13th July 1937
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death
Guernsey rarely sees a murder. Yet, of the few it has witnessed over the years, an even smaller number can be as pitiful as the death of Edith Robin.
Edith was just 12 years old when she was killed by her father, 43-year old Peter Thomas Henry Robin. He was tried – and found guilty – of hitting her with a hammer and causing her death by cerebral haemorrhage. She had been found in the back garden of the St Peter Port cottage where she lived with Robin and her grandmother.
The defence had argued that Robin may have believed he was chopping wood at the time of the killing, not hitting his daughter’s head. This may have had some merit as he had indeed gone to the garden where the child was playing to cut wood — and had been drinking both beer and brandy just before doing so.
When this seemed to be going nowhere, his defence counsel had pleaded insanity. Unfortunately the doctor who had examined Robin claimed that, although he had a low intellect, he was not at all insane. He was sentenced to death by hanging, despite medical evidence that he had the mental age of a child between 10 and 12 years old.
Verdict and sentence
The judge summed up the case in less than half an hour and the Jurats delivered a unanimous verdict less than 15 minutes later. In their minds he was guilty and would be hanged. Less than two weeks before the verdict was passed, the States had adopted a law that executions, which until then had been open to viewing by the public, should be conducted in private.
In this instance, however, Robin’s execution was not carried out at all and John Tapner, who was killed in a very messy hanging in 1854, remains the last man executed in Guernsey (see 10 February). Robin’s death sentence was reprieved on medical grounds on 25 August and he was instead sentenced to life imprisonment.
His case was notable, attracting national attention for being only the third to be heard by the Royal Court in the previous century.