• Robert Skuce

The Last Canadian Hanging

Canada is well known for being the country that doesn’t have capital punishment. Capital punishment, or being sentenced to death, is a popular form of punishment for those who do heinous crimes worldwide. One thing you may not know is that Canada had a capital punishment past.

Canadians used to hang from the gallows in several famous Jails across the country. However, there is one last hanging that happened before the ruling of removing capital punishment from the Canadian judicial system.

At the End of the Rope

Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were the last two people to ever die of capital punishment in Canada. Lucas was 54 years old and a career criminal. He was said to have killed at least two people. Turpin was only 29 years old, and he was known for being a petty thief, but one fateful night he shot and killed a police officer. Killing an officer of the law at the time was an instant death sentence.

They both were hung at the gallows in Don Jail in Toronto on December 11th, 1962.

More than half a century has passed, and there are still questions as to whether they deserved to die or not. There were all kinds of doubts that arose in regard to how fair their trials were. There is enough doubt that the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted went ahead and opened a file in regards to Lucas’ death.

Both men were hung at 12:02 a.m. when the hangman slid the plank out from under the trapdoors where the men stood. This last hanging drew a large crowd of people who were protesting the hangings. The murder trials went through the courts at a rapid speed. Turpin committed his crime in February of 1962 and Lucas had done his in November of 1961. Both were dead by December of 62.

Ross Mackay was the defender in both cases. He was young at the time, smart and knew his stuff, but very inexperienced. Mackay spent a lot of time visiting the people he defended at the Kingston Prison. When Mackay died in 1983, he still believed that neither Turpin nor Lucas deserved capital punishment.

Mackay took on Lucas as his first murder case. Turpin was his second. He defended both these men in back to back cases. Coincidentally, that’s how they died too. They were hung together, feet, and hands bound, and they were back to back when they hung.

Final Thoughts

The truth is, no one knows for sure if either man deserved to die. Lucas’ case looks more like a setup than a real conviction. One thing is for sure, even today, there is doubt into whether or not Lucas deserved to die. He did maintain his innocence until his execution, even when presented the chance to clear his conscience with a priest before death.

Turpin, on the other hand, never denied his crimes. He simply took it. One thing is for sure, and both men are immortalized in Canadian history as the last two men to ever die by capital punishment.

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