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Last man hanged in Halifax gets veteran's burial, 8 decades later

December 5, 2017 1:45 PM
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The last man executed in Nova Scotia will now get a gravestone recognizing his military service during the First World War, more than 80 years after he was hanged for committing murder.

In 1935, the Supreme Court of Canada convicted Daniel Perry Sampson of murdering brothers Bramwell and Edwin Heffernan two years earlier.

The brothers were found lying on railroad tracks outside Halifax two years earlier. Autopsies later concluded they had been stabbed to death.

Sampson was convicted of their murders, hanged outside the courthouse in Halifax, and buried in an unmarked grave in the same cemetery where the Heffernan brothers were laid to rest.

More than 80 years later, retired rear admiral Barry Keeler, who is national president of The Last Post Fund, an organization dedicated to making sure veterans have dignified funerals, burials and military gravestones, caught wind of the Sampson story.

"I immediately contacted a member of the Sampson family,” Keeler told CTV Atlantic. “They were overjoyed with gratitude, in fact, that the Last Post would be prepared to install a marker in honour of Pte. Sampson."

Keeler says Sampson’s murder convictions have no impact on the organization’s decision to give him a grave marker.

"We don't have any difficulty with that because what happened post his military career really is none of our business,” he said.

Sampson’s descendants are deeply thankful his military service is finally being honoured.

"It brings a bit of closure to the Sampson family, I think, having him recognized as a veteran and properly sent-off,” said Paula Crawley, Sampson’s great-granddaughter.

The grave marker is being given the finishing touches this week before it is placed where Sampson is buried.


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