A Murder at Williamscot
30 March 2021 (Updated 8 September 2021)
On 9 January 1852, a young man named Giovanni Kalabergo approached a Catholic priest in Banbury and told him that he and his uncle John had been attacked and robbed by three men.
He said his uncle had been shot, and that he had fled the scene, which took place on Williamcott Hill, about four miles northeast of Banbury.
Suspicion falls on Giovanni
Both Giovanni and John Kalebergo were originally from Italy. John had moved to England and made a successful life for himself as a jeweller and a maker of clocks, watches and barometers.
His nephew Giovanni (also known as William) had been sent over from Italy to help with his uncle's business, and the pair would often drive around the district by horse and cart selling his wares.
The police were summoned and suspicion soon fell on the 22-year-old Giovanni. For a supposed robbery, nothing appeared to have been taken from either Giovanni or his uncle.
A search of Giovanni's house revealed bloodied clothes, a pistol bag containing various bullets and gunpowder matching the traces of gunpowder found in Giovanni's pockets.
Giovanni's escape attempt
Giovanni was taken into custody to await trial but attempted to escape, jumping from the window of the house at Wroxton where he was being held. He only succeeded in injuring himself in such a way that any escape became impossible.
Giovanni was taken to Oxford for trial, a trial in which he was at something of a disadvantage due to his poor grasp of English, and the fact he was denied an interpreter. He was sentenced to hang.
Thousands watch Giovanni hang
The case had been widely publicised in the press and in popular ballads in the run-up to his trial, and on the day of his execution, an estimated 8,000 - 10,000 descended on Oxford to watch Giovanni die.
The hanging was apparently a particularly grizzly spectacle, with Giovanni's body thrashing and contorting into horrible shapes as he dangled from the gallows.
Giovanni Kalebergo turned out to be the last man to be publicly hanged in Oxfordshire.
- 'Bloody Britain' (AA Publishing, 2008, ISBN: 9780749551650)
- Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade (www.mustrad.org.uk)
- Giovanni Kalabergo (www.truecrimelibrary.com)