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 MYSTERIOUS DEATH AT BOTANY.
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.
Sydney Morning Herald
THE EXECUTION OF LOUISA COLLINS.
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.