April 9th, 2021

Russians beat the grim record again (1933)



Katharine Hadley, a Russian woman from Libava (some say, Kazan), came to China in 1917 and worked in cabarets in Harbin, Dairen and Hankow, occasionally dabbing in prostitution. In 1924, Katherine Hadley met the British Captain Walter Clifford Youngs, fifteen years her senior, and became his on and off paramour. At one point, she married a Eurasian man surnamed Hadley, an employee of L. Moore & Co., Auctioneers, who later committed suicide. Eventually Hadley joined Youngs in Shanghai and moved into his room in a boarding house in Yangtzsepoo. In August 1933, during a domestic fight, she stabbed him with a knife, presumably out of jealousy, practically in full view of other tenants and the landlord.

Because of her prior marriage, the murderess, then 37 years old, was tried as a British subject, and Shanghai's H. M. Police Court sentenced her to death. No foreign woman was ever executed in the Far East before, and the Russian would be the first.

Would Katharine Hadley's sentence be any different had she been a stateless Russian? There was a storm of letters of support from Shanghai public. British Women's Association organized a fundraiser to pay for filing an appeal. Former employers testified to her excellent work ethic. Even the prison wardress called her the "most cheerful inmate" she had known. Evidence was given to the effect of Youngs mistreating her, sending her to seek protection from abuse in the Foreign Women's Home.

Eventually, Katherine Hadley's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She had to serve it in England, because Shanghai did not have a proper prison for women criminals. She was last heard from when she completed her sea voyage from Shanghai to London, two years after the murder, in October 1935.