A nurse who trained at Burton's Workhouse Infirmary was the last woman to be hanged in Birmingham – as a crowd of 10,000 protested outside Winson Green prison.

Despite murdering two vulnerable women in her care, the execution of nurse, Dorothea Nancy Waddingham sparked a huge protest outside the jail - now HMP Birmingham - calling for mercy.

Waves of public sympathy for the 4ft 11inches 36-year-old mother-of-five, who was still nursing a new-born boy when she was handed her death sentence, had seen her given a recommendation of mercy.

But a judge ignored the recommendation and Waddington was sentenced to death at Nottingham Assizes.

Viloet Van de Elst, an anti-capital punishment campaigner, took up Waddington's case, and 10,000 people descended on the jail to protest at the decision and plead with executioner Thomas Pierrepoint to reverse the sentence.

But on Thursday, April 16, 1936, Waddingham was hanged for her crimes, becoming the last woman executed in Birmingham before capital punishment was abolished, as reported by our sister title, the Birmingham Mail .

The would-be nurse picked up nursing skills during the First World War from her post as a ward maid at the Burton-on-Trent Workhouse Infirmary, on the site of the now Queen's Hospital, on Belvedere Road.

She also ran a nursing home out of her house at Devon Drive, Nottingham, with her lover Ronald Sullivan.

Nurse Dorothea Waddingham at her nursing home in 1935
Nurse Dorothea Waddingham at her nursing home in 1935

It was there where Waddingham was put in charge of the care of frail Louisa Baguley, an 89-year-old widow and her daughter Ada, 50, who was unable to walk due to 'creeping paralysis', a progressive disease.

Louisa was a full-time carer for her daughter, but due to her old age, the County Nursing Association asked Waddingham to take care of the pair, for thirty shillings a week.

While in her care, Waddingham discovered that Ada had left £1,600 for her mother should she die, so the nurse hatched a plan to leave her the sole inheritor.

According to the Bank of England, the £1,600 that Ada was leaving for her mother would be worth £104,422.64 in 2016, due to inflation.

Albert Pierrepoint, was the last chief executioner who retired in 1956
Albert Pierrepoint, was the last chief executioner who retired in 1956

Later in court, it was heard that Ada had allegedly scrapped her original will in May 1935, just four months after being taken into the care of Waddingham.

A new will drafted up would instead leave everything to Waddingham and Sullivan. Ada's will also included details insisting that she would be cremated upon death instead of burial.

Her elderly mother died soon afterwards in May 1935, with Ada herself following her on September 11 of the same year.

The first doctor did not suspect foul play, but as per regulation, the death certificates had been signed by a second doctor, Cyril Banks, who insisted that a post-mortem examination should take place.

Dr Banks, the medical officer for health in Nottingham at the time, was highly suspicious of the insistence in the will for cremation.

The post-mortem results showed large doses of morphine in Ada's organs, and alarm bells began to ring.

Ada's mother was also examined and similar high levels of morphine were found in her body.

Waddingham was arrested and the nurse was found guilty on February 27, 1936 of murder and sentenced to death at Nottingham Assizes.

Winson Green Prison back then
Winson Green Prison back then

Protests and pleas centred on Waddingham having very young children were ignored, and in one last bid to save herself, the nurse claimed she was pregnant, which a medical examination found to be false.

At around 8am on April 16 in 1936, she was brought from her cell to the Winson Green gallows, in Birmingham.

Cries from the crowd of 10,000 protesters could be heard: "Stop this mother murder!"

After her execution, Waddingham was buried in the prison graveyard.

The abolition of capital punishment

Capital punishment was abolished in 1965 by Labour MP Sydney Silverman.

Mr Silverman had spent more than 20 years on the cause, and introduced a bill to suspend the death penalty for murder, being passed in the House of Commons by 200 votes in favour to 98 against.

The bill was then passed by the House of Lords by 204 votes to 104. The Murder Act, of 1965 was introduced, suspending the death penalty in Great Britain, for five years.

Following the five-year period, the act became permanent.

Following the end of the death penalty, the House of Commons held a vote during each parliament until 1997 on whether to restore capital punishment, which was always defeated.

The death penalty for Northern Ireland was similarly abolished on 25 July, 1973.