The Knot of Rope
This challenging project is envisaged by the author as a feature length film whose
focus and inspiration is the last execution in Bristol. It is an original drama but
based on the facts surrounding the events and characters involved. Russell Pascoe
was a 23 year old Cornish farm labourer who, with an accomplice, violently murdered
an eccentric old farmer in August 1963. Both he and his friend, Dennis Whitty, were
swiftly caught and charged with murder. They were found guilty at their trial in
Bodmin and both were sentenced to death by hanging. Russell was moved to Horfield
jail in November 1963. His appeal against the sentence was dismissed by the High
Court and his 2 other legal routes to avoid the hangman's noose also failed. Despite
a public appeal by the Bishop of Bristol and a silent public protest outside the
prison the sentence went ahead and Russell was executed on 17th December 1963.
His nemesis was a dapper middle aged Mancunian publican whose part time occupation was a professional state killer. Harry Allen was the country's most experienced hangman who was respected as an efficient but humane state executioner. After his death his private papers showed that Allen didn't believe capital punishment was a deterrent. Despite this private view he was responsible for executing dozens of men during his career.
This film project traces and explores the twin paths of Russell Pascoe and Harry Allen and their meeting in Bristol In the winter of 1963. The script includes graphic, violent and potentially distressing scenes which was the result of a capital punishment system and the crime which was the inciting event.