Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Execution of Boyce, Duffy Martin and Read 1887

The Mt Rennie Outrage, September 1886, (as the crime became known as) is a Gang Rape incident involving at least 11 young men in 1886. On the 27 November, 1886 nine were found guilty and sentenced to death, reading the newspaper accounts it is easy to get lost in the who’s who of this case so below is the following is a ready reckoner the names are alphabetical with ages in relation to the perpetrators and the single victim(brackets)

With a vast crowd of men committed to trial there was an equally vast number of witnesses for the defence and for the Crown. 100’s of newspaper column inches was devoted  to this trial. Followed by public meetings and petitions to the government and governor.


Mary Jane Hicks (16)   Moved to New Zealand after the case.

Committed to Trail

William Boyce        (24)  Sentenced to death  Hanged   7/1/1887

Michael Donnellan (18)    Senced to death  Reprieved  Darlinghurst 10 years

George Duffy          (18)     Sentenced to death  Hanged   7/1/1887

William Hill            (22)     Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Trail Bay 10 years

George Keegan       (19)      Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Parramatta 10 years

William Newman (18)       Sentenced to death   Reprieved  Darlinghurst 10 years

Michal Mangan      (19)       Acquitted                               

George Martin        (18)      Sentenced to death Hanged   7/1/1887

Hugh Miller            (18)      Sentenced to death  Reprieved  Parramatta 10 years

Thomas Oscroft      (17)     Acquitted                               

Robert George Read (20)  Sentenced to death   Hanged   7/1/1887“

Charles Sweetman  Taxi Driver    Accessory  11 years, served 9

The  Judge

Honour Mr. Justice Windeyer presiding over this matter.

Solicitors for the Accused

Mr. Gannon

Ellis , instructed by Mr. Gannon,

 Scholes, instructed by Mr. Gannon,

Mr. Gibson, instructed by Mr. Gannon,

Mr. O’Mara, instructed by

Mr. Moriarty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson

Mr. H. Levien

Mr. Edmunds  instructed by Mr. Williamson.

Mr. Canaway for Duffy

 Which Lawyer for Whom    

William Boyce        (24) Hanged   7/1/1887     

Mr. Moriarty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson


 Michael Donnellan (18)     Reprieved  

Mr. Edmunds instructed by Mr. Williamson


George Duffy         (18)        Hanged   7/1/1887

Mr. Canaway for Duffy


William Hill            (22)       Sentenced to death               

Mr. H. Levien                         


George Keegan       (19)        Reprieved



William Newman (18)         Reprieved  



Michal Mangan      (19)        Acquitted 

Mr. H. Levien                                                         


George Martin        (18)        Sentenced to death



Hugh Miller            (18)        Sentenced to death



Thomas Oscroft      (17)      Acquitted  



Robert George Read (20)   Hanged   7/1/1887 

Mr. O’Mara, /Mr. H. Levien 

Solicitors for the Prosecution (Victim side)

Mr. Williams,         Crown Solicitor

Mr. Teece,              Solicitor

Mr. Pring,                Solicitor


Sydney Morning Herald




Michael Mangan, 19, labourer, was charged at the Water Police Court yesterday, before Mr. M. Marsh, S.M., that he did on the 9th day of September instant, in company with others, outrage one Mary Jane Hicks. The court was again densely crowded when the case was called on .On the application of the police, the prisoner was remanded till Friday next.


Sydney Morning Herald



 At about 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon a respectable-looking man arrived in a breathless state at the Redfern Police Station, and reported that half an hour previously he had witnessed a horrible scene in Moore Park. He said that he was walking through the scrub in the neighbour-hood of Mount Rennie when his attention was attracted by the piercing screams of a female.

 He rushed towards the direction of the sounds and shortly came upon about a score of men surrounding a girl, whose clothing was in a mutilated condition, and who lay prostrate on the ground. Two or three of the ruffians were holding her down whilst another was criminally assaulting her. He immediately  shouted out to them to stop, and ran forward with the intention of rescuing the unfortunate girl, who screamed for help, but was met by a shower of missiles and emphatic threats that if he attempted to interfere it would cost him his life.

Knowing that it would be worse than useless to attempt to cope with the infuriated wretches he ran away, and made his way with some difficulty across country to the Redfern Police station, where he told his story as stated. As there were no constables available at Redfern  at the time the intelligence was communicated by telephone to the No. 3 station (Darlinghurst), and as soon as practicable police were despatched from both stations to the scene of the outrage. When they came within view of the spot it was apparent that the informant’s story was true, for the sickening scene described by him was still being enacted.

The ruffians, however, were quickly aware of the approach of the officers of the law, and made off with all speed in different directions. Pursuit was given, but, owing to the boggy nature of the ground, and the fact that the police were unacquainted with the locality, the male-    factors succeeded in eluding capture. Their victim was afterwards found in the same spot, in a terribly exhausted condition, with the clothes nearly torn from her body.

As quickly as possible her deliverers got her out of the scrub, and placed her in a cab, by which means she was conveyed to the No. 3 police station. Here she appeared dazed for awhile, but partially regained consciousness at intervals, during which she was able in a disconnected manner to relate how she came to be in such terrible straits.  

She stated that her name was Mary Jane Hicks, and that she was between 16 and 17 years of age. She had gone out to the neighbourhood of Moore Park in a cab, and, afterwards, while walking towards Forsyth’s rope manufactory, which is situated at some distance from Mount Rennie, was accosted by some men whom she did not know. She was thrown down and criminally assaulted by one of them, whilst others held her; and she was assaulted by a dozen men afterwards before the arrival of the police.

She also stated that she was a domestic servant, but where she had been residing is at present uncertain. She was examined by Dr. Marsden on the same night, and that gentleman discovered undoubted signs of her having been brutally outraged. There were also bruises on her body.  

She remained in the care of the police until yesterday evening, when she commenced to vomit blood, and was immediately conveyed to the Sydney Hospital, where she was attended by Dr. Fisher. At a late hour last night her condition was somewhat improved. Since the occurrence the police have succeeded in arresting two men who have been identified by the girl as participants in the assault.

One of these named, Hugh Miller, was arrested about midnight on Thursday, and was brought up at the Water Police Court yesterday and charged with rape. He was remanded till Friday next. Yesterday afternoon George Keegan was also arrested, and will be charged    with the same offence at the Water Police Court this morning when he will probably be remanded till Friday.

Both these men were arrested in Waterloo, and were also recognised by the man who first gave information to the police. The latter are in possession of information which they hope will lead to the detection of the other offenders.  

police museum

Sydney Morning Herald




At the Water Police Court (before Mr. Marsh, S.M.) yesterday, William Hill, 22, engine-fitter, and George Duffy, 18, woolwasher, were charged by warrant with feloniously assaulting Mary Jane Hicks. The court was crowded when the case was called on, as it was anticipated that some of the particulars of the outrage on the girl might be heard by the Bench.Tho police, however, asked that the prisoners should be remanded until Friday next, and the magistrate granted the application. The whole of the men who have been apprehended and charged with being concerned in the assault will be brought before the Court on Friday morning, when it is expected that, the girl will be sufficiently re-covered to be enabled to give evidence regarding the terrible crime which is alleged to have been perpetrated at Moore Park last week.    


Sydney Morning herald



At the Water Police Court yesterday (before Mr Marsh)  

William Newman, 18, of no occupation, was charged with being concerned with others in committing a criminal assault on one Mary Jane Hicks on the 9th instant the accused was remanded until tomorrow morning when the whole of the prisoners will be brought before the bench.


Sydney Morning Herald



Yesterday morning in the Water Police Court, before Mr. G. O’Malley Clarke, S.M., Leslie Douglas, John Fuller, Michael Donnellan, William Hill, George Duffy, Michael Mangan, William Newman, Hugh Miller, George Keegan, and Charles Sweetman, on remand, were charged by warrant for that they did on the 9th September instant, in company with others, without her consent, criminally assault one Mary Jane Hicks.

Mr. Roberts, appeared for the Crown; Mr. Wallace appeared for Miller, Mr. F. Gannon for Fuller and Mangan, Mr. Shorter for Douglas, and Mr. Williamson for Hill  and Duffy.

The Court having been cleared, The Bench said he thought it would defeat the ends of justice if the evidence should be reported from day to day.

Of course he had no power to prevent its publication, but he would suggest to and request the press not to publish the evidence until the case should have been completed, otherwise the ends of justice might be defeated.    

Mr. Roberts asked the Bench to make an order prohibiting the publication of the evidence, as the Bench had power to make that order.

The Bench said that members of the press might remain in court, on condition that they did not report any of the evidence; but if they published the evidence they would be excluded.

Mr. Roberts applied for a remand until Friday morning next, at 10 o’clock.

The Bench granted the application.

Mr. Gannon applied for bail for Fuller and Mangan.

Mr. Roberts said he should oppose the application for bail for any of the accused, and

The Bench said he could not hear of it, and should refuse bail to any of the accused.

The prisoners were then removed.

 water pol court

Sydney Morning Herald




At the Central Criminal Court yesterday, before his Honour Mr. Justice Windeyer, the trial of the prisoners concerned in the Waterloo outrage continued. William Hill, George Duffy, William Newman, Michael Donnellan, Thomas Oscroft, Joseph Martin, William Boyce, Hugh Miller, Robert George Read, George Keegan and Michael Mangan were charged for that they did on the 9th of September at Waterloo, ravish and carnally know Mary Jane Hicks against her consent.          

Mr. Teece, with him Mr. Pring, instructed by Mr. Williams, Crown Solicitor, appeared for the prosecution.      

Messrs. Elles and Scholes, instructed by Mr. Gannon, appeared for Oscroft, Martin, Miller Keegan and Newman.

Mr. Gilson, instructed by Mr. Gannon appeared for Hill and  Mangan; Mr. O’Mara, instructed by Mr. H. Levien,  for Read; Mr. Moriarrty, instructed by Mr. M. Williamson (Williamson and Williamson), for Boyce; Mr. Canaway for Duffy, and Mr Edmund for Donnellan, both instructed by Mr Williamson.  

Mr. O’Mara continued to call evidence on behalf of the prisoner Read. Ann Fahey and Alice O’Brien gave evidence to the effect that they saw the prisoner Read at different times on the 9th September. Henry Harrison deposed that on the day of the outrage he went to the Bread carters’ picnic with Reid, and was in his company up to 2 o’clock.  


John M’Clinchy, bus driver, gave corroborative evidence. Richard O’Donnell also gave evidence.

This concluded the evidence for the defence.  

Mr. Teece then called the complainant, who denied the allegations made against her by the witness Doran and other witnesses were recalled by the Crown to give rebutting evidence.  

Mr Gibson proceeded to address the jury on behalf of Hill and Mangan. He referred briefly to the character of    the charge which had been preferred against the prisoners.    He said the charge was one of rape under most extraordinary circumstances and he thought such an extraordinary case had never before come before a court of justice.    

Very little circumstantial evidence had been given in the case, but the evidence for the most part had been direct evidence. He then reviewed the evidence at great length, and contended that there had been a mistake made with regard to the identification of Hill and    also that there was a great deal of conflict of statements on the part of the Crown witnesses with regard to the movements and actions of the person whom they had taken to be Hill. He contended that it had been clearly shown that Hill had taken no part in the outrage that had been committed.

With regard to the prisoner Mangan, he submitted that a substantial alibi had been proved by  respectable witnesses, including a number of men with whom he was employed on the day of the outrage.    

Mr. Elles, on behalf of the prisoner Newman applied to be allowed to call evidence in defence as the witness had not been in attendance at an earlier stage of the proceedings.

His Honour granted the application.

John Newman, of Walker-street Redfern, stated that the prisoner Newman was his grandson and that after breakfast on the morning of the outrage the prisoner went out for about 10 minutes, and afterwards went out to see about some work, but returned before dinner, about half  past 1 o’clock; the prisoner went out again at half-past 2 and witness did not see him again until about tea time.      

Witness was severely cross-examined by Mr Teece, but adhered to his statement.    


James Henry, conductor of the Strawberry Hills omnibus  stated that he knew the prisoner well; the prisoner got on  the omnibus at the Bakers’ picnic at Botany, and got off the bus at half past 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the outrage near Christ Church.

Cross examined by Mr. Teece; He stated he had been convicted of duck stealing; had never spoken a word to the witness Newman about this case.        

William Bogus, 17 years, stated he was at work at Rockdale on the day of the outrage and left work at 17 minutes past 4, reaching Sydney by tram at a quarter to 5 on the  afternoon of the date of the outrage; when he left the Redfern station he went down George-street and saw the  prisoner Newman whom he knew at Christ Church, at 10 minutes to 5; they stopped and spoke for about three minutes, and witness then went down George Street.      

Cross examined by Mr. Teece; witness stated he had known the witness Newman about 12 months, but had never spoken to him about this case; witness had been fined at the Police Court for playing “bonanza;” witness could not name anybody who had seen him at Rockdale on          that particular day; when he was served with the subpoena, he told Constable Meyers that he had not seen the prisoner that day.  

His Honor said that he would require all the witnesses in this case to attend until they were discharged. Constable Meyers, called by the Crown, stated that when he served the subpoena upon Bogus he said he had been working at Rockdale all the day and had not any opportunity of seeing, the prisoner Newman.  

Mr. Canaway, representing the prisoner Duffy, addressed the jury for the defence. He contended that his client’s life was in danger by the evidence of one witness for the Crown but he asked them whether she was a credible witness. He had brought evidence to show that she was not. Her statement that she had been    forced into a cab was on the face of it most improbable, and he traversed her evidence to show how unlikely her story was, and in what points she had contradicted herself. He contended that her statements as to the order of the assault differed, and that in one she had omitted to name one of her alleged assailants.

Moreover he maintained that she was a consenting party so far as his client was concerned, and on these grounds he claimed an acquittal at their hands.  

Mr. Elles, addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoners  Newman, Oscroft, Martin, Miller and Keegan He did not intend to rest his defence upon any hypothesis as his learned friend had done, but to rest it upon the difficulty, almost impossibility, of identification by a  woman who had been assaulted by so many men.  He contended that the evidence respecting identification on the part of the complainant was very unsatisfactory. He pointed out that before the jury could convict they would have to be satisfied that the prisoners either perpetrated the  offence or aided those by whom it was committed. The case was one in which there must be no doubt or balancing of probabilities. He contended that it would be very dangerous for the jury to rely upon any evidence of identification given by the girl Hicks. He then went through the evidence and called attention to what he considered were discrepancies in the statements made by the witnesses for the Crown.    

Mr. Edmunds then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner Donnellan. He said no one would dispute the fact that an outrage had been committed upon the complainant Mary Jane Hicks, but t was for the jury to say which of the prisoners were concerned in it. He commented upon the different statements made by the girl, and asserted that she had made distinct statements, viz., the one before the  arrest of the prisoners, another to the Water Police Court and the third to the jury, and contended that she had made such dangerous discrepancies that the jury would not  be justified in accepting her testimony.

He contended that she did not say a word about Donnellan until after she had named seven or eight others. He referred to the evidence given by the witnesses Smith and Brown and pointed out that the witnesses had made different statements, and therefore their evidence could not be relied upon. In conclusion, he called attention to the evidence which had been given on behalf of his client, and contended that a substantial alibi had been made out on his behalf.      

Mr. Moriarty then addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner Boyce. He pointed out that although a number of witnesses had mentioned Boyce’s name, only one had sworn to his having assaulted the complainant and that was the complainant herself. He contended that she was        in such an excited state when called upon to identify the prisoners that her word could not be relied upon. He    submitted that they could not rely upon the evidence of the lad Colley, nor of two of the other witnesses, because they declared they recognised some of the men at a distance of 190 yards. The evidence of Smith, an intelligent witness, who deposed to having seen the crime committed, went to show that the prisoner Boyce was not one of the perpetrators.  A statement made by Duffy, one of the prisoners, had been read, but the jury must discard it altogether so far as it referred in any way whatever to any one of the other prisoners.    

Mr. O’Mara spoke at length in defence of the prisoner Read.

The Court was still sitting when we went to press. It is understood that his Honour will commence to sum up at 9 o’clock this morning.


The Trial Result

Sydney Morning Herald



The Judge commenced to sum up at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning.                        

His Honour, in committing his address, said he regretted very much that he had found it necessary to keep the gentlemen of the jury sitting for so many hours at a time, but as some of them were not in good health, he thought it desirable to push the business on, looking at the great importance of the case with which they were dealing.

It was desirable that the case, when once begun, should be brought to a conclusion in the ordinary way. He was afraid he did put some pressure upon the counsel in the case, and he could not sufficiently thank them for the able manner in which they had defended the prisoners.

Although one of them complained of having been called upon to address the jury at 3 o’clock in the morning, he thought they would agree that it was not probable that he would have made a better speech at the present time than he made when called upon to address the jury, and he was sure he would not think that any more pressure had been put upon  him than upon any other counsel. He (his Honour) knew what the responsibility of counsel was, and the course he adopted was one which had been followed over and over again. The jury could not be too careful in weighing the evidence which had been given, and in giving a cool and collected decision.

The jury had already been told in most expressive terms how great their responsibility in the case was. They had been told on the one hand that the case was one of the utmost importance to the prisoners, but it was no less  the fact that on the other hand it was one of the greatest importance to society. He need not urge upon them the necessity of  dismissing from their minds anything they may have read  or heard respecting the case with which they had to deal, nor could he sufficiently impress upon them the necessity of considering the horrible facts which had been given in evidence before them with all the coolness they could command.

The facts of the case were calculated to disturb the calmest and best balanced minds. They were of an character not only calculated to enlist the sympathy    of everyone present for the victim of the  outrage, but were also calculated to raise a feeling of disgust, and he might be permitted tosay hatred, towards those who could be considered capable of committing such a crime. The jury, however, should not allow any such prejudice to act on their minds in weighing the evidence that had been produced.

They must as far as possible dismiss all feeling in the matter. It was of momentous importance, not only to the prisoners, who had at stake everything that was dear in this world; but it was of the greatest importance to the State and to society that the truth should be arrived at boldly and fearlessly. There was no doubt a horrible crime had been committed, and those guilty of it should be brought to justice.

In this case, as in every other case, the jury must get beyond suspicion. His Honour, then repeated the facts of the case according to the statement of the girl, Mary Jane Hicks. The case for the  Crown was that those who took part in the assault upon the  man Stanley were acting with the common design, their design being to commit rape upon the complainant.


He then defined the offence with which the prisoners were  charged, and pointed out that with only one exception the  learned counsel for the defence had not attempted to set up  the question of consent on the part of the unfortunate girl Hicks. The facts showed that the girl screamed time after time, and resisted the assaults made upon her.

He pointed out that the horrible assaults made upon the girl precluded the idea of consent, and, with one exception, the learned counsel had honourably acquitted her of any such horrible immorality. There were circum-stances in this case which would cause them to dismiss any idea of consent from their minds.

His Honour then went on to explain that the law protected even the  very worst character from assaults such as   had been made upon this unfortunate girl. His Honour then proceeded to deal with the alibi proved on Mangan’s behalf. He considered the evidence worthy of the gravest consideration. The witnesses were respect-able working men in the municipality of Waterloo, who said they had seen him working during the time he was alleged to have been concerned in the outrage on the girl.

The case of Oscroft was the next one dealt with by his Honour, who read portions of the evidence, showing that the prisoner was on the ground at the time the assaults were committed,  even if he did not participate in the outrage itself. The girl mentioned the name of Oscroft several times, but appeared to have entertained some doubt on one occasion at the police station as to whether he was the man, and on another occasion she expressed herself sure that Oscroft was one of the set engaged in assaulting her. It appeared that the girl had been assaulted by two different sets of four each, and Oscroft was named by her as being concerned with the second set. There was also  evidence to show that he had set out for and returned from his usual business at the usual time that day, and that he did his usual work, or at any rate made his usual wage.

On the other hand, it was quite possible that the evidence bearing on this point, which was not very strong, must have been given in mistake, the witness, perhaps, confusing his recollections of one day with those of another. The next case dealt with by his Honour was that of William Hill  who was accused of having prevented the witness Stanley from coming to the girl’s assistance at the time of the outrage by dragging him away by the arm. The prosecutrix corroborated the evidence of Stanley in this particular, and further charged Hill with having taken her into the bush.

The question for the jury to decide  was whether Hill’s object in taking the girl away from Stanley was, if not to ravish her himself, at any rate to enable the others to ravish her. Both Stanley and the girl swore to Hill’s having taken the girl in the direction of the swamp, and then went away, leaving her with four others who, she alleged, outraged her. She stated that she did not see Hill again till she was sitting with two men by the drain. It was proved beyond a doubt that the girl was taken by someone to the swamp.  

Hill admitted himself, that he was present on the occasion, and if the jury believed what the girl said of him, whether he actually outraged her or not, then he was the main cause of the outrage having taken place, and therefore guilty accordingly; and if he carried her off for  the purpose of being outraged by the others, then he was just as guilty as the rest, for without his interference the outrage would in all probability not had taken place. The girl herself did not accuse Hill of having  actually outraged her, but another witness averred    that Hill had his arms around her waist, the girl not appearing unwilling, although she had just uttered a scream, when one of the others threw her down and effected an assault.

She then got up by herself and was walking away, when Hill, it is said, went after and brought her back. He is even alleged to have thrown her down himself, although he does not appear to have succeeded in effecting any further assault. One witness—Stanley—was positive in asserting that Hill had called to three others to come up and assault the girl the very moment after he had told the girl to rely on his protection. The prisoners were armed with knives and sticks, while Stanley had no weapon, so that he was unable, single-handed, to rescue the girl.

His Honour next referred to the case of Miller, and read the evidence relative to his identification by the girl. When she first saw him she was in a half-fainting condition, and said she did not think he was there. Soon after she was confronted with him, and said he was one of the men. In her deposition she positively declared that Miller was one of the men who assaulted her, and that it was he who at one time put his hand over her mouth. The witness, Smith, identified Miller, as one of the men who took part in the outrage.

 The weight of Smith’s evidence depended upon the reliance they placed upon it, and it was for them to weigh the evidence with the rest that was offered.

The evidence of Denny against Miller was read, and then his Honour read the evidence against Keegan, which showed that the girl at once recognised Keegan when he was placed before her, and about a week after she identified him amongst a number of men, and afterwards recognised several of the prisoners. She recognised Keegan by his pale face. She identified Miller as the man having his handover her mouth, and Keegan as the man who held her legs.

His Honour then proceeded to deal with the evidence with respect to Duffy. When Duffy was arrested he denied having been connected with the outrage. His Honour then read the evidence of the complainant, in which she asserted that Duffy was one of the first four who criminally assaulted her, and that it was Duffy who threw her down.  

According to the complainant’s evidence it was Duffy who made her take off her boots and stockings, and with New-man lighted a fire in the bush to dry her clothes. His Honour read the statement which was made by Duffy whilst in gaol.

 It was quite clear from the prisoner’s statement  that he did criminally assault the girl, and it was equally  clear that the girl was not, as he attempted to make out, a consenting party.

He was identified by a number of the Crown witnesses as one who was present and took part in the outrage. His Honour then referred to the evidence called by Duffy in de-fence, and read the evidence given by the witness, Matthew Doran, which was to the effect that at one time he had been on terms of intimacy with the complainant, while on the other hand the complainant denied the allegations made, and had stated that she had never seen Doran in her life before.

The girl was nothing more than a wreck at the present time, in consequence of the treat-ment she had received, and no sane person could believe that she consented to what had taken place. His Honour then passed on to the case of Newman, reading portions of the evidence, including the prisoner’s statement when arrested, and also the evidence given in defence. With regard to the evidence called to prove an alibi on behalf of Donnellan, the jury would have to decide whether the alibi was not supported by witnesses of such question-able character that they could not be believed. The question was, did their evidence outweigh the evidence given on behalf of tho Crown.

The next prisoner was Martin, who, when arrested, said that on the day of the outrage he was out at Botany all day fishing by himself. He was identified by Mary Jane Hicks as one of the four who were present at the time she threw herself into the drain. One of the witnesses who had identified Martin said he had known him for four years. There had been no attempt to prove an alibi in this case, and the prisoner had been sworn to in a positive manner.

That being so could there be any doubt as to Martin having been present when the outrage was committed? Was there anything whatever to upset the positive testimony which had been given against him? His Honour then dealt with the case of the prisoner Boyce. The evidence of the witnesses Smith and Brown went to show that the prisoner Boyce was present; and also, that he assaulted the complainant.

The evidence of Constable Bell showed that the prisoners Read and Boyce were arrested whilst travelling  beyond the Queensland border under assumed names, and in reply to the charge both refused to state where they were on the day of the outrage. The complainant had identified Boyce as one of the first four men who had assaulted her. The prisoner was also identified byother witnesses for the Crown, including Kane, Smith, and Stanley, who had sworn positively to having seen him taking part in the outrage.

His Honour having read the evidence given on behalf of Boyce, proceeded  to deal with the case against the prisoner Read. He stated that Read had been identified by the complainant, and also by Smith. In reviewing the evidence given, his Honour pointed out that Read up to the date of the outrage had borne an excellent character.

He referred to the fact that read when arrested was several hundred miles from Sydney, and travelling with the prisoner Boyce under a false name. How could his action in this respect be accounted for? The matter was one which would have to be considered by the jury. His Honour then read the greater portion of the evidence which had been taken and concluded by reminding  to establish the case that they should be satisfied in what order the prisoners assaulted the girl, so long as they found that some had outraged her whilst some were present aiding and abetting. They were all equally guilty whether they outraged her or not, and that explanation might relieve them of some difficulty. The young woman might have been almost in a state of oblivion when she was being outraged, but there were other intelligent witnesses who told clearly what took place.

It was for the jury to look at the whole case, and to say how far  they considered the Crown had made out its case, and it  was for them, divesting themselves of all other considerations, to consider the matter solely in the light of the evidence they had heard, and to carefully weigh the whole of the evidence in this case remembering the heavy  responsibility that rested upon them, but at the  same time not shrinking from the conscientious discharge of their duty. They could only be expected to act upon the evidence to the best of human judgment and human capacity.

The prisoners had been defended with very great ability, and speeches had been made which were a credit to the court; but he reminded them that they were not to be determined in a decision by speeches, however valuable they might have been, but by the evidence itself. If in the case of one, or any, or all of the prisoners they felt an honest reasonable doubt, they must give the prisoners the benefit of that doubt.

The responsibility of the verdict was theirs, not his. He had endeavoured to place the    matter plainly before them, and it was for them, after weighing the evidence, to say where the truth lay. He would leave the case entirely in their hands, and with them must rest the responsibility of saying whether the prisoners were guilty or not.

They had a difficult task to perform, but he was sure they would do it fearlessly and faithfully. He said to them in conclusion, with all earnestness and sincerity, and with a due knowledge of the terrible responsibility which rested upon them, that it was they and not him upon whom the responsibility of the verdict rested.

 He again and again would say to them that if they felt any reasonable possible doubt in favour of one, of any, or all of the prisoners it was their duty to give them, the benefit of such doubt.

But if, on the contrary, they deemed the evidence to have been sufficiently strong against one, or any, or all of the prisoners it rested with them to do their duty fearlessly and impartially, no matter what the consequences might be to one, or any, or all of them. He then asked them to consider their verdict.    

The address of his Honour was concluded at 20 minutes past 8 o’clock, and the jury retired at 21 minutes past 8 to consider their verdict.  

The jury returned into court at five minutes to 11 o’clock with a verdict of guilty against the prisoners William Hill, Hugh Miller, George Keegan, George Duffy, William Newman, Michael Donnellan, Joseph Martin, William Boyce, and George Read. The accused persons Michael Mangan and Thomas Oscroft were found not guilty, and were discharged.  

The jury recommended the prisoners to mercy on account of their youth.

In reply to the usual question,

The prisoner William Hill said : “Although the jury  have found me guilty of a crime for which I am to suffer death, I am perfectly innocent, and that girl and the witnesses for the Crown have sworn my life away. I saw the girl that day, and I acted the man to her. My friends and relations outside know I am innocent,   can go to the scaffold as an innocent man.”

The prisoner George Duffy said he had nothing to say. The prisoner Michael Donnellan said: “Gentlemen of the jury, you have found me guilty, but I am innocent of the charge. Although the gentlemen defending me did their best, Dr. Marsden’s evidence condemned me straight. I have nothing more to say. I am not afraid to face death in twelve hours. I am innocent of the charge.”

The prisoner Joseph Martin said : “What I did to that  girl was with her consent. That is as true as God’s in  Heaven.”    

The prisoner William Boyce said: “Although I am found guilty of this charge I am innocent of it.”

The prisoner Hugh Miller said: “I am quite innocent of    the serious charge made against me. The first time I saw that girl was on the night of the 9th September, and the witnesses in this case have been prompted by the police to swear my life away. I am innocent.”

The prisoner George Read said: “Although I am found  guilty of this terrible crime I am innocent. I hope God above will forgive those who have sworn my soul and my life away. I have no more to say.”

The prisoner George Keegan said: “I wish to say I am    not guilty of this dastardly outrage. If the death sentences not executed upon me, and I hope it won’t be, I will have the honour to bring before you my innocence in the future.”


His HONOR said: Prisoners, you have been convicted of a most atrocious crime, a crime so horrible that every lover of his country must feel that it is a disgrace to our civilisation. I am glad to find that this case has been tried by a jury that has had the intelligence to see through the perjury  upon perjury that has been committed on your behalf, and the courage to declare the truth as they see it. It is terrible to think that we should have amongst us in this city a class worse than savages, lower in their instincts than the brutes below us.

No language could express the abhorrence of right-thinking men of a scene such as that described by witness after witness in this case, as this poor defenceless girl, friendless and alone, is, like some wild animal, hunted down by a set of savages, who spring upon her and outrage her until she lies a lifeless thing before them, and then, when returning consciousness brings with it the terror of further outrage, she, in frenzy, seeks in such opportunity of death as seems to present itself a refuge from the horrors of her life. I warn you to prepare for death. No hope of mercy can I extend to you.

Be sure no weakness of the Executive, no maudlin feeling of pity, will save you from the death you so richly deserve.

 Those who are charged with the administration of our affairs, to whose keeping is confided the safety of the public, will remember there are things more precious to society than life itself the honour of our women and the safety of our families, compared with which the wretched lives of criminals such as  you are of no account.

It is true that you are young, but the remembrance of that fact is coupled with the recollection that not twice nor thrice only has public feeling been horrified by the perpetration of similar crimes by young men like yourselves. The present outrage is, I believe, the outcome of the past, and I solemnly express my belief that this culminating atrocity has been brought about by the immunity from the death penalty which your class has so long enjoyed upon the ground of your youth. I hold in my hand a list of crimes similar to these which have been perpetrated during the last few years.

The first is an outrage that was committed by a number of young men upon a girl in the neighbourhood, of Parramatta-street, but by some mischance a gross miscarriage of justice, as l believe, took place in the acquittal of the men. The difficulty of proving such cases is often great, and false evidence is always ready, too ready, at hand to throw its protecting  shield around criminals of your class.

This out-rage was followed by an outrage upon a young woman at North Shore, and the perpetrators escaped the death penalty on account of their youth. After this an outrage took place upon an old woman in the neighbourhood of Ultimo, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that a miscarriage of justice took place there in the acquittal of the prisoners, young men like yourselves—an acquittal which amazed me, as the evidence was of the clearest kind. This was followed by another, where the wretched woman was done to death somewhere in the neighbourhood of the locality now made infamous by this crime; and again, as I believe, a miscarriage of justice took place in the entire acquittal of all concerned.

This was followed up by another frightful outrage in Woolloomooloo, where the wretched creature was found lying dead, like a dog, naked in the street, under circumstances of outrage too  horrible to mention. Only one of the ruffians who outraged her was brought to justice, but escaped with his life.  Again, last year I tried eight men for a concerted outrage of this kind upon an old woman under circumstances too disgusting to refer to.

They escaped the death penalty, too, and the outcome of all this mistaken leniency, and failure to convict, is this culminating horror. You cannot expect that those who are charged with the execution of the law will hesitate under all these circumstances in handing you over to the death which you    most righteously deserve. Outrages such as this  are not committed upon the children of the rich, the surroundings of whose life give their children protection, but upon the daughters of the people, who in the pursuit of their honest avocations are compelled to go about alone, exposed to the attacks of such gangs of ruffians as choose to assault them.

Under all these circumstances be sure no  pity will be extended to you; our pity must be reserved for the homes that are desolated and the victims who are wrecked for life by outrages such as these.

I warn you not to waste your time in idle protestations of your innocence. I advise you to prepare to meet your Maker; and if you are capable of understanding the position in which you stand, remember that your time is short.

The recommendation to mercy which the jury have  made in your favour it will be my duty to convey to the Executive. Your fate rests with them, not with me; but I can hold out no hope that this recommendation  will be acted upon after all that has taken place of late years in this country. The time has come when a terrible example must be made of those who seem to be restrained by no pity for their victims, no sense of shame, no dread of the loathing of their fellows. Crimes such as yours it  is too clear can only be restrained by the fear of death, the fate which awaits you, I have now but one duty to discharge, and that is to pass upon you the last dread sentence of the law.

Silence having been called, His Honour, naming each of the prisoners, said: The  sentence of the Court is that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and thence, on a day hereafter to be named by the Governor in Council, to the place of execution and that there you be severally hanged by the neck until your bodies be dead. God help you to repent of this crime.      

The prisoners, who appeared unmoved by the sentence,    were then conducted from the Court to Darlinghurst gaol, and the Court was adjourned until 10 o’clock this (Monday) morning.        


The Hanging

Sydney Morning Herald




The sentence of death passed on George Duffy, George Martin, William Boyce, and Robert George Read, in connection with the Mount Ronnie outrage was carried into effect yesterday morning within the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol, and in the presence of an unusually large number of spectators, the execution, in fact, being more of a public than a private nature a fact which could not but be regarded as most undesirable.

The simultaneous execution of so many criminals concerned in the one crime has happily but few parallels in this colony. The first instance of which we have record dates as far back as 1834, when six assigned servants were executed for taking part in an insurrection on an upcountry station.

The men it is stated acknowledged their offence, but stated that it was owing to the tyranny of the treatment they had received. They, however, did not escape the gallows, though a commission was appointed to inquire into the matter, with the result that the owner of the station, a justice of the peace, was struck off the role.

darlo gaol aerial

On March the 18th, 1841, seven members of a band of bushrangers common known as the “Jew Boys Gang,” who held a greater portion of the Hunter district in a state of terrorism by outrage and murder were executed in Sydney.

Since the passing of sentence of death upon the culprits they were zealously attended and instructed by the ministers of their, respective denominations. On the  night previous to the execution several hours were spent in prayer and exhortation, and at 6 o’clock  in the morning Mass was celebrated in one of the cells and the Roman Catholic prisoners received those consolations of religion reserved for such as are in extremus.

From an early hour in the morning the Presbyterian chaplain and the Rev. T. J. Curtis attended upon the prisoner Read, who, the latter states “bore himself consistently throughout as an innocent man.”Breakfast was served to the condemned men at an early hour, but they only took a little tea.

There are at present on a rough computation about 700 prisoners in gaol and these were permitted to leave their cells at about 6 o’clock, when they washed and had breakfast. At 7 o’clock sharp they re-entered the cells and were kept under lock and key until after the execution. They were, on the whole, very well behaved, only one or two cries being heard.  From about 7 o’clock in the morning, a crowd commenced to assemble at the great gates of the gaol.

It was composed of all classes but chiefly of young men, some of unmistakable larrikin stamp; and there were also a number of women included in it. On the outskirts of the crowd, which must have numbered two thousand persons or more, a number of carts and drays were drawn up. The crowd was at its largest at 9 o’clock, but scores loitered about the gaol for hours after the execution had been carried out.

These having cards of admission met in the principal court, where an unseemly scramble occurred    among the large crowd with regard to signing the visitor’s book a duty required for each present. Communication between  the court and the gaol yard is by means of an underground passage, and through this those present filed, the general, visitors being sent first, and the members of the medical and other professions, the representatives of the press and officials headed by the Sheriff (Mr. C. Cowper) and the governor of the gaol (Mr. J.C. Read) following. On ascending the steps leading from the underground passage the visitors found themselves in a well kept garden, and winding their way along the path turned the corner of a stone building and reached the lawn near the Governors’ private residence.

Here a halt was called, and the press representatives, separating from the main body, went on to the wing where the gallows had been erected, and took up a position in the first gallery, the one above being occupied by the general spectators, and the members of the medical profession being upon the ground floor, where they had the best opportunity of viewing the bodies. It was just upon the stroke of 9 o’clock at the time, when those entitled to be present were finally gathered within the section of the wing when the execution took place. It may serve to convey some idea of the spot where the scaffold was erected, to be described as a central space from which long corridors lined with cells radiate.

There are three stories of corridors, and it was from the corridor on the second floor, that the condemned men passed on to the scaffold. The customary formula by the Sheriff of demanding the bodies of the prisoners was gone through, and they were brought from the cells to have their irons removed and be pinioned. The hangman and his assistant performed    the latter operation speedily, and as mercifully as possible, and the procession then moved along the corridor, and ascending the three steps, the prisoners reached the platform of the scaffold.

The space opposite to the massive and ungainly structure was in the shape of a crescent, against the wall being two galleries. These were lined with spectators the greater portion of the ground space being also occupied by so that a ghastly thought of the theatre was suggested. Altogether, including doctors, reporters, and general visitors there must have been quite 120 present. In addition to those were officials of various grades, warders, and policeman.  

Upon first entering the wing there had been a buzz of conversation, and the Sheriff demanded silence, the governor of the gaol reminding those present of the solemn occasion upon which they were present. There was no need for a second admonition, for with entrance of the prisoners, absolute silence fell upon all. After the gaol officials followed the first of the condemned youths two were 19 and two of 17years of age Martin. He was followed by Boyce and Duffy, and then Read. They were placed upon the trap in the following order: Boyce to the extreme left, then Martin,    Duffy and Read. Boyce was attended by the Rev. Father Coonan, Martin by the Rev. Father Dr. Murphy.

Each of these prisoners had a crucifix hung round his neck. Read was attended by the Rev. T. J. Curtis—who throughout has been unremitting in his attention to the prisoner—by the    acting-chaplain, the Rev. J. F. Henderson, and by the Rev. Jas. McNeil. For a few seconds the prisoners stood beneath the beam. Boyce was exceedingly pale and throughout kept his eyes firmly turned upward, Martin was   less pale and somewhat more stolid looking, Duffy was flushed and his lips moving incessantly, repeated words of prayer, whilst Read stood with his eyes closed and face turned skyward.

In the midst of most painful suspense and solemn silence the Rev. Mr. Curtis in a broken voice said “On behalf of Robert Read, I desire to say that he has made a long written statement, which he has placed in my hands, to be held sacred until after his execution. In this statement he declares his innocence and says that he will enter into the presence of God trusting only in the Lord Jesus Christ his Saviour, with a clear conscience, knowing that he is innocent in this matter—[Here Read turned his head and spoke to the rev. gentleman]. Robert Read wishes me also to say

that so far as his small knowledge of the affair extends, and from all he has gathered from the other condemned men, he believes that those who have been reprieved—save Donnellan— that is to say, Hill, Miller, Keegan and Newman are innocent.

The executioner and his assistant then produced the white caps.

Mr. Curtis kissed Read, and, burying his face in his hands, stepped aside. The halters were quickly adjusted, and in a second the bolt was drawn. A scene too painful to describe followed. It was evident that the weight of the prisoners and the drop had not been properly calculated. One, struggled for about six minutes, the others for a less time, and when at 25 minutes to 10 o’clock Drs. O’Connor and Brownless felt the bodies, it was quite plain to them that death had not at all been instantaneous.

Of the four, only one—Duffy—had his spinal column fractured. The others were strangled to death. It was stated by a medical man present, that in the case of Martin, respiration did not cease till the expiration of 10 minutes. By a mischance, the rope got partly caught by one of his pinioned arms and this no doubt checked his fall. So far as those present could judge, the knots of the nooses did not in at least two cases, appear to have been drawn sufficently tight. After hanging for some time, after the medical examinations had been made, the bodies were lowered and subsequently the City Coroner (Mr.Shiel) presided at an inquest, where formal evidence was given, the statement of Dr. O’Connor, medical officer of the gaol, being that in the case of Duffy death had been caused by dislocation of the vertebrae of the spinal column, and in the cases of Read, Martin and Boyce by strangulation.

In accordance with a provision contained in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act passed a few sessions ago, it is imperitave that “the body of the person executed shall not be buried, or be removed from the gaol, within eight hours next after such execution, nor until an inquest has been held.”It is found that the provision with regard to the eight hours is a source of very considerable inconvenience to the gaol  authorities. Under the old law, which in its principle was adopted into the legislation of the mother country, the body could be at once handed over to relatives or friends of the prisoner and could be buried that day. As the law now stands the authorities cannot, even if an order of removal be granted    to the friends, permit the body to leave the gaol precincts till the hours have elapsed. It is then too late in the day to inter the corpse, and it has to be detained till the following morning.

A meeting of the Executive Council was held at Government House yesterday morning to consider an application from the    friends of the executed prisoners praying that the bodies should be handed over to them for interment. It was determined to grant the request but with the condition attached that arrangements should be made for the burial under the    supervision of a gaol official. In connection with this sad matter it is desirable to mention that all the clergymen in attendance on the prisoners, speak in terms of warm gratitude of the  courtesy shown to them by the Governor of the gaol and the facilities he placed in their way for carrying out the duties of their sacred office.

The principal visiting clergy were the Rev. Mr. Rich, Father Byrne, the Rev T.J.Curtis and the Rev. Mr. Henderson. Other persons also including several Sisters of Mercy were frequent visitors to the condemned men. We have been requested to state that a rumour having been spread about the city that the prisoner Hill was in some way connected with an old and respected family of that name in Sydney, there is no foundation in fact for such a statement. He is in no way related to the family referred to.

parra gaol gates 1

The Aftermath

Sydney Morning  Herald

27 /11/1896



The last chapter in the history of the remarkable Mount Rennie case, which has not ceased to occupy the attention of a large number of the people since the day upon which the crime was committed, was  brought to a close by the release of the imprisoned men yesterday-the tenth anniversary of the day upon which the death sentence was passed by Judge Windeyer on nine lads who had been adjudged guilty of participation in the crime The facts in connection with the crime  are doubtless still fresh in the minds of many of our readers On the 9th of September, 1886, the victim, a girl named Mary Jane Hicks, was driven from the city to the scene of the crime by a cabman named Charles Sweetman, who, it was alleged, had offered to drive her to a registry office, in order that she might  obtain employment.

Upon arrival on the scene, according to the statement made by the girl, her screams attracted a number of young men Acting under the impression that they were protecting her from the designs of the cabman, she consented to accompany them into the bush, and the woman was ultimately left in a semi-conscious condition. Among those who assembled upon hearing the girl’s screams were two men named Stanley and Smith, who after unsuccessfully attempting to rescue the woman gave information to the police, and subsequently became, with the victim, the principal witnesses for the Crown.

There were eleven arrests effected in connection with the affair, and the preliminary trial was heard at the Water Police Court.      

The names of the accused who were charged with a capital offence all of whom were committed for trial, were Joseph Martin, 17, a labourer, arrested 21st September, 1886, Thomas Oscroft, 17, a labourer, arrested 24th September William Newman, 18, no occupation, arrested 15th September, Michael Mangan, 19, a labourer, arrested 13th September, William Hill, 22, arrested 11th September, George Duffy, 17, woolwasher, Michael Donnellan, 18, no occupation, arrested 11th September, Hugh Miller, 18, cleaner, arrested 10th September George Keegan, 19, a labourer, arrested  10th September, Robert George Read, 20, a labourer, arrested 24th September and William Boyce, 24, a labourer. The last two named were arrested a fortnight after the deed beyond Bourke. The trial at the Central Criminal Court commenced on the 22nd November, and lasted for five days. The jury acquitted Oscroft and Mangan, and the other nine prisoners, who were found guilty, were sentenced to death.

The excitement, which had been intense through-out the trial, increased, and for many weeks the verdict of the jury was the principal topic of conversation. Public opinion as to the part played by  some of the prisoner, in connection with the crime was then, as it remains to-day, divided. Apart altogether from that section of the community which generally sympathises with criminals, serious doubts as to the guilt of several of the youths were entertained by many, and, consequently, agitation ensued.

Many even of those who were satisfied with the verdict recorded by the jury were of opinion that there were circumstances connected with the case which would justify the reprieve of the prisoners. Whilst the agitation was going on throughout the city and country the Cabinet met frequency to consider the matter. Public meetings were held and petitions were presented imploring an extension    of mercy, whilst counter meetings and petitions asked that the death penalty might be carried out.

The Cabinet during its series of meetings reprieved, Dounellan, Miller, and Keegan, but held out no hope for the remaining six, and fixed the 7th January, 1887, as the day of execution.

All effort to induce the Government of the day to reconsider the matter having failed, the then Governor, Lord Carrington, was several times approached by deputations, including many prominent men, among whom may be mentioned-the late Mr. Henry Parkes, the late Hon. W. B. Dalley, the then Primate of Australia(Bishop Barry) and Cardinal Moran. Even these interviews had not the effect desired, and the authorities experienced a most anxious time.

On the day preceding the day of execution, however, one of the prisoners confided certain information to the Mother Superior of St Vincent’s, which partly exonerated two of the accused She immediately made known these new facts to Lord Carrington, and a Cabinet meeting was hastily called, the outcome of which was that Hill and Newman were reprieved. On the following morning four of those said to have participated in the outrage paid the penalty of death-George Duffy,18, Robert George Read, 20 , William Boyce, 24 ,and Joseph Martin, 21

The sentences on the remaining five prisoners re-leased yesterday were commuted to penal servitude for life. Almost from the moment of their incarceration attempts were made to obtain the release of some of them. Each successive Government from that day up to the present has been waited upon and petitioned for remission of the sentences, but refusals have been consistently given.

 Before Lord Carrington finally left the colony he was in receipt of petitions from several of the prisoners but he declined to take any further action. Lord Carrington, it will be remembered, had an anxious time, and regarded the Mount Rennie case as the most painful he had in connection with his administration here.

The present Government has been approached on numerous occasions, and owing, it is said, principally to the exertions of Mr Anderson, M. L. A. , the whole case was again thoroughly investigated.

Some six months ago, after repeated inquiries, the announcement was made that the Government had decided to release the men upon the completion of 10 years of their life sentences, and this decision was fulfilled yesterday Keegan and Miller were liberated from the Parramatta Gaol, Newman and Donnellan from Darlinghurst, and Hill from Trial Bay.

trial bay gate

All the men have learned trades whilst under-going their terms of imprisonment, and their education has not been neglected. From what can be ascertained they have determined to endeavour to live down the stigma attaching to their names, and all of them will probably remain in Sydney. Two of the released prisoners have inherited a considerable amount of property, and one of them will be the proprietor of a hotel.

It should I be mentioned that the cabman Sweetman was convicted as an accessory to the crime, and was sentenced to 11 years’ penal servitude. He was, however, at the conclusion of nine years of his sentence, liberated on the 28th of November, 1895, and is still in Sydney.

Shortly after the conclusion of the memorable trial funds were raised on behalf of the victim, audit is understood that the Government of the day granted a sufficient sum to convey her to New Zealand. Since her arrival in that colony nothing so  far as can be ascertained has been heard of her.


Leave a comment

Filed under Gone right

The Execution of Dundalli 1854

The Execution of Dundalli 1854

The murder in Caboolture, Queensland of Andrew Macgregor and William Boiler caused a sensation and struck fear amongst the white settlers in the region. It was generally known who the murderer was but it took some time to apprehend the culprit. The hangman was Alexander Green, from Sydney, this was of a time when Queensland formed a part of New South Wales and so shared the same executioner. Green’s bungling of this execution may well have been the thing that got Governor Dennison over the line banning Public Executions. This form of bungling had happened before by Green, in 1848, but that time he had a shovel to dig a hole, this time he was interstate and out of his comfort zone and used some lateral thinking with a piece of rope to solve the problem. The Press were appauled.


(Spelling as per the era in which it was written)


Maitland Mercury


Dundalli, an aboriginal, was indicted for the murder of William Boiler, at the Pine River, on the 16th September, 1847. Boiler and James Smith were working together that day in a sawpit, Boiler being the top sawyer, when a number of blacks threw several spears at them, several of which struck Boiler Smith was getting out of the pit, when Dundalli, one of the blacks, threw a waddy at him, which struck and stunned him; subsequently the blacks plundered the sawyers.

Smith took Boiler into Brisbane, where, four days afterwards, Boiler died, in the hospital, from the spear wounds. Smith, the principal witness, was positive as Dundalli’s identity, and another witness also saw him at the Pine River about the time.

Mr. Faucett addressed the jury for the prisoner. They returned a verdict of guilty, and Dundalli was sentenced to death.

Dundalli, the same aboriginal, was indicted for the murder of Andrew Gregor, at Cobulture Creek, on the 1st September, 1846.Dundalli was working for Mr. Gregor, at Cobuiture Creek, 30 miles from the Pine River ; Dundalli had brought some bark in, and Mr. Gregor was stooping down, examining it, when Dundalli struck him to the ground with the blow of a waddy, killing him on the spot; Dundalli and other blacks then rushed into Mr. Gregor’s hut, and killed Mary Shannon.

Mr. Gregor’s servant, and plundered the hut. These facts were deposed to by Ralph William Borrow, who was in Mr. Gregor’s employ, and saw the first at-tack. His correctness was disputed by Mr Faucett. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Dundalli was sentenced to death.

One or two prisoners were discharged, and the criminal business of the court was then finished.



Sydney Morning Herald


THE LAST WORDS OF DUNDALLI.-In our report of the execution of the aboriginal Dundalli, it was mentioned, that just before the cap was drawn over the wretched criminal’s face, he cried out with a loud voice to some native blacks assembled on a lull opposite the gaol, and addressed them with much earnestness and rapidity. The Brisbane blacks generally agree that this appeal was made to his wife and other members of his own tribe, whom he called upon to take revenge of those Brisbane aboriginals and others who had been instrumental in capturing him and lodging him in the watch house. There can be little doubt from the agreement of several statements, that this was the subject of the dying man’s address ; and he thus retained to the last moment that cruel ferocity of character which had so prominently marked his life.

 Notwithstanding the expression of many contrary opinions, we hold to the belief that this public and terrible punishment of a notorious criminal, in the presence of some of his own people, must act os a salutary warning upon them, as, from the years of impunity which he had enjoyed, they must have believed that he could forever defy the terrors of our laws. Nevertheless, no prudent     means should be neglected for the preservation of life, and we would again urge the propriety of immediately stationing a body of native police between Brisbane and the northern shores of the bay, to which the defunct outlaw belonged.


The Moreton Bay Courier


EXECUTION OF DUNDALLI.- This aboriginal native, convicted, at the last Brisbane Circuit  Court of the murder of Andrew Gregor and William Boller, paid the just penalty of his crimes by the forfeiture of his life, in front of the gaol, yesterday. Up to Thursday last the guilty man did not express much fear, but when preparation was made for erecting the gallows, he seemed to be aware that his case was almost hopeless ; and when the executioner went into his room to pinion him, he cried and wailed piteously, appealing to all near for their help to save him. As, owing to the desperate character of this criminal, some resistance was expected, more than the usual pre-cautions were taken to prevent an escape. A few Native Policemen, under Lieutenant Irvine, were on the ground with the town police, under arms, and a rope was passed through the cord that pinioned the culprit’s arms ; but he went up the ladder without the aid of force, continuing, however, to call upon the names of those who know him, and crying out loudly in his own tongue when on the scaffold, to some blacks who were witnessing the execution from the ridge at the Windmill Hill, opposite the gaol. The preparations having been completed, at a signal from Mr Pront the Under Sheriff, the bolt was withdrawn and the murderer fell ; but in consequence of some wretched bung-ling on the part of Green, the hangman, the feet of Dundalli fell firmly on the top of his coffin, beneath the gallows.

A turnkey quickly drew away the coffin, but still the feet of the hanging man touched the ground, and the spectators were shocked by the sight of Green lifting up the legs of the malefactor, and tying them backwards to-wards his pinioned arms, by the rope that passed through the pinioning.

Death seemed to be al-most instantaneous after the fall ; but, richly as the blood-stained convict deserved the death he suffered, it was still a most sickening sight to behold the cool and butcher-like conduct of the hangman, made necessary by nothing but the grossest neglect. If anything could be more disgusting than this, it was the presence of large numbers of women, many of whom had brought their children with them! After hanging the usual time, the body was lowered down for interment. Thus died one of the guiltiest and most incorrigible of the aboriginal natives of this quarter.

His many crimes had long made him the abhorrence of the whites, and it is to be hoped that his death will teach the blacks who had been in the habit of looking up to him, that our laws may overtake the guilty, however long the time since he first eluded his punishment.


Leave a comment

Filed under Gone wrong..., Non White Men

Alexander Green Executioner NSW 1828 -1855


Alexander Green Executioner NSW 1828 – 1855

For the term of his natural life was the sentence bestowed upon Alexander Green in 1824 when sentenced for the theft of “brown stuff” from a shop. As non descriptive as the brown stuff was, it must have been expensive brown stuff to get a sentence of that severity.

 Born 1802 in the Netherlands to a circus performer, he was a tumbler by trade. He arrived at Sydney, on the Countess of Harcourt in 1824 aged 22 years of age.

In May 1825 inflicting much severe suffering he became the official scourge at both the George Street gaol and at Hyde Park barracks. He became the under study to Harry Stain the official hangman. Stain died in 1828 Green took the role of Official Government Executioner for the State of New South Wales.

There would be a steady increase of work for Alexander Green, as the Colony was going soft in the eyes of the British Government. Convicts liked what they saw in Australia and where reputedly writing home encouraging relatives to get caught stealing something with the express purpose to getting transported out to Australia. The British were about to recall Governor Brisbane and replace him with the far sterner Governor Darling.

During his career as hangman he was credited with 490 executions within the years 1828 – 1855 in Sydney and in the colony of New South Wales. When Green began in 1828 New South Wales encompassed all the states along the east coast from Queensland to Tasmania.  Green performed his duties on the east coast mainland states tho he never went to work in Tasmania.

For the most part Green’s employment was based at Hyde Park Barracks as a Flogger and as Hangman at the Sydney Gaol in George Street, but from his arrival in 1824 through to 1840 he would watch the construction of the new gaol rise up on the hillside of Darlinghurst and from the opening of the gaol in 1840 he was the hangman at Darlinghurst.

The Sydney Goal was the site of the first hanging in Sydney in1788, and the gallows was situated in the south western corner of the gaol.  At the site of the original hanging tree, the gallows consisted of a raised platform to accommodate the crowds that would gather for the public spectacle of a hanging. Prior to 1840, the public execution of prisoners was an event that lasted a few hours as there were mass hangings of four or more people the largest number to be “turned off” in one session was in  October1828 with eleven on the day.

Green was the finishing point for some of the most notable legal cases of that time. The condemned men from the Myall Creek massacre the first instance where white men were made accountable for the murder of Aboriginals:

(Spelling as per the era in which it was written)


South Australian Gazette


EXECUTION.—Yesterday morning was that appointed for the execution of the seven unhappy men found guilty of the massacre of one or more of the twenty eight native Blacks at Dangar’s

Mile Creek, at the Big River, beyond Liverpool Plains. Their deportment was humble and penitent, free from all vulgar bravado or cowardice. They were very pale but did not tremble. A most becoming deportment characterised their behaviour from their entrance into the yard to their final exit on the scaffold. They listened with devote attention to the exhortations of the clergy of their respective religions, and fervently responded to their prayers. Previously to commencing their religious exercises, one of them    requested permission to embrace his fellow sufferers, which was instantly acceded to. They  all arose, and saluted each other on the cheek, and then shook hands in a manner very affecting to the bystanders. Preceded by their respective ministers they ascended the scaffold. Being ranged in order, the executioner and his assistant adjusted the ropes about their necks, the clergy  men continuing their attendance until warned to retire. Then shaking hands once more with each, each whispering to his fellow the last adieu, the cap of death was drawn over their faces, and the world was forever shut out from their sight. While the executioner and his assistant were descending to withdraw the bolt, they called upon a merciful God in an audible voice. In the midst of their prayers, the bolt was withdrawn, the floor fell from under their feet, and they descended till brought up by the fatal rope. After hanging the usual time, the seven lifeless bodies were cut down and deposited in their last home.— Sydney Monitor, December 19,1838.

Of almost five hundred he hung more than 360 hung in his first ten years such was the strict penal policies of the day during the time of Governor Darling he hung 170 people in 3 years 10 months where as the slightly more lenient Governor Bourke 183 people were hung in a 6 year rule, (including the controversial Myall Creek Massacre Murderers) under Governor Gipps it was 10 people in a 8 year reign, Governor Fitzroy 27 people in 8 years. Governor Dennison thought the side show that went with a public hanging vulgar and Green his last hanging was the first private hanging one, William Ryan in 1855.

Australia was ahead of Britain in that respect where the last public hanging was thirteen years later in 1868.

Sydney Morning Herald



Yesterday morning at nine o’clock, the murderer, William Ryan, suffered the extreme penalty of the law, upon the scaffold erected In the hard-labour yard, Inside the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol. Six respectable citizen« (jurymen) were in attendance, in obedience to summonses which had been served upon them as witness’s of the execution, and with the exceptions of the Governor, medical, with other officers of the gaol,  Inspector, two sergeants, and a division of police, comprised all the spectators at the scene.

The intelligence that the Governor-General had signed the warrant for his execution to take place on. the 28th Instant, was officially made known lo the condemned man a fortnight ago, but he persistent in the belief that a reprieve would be granted him, up to this night before his execution Prior to .that night, he appeared quite callous to his crime und fate, and a week ago, he told one of the turnkeys that the rope was not yet made with which to hang  him. But on Tuesday night, be became apprehensive and anxious, and did not sleep at all during the entire night continuing in unremitting. – Prayer with his spiritual advisers, the Ven. Archdeacon M’Encrno, and tile Rev. Mr.Sheehy, who have been most attentive to the unfortunate convict since his condemnation. Yesterday morning, under the ministration of the clergy he began to express symptoms  of sorrow and penance.  A few minutes after nine o’clock, the death bell began to toll, and the condemned man appeared, pinioned and walking firmly, and erect between the clergymen.

 He was calm and collected, going up to the instrument of his death with a look of slight curiosity, apparently without fear, and stooping his face towards hls pinioned hands to wipe his mouth with his handkerchief Ryan then spoke In an unfaltering tone as follows :- It is owing to spite and malice that I am brought to this end.

My brother in law. Sergeant Newton, my sister, and inspector Higgins, and  the cause of my misfortune, and of my, wife and children. I  forgive them all, and hope God will forgive them.

 I could get out of this, but I know that I could do nothing In this world to make a recompensed for killing my wife; she was n very good woman,” He then firmly ascended tho scaffold, mid the reverend gentlemen continued with him In fervent prayer while the fatal noose and cap were being adjusted.

He shook hands with them, and they descended the ladder, leaving him standing on the platform, earnestly saying aloud, “Oh! Lord have mercy upon my soul!” until the executioner drew the bolt and he fell through the trap. Although the first shock was so great as probably to deprive Ryan almost immediately of feeling, still, being a remarkably powerful man, of at least 12 stone weight, and just ,38 years of age, tho muscular action continued during nearly five minutes. After hanging three-quarters of an hour, the corpse was cut down, placed in a coffin, and convoyed to the Roman Catholic cemetery.

This is the first (so-called) private execution under the Act of Council passed during the last session. There were about fifty females, and as many children, together with three or four men, assembled out-side the gaol gate. The scaffold was erected in the rearward of the building, so that not even with the gates open could it be seen from tho outside, but the top of some high buildings in the neighbourhood, from whence the spot might, perhaps, be seen, were covered with spectators.

 He was paid an annual rate of £15 14s. 2d., with an additional option to live at the gaol. The hangman previous to Stain, Thomas Hughes had difficulty finding accommodation due to his job and the accommodation option became a part of the job. Green lived at the gaol as well as being one of the first inhabitants of the fledgling suburb of Newtown, which at that time was a collection of unused paddocks.

By the mid 1840’s he was earning £60 p.a. Green was growing with disfavour amongst the Public Judicial Officers of the day and had several minor brushes with the law himself. His tendency to drink, brawl and be generally raucous did himself no favours. By 1841 he was living o a small piece of land next to the Darlinghurst gaol that was later became  known as Green Park. From his time as a Public Executioner he was recognisable figure about Sydney town, that became enhanced when he was struck across the face with an axe, in 1830 by a prisoner, apparently you could not mistake the discoloured scar across his face.

To achieve a successful execution by hanging, there is a required amount of cooperation by the condemned person any last second flinching as the bolt is drawn can result in any number of undesirable results. Although Green had his number of less than clean hanging where the prisoner “died hard” for the most cases he was a competent practitioner of his calling. One memorable exception was the hanging of a man named Mackie in 1848, where he miscalculated the length of rope required and Mackie dropped through the trapdoor and found his  feet touching solid ground, Green grabbed a shovel and pick axe and began digging a hole beneath Mackie’s feet so that he would be suspended.

Although not stating his name the hangman in this incident was Alexander Green, The following was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in an article about years gone by (26 December 1857).

Sydney Morning Herald

August 23 1830.

 Tiernan, a Capital felon, aged 17, was about to be hanged at Windsor. Having mounted the scaffold, pinioned, he violently jostled the executioner, who thereupon fell a distance of seven feet to the ground, the culprit falling likewise. The hangman was greatly bruised by the fall, and could only be induced to ascend the scaffold again after very much persuasion and entreaty from the Under-Sheriff.

There are many mentions of the hangman or executioner in the papers of the day without naming Alexander Green the following are newspaper mentions of him outside the job.

NSW Advertiser



Alexander Green was charged with being drunk, and found upon a person’s premises for unlawful purposes.

 Bench : What are you?

Green : A public officer.

Bench (with astonishment) : What ?

Green : The executioner or hangman.

Bench (with a shudder) : Oh ! we know the light in which you are regarded here : to put a man like you in the stocks would not be to make an example You are discharged ; but you may depend upon it that you will be punished in a different manner to being put in the ¡stocks if again brought here.


Although he never officially married Green appears to had a de facto relationship with this woman

The Australian


Alexander Green (out on bail), the public executioner, was indicated for a violent assault upon his wife. The woman, on being sworn, stated that she was unwilling to prosecute, the prisoner having behaved well to her and her children, both previously and subsequently to the assault charged — she was therefore not examined. Margaret Robinson, the prisoner’s daughter in-law, proved the assault. The prisoner stated in his defence, that it arose out of a drunken spree, he having been exasperated by Robinson calling him a hangman. The Jury found him guilty, and the Court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment in gaol.


Sydney Gazette



Yesterday a milkman residing at New Town, in the neighbourhood of Alexander Green, alias Jack Ketch, the assistant hangman, was brought before the bench by his official neighbour, charged willingly permitting his cows to trespass upon his close.

The defence was that the sliprails was continually down, and as a matter of course the cattle would trespass. A wordy war then ensued between the milkman and the hang-man. The milkman said when he was sitting down reading hid bible of a Sunday afternoon, the horrid oaths and imprecation of the hang-man diverted his attention, and that of his family from their godly exorcise.

The hang-man recriminated and harped upon the cows. They argued and bullyragged each other until they nearly argued and abused themselves into reconciliation–when Mr. Windeyer, after listening to them with great patience for a considerable time, advised the parties to make up.

The milkman then made an open and public declaration that if the hangman should afterwards meet him and say ” it’s a fine day ,”he (the milkman) would say ” it is”-or if he the (milkman) would say the like-or if the hangman met him and’ did ” nothing at all ,”he (The milkman) would say ” nothing at all.”In fact if the hangman said .’ the moon was made of green cheese,” the milkman consented to say the same anything at all for a quiet life? “Very well” magnanimously ejected the hangman, pay the shot and mizzle.”, This done the parties left the vicinity of the office, their faces averted, and walking on opposite sides of the street.


In early May 1855 the colonial secretary ordered Green committed and was admitted to Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum (now known as Gladesville Psychiatric Hospital) for an undisclosed condition and lived in various institutions until his death in 1879.

Morton Bay Courier


SAMUEL WILLCOX and WILLIAM ROGERS, the former for the murder of JOANNA SMITH, in, Sydney, and the latter for the murder of JOSEPH ALLSOPP, at Baulkham Hills, were hanged within the walls of Darlinghurst Gaol on the 5th instant. The execution was carried into effect by a prisoner named ELLIOTT, the hangman GREEN being confined in Tarban Creek Asylum as a lunatic.

At some point Green was moved from Tarban Creek to Parramatta Lunatic Asylum as per this exert from the Sydney Morning Herald dated  4/8/1866 tells of a Ministerial inspection of the institution… The party then proceeded to inspect the establishment in every part, commencing with the dormitory for the general male lunatics. The bedding was very clean, under the vigorous physical exertion of a lunatic, named Green the hangman under the old regime, whose ribboned unmentionables pointed him out an a person of distinction, who was energetically operating upon tho floor with a mop. Tho floor and dormitory generally were clean, comfortable appearance… 

Although the below article states Green’s age as 85 years, all his penal records say he was born in 1802, making him 77 years old. Perhaps he just looked older from hard living.

The Maitland Mercury


Green, formerly the hangman, died at the Lunatic Asylum, aged eighty-five. He had been an inmate of the asylum for twenty-five years.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gone right, Gone wrong..., The Hangmen

The Execution of Montgomery and Williams 1894


The Union Steamship Company offices, in Bridge Street was an impressive building and the buglers hoped for an equally impressive pay out for their efforts. The buglers, Montgomery and Williams were new to town up from Melbourne and had picked their victim.  The flag ship Mararoa had arrived and passengers meant money. When they discovered that they had been found out there was a brief melee with the Police and they made a beeline uphill on Bridge Street, not being locals they then turned into Phillip Street and headed down the hill towards the Quay. Any local could tell you that was in the direction of the closest Police station an not a smartest of moves.

The Police never take kindly to any one clobbering one of their own (much less two of there own). Had it been anyone else but Police it would have been written up as a Grievous Bodily Harm charge, but being Police the charge was attempted Murder. This charge had the death penalty attached to it and so they swung.

(Spelling as per the era in which it was written)



The Evening News  


The Story of the Crime.

In an affray which resulted in the two men being called upon to mount the scaffold to-day occurred on the early morning of Friday, February 2, in this year. At about 2.30 a.m. Senior constables Ball end Macourt and Constable Lyons, all of No. 4 Police Station, while standing at the corner of George and Bridge streets, saw- three men leave a house at the upper end of Bridge Street and proceed slowly towards Phillip Street, and being suspicious of their close behind the men, the latter, who up to this time had made no attempt to getaway, quickly turned round, and with the heavy iron jemmies ‘they ‘were carrying, aimed blows at the constables’ heads, Macourt and Lyons were struck violently on the head, and fell senseless to the ground but Senior-constable Ball managed to evade the blow aimed at him.

The three men then speedily ran off, followed closely by Ball. Finding himself closely pursued one of the men turned around and drew a revolver, and covering the constable threatened to blow his brains out if he came a step closer. The other two had now got a long way ahead, and seeing this the third turned and followed. Ball resumed the chase yelling out ‘ police !’loudly and continuously. Macourt and. Lyons were still lying senseless on the footway in Bridge Street. The rufin ran up Bridge Street, turned into Phillip-street, and- ran in the direction of Circular Quay. Constable Ball continued his cries of ‘ police ‘ as he was nearing the Water Police Station. Hearing these cries Senior-constable Scott, the officer in charge of the Water Police Station, and Constables Chapel, Daniel, and M’Cracken rushed out, and were just in time to grapple with the fugitives. A desperate struggle ensued, and for about five minutes it ‘was a very rough and tumble encounter. One of the men again attempted to use his revolver, but by a blow from one of the constables’ batons his arm was quickly rendered useless. The two men resisted violently, but were relieved of the murderous weapons and dragged into the police station, where they were safely lodged in the cells. The third man managed to escape. The injured policemen were Senior-constable M’Court, and Constables Alford, Taylor, Bowden, and Lyons. They were bruised and cut about the face, but were soon able to proceed to the Sydney Hospital. After the capture Senior-constable Ball and other constables went to M’Court and Lyons assistance, and took them to the hospitals They had their injuries dressed by the senior house-surgeon, Dr. Maitland Constable Bowden was found to have sustained a deep wound above the left ear, and that the skull had been fractured beneath. This was a result of a blow from one of the jemmies by one of the arrested men.

He was operated on by Dr. Maitland, and a small piece of broken bone was removed from the skull at the seat of the fracture. Bowden had also a wound about3in long above the left eye, -which extended to the skull bone. The injuries of the other constables were as follow : Constable Lyons, scalp wound and fracture of the right forearm ; Constable Taylor, wound on the back of the head about 2in long and abrasions of the nose; Constable Alford, wound about 4in long on the head, extending to the bone ; and Senior constable M’Court, wound about 2in long on the right side of the forehead. Constable Arthur, who was on duty in Bridge Street, stated that about 2.50 a.m. he tried the back door of premises in Bridge-lane. He was accompanied at the time by the watchman, William Pooley, and when they came to the Union Company’s office they found that the door was not securely fastened, and heard a noise inside the building. About 10 minutes afterwards they heard cries of ‘ Police,’ and ascertained that the burglars upon being disturbed had quietly escaped by the front door, which they left open.

The men were evidently about to commence work when they were seen by the constables. They had visited the offices of the Union Steamship Company in Bridge Street, opposite the Queensland Chambers. The offices connect at the back with, an alleyway, a dark spot on a bad night. There is nothing to prevent a man from finding the back entrance to the office but the darkness..

From the lane the way is open for the principal office. On the right lies the manager’s room. From there a clear run is available to Bridge-street. The course of the men appears to have been straight through from the back alley. That a large amount of money was- expected was probable, as the steamer Mararoa left late the night before with & great many passengers.

The two prisoners, who gave their names as Charles Montgomery, 30, and Thomas Williams, 21, were ‘brought before the Walter Police Court that morning charged together with breaking and entering the premises of the Union Steamship Company, Bridges Street, and separately with having maliciously wounded Senior-constable M’Court and Constable Alford with intent to murder, and formally remanded.

Each, of the men had carried an iron jemmy about 3ft in length, and an inch in diameter, with a chisel-pointed end. The revolver, a new one, loaded in five chambers, was found in the possession of Montgomery. A peculiar pair of iron snips termed a ‘ masterpiece, used for unlocking doors when fastened by a key on the inside, and several penknife blades made into small saws, were among the articles found in their possession. Both the accused men are old Victorian criminals, having only recently been discharged from Pentridge after doing long terms of imprisonment for burglary. Both the accused left Melbourne about three weeks previous..



The Evening News





As briefly reported on page 5, the two men, Montgomery and Williams, were hanged this morning in Darlinghurst Gaol according to the law. Both men died determinedly, but a bungle occurred as the trap was opened.

Precisely at 9 o’clock the crowd of about 20 persons, including Mr. F. -Penny, J.P., Mr. Lewis , Mr. J. Stevenson, M.L.A., Mr Cowper (sheriff), Mr. Maybury (surgeon), Mr. Herbert (governor of the gaol),and Mr. Jackson (deputy-governor of the gaol), several reporters, warders, policemen, and a few others proceeded from the Darlinghurst Courthouse to the scene of the execution.

The Condemned’s Last Moments.

The condemned men -were in their cells engaged in prayer. Rev. Canon Rich was with Montgomery, and Rev. J. Austin with Williams. They were both firm and resigned, and Williams had altered in his demeanour, but seemed fully determined to meet his end quite resolutely.

Williams, when the sheriff: visited the cell at five past 9, with the governor of the gaol, was singing the hymn ‘ A Day’s March nearer Home,’ most fervently.

The two condemned men were told that the time for their execution had arrived, and were asked whether they had any request to make. They replied that they had not, and –were quite prepared for the end. The sheriff thereupon sent for the hangman, Howard, who, with his assistant, was waiting in the adjoining corridor.

The Last Procession.

Both, men ‘were then pinioned, and the leg irons were unlocked and the white caps affixed to their heads. They were then marched along the corridor of the cells to the galleries. Montgomery led the way behind the sheriff, followed by Canon Rich, then Williams, and the Rev. J.Austin, with the executioners following in the rear.

 As they reached the door leading to the gallows a halt was made, and in solemn tones the Rev. Canon Rich repeated the burial service, while both the dying men were muttering ‘ God have mercy on my soul.’

At the Scaffold.

The hangman then led Montgomery to the rope on the left hand side of the beam, and as the condemned man stood on the trap, he stamped lightly, and looked up and about as if to ascertain if all were secure. Williams was then placed beside him, and while standing in this position they began muttering in prayer. The clergymen asked if they desired to say anything, but they simply replied ‘No.’ The hangman then proceeded with adjusting the ropes, and Montgomery was the first to be arranged.  

The assistant hangman was about to place the noose around Williams’ neck, when Howard quickly stepped across, and, by pushing him out of the way, caught hold of the rope, and pointed to the lever, intimating to the assistant that that was his place. Williams’ head was bent backwards, and his eyes were evidently cast skyward. He appeared to be very shakey on his legs, and. when Howard was clumsily tugging at the rope, tightening the noose around the poor wretch’s neck, he almost pulled Williams over. Howard stepped across to Montgomery, gave his noose another pull, while the assistant hangman held Williams by the shoulder. Howard then gave Williams’ rope an extra tight pull, when the assistant pulled the lever —apparently too soon — and the two men fell.

How They Died.

Montgomery’s death was instantaneous not a movement in the body being observed after the fall It was patent to everyone, however, that there had been : some grave mistake, in the case of Williams, and that a bungle had taken place in the adjusting of the ropes. By some mistake of the hangman he had allowed the rope to fall loosely over Williams’ left shoulder, and just as the bolt was pulled Williams must have fainted and fallen slightly backward. As he did so the rope became entangled under the left arm and just jammed under the rope by which the arms were pinned. His body fell sideways, and as it passed through the trap Montgomery was kicked, which caused him to sway somewhat. His end was very rapid, while that of Williams was undoubtedly a lingering one.

A Painful Scene.

For at least eight minutes his body hung sideways, with the rope passing from the neck down the back under the left arm, and then up to the beam. In this position the body hung for about two minutes.

Died Like Archer.

The poor wretch began exhibiting signs of life. While in this position his struggles become more and more pronounced, and the movements of the dying man exactly resembled those of the man Walter Archer, who was hanged at Darlinghurst last year. The sheriff directed the hangman’s attention to what was taking place, and the assistant quickly walked to the scaffold, and by rapidly shaking and twisting the rope it was released from beneath the arm and the body was allowed to hang straight.


Death by Suffocation.

It was quite clear that the neck had not been broken, and that the man was gradually being suffocated. Rapidly and continuously the bodily convulsions went on. The legs and lower part of the body would be drawn up and then fall again at every respiratory movement of the lungs. This  lasted for about five minutes, when life seemed to have ebbed away. The body then became very still, and after hanging for, about 20 minutes, it was examined, with the aid of a stethoscope, by Dr. O’Connor, who expressed the opinion that the man was dead.

The Inquest,

Instructions were then issued for the removal of the bodies, and they were cut down and placed in the hospital, morgue. At 10 o’clock the customary inquest was held and the usual verdict recorded.

The Cause of the Bungle.

A further examination of the scaffold revealed the fact that one drop was about two feet shorter than the other, and that they had been given the wrong ropes. Williams, who was 11st 3lb in weight and 5ft 7in in height, was to have been given the longest rope with a drop of about 10ft instead of that he was placed by Howard in the wrong position, and given the rope which was intended to be adjusted to Montgomery, who was 14st in weight, and measured 5ft 11inches in height, and who was to be given the short fall-of 8ft.

The Hangman’s Responsibility.

There is no doubt that the mistake in giving Williams the short drop, combined with the bungle with the rope catching under the arm, was the cause of the man’s protracted death, and the hangman will be called to account for such an unpardonable mistake.

Disposal of the Bodies.

So far the gaol authorities have not received application for the possession of either of the bodies by any of the relatives ;but it is believed that Williams’ wife, who recently arrived from Melbourne, has written to the Premier making the request.

Recent Visitors to the Men.

On Wednesday afternoon Montgomery was visited by his sister and his brother, and their last meeting was a truly pitiful one. Montgomery had been allowed to sign the request for an appeal to the Privy Council, and when told by the governor of the gaol last evening of the result, and that there was not the slightest chance of the execution being deferred, he received the news ‘very quietly, and m fact looked upon it as a foregone conclusion.

When Canon Rich saw him afterward Montgomery said,’ I have just had a good cry, and it has done me good.’ In the evening Montgomery wrote a few letters to his friends, and after indulging in fervent prayer retired at 12 o’clock. He passed a very fair night, and rose at 6 o’clock this morning. He had a moderate breakfast of the usual prison fare. When finished he began pacing his cell till the arrival of Canon Rich at 8o’clock, and from that time till the execution Montgomery was constantly praying.

Williams was during Wednesday afternoon visited by his wife, and the heartrending scenes that transpired between, man and wife with the iron bars of the condemned cell separating them can -well be imagined. Mrs. Williams was accompanied by her two little girls and remained with the condemned : man. from 4 till 5 o’clock. When it was known that the execution must take place Mrs. Williams was granted an interview with her husband after tea, and they remained together till 10 o’clock, when they parted forever.

The scene of husband and wife ‘ weeping bitterly, and about to part for ever, was most heartrending, and the wife had to be assisted to the gaol gates. Williams cried for some time after parting from his wife, and subsequently implored God to look -after his wife and children, that he had led a bad life, but ‘was now truly repentant, and fervently called on the Almighty to have ‘mercy1 on his soul. Williams was also visited by one of his brothers in the condemned cell.

 At 8.30 last night his spiritual adviser, Rev. J. Austin, visited him in his cell, where he found Williams kneeling down praying. He spoke freely to- Mr. Austin, and asked him to explain certain passages in the Bible. Williams conversed on his past life, and Mr Austin now says the man comes from a respectable family in Victoria.

When Mr. Austin bade Williams good-night he seemed to have regained all his courage, and the fear of death appeared to have entirely left him. Williams said, ‘ Good-bye, Mr. Austin. God bless you for all your kindness to me. I will die to-morrow, and am prepared for it ; but my one great comfort is that I have not murdered anyone, and I never had any intention of killing anyone. Such a thought never ‘entered my head. I am, therefore, entirely innocent of the charge of which I am to die. There is not any blood on my hands, Mr. Austin. I know you’ll believe me. I am glad I have not spilt blood, for my own sake and theirs  but I am now quite prepared to die.’


The Last Night

Williams retired soon after, but passed a restless night. He rose about the same time as Montgomery, and had a moderate breakfast. He then indulged in prayer with Mr. Austin up to the time of the execution. He was singing hymns most of his time during the morning.

Just Before the End.

Both men walked on the scaffold without any apparent signs of distress or fear, and passed through the trial in a very brave manner, particularly Montgomery, who, as he stood on-the trap between life and death looked at the small throng of spectators in front of him in a very unconcerned way.

By special request the men were allowed to converse with one another in Montgomery’s cell last night, the first time since they -were removed from the court after sentence. They were pleased to see each other, and although little was said they parted very reluctantly, and kissed each other through the bars.

They both made the request .that a copy of their photos, should be sent to their brothers, sisters, wife, and mother. They each cut off a lock of hair. Montgomery expressed the wish, that his should be sent to his sister. Williams asked that the piece of his hair should he forwarded to his wife. It remains with the gaol authorities whether the request with regard to the photographs should be complied with.

bridge street robberuy 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gone wrong...

The Execution of Louisa Collins 1899

The Execution of Louisa Collins 1899

Louisa Collins the last woman to hang in the state of New South Wales. To her grave she never confessed to the crime. She endured four trials for the murders and was adjudged by an all male jury. This case was at a time that was on the cusp of Women getting the Vote. There was a lot of resistance to women getting the vote and Louisa’s Hanging was an example of “you want equality, well here you go, this is what it feels like” . Then after the hanging was so botched, the general public was outraged and thus she became the last woman hanged in the State.

The hangman was Robert Rice Howard, of  North Bondi, he had a disfigured face from when a horse kicked him. The result of that accident he had just about no nose to speak of and became known as “Nosey Bob the hangman”.

(Spelling as per the era in which it was written)


Sydney Morning Herald



The extraordinary and mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a man named Michael Peter Collins, which occurred at No. 5, Popple’s terrace, Botany Road, Botany, on Sunday afternoon last, have now assumed alarming aspects. It will be remembered that Dr Marshall was  attending the deceased for about two months previous to his death, and the curious symptoms displayed baffled all the efforts of the doctor to trace the nature of the disease, and when the man died, Dr Marshall, from in-formation received from Dr Martin, which partly confirmed his own suspicions, refused to give a certificate as to the cause of death, and sent a report of the occurrence, likewise his suspicions in full, to the City Coroner.

 The result was that an inquest was commenced on Tuesday last, and adjourned for a week to allow the Government Analyst, Mr Hamlet to make a careful chemical examination of the deceased’s stomach and con-tents. On Thursday afternoon Mr Hamlet informed the Coroner that he had finished the analysis, and had found amongst other things a large quantity of arsenic, sufficient to cause death.

Mr Shiell, as soon as possible, gave the necessary authority to the police to place the woman, Louisa Collins, the wife of the deceased, under arrest. As usual, the matter was carried out with the greatest secrecy, as it had been all  through the case, the police being extremely reticent, and as a matter of fact, last night they gave the representatives of the press to understand that they knew nothing whatever about the affair.

About 8 o’clock on Thursday night Louisa Collins was arrested by warrant by Senior-constable Sherwin, No 3 station, who charged her, on suspicion, with having caused the death of Michael Peter Collins, her husband. Yesterday morning Inspector Hyam waited upon the City Coroner, where he was supplied with the requisite warrants for the exhumation of the body of the first husband, and also a child (of which the deceased was the father),whose deaths occurred on the 5th February, 1887,and the 19th April, 1888, respectively.

No definite time has yet been fixed for the inquiry into the death of these two. The case of the child is a new phase in the mystery, and to which up to the present no publicity has been given. However, from inquiries instituted, we find that the Coroner received the following report on 20th April, 1888:-“About 11.40 p.m., on the 10th April, 1888, a child named John Collins, aged 4 1/2 months, died suddenly at his parents’ residence. Botany Road, Botany. It appears the deceased suffered slightly from a sick stomach for two days previous to its death, but the parents did not consider it bad enough to call in medical aid. About 10 p.m . the same night the child began crying, the father lit the lamp,  and took the deceased up, when it got quiet and began laughing at the light; deceased then took the breast and fell asleep.

About 11.20 p.m. it awoke screaming and suffering great pain, and was dead in less than 20 minutes. The only medicine given to the child was a teaspoonful of castor oil about 1 p.m. the day it died. Dr Martin, of 32, College-street saw the deceased some hours after death and directed the parents to report the matter to the police and said he would send a memo to City Coroner .”

On the face of this report the Coroner has written, “As there are no grounds for supposing this child died from any but natural causes, an inquest maybe dispensed with.” Dr. Martin attended the first husband during the illness previous to his death, and when he passed the doctor gave a certificate for the cause of death. Be it mentioned. however, that the symptoms preceding the death of all three  were similar in respects.      

Louisa Collins, 32, widow, was brought up before Mr.  Addison, S.M., at the Water Police Court yesterday, and    charged, on suspicion of having caused the death of a her husband Michael Patrick Collins, at Botany, on or about the 8th July, 1888. On the application of the police the  case was remanded until Tuesday next.



Sydney Morning Herald


THE trial of Louisa Collins for the murder of her husband, Michael Peter Collins, was concluded at the Central Criminal Court at midday on Saturday. His Honour the Chief Justice concluded his summing-up at about 12 o’clock, and the jury then retired to consider their verdict. After an absence of about two hours they returned into court with a verdict of guilty. The prisoner, who appeared quite unmoved by the result of the trial, was then called up for sentence. In reply to the usual question, she said she had nothing to say. His Honor addressed her briefly, pointing out the atrocity of the crime of which she had been convicted, and stating that no body of intelligent jurymen could have failed to return a verdict of guilty. The prisoner was sentenced to death, and his Honor informed her that he could hold out no hope of mercy to her.

The Hanging

Sydney Morning Herald

9 /1/1899


Yesterday morning, a few minutes after 9 o’clock, Louisa Collins was executed within Darlinghurst gaol, in the strictest privacy compatible with the awful event. The hour of execution was fixed for 9 o’clock, and about 20 minutes before that time the guarded gates to the Court-house entrance had been opened to five representatives of the metropolitan daily press. Besides these the only witnesses of the execution were Mr. Cowper, the Sheriff, Mr. Maybury, the Deputy sheriff, Dr. Maurice O’Connor, visiting surgeon, Dr. Brown-less, nominated for the occasion by the Government medical officer; the gaol dispenser, and sub-Inspector Hyam. About an hour before the execution the condemned woman was removed from the female ward to the condemned cell, which is situated a few yards from the gallows. She was accompanied by the Rev. Canon Rich, chaplain of the gaol, and passed her last hour in prayer. A few minutes past 9 the voice of the chaplain could be heard uttering the first words of the burial service, and a moment later he emerged from the cell-door on to the gallery which led to the scaffold. Behind was Louisa Collins, clothed in the common brown winseyprison dress, with her arms pinioned above the elbows. On each side, with a hand on each arm, afemale warder walked, but without the necessity to give support, as with bent head and nearly closed eyes thedoomed woman walked slowly, but firmly, towards the door which led to the scaffold. In passing she gave a brief look on the representatives of the press still remaining in the building. Her female attendants were, to all appearances, more affected than Mrs. Collins herself, for one was weeping.

Behind followed Howard, the executioner, and his newly appointed assistant, Stepping on the scaffold, which faces a small exercise yard, Mrs. Collins again cast a glance at the small group of reporters beneath. Except this movement of the eyes there was no facial change, but a slight twitch of the hands was notice-able. On one side of the trapdoor on the platform stood a chair, over which was thrown a piece of carpet; on  this rested the noose of the rope.

The Rev. Mr. Rich stood on the other side, and immediately Mrs. Collins was beneath the beam, the chaplain pronounced the closing words of the burial service, to which the victim audibly responded ” Amen,” and after a few whispered words from the chaplain, to hear which Mrs. Collins slightly inclined her head, the white cap was handed from the assistant to the executioner, who placed it over the victim’s head. She raised her right hand and assisted to adjust the cap, and then the rope was tightened round her neck.

The executioner signalled to his assistant to pull the lever, but the handle refused to move. It could be seen that pressure was applied, and also that the pin which held the handle in its place was fast in its slot. The assistant endeavoured to remove the pin, but failed, and in a few seconds a mallet was used. Four or five blows were applied Mrs Collins meanwhile standing perfectly upright and motionless-before the pin gave way.

 The delay caused could not have been short of one minute, when the lever moved and the body fell through in a slightly curved position. After one swing to the side and in a moment it was suspended perpendicularly, with the face towards the yard. There was a slight spurt of blood, followed by a thin stream which ran down the dress and spotted the floor beneath. Nearer examination showed that the strain of the drop had so far opened the neck as to completely sever the windpipe, and that the body was hanging by the vertebra. Slowly the body turned round on the rope until the front part faced the doorway, and there it remained stationary until lowered by the executioner on to a wicker bier. Death was instantaneous. After hanging for 20 minutes the corpse was conveyed to the inquest room, and again given over to the female warders. Subsequently the formal inquest was held, and the usual verdict returned. During the afternoon the remains were buried at Rookwood, under the surveillance of the police authorities.

The Rev. Canon Rich, before leaving the gaol, in-formed the press that he attended the condemned woman daily, and sometimes twice a day, subsequent to her condemnation. She had all along been most earnest in her prayers, and had devoutly accepted his spiritual consolations. As the day of execution drew near she gradually altered, becoming more careworn as if from menial strain. She fully recognised her awful position and always expressed her preparedness for and resignation to her fate. Asked if she had made any confession the chaplain replied, “She has confessed her sins to Almighty God and has supplicated for forgiveness.” Throughout her last days she had, the chaplain continued, shown great courage, which did not desert her in her last hour. The chaplain also stated that Mrs. Collins had told him that her external demeanour before her condemnation was “but a mere shell” and that she felt her position acutely.

Near the different entrances to the gaol groups of people assembled, but there was no demonstration of any kind beyond the indulgence in remarks which might be expected on such on occasion.



The Evening News


THE trial of Louisa Collins for the murder of her husband, Michael Peter Collins, was concluded at the Central Criminal Court at midday on Saturday. His Honour the Chief Justice concluded his summing-up at about 12 o’clock, and the jury then retired to consider their verdict.

After an absence of about two hours they returned into court with a verdict of guilty. The prisoner, who appeared      quite unmoved by the result of the trial, was then called up for sentence. In reply to the usual question, she said she had nothing to say. His Honour addressed her briefly, pointing out the atrocity of the crime of which she had been convicted, and stating that no body of intelligent jurymen could have failed to return a verdict of guilty. The prisoner was sentenced to death, and his Honour informed her that he could hold out no hope of mercy to her.

John Longford, gaol recorder, deposed to being present at the  trial, and when the sentence was passed, and also when the execution took place, and which was carried out according to the law. Mr. C. E. B. Mayberry deposed to receiving the warrant signed by Sir Frederick M. Darley, Chief Justice, to the effect that the said Louisa Collins should be ‘hanged by the neck till’ she was dead. He was also present at the execution. Dr. M. J. O’Connor, visiting surgeon to Darlinghurst Gaol, was present at the execution. After the body had been allowed to hang twenty minutes, it was cut down and removed to the morgue. On examination he found that there was a clean fracture of the vertebrae, and the wind pipe was severed. The neck was torn along the front under the chin, from which blood was still oozing. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the law.

Leave a comment

January 14, 2014 · 7:30 pm

The Execution of John Knatchbull 1844

The public Execution John Knatchbull certainly drew a crowd, some estimates run to 10,000. It’s not every day you get to see the son of British landed gentry swing from the gallows. Perhaps it the nature of the crime that got the crowd along (the murder of a female storekeeper) or was it the fact that it was at new venue that twigged the publics interest.

Knatchbull, son of Sir Edward Knatchbull of Kent eighth Baronet, on the day before he was to be married he murdered and attempted to rob a storekeeper to pay for the wedding dress. He was promptly apprehended.  Knatchbull was hung at the newly opened Darlinghurst Gaol by hangman Alexander Green.

In a strange twist of fate Robert Lowe Knatchbull’s legal counsel adopted the two Jamieson Children.



Sydney Morning Herald



Yesterday, an inquest was held at M ‘Kenzie’s  public house, the corner of Clarence Street and Margaret place, on the body of Ellen Jamieson, who expired between seven and eight o’clock the same morning. After the Court had been opened, the following Jury was ¡empanelled,  Alfred Sandeman, Esq. foreman ; James Harden, Henry Vaughan, Clement Peate, John Hayes, Charles Sweedie, Michael Brignell, William Clark, James Briars, John White, John Larkin Drew, William Robertson, John Walsh, and Charles Williams.

The Coroner having briefly addressed the Jury on the nature of the case they were about to investigate, and remind them that they were to be guided entirely by the evidence, directed them to view the body.

After viewing the body, the Jury returned to their room, when the first witness called was John Shalless, builder, Margaret place who deposed : I recollect the night; I had been very unwell all the day and about 10 p.m. had taken some medicine and was about to go to bed; Mrs. Shalless took the keys out of the room doors, and on enquiring the reason, was informed it was as a precaution as the boy had stated there was a suspicious looking man lurking about; on looking out of the door I saw the prisoner standing on the bank opposite the door; I told Mrs. Shalless he was in my opinion after no good, and I would watch him; I then went out to the verandah, and saw him walking up and down ; he occasionally stood still but always moved when any one passed; observed to my wife that the deceased seemed to have a good run of business about twenty minutes to twelve I saw her at the door, and saw the prisoner go up and say something to her, when she went in and he followed and pushed the door about the parts close, so that I could not see him; I then  saw deceased round the counter with something like a pot or measure in her hand, a woman then entered and came out again ; after which a man went in and the prisoner came out, and began walking up and down as before; he sat down on the curb-stone near her house and I saw him pelt off a white dog belonging to deceased.

The people who had been in the shop having come out, she came in the door again, and was in the act of wiping his hands, when the prisoner again went up and spoke to her, and followed her in, pushing the door to as before ; I remarked to Mrs.Shalless, ” there is that fellow gone in again to that old woman’s shop, I hope he does not mean to rob her ;” soon after I saw the door slammed to, and heard a noise of something falling as it were on the floor ; I told my wife I feared he was murdering her ; ran over and found the door locked, and heard some stroke given as of someone breaking a cocoanut with a hammer; I heard no further noise after this ; on looking up I saw the light moved up stairs, and saw the prisoner at the window ; he drew aside the blind and looked out I gave an alarm to the old watchman, that that there was a man in the house who had murdered the woman, and was up stairs rifling the house, and asked him to give me assistance but he declined doing so, saying, ” Well, what is that to me ;” he stood by all the rest of the time, but I did not see him render any assistance ; I then ran up to this house, got assistance, and saw the light put out up-stairs ; we agreed to break open the back door, at the same time keeping a watch in front. After an entrance had been effected, by the back door, the prisoner was found standing inside behind the front door, when he was secured; on entering, I found the deceased lying insensible, covered with blood, which was flowing profusely from some wounds in her head. There was no other person in the shop but prisoner and deceased, there were two children in bed up stairs.

Cross-examined by the prisoner: I have put a paragraph in the newspapers, but merely to correct an error connected with this case, in which I was called a boat-builder instead of a builder ; I have spoken to several persons about the matter you are here for, but I have not prejudiced any one.

Re-examined by the Jury : The watchman I referred to was a private watchman ; I don’t know what became of him ; there was no cry of murder.

Richard C. Smithurst deposed : I was passing down Margaret- place about twelve o’clock, when hearing an alarm given that there was a man murdering Mrs. Jamieson, I ran home, got a stick, and returned; an axe was obtained from this house, with which the watchman broke in one of the panels of the back-door ; I then saw the prisoner’s trousers through it, put in my stick, hooked his leg, but be lifted it, I lost my hold, he then left that place ; we forced open the back door and found Mrs. Jamieson lying bleeding and insensible ; a light was obtained, and the prisoner was found standing behind the front door; on being secured, he called out twice, “O! don’t strike me.” The police came in, handcuffed the prisoner, and took him away; on going up stairs, I found no one in the house but the two children of the deceased, who were in bed crying ; a doctor was sent for ; when I left, having searched the house for the weapon which had inflicted the wound, but only found a stick.

Alfred Jaques, grocer, Barrack lane, deposed : being alarmed by a cry of murder, about midnight, I repaired to the premises occupied by deceased, accompanied by the watchman, we went to the side door which we struck with our sticks, demanding who was within, but got no answer; the watchman, Mr. M’Kenzie, and myself, forced an entrance by the door leading into the yard. After the first stroke I heard a groan, and also the step of a man’s foot, it being too heavy for that of a woman. I passed through to the back of the front door, where I found the prisoner standing ; on seizing him, he made no resistance, but asked me twice not to strike him. On lifting up Mrs, Jamieson, I saw her skull was fractured, and a part of the brain protruding; I afterwards picked up a portion of her skull; l and others searched about an hour for the instrument which had inflicted the wound, but found nothing likely to have inflicted it. About two hours after I saw a tomahawk handed down stairs with fresh marks of blood on it, also, some hairs adhering to it ; the blood was quite fresh and damp on it; the tomahawk-now produced is the one I saw ; there are the marks of the blood on its side and on the handle; but the hairs are gone, they were on the edge of it. My wife found the tomahawk under the bed of the deceased between the battens and the mattress.

Mrs. Jaques, wife of Alfred Jaques, de-posed : About two hours after Mrs. Jamieson had been removed up stairs, while searching for the instrument which had inflicted the wounds, it occurred to me to look under the bed, when, on looking at the foot of it, and lifting up the mattress, I found the tomahawk produced, one side of which was splashed with blood. I was next door neighbour but one to deceased.  

Charles Hollowell, of Clarence lane: The prisoner had lodged with me for about five weeks up to the night of his apprehension; this tomahawk is my property; it has been mine for seven years ; it lay in my back-yard, to which the prisoner had access; hearing the alarm of murder, I went to the house of the deceased, and was there when it was found; I knew it immediately; when I last saw it in my yard, it had no marks of blood such as those now on it ; it had not been used for months; when the prisoner last left my house it was about seven o clock on the morning of the day when Mrs. Jamieson was murdered ; he was introduced to me by a Mrs. Craig, to whom he was to be married, as a free man ; he told me he was owner of thee Harriot coaster, and said he was merely waiting till he got the vessel sold to pay me for his five weeks lodging; while he lodged with me his conduct was always regular; Mr. Lewis, of the Harriot, has since told me that the prisoner was a ticket of-leave holder, employed by him. Elizabeth Evans : Had lived next door to  deceased ; her Christian name was Ellen; I have seen deceased wearing a pocket similar to the one produced: I will not swear positively that it is the one she wore in front under her apron, but it is like what she used to wear.        

Mrs. Jaques recalled : When Mrs. Jamieson was undressed I observed that her clothes were torn on one side where the pocket had been snatched from.

Mrs. Elizabeth Brown, residing in Kent-street: Went into the shop of the deceased about twenty minutes to twelve ; on entering  I saw the prisoner behind the door; he was  getting some vinegar ; I said to her “You have got a man behind the door;” she re-plied by a sort of laugh; the prisoner was that man; he got the vinegar, bade her and me good night, and went away; I used to mangle and mend for the deceased; this is her pocket; I know it by the mending on this corner; I knew deceased used to have money; he has frequently changed notes for me; I have been one of those who attended on the deceased; I saw her expire at half-past seven this morning, and had been with her previously at half-past five; the body viewed by the Jury is that of Mrs. Jamieson.

Bryan Norton, constable NO. 11 of the A division, orderly to Mr. Miles: I was called on by the landlord, and told of the prisoner being in the house murdering the woman and robbing the house; I informed Mr. Miles, on whose duty I then was, who ordered me back, when on entering by the back door, the prisoner was given up to me, and I lodged him in the station-house; I asked him what made him ill-use the woman so, when he said he had done no such thing; on being searched  at the station-house by Inspector Molloy, I saw this pocket taken from his pocket, it contained ten shillings and eighteen sixpences; this other bag fell from the inside of the prisoner’s trousers; it contained money.  

Inspector Molloy: This pocket was take  from the prisoner’s trousers pocket, containing ten shillings and eighteen sixpences;  after searching his pockets, on pulling off his trousers this bag dropped from them, containing £4 2s. 8d. in silver, and under his trousers were found six £1 notes and a £5note, and loose in his pocket twenty-one shillings in silver, making in all £17 2s. 8d.

I also found on him three bills of exchange, filed up, for £50 each, directed to Sir Edward Knatchball, with three blank bills; the blanks were signed John Knatchbull, and also directed to Sir Edward Knatchbull; there was a pass signed T. Ryan, for fourteen days, dated January 3rd, 1844; I also found this paper with figures on it. (The prisoner here stated that it was a copy of a memorandum of some bills which the per-son named in it was going to cash for him, the prisoner, on his brother. On examining the prisoner’s trousers, I found them spotted with blood on both legs in several places; there were also some stains  on the uppers of his boots, apparently blood, but they turned black by the next morning; twelve o’clock is the hour for relieving the constables on duty, but on that night for the first time they were relieved at nine o’clock.  

The medical evidence of Mr. Surgeon Jones was read as follows : I was requested to see Mrs. Jamieson on Sunday morning between twelve and one o’clock ; she was in a sitting posture on the floor, which was covered with blood; upon examination I found several severe fractures of the skull, from one of which the brain was escaping ; I have to-day examined the body of the de-ceased, and found the fractures very numerous, crossing and re-crossing each other, with depression of the bones ; her death is to be ascribed entirely to the injuries inflicted upon the head ; the injuries which I discovered on the head of the deceased could be inflicted by the tomahawk produced.

The prisoner being called on for his defence, stated that he had particularly to request of the Jury not to be led away by anything they had heard out of doors ; as a Jury of free-born Englishmen he trusted they would give him a fair trial, of which it was the right of everyone circumstanced as he was to demand at their hands : for if they were guided by anything that they had heard, or which they had read in the newspapers about him, he would not be receiving that justice he had a right to expect at their hands.

The case being closed, one of the Jurors enquired if there had been no person for assistance to the female watch-house, as he had heard application had been made there, and the person who went for it was threatened to be locked up.

The Coroner did not see that it was competent for the present Court to enquire into the conduct of the keeper of the female watch-house, who was there in charge of prisoners, in the character of gaoler. If any complaint was preferred by the person aggrieved to the head of the Police, he had no doubt every justice would be done.

The acting Chief Constable informed the Court that the matter had been enquired into before the Chief Commissioner, when it appeared that the keeper of the female watch-house had strict orders not to leave it on any occasion,-but that in the present instance some one had called and said there was a man striking a woman in a shop which he was going to rob ; when the watch-house keeper told him to stop for minute and he would be with him, but the person went away before the keeper of the watch house was ready to leave.

The Coroner briefly summed up, and paid a high compliment to Mr. Shalless for the praiseworthy manner in which he had acted throughout the whole transaction. The Jury, after a minute’s consultation, returned a verdict of ” wilful murder” against the prisoner, John Knatchbull, who was committed to take his trial.

The Jury, through their foreman, tendered their thanks to the Coroner for the manner in

which the whole of the case had been brought before them.

After the warrant for the prisoner’s committal had been made out, the Acting Chief Constable informed the Coroner that the Chief Commissioner of Police, fearing that the crowd about the place would lay violent hands on the prisoner for the purpose of showing their detestation of his conduct, had sent a hackney-coach to convey him to gaol.

 The Coroner said he could not assent to any such arrangement, as there were circumstances in the previous history of the prisoner which might lead some persons to suppose that he was favoured on their account, from what he could judge of the public feeling on the subject, if there had been no constables to remove him, the people themselves would escort him to gaol. He then directed him to be removed through the street in custody of two or more constables, like any other prisoner. A second message on the same subject was afterwards communicated to the Coroner, who still expressed his dissent from giving him a coach conveyance, but ultimately left the matter in the hands of the police. A few minutes after a coach drove up, and the prisoner hurried into it amidst the hootings, hissings, and cheerings of several hundred men, women, and children. The inquiry, which lasted for nearly five hours, appeared to excite intense interest. Among those who visited the Jury-room during the trial, were several military and naval officers, magistrates of the colony, and a considerable number of private gentlemen and there were four or five hundred people waiting outside to hear the result. It is said the prisoner will be tried during the present Criminal Sessions.

The prisoner appears to be about 56 years of age, large featured for his size, particularly in the upper part of the brow: he is under the medium size, but apparently very muscular. The deceased was about 30 years of age: she has left two orphan children.



Sydney Morning Herald



Now that the case of this wretched man has been entirely removed from the jurisdiction of the judicial tribunals, we think it our duty to mention that there has been for some days a very strong idea afloat that some undue influence is being excited to spare his life.

We are quite convinced that there is no foundation for such a report, but it has been industriously circulated. From the day the murder was committed to the present time, we have never for a moment supposed it possible that Knatchbull’s life could be spared;  in fact, to commute his sentence would be to declare that punishment by death shall be abolished : for it will be impossible that a more atrocious offence, or one more satisfactorily proved, can be committed.


Sydney Morning Herald



THE above-named individual terminated his career, begun with honour and with every prospect of earthly advancement and happiness, in infamy on the scaffold yesterday morning. The circumstances connected with the fearful crime for which he suffered, are too well known to the public to need repetition, nor does it accord at all with our inclination to revert to them. His trial, the verdict of the Jury, his condemnation, and the sub-sequent proceedings taken by parties who thought they would be doing an act of humanity to save even his life, have also been recorded ; but justice has now been done.

Even after the sentence of death had been passed upon him, after the Executive Council had determined that no mercy could be ex-tended to him, and after the decision of the Judges upon the points raised in his favour, he still hoped that he should be allowed to live; and although his conduct was becoming the position to which he had brought himself, he did not confess his crime, or despair of his life being spared. When, however, Mr. Keck communicated to him, that he had received the official instructions for his execution, he gave up hope, and applied himself to preparation for another world. In this he was assisted by the Chaplain and various per-sons, whose efforts on his behalf, and influence on himself, produced, if appearances may be believed, the most satisfactory results. To some of these, it is said, that his admissions of past crimes have been unreserved. But the public here have only now to do with that which has brought him to an end. On Sunday last, the Rev. Mr. Elder preached before him the” condemned sermon,” and this appears to have had a most extraordinary effect upon him. Immediately on being conducted to his cell he wrote to Mr Keck in the following terms :-

” Condemned Cell,

” Woolloomooloo Gaol,

” 10th February, 1844

“In the presence of Almighty God, Amen. I am guilty of the horrid deed for which I am to suffer death ; and may the Lord have mercy on my soul. Amen. “


This, we believe, is the only formal confession which he has made as to his last crime, although he has left behind him a variety of notes, letters, &c, which may afford information as to other matters to the authorities, whose duty it is to look to the security of the public. His last hours were passed in prayer:

abundance of religious assistance was afforded him, and, as before said, to all appearance    not in vain. After having seen those friends who had of late attended him, for the last time, in his cell, he was brought out from that cell to the scaffold, which had been erected outside the gaol wall.

On either side of him were the Rev. Mr. Elder and the Rev. Mr. Sharp; and following him the Rev. Dr. Ross and other religious friends who had attended him in his last days. He walked steadily, apparently insensible to all around him, and engaged in ejaculatory prayer.

At the foot of the scaffold he knelt with the clergymen, and prayers were offered up. He ascended the steep ladder without failing; and to the last moment- after all the fatal arrangements had been completed and after the clergymen had left him his ejaculations were still heard by those in the immediate neighbourhood. The drop fell and the struggle was but brief – death being probably hastened by height of the drop. The body was taken down after the usual lapse of time and removed to within the walls of the gaol.

A vast concourse of people had assembled at an early hour. Women and children, we regret to state, formed no small proportion of the numbers. The Mounted Police and a guard of foot were in attendance. We are glad to say, however, that no ebullition of emotion took place; all was tranquil and good order, and throughout the solemnity of the scene was preserved from the slightest interruption.    


Leave a comment

Filed under Gone right