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.
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.