Axe Murderess, 1871 (Blog Exclusive)


Original CDV from our collection showing George Campbell, his wife Phoebe, and their orphaned children. Phoebe was found guilty and hanged for the murder. The full story, from Wikipedia, follows:

Phoebe Campbell (c. 1847 – 20 June 1872) was a Canadian woman who was hanged for the murder of her husband. Campbell had alleged that on the morning of July 15, 1871, in Thorndale, Middlesex County, Ontario, two black-faced men broke into George and Phoebe’s log cabin home and brutally hacked George to death with an axe because he refused to hand over some money. They had attempted to use a gun which misfired. During the investigation, six local men were arrested, including Thomas Coyle, who was George’s farmhand. Doubt about Phoebe’s innocence arose rapidly as she was seen talking with Coyle, she also seemed to have done nothing to help save her husband as he was being murdered, also she seemed very unemotional following the funeral for George. A coroner’s autopsy also showed that indeed George was murdered by Phoebe and Coyle. “I don’t care. I’m innocent and I don’t care.”, Phoebe stated.

She then accused Coyle of the murder then quickly changed her mind then accused her cousin. Phoebe’s murder trial began on April 1, 1872, with much public interest. Phoebe accused George of having an affair with her cousin’s wife. During the trial, the crown prosecutor produced a letter which stated, “I never shall say you done any such thing again—if I have to die for it.” When asked why she changed her testimony, she claimed the ghost of her late husband visited her and declared her and Coyle innocent. The crown prosecutor responded, “You can hardly expect anyone to believe such nonsense!” After the trial, the jury took just one hour to reach a guilty verdict.

Phoebe then sobbed as the judge sentenced her to hanging. She later confessed that she and Coyle murdered George so they could marry. Coyle did go to trial for his crime but was acquitted. He later moved to England. She was hanged on June 20 at the age of 25 and was again said to be emotionless as she was about to be hanged, holding a lace handkerchief in her hand until after she died.

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