An Uncommon Hangman

Rachel Franks

An Uncommon Hangman
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An Uncommon Hangman

Rachel Franks

Executioners were once a critical component of the justice system in New South Wales. In an era when judges handed down death sentences as easily as they toasted the good health of the monarch, someone had to do the dirty work of the authorities.

Robert ‘Nosey Bob' Howard used to be a household name. Today, the noseless hangman who sparked fear and fascination everywhere he went is largely forgotten, yet Howard is vital to understanding attitudes towards capital punishment in Australia. Howard’s story is a critical chapter in the history of how generally enthusiastic spectators at early executions were overtaken by campaigners for the abolition of the death penalty.

This dramatic tale of life, death and radical social change is told through the sixty-one men and one woman who met Nosey Bob, under the worst possible circumstances, when he served as a New South Wales executioner between 1876 and 1904.

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