By Rahimu Jabendo via the UAH forum
In 1801, Joseph Samuel, a British citizen was sent to a penal colony of Australia for engaging in robbery. In Australia, Samuel succeeded in escaping and with a gang, he robbed the home of a wealthy woman and in the process, a policeman named Joseph Luker, who was guarding her home, was murdered. In 1803 the authorities captured Samuel. During the trial, the woman identified Joseph Samuel as on of the culprits. Joseph admitted to the robbery but claimed he had not participated in the murder. The other members of the gang, including the leader of the gang, were released due to lack of evidence but because the woman identified Samuel, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. On 26th of September 1803, Samuel and another criminal sentenced to death for another crime, were taken to Parramatta, where many people had gathered to watch the execution.
The common method of hanging then which caused death by slow strangulation was to fasten nooses around the neck of criminals, then drive the cart away after they had been allowed to pray with a priest. The ropes used were made of five cords of hemp, which enabled one to hold 1,000 lb (450 kg), for up to five minutes without breaking, more than sufficient for human executions.
When the rope was placed around their neck and the cart taken away, the other criminal ultimately died by strangulation but Samuel’s rope broke and he dropped to his feet, sustaining an injury in his ankle. The executioner hastily readied a new rope, also five-hemp, and placed it around Samuel’s neck, forced him onto the same cart, and drove the cart away again but this time the rope became loose and Samuel’s leg was able to touch the ground. The other criminal was still kicking weakly at this point. The executioner was sure to have fastened the noose securely around his neck, and as he stood Samuel up to try again, the crowd had become boisterous, calling for Samuel to be freed.
For the third time, the executioner very quickly readied another five-hemp rope, ordered the cart driven back, forced Samuel onto it, fastened the noose around his neck, secured it very carefully and tightly, and then ordered the cart driven away. The rope broke again, and Samuel dropped to the ground and stumbled over, trying to avoid landing on his sprained ankle.
Now the crowd watching the execution stood around in an uproar, and another policeman, watching on horseback, ordered the execution delayed momentarily, while he rode away to find the governor. The governor was summoned to the scene and upon inspection of the ropes, which showed no evidence of having been cut, and the other criminal, who was successfully executed with an identical rope, the governor and the entire crowd agreed that it was a sign from God that Joseph Samuel had not committed any crime deserving of execution and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment instead. Parramatta’s town doctor tended to his sprained ankle.