Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
John 'Babbacombe' Lee
Lee was born in Abbotskerswell , Devon, served in the Royal Navy and was a known thief. In 1885 he was convicted of the brutal murder of his employer Emma Keyse at Babbacombe Bay near Torquay. He was sentenced to hang though he consistently maintained that he was innocent. However, on February 23 at Exeter prison, three attempts were made to carry out his execution, all ending in failure. As a result, Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Lee continued to petition successive Home Secretaries and was finally released from gaol in 1907.
After his release he seems to have exploited his notoriety, supporting himself through lecturing on his life, even becoming the subject of a silent film. There are no reliable accounts of his whereabouts after 1916 but it is suspected that he died in the Tavistock workhouse sometime during World War II.
In the 1970s, Dave Swarbrick (the fiddle-player in the English folk-rock band Fairport Convention), found a series of old newspaper aticles about Lee and composed a rock opera entitled Babbacombe Lee which was recorded and released by Fairport Convention as an LP.
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