Execution of Colin Ross 1922

The Execution of Colin Ross 1922

The murder of Alma Tirtsehke in inner city Melbourne on 30 December 1921 caused a sensation at the time. The newspapers fed the general public every salacious detail from the discovery of the body, the arrest of the suspect, the inquest, the trial, the appeals and the hanging. Hundreds of column inches were dedicated to this story. From the murder to hanging the whole tale was less than 5 months.

It is said that a man on death row has nothing to lose and may as well tell the truth, from the point of the sentence coming down and the noose going on, one of the unofficial roles of the prison guards and the clergy is to winkle a confession out of the condemned man.

The condemned is told the confession is for their spiritual benefit but it is mainly to rid the legal system of any residual doubt about the guilty finding and the resulting sentence.

There is no better way of disarming the argument about the hanging of an innocent man, often put forward from the anti capital punishment movement than a confession from the condemned man himself

In 1921 was not a good year for Colin, he had come to notice and some recent involvement with the Police. His wine bar had become the haunt of criminals and prostitutes and was gathering an unsavoury reputation. October of that year, he was acquitted of charges of robbing and shooting a customer. The Murder occurred the day before his Bar licence was to expire and the Police had their eyes on him.

As you will see in following this tale in the papers, a lot of weight was put upon the evidence of the hairs found on a blanket, it would take a further 86 years for that evidence to be disproven by modern forensic science and a posthumous pardon issued to the family of Colin Ross.

This link gives further information about the Posthumous Pardon.


This post is in the Gone Wrong category as it is the system gone wrong and not a botched hanging.

The Sunday Times Page 3. With what started as a three line caption escalated into a media frenzy of 100;s of column inches dedicated to every aspect of this story.

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






Adelaide Advertiser

10 /1/1022



The police are still baffled in the search for the murderer of Alma Tirtechke Twelve days have now passed since this diabolical crime was committed, and the Criminal Investigation Department has worked diligently and unceasingly in its efforts to discover the perpetrator.

Yet the result to the present had been wholly disappointing. The Premier announced to-night that a further report had been received from the Acting Chief Commissioner of. Police (Mr. A. Nicholson), in which it was recommended that a full pardon should be granted to an accomplice giving information leading to the arrest and conviction, of the murderers or murderer, and that, in the circumstances which had it would be advisable to increases the reward.

The Government had decided to adopt the-recommendation, and would advise the Governor to grant a pardon, as suggested, and also to increase the reward to £1,000.The fact that all clues which they have followed to date have proved barren of result has not disheartened the detectives engaged on the case, and as fast as one line of investigation falls through they seek out and follow up another. The number of people who called at the Detective Office today to give what they believed to be does was larger than on any previous day since the search for the murderer began. In all their suggestions and. information there was nothing that could shead any new light on the mystery.


Perth Daily News





Crowds of people took advantage of this holiday yesterday to visit Gun Alley. A wreath with flowers surrounded by fern fronds in a jam tin was placed by a resident of Port Melbourne on the spot where the body of the child was found. Scores of family parties visited the scene waiting patiently for their turn for admittance to the little easement. Flowers have been placed on the spot several times during the week.

The police are anxious to ascertain the whereabouts; of Albert Henry White. Who failed’ to attend as a witness at the inquest concerning the death of Alma Tirtschke.  They believe he has gone to the country and all stations have been notified. Whiten is 30 years of age, 5ft,10 inches height well  built, and has dark hair. When last seen in Melbourne he  was wearing a dark coat and trousers. The police are also searching of the clothes of the- deceased child. Several people have reported. finding  strips of clothing but none have yet been identified.


Northern Star






MELBOURNE,  Friday!—The police arrested Colin Campbell Ross (28) and after subjecting him to a lengthy examination charged him with the murder of Alma Tirtschke.

In-view of :the intense public indignation which has been aroused every precaution is being” taken to keep a cheek on the large crowd which is expected to congregate at the Police Court when the accused is “formally charged.

It appears that the detectives proceeded to the house where Ross resided and .saw the accused standing at the door of the outhouse. They immediately vaulted the fence and secured him.

Adopting a. nonchalant attitude Ross went into his bedroom, changed his clothes, polished his boots and brushed his hair.

The accused was the licensee of a wine saloon in the vicinity of Gun Alley, the license’ of which expired on the date on which the murdered girl’s body was found.

inquest pic


Adelaide Advertiser




Further evidence of a remarkable character was given oh January 28 at the inquest concerning the death of Alma Tirtschke, whose, naked, body was found in Gun alley on December. 31. When the enquiry was resumed1 the court was again crowded .About 300 people congregated outside. The feature of the day’s proceedings was the startling evidence of, Sydney John Harding, who is now in the Melbourne Gaol, awaiting trial.

 He stated that in discussing the case in the .remand yard at the gaol. Ross confessed that he had committed, the crime and had disposed .of the girl’s clothing. Charles Price, Government analyst, testified that the hair discovered on the blankets found by the police at Ross’ house ‘was similar to that removed from the head :of the dead girl. Sydney John Harding said on January23 he was in the remand yard at the gaol. Mr. Scott Murphy (for the Crown) — Did you enter into conversation with any one?— Yes. When I was in the yard conversation was general for a while, and after some time it veered round to Ross case.

The witness narrated the alleged interview in detail, which he said he had with Ross. Speaking with deliberation, he said— Ross admitted he had seen the girl, and was talking to her. He said she came down the Arcade past Madame Ghurkha’s and stood in front of the wine shop.

 When he spoke to her she took no notice of him, but he said to her, ‘I am the owner of this place and you need not be afraid. If you want to you can come in and sit down.’ I asked, ‘Did you take her in?’ He said, ”Yes, I took her into the little cubicle near the counter.’ I said, ‘Did any of the customers see her?’ He replied, ‘No. A screen was put up, and when the screen was up nobody dared to come in.’ He then said, ‘I offered her a drink of sweet wine, and she at first refused, but after some persuasion she accepted it. She seemed to appreciate the drink, and I gave her another glass of wine, giving her three glasses altogether.’

Ross further said that about this time some woman came to the cafe. He went out and spoke to her for about three-quarters of an hour, upon returning to the room he found the girl was asleep. At this stage Mr. Murphy suggested that the witness should give his evidence in the first person instead of in the third.

The Witness— But some people might think it is I. I am quoting his words to me. I do not know whether it is true or not; but it is hard for me to j give it in the first person.

Ross, who was seated on a dais in the court, interjected, ‘You are the man they should have picked too I think. The witness said Ross informed him that he went to the door of the wine cafe and conversed with his own girl until 6 p.m. He made an appointment with her for 9 p.m. that day.

He closed up the wine saloon and upon returning to the cubicle he found the girl was still asleep. ‘He told me he could not resist the temptation and assaulted her,’ said the witness. Mr. Murphy— What did you say?— I said, What made you do that to the little girl?’ He said. ‘I do not know what came over me. He said the girl woke up, and started to moan and cry.

He put his hand over her mouth and she ceased moaning. Then he committed the act, and she appeared to go into a faint. After some time she started to call out again. He went back to pacify her, and try to prevent her singing out. He said !he had ‘done his block’ and must have choked her.

Did you ask him how he knew the girl was dead? — Yes. He said he ‘did his block,’ and choked her. He then woke up to himself and lifted the girl’s hand and it fell like a dead person’s hand. I said. ‘You must have been terribly excited.’ He said, ‘No, I got (suddenly cool and I started to think.’ Ross added that he got a bucket and some water and washed out the cubicle, but noticing that a part looked clean in comparison with the bar, and might attract attention, he washed the whole of the bar out. I said, ‘What time did this happen?’ Ross replied, ‘About 7 or 8 o’clock. I had time before I met my girl.’ 1 said, ‘Could she ‘see the girl when she came in?’ Ross replied, No, she went into the parlour, and I went there, too. I would have been taking a bigger risk had I not met her, because 1 could not have accounted for my whereabouts. I saw my girl home I and caught the 20 to 11 train to Footscray. When I reached there I caught the electric tram. I made myself conspicuous on the tram by creating some slight commotion to get the driver and conductor to prove an alibi.’ I asked, ‘How did you get back to town? In a motor car?’ He replied, ‘No; by means of a push bike.

What did you do when you went to the Arcade?’Ross replied that he took the clothes off the girl and went out to see if there was anyone about. Then he wrapped an overcoat round the body and took it over to the lane. Questioning him further, I asked, ‘What did you do with the clothes?’

He replied that he took the clothes in a bundle on a bicycle and rode homeward, but before reaching home he sat on the side of the Footscray-road, tore the clothes into little strips, and distributed them along the road.

 Upon reaching the first bridge over the Yarra he threw one shoe and some strips into the water. Afterwards he visited the river near the ammunition works and threw in one shoe and more strips there. Ross said later, We are going for big compensation if we win, but if we don’t succeed I will have to get ‘hold of some cyanide of potassium.

Mr. Sonenberg (for Ross)— How many charges are you under commital to stand your trial for?— On two, but a man has already pleaded guilty to them, and made a statement on oath. I am in gaol on these two charges.

 What are your other offences?— I have been in gaol for house-breaking, and on about nine or ten other occasions. Not all are for house-breaking. Some are for assault and ordinary brawls. I have had eight or nine sentences, the longest being 18 months.

 Did Ross tell you not to squeak?— No, be thought I was in such a position that I could not- squeak. He did not put me on my merits. He told me the story simply because he was bursting with It. That’s why I am not giving sentimental evidence. Ross took it that in the position I was In I would not say anything.

 Had it been any other crime but murder I certainly would not have said anything, I have a little daughter; myself. I would have told if it had been my own brother.

Describing how he came to report the conversation with Ross the witness said in the night time he thought things over, and asked to see the, governor of the gaol.

Mr. Sonenberg— You don’t expect either monetary reward or release from any sentences you might get? No,

As far. as any. reward is concerned you are the same as many other witness You simply spurn money?— Yes. If I were to get the reward I would give it en’s to the Children’s Hospital. It got on my nerves and I could not sleep.

Senior-Detective Piggott said with other detectives he went to Footscray and saw the accused. Lifting up the end of sofa Detective’ Ashton drew out two blankets. He said to Ross, ‘Are these the blankets you had in your wine shop?

Ross replied..”Yes”.  Brophy and the witness opened the brown blanket produced and witness, saw the sheen of what appeared to be golden hair.

Ross reserved his defence; and was committed for trial. I find,’ said the Coroner, ‘that on December 31, 1921, in tile basement, off Gun Alley, Alms. Tirtschke was found dead, having died on the previous day from strangulation In Ross’s wine saloon, in the Eastern Arcade. I decide that the strangulation was the wilful, felonious, and malicious act of Colin Campbell Ross.’

eastern arc


Perth daily News





One of the most interesting witnesses, at today’s session of the trial of Colin Ross in connection with the Gun Alley murder was Ivy Matthews, formerly manageress of Ross’s wine cafe.

Further cross-examined, she said Ross had told her that on one occasion he had taken the child from the cubicle to another room. The witness had not made that statement at the Coroner’s Court. She was not influenced now by what Olive Maddox had said in the lower Court. Her relations with Ross were .quite’ respectable and business like. She had litigation pending with Ross at the time of the, tragedy, but that did she did not say there was bitterness between them.  She had instructed … her solicitors for a weeks a, week’s wages, also her share in the business. The accused’s mother had dismissed -.her without notice.- She had had a sha.rie in the business.

The accused had made a claim for £10 which he said she owed him. Tho accused had sued her but withdrew the case, and costs were given to the witness. She would not have her married name dragged into this, Court. Mr. Brennan said the defence put it that the witness was not a married woman, but had -nosed as such.

The witness declined to’ say her married name or where she was married. Her husband was an invalid. She was prepared to submit proof of her marriage to the jury. She might have gone under the name of Ivy Sutton. She might have gone under the name of Ivy Dolan. She declined to say whether she had worked in a tobacco factory. It was not a fair question. , She had been asked by the firms she had worked for not to divulge their names in Court. She always kept her word unless something occurred to make her alter it .Mr. Brennan: Did you keep your solemn word not to divulge what you say Ross told you? The witness (rising from her seat in the box). Do you expect me to keep a secret like that. The witness said she had never lived with a man named Matthews.

She did not know, how many Wally Matthews she had met. The jury could think what they liked about her personal character. She had drawn live pensions for her brothers. Pressed by Mr. Brennan, witness said she declined to say if she drew the pensions for herself. If she was asked anything to do with the case she would answer frankly. Mr. Brennan: It will be put to the jury that- you are untruthful and unchaste. . .The witness said she still declined to answer questions relating to her own personal character.

FELLOW PRISONER’S STORY. Sydney John Harding, who had been awaiting trial on a charge of shop breaking, gave evidence on the lines given by him at the Coroner’s Court, as to alleged admissions by the accused of the perpetration of the murder.

Cross-examined by Mr. Maxwell,, the witness said he had a fairly retentive memory. He had dictated a statement to the governor of the gaol. The witness had not conversed with anybody about the tragedy before his own arrest, because he was dodging the police at the time. The accused was simply bursting to tell somebody.

The witness dictated his statement to the governor, of the gaol the same night. He did not think a reward was suggested until after he was in gaol. The witness could not tell off-hand how- many times; he had been convicted. He thought it was nine or ten times. Previous to,1909 he had never been in any trouble.

He was now 31 years of age. He had received 14 days’ solitary confinement for carrying a written message in gaol making lying statements about two warders, lie was cleared of it afterwards. The witness was sentenced in March 1914, to 18 months’ imprisonment. He enlisted in August. 1915.To Mr. Justice Schutt : I  have spent many a pound at Ross’ wine, saloon.

ANOTHER PRISONER’S STORY.-Joseph Dunstan, who is awaiting trial in Melbourne gaol on a charge of housebreaking, said in the remand yard he heard the accused and Harding in conversation on January 23. He heard Ross say, ‘I left my girl at half-past 10.’ He also heard him say something about a bicycle. Some days afterwards said Harding was a nice cobber to swear a man’s life away. Ross said, ‘If I get acquitted, Harding won’t live ten minutes outside.

He also said to witness ‘What do you want to go to the police side for? Why not come to my side’? You’ll get more out of it. In reply to Mr. Maxwell, the witness said he had not answered Ross on the occasion mentioned. The witness had two previous convictions. He had now pleaded guilty to a charge of housebreaking, exonerating Harding. The person who had bailed him out on (be present charge, had got the impression that he was going to abscond, and that was why he was now in gaol. He had not read the papers in gaol. Harding (recalled) said Dunstan was looking over his shoulder when reading the paper in gaol.

Dunstan. was an illiterate man, and the witness did not think he read the paper much. He thought he had read aloud to Dunstan about the case of a man named Miller. Some men were allowed papers in another division of the gaol, and had no right to give them to certain others, but did so. The Court adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until tomorrow. (For today’s proceedings see page 8.)

Page 8 continuation…











MELBOURNE, Wednesday.

 The trial of Colin Campbell Ross on the charge of having murdered Alma Tertschke was continued to-day. There was unabated public interest. Violet May Sullivan, married woman, residing at Kensington, said on January 27she saw -the pieces of navy blue serge produced, on a hill on the Footscray road. She picked them up and handed them to the police. To. Mr. Maxwell  She had been introduced in the case, but had not seen all the accounts.

She had not heard about the dress torn in strips and distributed. The serge was on the footpath and was quite visible to everybody. It was folded together as though blown along by the wind. Further questioned, she said she had by that time read the headings of the evidence.

William Kruger, sergeant of police, said the material produced had been handed to him by the last witness. To Mr. Maxwell : None of his constables had reported that blue serge material was lying about. No search had been made by the witness or his men. He had read the statements by Harding. There was a good deal of traffic along the road.

SAIE ON BLANKETS. Detective Ashton deposed to finding the blankets (produced) in accused’s home at Footscray. Charles A. E. Price, Government Analyst, gave evidence similar to that in the Coroner’s Court as to the red hair on the blankets, also certain stains. Cross examined by Mr Maxwell: It was several years since he had examined hair from a woman’s head. Since the present case he had examined from several microscopically. He had examined the blankets for blood, but there was none on them. Some hair was on a blanket similar to that of Alma Tirtschke. Reexamined : The front portion of the hair was light red, and that at the back a much darker shade.

SENIOR DEFECTIVE PIGGOTT said that on December 31, about 9 a.m., he began to investigate the present case. The body was found near a grating in Gun Alley, down which it could have been put. Later he interviewed accused at the wine shop mentioned. The cubicle already referred to was 6ft. long by 5ft. wide. It was noon when he interviewed Ross. He asked accused if a child was in the arcade the previous day. He replied in the affirmative, and said the child he saw was a college girl with a hat with a red band on it. Witness asked what made him take such particular notice. He replied that it was a slack day, and the girl was walking outside. Witness asked him if he noticed anything about her hair, and accused said, ‘Yes, it was golden, and hanging down her back. ‘Witness asked was she carrying anything. He answered ‘Yes, a brown paper parcel. Witness asked what was the ‘strong’ of room 33 in the arcade.

Accused said, ‘Yes there might be something wrong here. He also said a man named Mackenzie occupied it. Witness asked, ‘Is there anything wrong over there?’ He said ‘I don’t think you are far out. The man often takes little tarts there. He can catch them, but I can’t.”HOW MUCH DO YOU KN0W?’: Witness said to Ross, ‘How much do you know?’ He said, ‘I know nothing. On January 5 he went to accused’s residence, and said he wanted him to go to the detective- office. Ross made a statement, in which he declared, among other things, that he arrived home about midnight, and remained there all night. Witness then repeated the evidence already published concerning the alleged contradictory statements by accused as to his movements on the night of December 30.

 Portion of Little Collins street near Eastern Arcade was ‘exceptionally well lighted, but Gun Alley and the easement where the body was found were very dark. Cross-examined by Mr. Brennan: The case had excited tremendous public interest. Witness had not given much out to the Press, but had the matter well in hand on December 31. In the meantime the Press was giving the detectives a rough time. He had tried to ‘Supress the Reward*.He did not recollect when the reward was first offered. Mr. Brennan: Two days after everything in the cafe was dismantled. Witness: Yes. At 9 o’clock : in the morning Detective Lee had described the contents of the little room. Mr. Brennan: It is an extraordinary thing that you did not go into that room Witness: I had reasons. I did not want to show my hand. Witness said he had interrogated Ivy Matthews on the same day as the accused made the statement purporting to describe his movements on December 30. Harding’s statement as to the alleged admissions in the remand yard by the accused came to witness officially through the governor of the gaol.

THE SERGE DRESS. Witness took a certain action subsequent to the statement by Harding that the accused had said the serge dress had been torn to pieces and distributed. Pressed, witness said he did not think the department’s men had searched the road where the material was found. Re examined, witness said he was not eligible to get a penny of the reward. Ivy Matthews never made a statement to the detectives.

To Mr. Justice Macauley: The road where the material was found was a continuation of the Footscray road. Senior Detective Brophy corroborated, and added that the man Albert Edward White had identified Ross at the gaol as the man whom he saw speaking to a girl in the arcade at 3.30 p.m. on December 30.Aecused said: ‘Quite right. Witness cross-examined said he was positive he had mentioned the name Alma when confronting the accused with White. This closed the case for the Crown.

?TEE DEFENCE OPENED. Mr. Maxwell, opening the defence, said he proposed to call evidence to show the movements of accused throughout December 30. Witnesses would be called to prove and substantiate them. He appealed to the jury that until they heard the last word of this remarkable case they would suspend judgment.

ROSS IN WITNESS BOX.. Accused, who gave evidence on oath said: ‘I came to the cafe at 2 o’clock on the day in question.

 My brother Stanley was in charge. When I arrived he was talking to three of the customers. One man’s name was Allan, another Lewis. During that afternoon I did not sec Ivy Matthews nor had 1 spoken to her since two days before the trial for robbery under arms. I had not spoken to Ivy Matthews on December 31 at all that afternoon.  There was bitter feeling between us.

On the afternoon of December 30; I saw a little girl answering the description of Alma Tirtschke in the arcade. I did not speak to her. She was never in the cafe. My statement to the. detectives that day was correct. I left the saloon that afternoon at 10 minutes past 6. When 1arrived home I saw one of my brothers arrived home I saw one of my brothers coming out of the front gate.

When I entered I had my evening meal with my mother and another brother. About 7o’clock after I tidied up I left home. My brother Tom came to the city with me by rail. Then I went to the Eastern Arcade. Coming towards the Footscray station from home I spoke to two people, Mrs. Kee and Mr. Dawscy.

ON THE WAT HOME. It was a quarter to 9 when I reached the arcade. I had an appointment therewith Gladys Lindeman. We were in this cafe about at 1 hour and three-quarters, having business in regard to linoleum.

I was leaving the cafe on the following day. I left the arcade about half-past 10 or a quarter to 11 that night, I passed along Russell-street to Lonsdale-street, then went to Kings Street, and to Spencer-street station, where I took the train for Footscray, which I reached about a quarter to 12.00 and took a tram from the station to my home. On the train I met a man I knew named Studd, and had a conversation with him. After that I left the tram and went home. On the tram 1 was introduced to another man by the friend already mentioned. I reached my own home at 12midnight.

 I saw my mother in the passage, and I went to the bedroom, where I saw one of my brothers. I then went to. Bed and remained there until morning. I never left home until the following morning. The Court adjourned until 2.00 pm.







The trial of Colin Campbell Ross on the charge of having murdered the school girl, Alma Tirtschke, on December 30 last was brought to a conclusion to-day, when the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Mr .Justice Schutt passed sentence of death. The trial itself was almost unparalleled within the past 20 years or more, in the amount of public interest excited. The proceedings were watched from day to day with an avidity that was only commensurable with the public horror that had been aroused at the nature of the crime.

Mr. Justice Schutt concluded his summing up at 5.20 o’clock on Friday afternoon, and the, jury, after a brief retirement, were supplied with their evening meal, and the proceedings were then adjourned until a quarter past 8.00 pm. At 9.30 pm last evening his Honour suggested that the jury might like to rest before proceeding with their deliberations. The jury, which had had a disturbed night on Thursday, having inspected the scene of the tragedy well after midnight, accepted the suggestion. The trial was then adjourned until 10.30 am this morning:.

THE LAST SCENE..When the Court assembled this morning the foreman, in reply to the usual questions, said the ~jury would to come to a decision within an hour. The Court was again adjourned, and the crowd which had begun to gather in the precincts of the Criminal Court in Lonsdale-street, gradually grew in numbers until by 11.30there were fully 2,000 people. They were kept in check by the police. Many women were noticeable. The gallery in the Criminal Court had been thronged from the opening of the doors, and between 10.30and 11.30 every seat was occupied. Punctually at 11.30 Mr. Justice Schutt again took his seat on the Bench, and the jury filed into the Court amid breathless silence.

THE ACCUSED HOPEFUL. The accused when brought into the dock stood in the customary manner with hands behind him. A slight flush was on his face, but his demeanour was scarcely as haggard as yesterday. He had evidently taken hope from the prolonged deliberations of the jury.

THE VERDICT. The Associate then put the question to the foreman as to whether they had agreed upon a verdict, and amid the same silence the latter intimated -a unanimous verdict that Ross was guilty of the murder. The accused stood unmoved in the- dock. The Associate then asked him if in view of the verdict, he had now anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, according to law.

ROSS PROFESSES INNOCENCE. The accused said, in firm tones: ‘I still maintain that I am an innocent man. My life has been sworn away by desperate men.’ ?Mr. Justice Schutt, who had not yet had to pronounce the death sentence, now did so.

 There was a slight tremor in his voice, but he concluded in clear and audible tones. When he had finished the formality stating, ‘May the Lord have mercy on your soul,’ the accused repeated, ‘I am a innocent man. Ross was then led from the dock.

As he was leaving it he shouted to his brother at the back of the Court, ‘I will appeal. A few moments later Ross was removed from the courtyard in the prison motor van. Not one sympathetic remark was heard from the crowd as the van proceeded through the way cleared for it to Lonsdale-street, but, on the contrary, there was cheering for the verdict, and’ one man who had climbed on the bars of the iron gates at the exit, to get a better view, was heard to exclaim, ‘Oh, you beauty.’

COLIN ROSS FOUND GUILTY of the Gun Alley Murder, and Sentenced to Death.




Perth Daily News





 MELBOURNE, Wednesday.

The reserved judgment by the State Full Court, constituted by the’ Chief Justice(Sir William Irvine) and Justices Mannand and  Schutt, was delivered to-day in the matter of an application by the Crown Prosecutor to fix the date for the hearing of the appeal by Colin Campbell Ross, convicted of the murder of Alma Tirtschke, and sentenced to death. The Court fixed |the dale for the heaving of: the appeal as Wednesday next, and ordered that particulars of the fresh evidence mentioned in the prisoner’s appeal, together with the particulars relating to the legal objections to the jury’s finding, must be filed in affidavit form on or before Saturday next. The Court found that it had little discretion in the matter, and that appeals  where the death penalty had been imposed must be brought on as soon as practicable. There was a fairly strong line of demarcation in criminal appeals in other offences and those where the death penalty was passed.


Perth Daily News





‘MELBOURNE. Thursday.

Mrs. Ross, mother of Colin Ross, called on the Attorney-General to-day, tearfully requesting the reprieve of her boy Colin*She said she had no money to go to the Privy Council. The Minister replied that he could bold out no hope. She would only be wasting time and money to proceed farther with appeals.




Colin Campbell Ross, who was convictedof the murder of the little girl, Alma Tir-schke, whose outraged body was found inGun Alley on December 31, was hanged atMelbourne Gaol at 10 o’clock on Mondaymorning.Ross went to the scaffold strongly pro-testing his innocence of the crime. The

hanging took place in the presence of about30 persons, including officials. Ross walked firmly to the scaffold, but exhibited slight emotion as the attendant chaplain read the final service.

When just before the cap was adjusted, Ross was asked if he had anything to say, he replied, speaking in a subdued, but firm, voice:— “I am now face to face with my Maker, and I declare before Almighty God that I am an innocent man. I never saw the child; I never committed the crime;  and I don’t know who did. I never confessed to anyone. I ask God to forgive those who have sworn my life away.

I pray God to have mercy on my poor darling mother and my family.”The hanging was performed without a hitch. The body was cut down after hanging for an hour, and the statutory inquest was held later at the gaol. A crowd of about 1000 people congregated in the precincts of the gaol while the last act of the law was being carried out, but they neither saw nor heard anything. Interviewed before the sentence was carried out, Chaplain Fenton said that Ross’s attitude regarding the crime was that of an innocent man.

He was penitent for his sins of the past, but regarding the murder, he declared, right up to the last time he saw him on Sunday night, that he was innocent. At no time, did he think that Ross would make a confession.



The Gun Alley Reward Money.

The Victorian State Cabinet on Tuesday approved of the recommendation of the board appointed to allocate the reward of.£1000 offered by the Government in connection with the Gun Alley murder. The sum was allotted as follows: — Ivy Matthews,.£350 ; John Harding, £200 ; Olive Maddox, .£170 ; George Ellis and Joseph Dunstan, .£50 each ; David Alberts, £30 ;Madame Gurkha, £25 ; Maisie Russell,£25; Blanch Edmonds, £20 ; Muriel Edmonds;£20 ; Frank Anselini, £20; Violet Sullivan, £20; and Nicola Michelucci, £20.

Mirror (Perth)

27/5/1922 (One Month after the Hanging)


The Tragedy and What Led Up to It

My Boy was as Innocent as You


Colin Ross is dead and buried, and the great public mind has long since turned its attention to new sensations. The law has passed its dread sentence and carried it out in the customary gruesome manner and the thing has just become just a record.

Even the reward has been split up and the prostitutes and the housebreaker and the  gaol-bird are enjoying their cut of the thousand pounds which the Victorian Government distributed during the week.


But in one house Colin Boss and the tragedy is not, and never can, be forgotten. That is in the suburb’ of Melbourne, where live his aged widowed mother and his brothers and sister. The shadow of the appalling climax of the gallows is still upon them. Their life has become a dread nightmare from which it would seem there is not, and never can be, an awakening this side of eternity.

For over twenty years they lived in the one house and street and were respected citizens, special friends of the local Presbyterian minister, one of the family a digger fighting since Gallipoli.

 Then came the ghastly visitation which made them the topic of conversation from, one end of Australia to the other and which ended in one of them being legally done to death on the gallows.


The Mirror doesn’t propose to thrash out here the old question- of the guilt or innocence of Colin Boss.

For one thing it is unavailing, for another we are too far removed from the scene to furnish anything like fresh evidence with, regard to the crime itself. But whether Colin Boss was guilty a thousand times, we would still have the same admiration for the plucky little mother who fought such a* great fight for her son.

What were the thoughts and motives of that brave little woman, what is she thanking now as the fight over she mourns the loss of one whom she states was always a model son. We are sure that, whatever their opinions of the tragedy itself, there goes out to Mrs Ross a kindly thought from the depths of the hearts of the mothers of Australia.

Wrote Kipling once:

‘If I were hanged on the highest hill

I know whose love would follow me still.

Whos?  His mother’s.



And so it was with Colin Ross’s mother.

 He was hanged in the Melbourne Gaol, but her love has followed him beyond the grave and it inspires her to live on with the one object in life — that of proving the innocence of the boy who met his death on the gallows .

Many big hearts all over the Commonwealth have been moved to write to Mrs. Ross expressing their sympathy and their admiration of the b old fight she put up. Among .those was a Perth resident, and he has received a reply written, just after the. dread climax occurred, it is a pathetic human document, and The Mirror makes no excuse for printing it in its entirety and in all its simple eloquence.

 Here it is:


Your kind letter of sympathy I received, and I am answering a few of the many letters I have received from every State, all bearing on the injustice of the whole affair.


I can assure you I have been almost distracted, for I never thought that it would end, like it did. He was a splendid young man. Never, in his life could anyone say they saw him the worse of drink or any other vice. He kept himself nicely and even that seemed to jar on those ‘that had the case in hand. If he had been a low-down and dirty looking fellow that would not have suited either. If we could have got another trial we had evidence that would have astounded Australia from those who did not come forward at first until too late.

One man on affidavit swore that he saw a motorcycle, stop at Gun Alley. This man is an employee at the Postal Department and is on duty late emptying the pillar boxes. This night or morning I should say he was in Little Collins street or near the spot, when he saw the cycle stop and a man lift a child out of the side-car. He said he distinctly saw the leg protruding from under the rug.

He thought at the time it was a sick child being brought -home, but when he heard of the murder |next day he knew then, But for some I reason or other he kept silent till it was affecting him that much he had to go to Mr- Brennan (our counsel) and tell him.

He also described the man, who is a relative, of the dead girl. Why did the aunt go down to Jolimont and get the girl to do the message at the butcher’s shop in Swanston-street? , The girl never went the message before.



The father got shot a few weeks after. He said to the people in Maffra at my son did not do it, and a man who came down from Maffra said that if the father had not been shot my son would have been cleared, because he(the father) intended to speak out.

I may tell you the family in question are very much talked about through this affair and things in the past have come out which they were concerned in. Ah, well, perhaps time will tell and my beloved’s name will be cleared!

 I will explain a little of our life, and then you can judge how i feel with this terrible thing hanging over us all through no fault of my dear son.


Just 28 years ‘ago last January I was left with, five young children, the youngest six weeks old, and I have struggled ever since, and with the help of good sons we were getting nice and comfortable. My eldest son went to the War and is one of the very few of the original 8th Light Horse Regiment and served till after the end of the War and ‘he is not able to go to regular work, suffering .from the effects of malaria fever. My second son is married, so the dear one who they MURDERED was my main support.

People wonder why he got into the company of e likes of Ivy Mathews, I will explain. He got to know her through someone that knew her had thought her quite Alright, which anyone who did not know her might also think.

She advised him to buy the wine cafe, and being reared out here, which is like a country part, he was too inexperienced to judge the place. He tried to run the place the way he wanted it run, but there he made the mistake. He got the ill-will’ of this woman and her class, and he being inclined to stands on his dignity, that made things all the worse for him.


He was only a week in the , place when he told me he had made a mistake and it did not suit him. So we arranged to sell, got a buyer, and, then we found out the place was going to be condemned on account of not having the room to build lavatories according to the Act. When we tried to sell they did condemn it so the only thing was to keep on till the end of the year, which we did and then this terrible thing happened.

My dear son is as innocent as you are. The reward got these bad people who hated him and the low down men worked and framed the case up against him. If you only knew the extent those detectives went to well I think you would scarcely believe it possible for people to be at the mercy of such men. And we all were so proud of our BRITISH fair play.

Not now, for me or mine. We were poor working people, and we got no justice. My dear boy was MURDERED, and all his trouble was for me to try and live to set his name cleared and the dark cloud cleared away from us all. I firmly believe that those who swore his life away did not think it would go so far.

From what we hear Ivy Matthews was guarded night and day by the detectives. I will give you the names of these men: Piggott, the main one; -Brophy,  and another one named Holden, who is a great man with this Ivy Matthews.



The terrible things that Herald and other papers said about us nearly drove me mad, for my minister (Rev. J. Goble), who knows us for over 27 years (He has been living all the time where we live now) can testify to our dear ones character and that of all of us.

I am living in hopes’ that these ‘people will quarrel over  the reward money and may let out something.

If I could only get his dear name cleared well, I should think I had not lived invain. I hope you will understand this, for I would like people to know a LITTLE of the facts of the case when a son can be taken out of his mother’s home and his life sworn away.

Thanking you,’ I remain, yours sincerely,



Advocate (Tasmania)





After He had heard evidence at the inquest this morning the Coroner (Dr. Cole) found that Charles Henry Tirtschkes whose body was found in a paddock on January 30, was accidentally shot by Gordon Murdoch Tirtschke.

He was the father of Alma Tirtschke, the victim of the Gun Alley tragedy.


Filed under Gone wrong...

2 responses to “Execution of Colin Ross 1922

  1. Steven

    Truly an innocent man was hanged
    and the injustice would die
    With the last accuser

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