Murder of Henry Senior – 1920

Henry Senior

Prostitution, as most adults are aware, is as old as civilization itself. But what is less well known is the activities of the male wretches who live off their immoral earnings and who frequently exercise control over the movements of those unfortunate women.

Henry Senior was thirty-five years of age and recently discharged from the Army. About 7 p.m. on 3rd February, 1920, he left his home in Govanhill with the intention of spending the evening in the city. He may or he may not have been looking for female company. In any event, in Hope Street, near Argyle Street, Senior was importuned by Helen Keenan or White, a twenty-year-old prostitute. They chatted for a few minutes and then decided to go to Queen’s Park recreation ground.

Watching White pick up Senior were James Rollins and Albert Fraser, two ponces who had previously arranged with White to get them a client to rob. Senior and White boarded a tram in Glassford Street for Mount Florida. Rollins and Fraser, who had been following, boarded the same tram but sat outside. Suspecting nothing, Senior escorted White into the recreation ground, went through a fence bordering the railway line, and sat down on the grass.

Albert Fraser and James Rollins

They had been sitting for no more than a minute when Rollins and Fraser appeared. Fraser pointed a revolver at Senior while Rollins then told White to ‘beat it’. She left and stood outside the fence.

Senior was no coward and faced up to his assailants, but against two men who were determined to rob him he had very little chance. Getting behind him, Rollins flung his arm round Senior’s neck, at the same time placing a leg against his back and forcing him backwards. While he was in that helpless position Fraser battered him about the face and head with the butt of the revolver. Without uttering a sound Senior fell to the ground and lay still.

White, who had witnessed the whole attack, screamed: ‘Don’t be so hard on the fellow!’, but when Rollins and Fraser paid not the slightest heed to her she fled in terror from the scene.

Senior was dead, and the murderers took all that he possessed: 6 shillings (30 pence). They also took his overcoat and removed his boots. After sharing the money they dragged Senior’s body under some bushes and left it there. Rollins and Fraser then left the park, Rollins carrying the overcoat and Fraser with a boot protruding from each of his coat pockets. In Langside Road they boarded a tram for the city.

Helen White and Elizabeth Stewart

The day after the murder two schoolboys found Henry Senior’s body and informed the police. Chief Detective Inspector Andrew N. Keith and Detective Inspector Louis Noble were told to investigate the murder. The absence of the dead man’s boots provided the first clue. A passenger who had traveled on the same tram as Rollins and Fraser told the police that two men had boarded the tram near Queen’s Park, that one had a pair of boots in his pockets, and that both had left the tram near Gordon Street.

Before leaving for Ireland, the murderers and their two women accomplices pawned the boots and the overcoat. For the boots they got 17 shillings and 6 pence (87 pence) and for the overcoat 8 shillings and 6 pence (42 pence). Passengers on the tram remembered both men and gave the police a detailed description of their appearance. Meanwhile, detective officers were questioning every man known to associate with prostitutes and every prostitute who might know the identity of the murderers. It was from one of the many men questioned that the police got their next lead.

Detectives Keith and Noble

He told the detectives that two men named Rollins and Fraser were living off the immoral earnings of prostitutes. He also gave the officers an accurate description of both men; so accurate in fact that all that remained for the officer was to find them. But where were they? The same informant told the detectives that he had once heard Fraser say that if ever he had to lie low he knew the very place——a cave in Cave Hill near Belfast Lough, Ireland.

Cave Hill Overlooking Belfast Lough

On 7th February, four days after the murder, Detective Chief Inspector Keith and Detective Inspector Noble set sail for Belfast. That evening, the two detectives were walking along Albertbridge Road in Belfast when they saw two men answering the murders’ description. When stopped by the officers, they denied knowing anything about the murder but were taken to the local police station. Once there, their clothing was examined for bloodstains. Outwardly there were no such stains but Detective Keith noticed that the jacket appeared to have been washed. He slit open the seams of the sleeves and where he found signs of blood. Also, in Rollins’ pocket the officers found a piece of paper with an address in Lord Street, Belfast. Both men were then detained.

The Detectives went to the address in Lord Street which was occupied by a family, also called Rollins. While there, there was a knock on the door and when he opened it, Detective Keith found the two women accomplices, Helen White and Elizabeth Stewart. When told of the murder both women were upset and told the detectives the whole story and that they had been hiding out in a cave on Cave Hill outside Belfast.

White and Stewart, Rollins and Fraser were were taken back to Glasgow. Following their return the two women were charged with being accomplices in the crime, but shortly afterwards both were released and White became the principal witness for the crown. She had also produced the pawn tickets for the coat and boots stolen from the victim and they were recovered in a pawn shop in Maryhill, Glasgow.

Rollins and Fraser were tried at the High Court in Glasgow on 4th May, 1920. Giving evidence, Helen White told the court that on the night of the murder she went with Fraser into the city, where they met Rollins in Hope Street. After talking for a while the two accused told her to get a man and that they would ‘follow up’. Recalling the attack on Senior, White collapsed in the witness box and had to be carried from the court.

Duke Street Prison

The trial lasted two days and ended with both men being found guilty and sentenced to death.

On the morning of the execution, 26th May, a large crowd gathered outside the prison in Duke Street. Anticipating this, a strong force of police was on duty from 7 a.m. But there was no demonstration, and when shortly after 8 a.m. a notice appeared on the door of the prison that the executions had been carried out the crowd quietly dispersed. It was the last double execution to take place in Duke Street prison.

Copyright GPHS 2020 Source: The Thin Blue Line by Douglas Grant (1973)