A 1901 execution at the old Bilibid Prison, Manila, Philippines

A garrote (/ɡəˈrɒt, ɡəˈrt/ gə-RO(H)T; alternatively spelled as garotte and similar variants)[1] or garrote vil (Spanish: [ɡaˈrote ˈβil]) is a weapon and a method of capital punishment. It consists of a handheld ligature of chain, rope, scarf, wire or fishing line, used to strangle a person.[2]

Assassination weapon

From the torture museum of Freiburg im Breisgau

A garrote can be made of different materials, including ropes, cloth, cable ties, fishing lines, nylon, guitar strings, telephone cord or piano wire.[2][3][4] A stick may be used to tighten the garrote; the Spanish word refers to the stick itself.[5] In Spanish, the term may also refer to a rope and stick used to constrict a limb as a torture device.[2][6]

Since World War II, the garrote has been regularly employed as a weapon by soldiers as a silent means of killing sentries and other enemy personnel.[3][4] Instruction in the use of purpose-built and improvised garrottes is included in the training of many elite military units and special forces.[4] A typical military garrote consists of two wooden handles attached to a length of flexible wire; the wire is looped over a sentry's head and pulled taut in one motion.[3][4] Soldiers of the French Foreign Legion have used a particular type of double-loop garrote (referred to as la loupe), where a double coil of rope or cord is dropped around a victim's neck and then pulled taut. Even if the victim pulls on one of the coils, the other is tightened.[4]

Garrote-like assassination techniques were widely employed in 17th- and 18th-century India, particularly by the Thuggee cult.[2] Practitioners used a yellow silk or cloth scarf called a rumāl.[2] The Indian version of the garrote frequently incorporates a knot at the center intended to aid in crushing the larynx, decreasing the communication capabilities of the victim, while someone applies pressure to the victim's back, usually using a foot or knee.

Execution device

In this 15th-century depiction of the burning of Albigensians after an auto da fé, the condemned had been garroted previously. It is one of the first depictions of a garrote. Pedro Berruguete, Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fé.

The garrote (Latin: laqueus) is known to have been used in the first century BC in Rome. It is referred to in accounts of the Second Catilinian Conspiracy, where conspirators including Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura were strangled with a laqueus in the Tullianum, and the implement is shown in some early reliefs, e.g., Répertoire de Reliefs grecs et romains, tome I, p. 341 (1919).[7] It was also used in the Middle Ages in Spain and Portugal. It was employed during the conquista of the Americas, notably in the execution of the Inca emperor Atahualpa.

It was intended as a more merciful form of execution than death by burning, where heretics who converted to Christianity after their conviction would receive a quick strangulation from the Spanish Inquisition. A later version of the garrote used an iron collar with a large metal screw in the back. The theory was that when the screw was tightened, it would crush the brain stem and kill the victim instantly. But if the screw missed the point where the brain meets the spinal column, it would simply bore into their neck while the iron collar strangled him.[8]

In the Ottoman Empire, execution by strangulation was reserved for very high officials and members of the ruling family. Unlike the Spanish version, a bowstring was used instead of a tightening collar.[9]

During the Peninsular War of 1808–1814, French forces regularly used the garrote to execute Spanish guerrilleros, priests, and other opponents of Napoleonic rule. Around 1810 the earliest known metallic garrote appeared in Spain, and on 28 April 1828, the garrote was declared the sole method of executing civilians in that country. In May 1897, the last public garroting in Spain was performed in Barcelona. After that, all executions were performed inside prisons.


The last civilian executions in Spain, both by garroting, were those of the poisoner Pilar Prades in May 1959 and the spree killer José María Jarabo in July 1959. Recent legislation had caused many crimes (such as robbery–murder) to fall under the jurisdiction of military law; thus, prosecutors rarely requested civilian executions. Military executions were still performed in Spain until the 1970s. The garrotings of Heinz Chez (real name Georg Michael Welzel) and Salvador Puig Antich in March 1974, both convicted in the Francoist State of killing police officers, were the last state-sanctioned garrotings in Spain and in the world.

With the 1973 Penal Code, prosecutors once again started requesting execution in civilian cases, but the death penalty was abolished in 1978 after dictator Francisco Franco's death. The last man to be sentenced to death by garroting was José Luis Cerveto "el asesino de Pedralbes" in October 1977, for a double robbery–murder in May 1974. Cerveto requested execution, but his sentence was commuted. Another prisoner whose civilian death sentence was commuted was businessman Juan Ballot, for the contract killing of his wife in Navarre in November 1973.

In Spain, the death penalty was abolished after a new constitution was adopted in 1978. The writer Camilo José Cela obtained a garrote (which had probably been used for the execution of Puig Antich) from the Consejo General del Poder Judicial to display at his foundation. The device was kept in storage in Barcelona. It was displayed in the room[10][11] that the Cela Foundation devoted to his novel La familia de Pascual Duarte until Puig Antich's family asked for its removal.[12]

In 1990, Andorra became the last country to officially abolish the death penalty by garrotting, though this method had not been employed there since the late 12th century.

Notable people executed by garroting

Execution by garrote in Spain
Execution by garrote of a murderer in Barcelona
Name Year
Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura 63 BC
Vercingetorix 46 BC
Atahualpa 1533
Diego de Almagro 1538
Şehzade Bayezid 1561
Luis de Carvajal the Younger 1596
Kara Mustafa Pasha 1683
António José da Silva 1739
Tomasa Tito Condemayta 1781
Leonardo Bravo 1812
Francisco Javier de Elío 1822
Mariana de Pineda Muñoz 1831
Luis Candelas [es] 1837
Narciso López 1851
Martín Merino y Gómez [es] 1852
José Apolonio Burgos 1872
Mariano Gomez 1872
Jacinto Zamora 1872
Francisco Otero González [es] 1880
Juan Díaz de Garayo 1881
Michele Angiolillo 1897
Agapito García Atadell [es] 1937
Benigno Andrade 1952
Lorenzo Castro [es] 1956
Juan Vázquez Pérez [es] 1956
Julio López Guixot [es] 1958
Pilar Prades 1959
Juan García Suárez [es] 1959
José María Jarabo 1959
Heinz Chez [es] 1974
Salvador Puig Antich 1974


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Ed: garrotte is normal British English spelling, with single r alternate. Article title is US English spelling variant.
  2. ^ a b c d e Newquist, H.P. and Maloof, Rich, This Will Kill You: A Guide to the Ways in Which We Go, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0-312-54062-3 (2009), pp. 133-6
  3. ^ a b c Whittaker, Wayne, Tough Guys, Popular Mechanics, February 1943, Vol. 79 No. 2, pp. 44
  4. ^ a b c d e Steele, David E., Silent Sentry Removal, Black Belt Magazine, August 1986, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 48–49
  5. ^ "garrote | Diccionario de la lengua española" [Spanish language dictionary]. «Diccionario de la lengua española» - Edición del Tricentenario (in Spanish). Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (ASALE). Retrieved 2022-12-01. Palo grueso y fuerte que puede manejarse a modo de bastón. (Thick, hard stick used as a walking cane.)
  6. ^ garrote Archived 2017-10-07 at the Wayback Machine, 7th sense, Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.
  7. ^ "Laqueus". Mediterranees.net. Archived from the original on 2010-06-20. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
  8. ^ Hindi, Hanny (May 5, 2006). "Take My Life, Please" – via slate.com.
  9. ^ Inalcik, Halil (2000). The Ottoman Empire: the classical ... – Google Books. ISBN 978-1-84212-442-0. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
  10. ^ "La Sede / Exposiciones permanentes / Sala de Pascual Duarte I". Fundacioncela.com (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  11. ^ "La Sede / Exposiciones permanentes / Sala de Pascual Duarte II". Fundacioncela.com (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  12. ^ "El director de cine Manuel Huerga presenta el libro "Cómo se hizo: Salvador"". La Voz de Galicia (in Spanish). 21 November 2006. Archived from the original on 21 August 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2019.