In March 1828, Owen Ryan was charged with the rape of Eliza Phair. They had both been working in the household of Alderman Bagnall for a number of years. One very wet October morning, Ryan tricked Eliza, by saying her sister was waiting for her in the stables with some urgent news, in order to get her alone. Eliza went out to find her sister, only to be thrown into the straw by Ryan who then “effected his purpose”. Eliza managed to get away from him and return to the house, she told no one what happened until the following day when she confided in John O’Leary, the Butler. When O’Leary testified, he corroborated Eliza’s story.
The jury found Ryan guilty but recommended that he be given mercy, in other words, they wanted the judge to sentence him to death but request that the sentence be respited. The judge, however, did not agree with their request for mercy as the attack was clearly premeditated and he stated that “the circumstances of that offence are such as to seal my lips from making a recommendation for mercy”
Just over 3 weeks later, on Saturday 26th April, Eoin Ryan was executed in front of thousands of spectators. Preparations began in the early hours of the morning; a black flag was hoisted and the bells in the prison rang every 3 minutes. At about 12.30, the procession of turnkeys, the prisoner, Governor and officials made their way to the execution platform. Ryan, whose arms were tied together, walked steadily towards the platform, deep in prayer with the Reverend Falvey. At approximately 10 minutes past 1 o’clock, the lever was pulled. There are a few different possibilities to explain what happened next: the inexperience of the hangman may have caused him to make a simple error in the amount of rope he used or perhaps he was nervous that if he gave too much rope the prisoner may swing too much when he was dropped and might hit off the wall. Another possibility is that the equipment used may not have worked correctly as it was its first time being used. Whatever the reason, the execution did not go as planned and a quick death did not come for Eoin Ryan. Instead, he hung there for almost 15 minutes before he eventually succumbed to asphyxiation.