For a quarter of a century Sir Horace Edmund Avory has been "The Hanging Judge" to terrified British criminals who also called him "Acid Drop." Scrawny-necked, thin-lipped, slit-eyed and fearsome on his high bench in Old Bailey, Sir Horace sent to the gallows a yearly grist of sordid British murderers and that misguided Irish patriot Sir Roger Casement. The Acid Drop also corroded Clarence Hatry, greatest of British swindlers, whose gigantic frauds unsettled confidence in The City and hastened Depression (TIME, Oct. 21, 1929). Last week Super-Swindler Hatry sat in a cell from which he may emerge in 1944, and the shriveled 83-year-old form of the Acid Drop lay in its grave. Indomitable to the last, Mr. Justice Avory had gone for a chill walk during his Whitsuntide holiday. That night an old friend, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Baron Hewart, called and as a precaution ordered two hot water bottles and personally tucked the Hanging Judge into bed. Sometime during the night he rolled off onto the floor, was found next morning entangled in a snarl of sheets and blankets, dead of heart failure and pernicious anemia.
At this coming of Death to one who had summoned Death so often, Baron Hewart gave vent to a grief Homeric. "His place can never be filled!" cried the Lord Chief Justice of England. "He will have no successor. To the English Bench it is a sad and irreparable loss, but to me it is a devastating shock! . . I am almost too overcome with tears to speak. . . . No sweeter spirit ever adorned the earth."
Famed for his "definitions," always good for a titter in Old Bailey, was the late, great Acid Drop. His definition of a lunatic: "A lunatic sometimes thinks he is the Lord Chancellor; sometimes he thinks he is a fried egg and cannot sit down except on a piece of toast."
Old Bailey's Hanging Judge was also believed last week to be the only one of His Majesty's judges who ever employed judicially that tart expression: "The answer is a lemon!"