On a public common in Hemel Hempstead, England, you’ll find a rather nondescript gravestone randomly placed atop the grass. It marks the supposed burial place of Robert Snooks, the last highway robber to be executed in England.
Snook’s real name was James Blackman Snook—it’s believed the name Robert came about from a corruption of the word “robber.” His existence as a petty criminal was fairy unremarkable up until his last robbery.
On Sunday, May 10, 1801, Snooks robbed a post boy under the cover of darkness. He made off with six bags of mail that contained both letters and a hefty trove of bank notes. Because it was so dark, the victim was unable to identify the man who robbed him.
But Snooks wasn’t in the clear for long. While dispatching a serving girl to get him some cloth, he accidentally handed her £50 instead of a £5. This large bill aroused suspicion, causing Snooks to go on the run. He was eventually caught by his former classmates.
In March of 1802, Snooks was found guilty at trial. At that time, those who committed such crimes were shipped off to one of the colonies. But Snooks’ crimes was deemed “of a nature so destructive to society and the commercial interests to the country” that he was sentenced to execution by hanging.
As the law required, his punishment took place on public ground at the tree nearest to the scene of the crime. Thousands of people turned out to see him hang. While having a final drink at a nearby pub before his hanging, Snooks is reported to have said, “It’s no good hurrying—they can’t start the fun until I get there!”
Today, the spot where his body is said to lie is marked by a small headstone. The markers were erected a century after his death by members of the Boxmoor Trust, where they believed his body was buried.
Know Before You Go
The grave is on common land, so it's open 24 hours. You can park at the nearby pub.