at his wife was "for the grossest cause."
After looking into the case, the justice minister agreed that there had been negligence in the boy's medical treatment, and recommended the death sentence be commuted to life in prison at the Alberta Penitentiary. Barrett was transferred to the institution, where he became prisoner No. 135.
The guards and other inmates saw Barrett as a sickly and morose prisoner who looked at least a decade older than his 57 years. Some in the institution noticed he seemed to dwell on the perceived injustices of his Saskatchewan trial, but he was quiet and otherwise caused no trouble.
Deputy warden Richard Stedman was in the carpentry shop chatting with instructor Frank Pope on the morning of April 15, 1909, when the deputy warden suddenly fell forward, gushing blood. Barrett was standing behind Stedman with his arm outstretched, a bloody axe in his hand.
"Put down the axe," Pope said.
"All right," said Barrett. "I will not hurt you, Mr. Pope."
The other inmates in the carpentry shop ran to help Stedman, one of them pulling off his own shirt to try to stop the blood. Inmate Roscoe Nye unbuttoned Stedman's collar, and noticed the injured man was fumbling around his pocket.
"Do you want your watch?" Nye asked.
"Time," was all Stedman could say.
A guard ran to the warden's office.
"135 has struck the deputy warden on the head with an axe," he said. "Please come quick."
When they got to the carpentry shop, Stedman was lying on the floor with a gash on the back of his head. He died within moments.
Barrett was standing quietly nearby.
"I wouldn't have done it if the deputy warden had let me see the doctor," he said.
Barrett's trial took place three weeks later. His lawyers pleaded temporary insanity, partially caused by brooding over his Saskatchewan trial.
The jury found Barrett guilty in less than five minutes.
This time, the governor general refused to intervene.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
Read more: http://www.canada.com/Hanged+twice+convicted+murder/5455845/story.html#ixzz1YzyhaqJM