13th July 1937

Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death

Guernsey rarely sees a murder. Yet, of the few it has witnessed over the years, an even smaller number can be as pitiful as the death of Edith Robin.

Edith was just 12 years old when she was killed by her father, 43-year old Peter Thomas Henry Robin. He was tried – and found guilty – of hitting her with a hammer and causing her death by cerebral haemorrhage. She had been found in the back garden of the St Peter Port cottage where she lived with Robin and her grandmother.

The defence had argued that Robin may have believed he was chopping wood at the time of the killing, not hitting his daughter’s head. This may have had some merit as he had indeed gone to the garden where the child was playing to cut wood — and had been drinking both beer and brandy just before doing so.

When this seemed to be going nowhere, his defence counsel had pleaded insanity. Unfortunately the doctor who had examined Robin claimed that, although he had a low intellect, he was not at all insane. He was sentenced to death by hanging, despite medical evidence that he had the mental age of a child between 10 and 12 years old.

Verdict and sentence

The judge summed up the case in less than half an hour and the Jurats delivered a unanimous verdict less than 15 minutes later. In their minds he was guilty and would be hanged. Less than two weeks before the verdict was passed, the States had adopted a law that executions, which until then had been open to viewing by the public, should be conducted in private.

In this instance, however, Robin’s execution was not carried out at all and John Tapner, who was killed in a very messy hanging in 1854, remains the last man executed in Guernsey (see 10 February). Robin’s death sentence was reprieved on medical grounds on 25 August and he was instead sentenced to life imprisonment.

His case was notable, attracting national attention for being only the third to be heard by the Royal Court in the previous century.

 

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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st