THE DIARY and tools of Britain’s last hangman sold at auction for more than three times their estimated value.

Mike James, who is publishing a book about executioner Harry Allen, paid £17,200 at the sale in Knutsford.

He told the Guardian that, at first, he had only wanted to push up the price to £9,000 to help Mr Allen’s widow, Doris.

“But once I got going I thought I might as well finish it off,” he said.

“I think my credit card only goes up to £9,000, so I’ll have to write a cheque.”

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Last month Harry Allen’s widow brought his diary and tools to Marshall’s in Church Hill.

The journal contained details of each condemned prisoner’s age, weight, height and the length of rope needed.

It also included Mr Allen’s comments on some executions.

On Tuesday, as the sale started, principal auctioneer Nick Hall said the lot had caused an international media storm.

“It’s an amazing piece of social history,” he said.

“I’ll make sure there’s no noose behind me when I sell this one.”

Bidding for the lot, which also contained bowties Mr Allen wore during executions and a tape measure, started at £3,000 but soon rose to £5,000.

Among those interested were phone bidders from a museum in Cyprus and a private collection in Canada.

Mr James, 65, of Crystal Palace, London, bid £5,200 for the lot and the price continued to rise.

There were gasps from the spectators as the price went past £14,000.

“It doesn’t sound so bad if you say it quickly,” said Mr Hall to Mr James.

At £17,000 Mr James was competing only with the Canadian and he began to stall.

But then he raised the stakes by £200.

Mr Hall thanked him for continuing.

“My wife won’t,” said Mr James, a former freelance photographer.

The Canadian said he was a gentleman and he would let Mr James have the lot.

Later the Guardian spoke to the successful bidder in a side room. His company, True Crime Library, published Harry Allen: Britain’s Last Hangman this month.

It was written by prison officer Stewart McLaughlin, who is also curator at Wandsworth Prison Museum.

Yesterday Mr James offered to loan the collection to the museum.