"THERE is something you must know" - and with those few words a landlady inadvertently set off a chain of events that was to culminate with the dramatic shooting of a woman by her lover who was destined to face the gallows at Winchester Prison.

His hanging was unique in local justice. Tried for murder in one county, he was executed in another.

Walter White, 22, the youngest of a railway worker's four children, was devoted to Frances Hunter, sadly unaware of her shady past. She had once eloped with a married man for three months.

Hunter reputedly wanted to reveal the affair to the decorator after he had proposed but every time, she promised herself she would do so, her nerve failed.

The seeds of the tragedy were sewn in late April, 1914, when the couple travelled to South Wales to visit friends and her brother who lodged at the home of Anne Blewitt, a woman of strong views on virtue, who knew of Hunter's infamy and was to let her dark secret slip.

The upstanding Blewitt refused to let her in and would not elaborate on her reason, other than by telling White that if he paid her another visit she would explain. White subsequently caught a train to her Glamorgan home and she revealed the painful truth.

She could hardly have foreseen the horror of what was to ensue.

White must have felt conflicting emotions about the shattering discovery but he ultimately felt bitterly betrayed and could not forgive her. Within hours, he entered a gunsmith's and purchased cartridges for a revolver. She had to die.

He called at the Goddard Arms Hotel in Swindon's old town where she worked as a maid at about 6pm on April 29. He enticed her outside and several of her colleagues saw them leave through the back door towards an outbuilding. He confronted her about Blewitt what had told him and she confirmed it was true.

Though tears streamed down her face in contrition, White pulled out the gun and shot her twice - once in the neck and once in the head at close range. He then emerged from the coalhouse, fired four more shots into the air and calmly waited for the police to arrive.

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He then told them: "I asked her if the tale was right and she confessed she had disgraced me and hoped God would forgive her. I told her she would never deceive anybody else as I was going to kill her. She said 'For God's sake, do it then', she kissed me goodbye and I shot her and waited for someone to come. I asked the man to fetch the police."

According to a police report, White intended to turn the gun on himself but he could not go through with it.

When detectives searched his home, they found a number of unposted letters, one to his mother and one to her father that she had ruined his life and he was going to meet his maker. To a colleague, he confessed: "I am heartbroken. I have been wronged by my sweetheart."

Appearing before Mr Justice Ridley at Wiltshire Assizes, he admitted manslaughter but denied murder. The facts were not in contention and the shooting was portrayed as a crime of passion.

"He felt a slight had been cast down on the love he had given her and the romantic sympathy which had existed between them," said defence barrister J G Trapnell. "The cherished ideals of her purity and chastity had been shattered."

He submitted that her father should have told him of her previous affair because he was ready to "stake his life on her purity and innocence," and if the jury thought he had taken her life in "the heat and stress of passion and under provocation which might affect the mind of a reasonable man," they should acquit him of murder.

In his summing up, the judge stressed there had been no evidence of temporary insanity and she had not been unfaithful to White. Even if she had, it gave him no right to shoot her, warning them: "Provocation must be on the spot. This was not a shot fired under provocation but fired in anger."

Jurors retired for just 30 minutes before convicting him of murder but with a strong recommendation for mercy. Before passing sentence of death, the judge confirmed he would pass on their views to the Home Secretary Reginald McKenna but significantly added: "I hold out no hope in that direction."

Daily Echo: John Ellis - executioner

He could not have spoken a truer word. White did appeal with the support of a petition signed by 5,000 plus people which was endorsed by Winchester's police court missionary but it was swiftly rejected.

His execution was then unique in the annals of Hampshire case book history. For the first time, a condemned prisoner was hanged in Winchester for an offence committed in another English county. Hangings were no longer carried out at Devizes where the trial took place and as there were no other suitable jails in Wiltshire, he was placed in the custody of the governor at Winchester, although Wiltshire's high sheriff took responsibility for ensuring the law was carried out.

And that duly happened on June 15 at the hands of executioner John Ellis.

Afterwards the authorities found a letter he had written to the vicar who had organised the petition.

It read: "I hope you will not think it unwise or cruel of me to say so but I would rather have chosen death. I shall go like a soldier and a man. If they had given me a reprieve, it would have only meant another 25 years of suffering and I shall be more happy where I am going."

It ended: "Remember me but not my shame."