NINETY FOUR years ago this week young Worcester police constable Herbert Burrows was in a buoyant mood, singing and cheerful and without an apparent care in the world.

Which was rather odd, because the 22-years-old was about to depart this world, dangling at the end of an executioner’s rope in Gloucester Prison. He was to earn the dubious distinction of being the last Worcester murderer to hang.

As he sat in the death cell awaiting his fate, following his conviction at Worcester Assizes for killing a city publican, his wife and their baby son, Burrows passed the time playing patience and singing to himself and anyone else who would listen.

His defence counsel had argued he was insane at the time of the murders in the Garibaldi pub in Wylds Lane – indeed Burrows had twice been hospitalised suffering from “nervous disintegration” while serving in the Royal Navy – but the jury was having none of it and convicted him in very short order.

It was not hard to see why, because Burrows’ written confession to the police read: “I voluntarily and fully admit that I killed at 12.50am on November 27, 1925, Mr and Mrs Laight and Robert Laight. I apologise to the officers and men of the Worcester City Police for the disgrace thus incurred.”

It was a crime that particularly shocked the city because Ernest Laight and his wife Dolly were relatively new, but popular, hosts at the Garibaldi, while their baby son Robert had been murdered in a very gruesome manner, his tiny skull having been smashed with a blunt instrument.

Burrows had unwittingly put himself in the frame for it right from the start. It was early morning on November 27, 1925, when he walked by colleague PC Bill Devey on The Cross and asked if he knew what was happening about the murder at The Garibaldi. The big trouble for Burrows was that the horrific crime hadn’t been reported or even discovered at that time.

The full story came out in the Police Court at the Guildhall and later at Worcester Assizes. On the night of November 26, Burrows was the last person left drinking at the Garibaldi after all the other customers had left.

The next morning the pub charlady arrived to find the place in disarray and called in a near neighbour and the police, who were soon confronted by scenes of horror.

The bodies of the 31-year-old licensee Ernest George Laight and his 30-year-old wife Doris (Dolly) were lying across the cellar floor. Both had died of bullet wounds to the heart and lungs.

Upstairs, the Laights’ two-year-old son Robert was found lying dead in his cot from a fractured skull, though mercifully his six-year-old sister was discovered still alive in her bedroom.

In the bar, the till was on the floor with some copper coins around it, but gone was more than £80 known to have been in the Garibaldi that night. Four bottles of spirits in the kitchen had also been opened and part consumed.

It was around 7.30am when PC Devey on duty at The Cross was approached from The Foregate by Burrows, who asked: “Have you heard of the affair at the Garibaldi?”

When the colleague answered 'No', he went on: “Ern Laight and his wife have been found shot in the cellar and the kiddie dead in bed. The drawer and money was pulled out all over the floor.”

PC Devey asked how he knew of the crime. Burrow’s replied: “A man in Lowesmoor told me.” He then went on: “Funny thing, Billie. I was having two glasses of whisky with Ern Laight at 12 o’clock. I was the last with him.”

This fateful conversation took place well before anyone else knew of the crime at the Garibaldi.

Detectives soon learned how Burrows had given himself away and went to his home in Wylds Lane where they found a loaded revolver in a locked drawer with a box of 35 cartridges. The bullets which killed the Laights were later found to be of the same calibre as those in Burrows’ revolver. In a suitcase, detectives also found more than £65 in notes and coins and, on searching Burrows, a further £22 in his wallet and pockets.

It didn’t take long after that for Burrows to make his written confession. Burrows said the motive of the crime had simply been robbery. He was in debt to money lenders and wanted extra cash for the holiday leave he was due to begin the day after the murder.

Big crowds jostled outside the Guildhall for both the Police Court hearing and the Assizes where Burrows pleaded not guilty. His defence counsel claimed the accused was insane at the time of the murders, but the jury decided otherwise.

Berrow’s Worcester Journal of December 5, 1925, described the Garibaldi murders as “a tragedy that has shocked Worcester especially as the victims were well known in the city and highly esteemed”.

Burrows was hanged at Gloucester Jail at 8am on February 17, 1926. He was to be the last Worcester murderer to go to the gallows.