On This Day: Former West Indies cricketer Leslie Hylton is hanged to death

Leslie Hylton, who played six Tests between 1935 and 1939, was hanged to death on May 17, 1955, and remains the only Test player to ever be.

The West Indies cricket team during their tour of England in June 1939. Back row, fourth from left is Leslie Hylton - the only cricketer to be sentenced to death.   -  Getty Images

The sport of cricket might have witnessed the mysterious death of Bob Woolmer, the drunken brawls involving Ben Stokes and multiple match-fixing storms, but none would compare to the forgotten yet gruesome nature of Lurline Hylton’s murder – a crime committed by her husband and former West Indies pacer Leslie Hylton. The Jamaican, who played six Tests between 1935 and 1939 and accounted for 16 wickets, was hanged to death on May 17, 1955, and remains the only Test player to ever be.

Born into a poor family on March 29, 1905, Hylton never knew his father and his mother died when he was three. He was brought up by his sister who died when he was 13, forcing him to quit education and work as an assistant at a tailor’s shop. After little success in his new job, Hylton became a labourer at the docks by 1933.

He found respite in cricket and emerged as a batting all-rounder for Jamaica, which he represented in 40 first-class matches from 1926 until his retirement in 1939. His reputation earned him a call-up for the West Indies national team in 1935 against a touring England side that had the likes of Wally Hammond, Leslie Ames, led by R. E. S. Wyatt.

West Indies won the series 2-1, courtesy the heroics of the legendary George Headley, while Hylton finished the series with 13 wickets. Surprisingly, he opened the batting on his debut after his skipper Jackie Grant decided to reverse the batting order in the first innings on a marmaladish pitch at the Kensington Oval. Hylton went on to score 19.

Hylton was picked for the tour of England in 1939, but he was a spent force by then. He played two of the three Tests in the series and the onset of World War II meant his cricketing days were over. He announced his retirement from first-class cricket in the same year.

Alfred Valentine, West Indies left-arm spinner (second from right) shows Hon. Allan Campbell his souvenir wicket from the Second Test in Barbados when the West Indies beat India. At the extreme left is former Jamaica and West Indies fast bowler Leslie Hylton.   -  The Hindu Archives

 

Hylton fell in love with Lurline Rose, the daughter of a Jamaican police inspector, and they got married in 1942 despite her family’s opposition due to his lower-class roots. A son was born in 1947.

Lurline had ambitions of becoming a fashion designer and made frequent trips to New York. In 1951, Leslie Hylton moved to the Rose household as Lurline’s mother took over childcare duties.

In 1954, Hylton received an unsigned telegram from New York informing him of his wife’s affair with Roy Francis. Hylton confronted his wife, who denied initially but confessed to the affair after he claimed he read a letter she had sent to Francis. In a fit of rage, Hylton shot her seven times and then called the police himself.

In the trial that took place in October 1954, Hylton was defended by his former Jamaica captain Vivian Blake and Noel Nethersole, a member of the West Indies Cricket Board. Hylton claimed in his testimony that he had tried to shoot himself and missed, shooting his wife in the process instead. However, there were seven bullets lodged in Lurline’s body, convincing the jury which unanimously found him guilty and delivered the verdict on October 20, 1954.