New Brunswick. Commission to Inquire into the Execution of Benny Swim.

Abstract: Commission to Inquire into the Execution of Benny Swim, 1923

On Friday, 6 October 1922, Benny Swim was hanged by the neck until he died. Twice.

Benny Swim had murdered both Olive and Harvey Trenholm. There was no dispute about the crime; Swim had confessed to committing the murders. What was in dispute, however, was Swim's state of mental health and the circumstances surrounding his execution. Though both points of contention were mentioned in the enabling legislation, only the latter was pursued in the investigation.

The story of Swim's execution is full of drama: reports of a drunken hangman; reports of indelicate treatment of the condemned until the final moment of the actual hanging, when Doyle, the hired hangman, was accused of springing the trap door beneath Swim's feet before the condemned was finished praying; reports that on the night prior to the hanging "there was more or less hilarity among those present at the gaol"; and, central to the investigation by Commissioner J. Bacon Dixon, a botched execution attempt, which ultimately had to be repeated.

Though Dixon dismissed some of the reports of wrongdoing, it is clear that Swim had to be hanged twice. The first hanging did not break his spine. When he was cut down, the four doctors present realized that not only was he not dead but that his pulse was getting stronger. After an interval of approximately an hour, Swim, reportedly unconscious throughout, was taken back to the gaol and hanged a second time. There he swung for nineteen minutes until it was clear to all that he had finally expired.

h.c.

Commissioner: J. Bacon Dickson.

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