“For that I don but never Intended”
Born in Sheffield, England, Peace was the son of a circus-animal trainer. He was crippled aged 14, when his leg was damaged by red-hot steel which stunted his growth; he never grew taller than 1.62 m (5 ft 4 in). Five years later, on 26 October 1851, he began burgling.
He was quickly caught but a testimonial from his ex-boss resulted in a sentence of only a month in jail. Out of prison Peace returned to burgling and on 20 October 1854 was sentenced at Doncaster Sessions to four years’ penal servitude. Freed in 1858, Peace quickly resumed his nefarious activities and on 12 August 1859 was caught when he returned to the scene of a crime. This time he was sentenced to six years’ penal servitude.
Released, he once again began burgling and was caught in 1866 when trying to rob a house while drunk. At Manchester Assizes on 3 December 1866 he received eight years’ penal servitude. He attempted to escape from Wakefield Prison and was recaptured in the prison governor’s bedroom where he was waiting for a chance to break free. He was released in 1872.
At midnight on 1 August 1876 he shot and killed a policeman, Constable Cock, who was trying to arrest him for burglary at Whalley Range, Manchester. Two brothers stood trial for the murder — one was acquitted and one was sentenced to death but reprieved two days before his execution. On 29 November Peace murdered his former friend, a civil engineer called Arthur Dyson. He fled to his home as a hue and cry went up. He was trailed by the police but managed to give them the slip. Peace began disguising himself by dying his hair, shaving his beard and wearing glasses. Peace also wore a false arm to hide the fact that he was missing a finger. He continually moved around the country to avoid the police, finally moving to 25 Stangate Street, Lambeth in London, where he spent his nights burgling houses. Peace was finally caught at 2am on 10 October 1878 while burgling a house in St John’s Park, Blackheath.
Banner Cross, Sheffield, England
Wednesday 29 November 1876
The next day he appeared before the magistrate at Greenwich Police Court where, refusing to give a name, he was described as “a half-caste about 60 years of age, of repellent aspect”. His mistress finally identified him and had the cheek to ask for the £100 reward (she didn’t get it). On 4 February 1879 he was sentenced to death after the jury deliberated for ten minutes. Just before his execution Peace gave his wife a homemade funeral card, which read: “In Memory of Charles Peace Who was executed in Armley Prison Tuesday February 25, 1879 Aged 47 For that I don but never Intended.”
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Peace is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.