Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Execution of Michael Barrett 1868

The last public execution in NSW, was performed by an aged Alexander Green, in 1855. Such was the power of the British appointed governor of NSW that he could alter the laws of the country to the point that they did not reflect the current English laws of the day. Governor William Dennison found the whole Public Execution event so entirely distasteful that he changed the Act and banned them.

It would be a further thirteen years before England banned Public Executions by the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868, the final public execution being that of Michael Barrett on a scaffold erected outside of Newgate Prison in London. Strangely coincidently, the first public execution in Sydney 1788 was also a Barrett, (no relation).

Michael Barrett’s crime would these days be described as a act of terror, he blew up a prison wall to let a prisoner escape in a north London suburban remand centre in Clerkenwell. The plan went to mud, the intended prisoner was not in the exercise yard at the time and there was a major miscalculation as to the amount of gun powder that would be required. 6 prisoners died on the day, a further 120 prisoners were injured and many succumbed to their injuries later. The blast destroyed the prison wall and many of the nearby buildings had to be demolished. This was an act of Irish Republicanism and became known as the Clerkenwell Outrage.

Spelling as per the spelling of the era in which it was written.


The Hanging

Sydney Morning Herald



(from the Times, May 27 )

Yesterday morning, in the presence of a vast concourse of spectators, Michael Barrett, the author of the Clerkenwell Explosion, was hanged in front of Newgate..

 In its circumstances there was very little to distinguish this from ordinary executions. The crowd was greater, perhaps, and better behaved ¡still, from the peculiar atrocity of the crime for which Barrett buffered, and from the fact of its being probably the last public execution in England,

 it deserves more than usual notice. It would be almost impertinent now to review the evidence on which Barrett was condemned. Probably in the history of criminal trials there is none which affords such proof of patient investigation, of long, anxious, and de-liberate searching after truth. In fact, Barrett may be said to have had two trials if we include the supplementary one since his conviction to ascertain if there was a possibility of doubt about the verdict, or if there was any evidence which could strengthen his plea of an alibi.

On both trials he was found guilty. The defence of an alibi is of course, the better the worst in the world. If established, it is final ¡ but, on the other hand, it is fatal if the person accused tries to prove that he was absent from the spot where he is charged with the crime, and it is found on examination that he was in the very place and at the very time on the scene from which he strives to show that he was absent. This was the defence of Barrett and it failed most signally.

It is rare in the history of our criminal jurisprudence that Government allows a sort of special commission to in-quire into the validity of the jury’s verdict and the Judge’s approval. Still, in this case there were what may be called special circumstances, for it was urged that the truth of the alibi, if inquired into at Glasgow, could be more easily ascertained than in London. With a life at stake, of course no room was left for doubt.

A most searching inquiry was made, and the result proved to conviction that Barrett was in London at the time he tried to prove he was in Glasgow, and that Barrett was the man who fired the powder barrel. He was brought from Glasgow ” to do the job.” He sought to prove that he vas in Glasgow at the time, and the evidence which the Government proved with no doubt he was in London and at all the places where he was identified.

 It seems rather a failure of justice that only one man should suffer for a crime in which so many were concerned, and which bi ought about such a terrible destruction of life’ and property. But the same jury which acquitted the others  convicted  Banett, and we need say nothing mere to show the leniency which governed their decisions, and the scruples with which they admitted even possible doubts. Michael Barrett was left to die, and none who know anything of the private history, if we may so term it, of this plot can doubt that he deserved his fate.

The execution differed little from other similar exhibitions. On Monday the barriers were put up, and on Monday night a fringe of eager sightseers assembled, mostly sitting beneath tile beams, but ready on a moment’s notice to rise and cling to the front places they had so long waited for. There were the usual cat-calls, comic choruses, dances, and even mock In Hymns, till towards 2 o’clock, -«-hen the gaiety inspired by alcohol faded away as the public houses closed and popular excitement was not revived till the blackened deal frame which forms the base of the scaffold was drawn out in the dawn, and placed in front of the door from which Barrett was to issue. Its arrival was accompanied with a great cheer, which at once woke up those who had been huddled in doorsteps and under barricades, and who joined in the general acclamation.

The arrival of the scaffold did much to increase the interest, and through the dawn people began to flock in, the greater portion of the newcomers being young women and little children. Never were these more numerous than on this occasion, and blue velvet hats and huge white feathers is lined the great barriers which kept the mass from crushing each other in their eagerness to see a man put to death. The crowd was most unusually orderly, but it was not a crowd in which one would like to trust. It is said that one sees on the road to the Derby such animals as are never seen elsewhere; so on an execution morning one sees faces that were never seen save round the gallows or near a great fire.

Some laughed, some fought, some preached, some gave tracts, and some sang hymns ; but what may be called the general good-humoured disorder of the crowd remained the same, and there was laughter at the preacher or silence when an open robbery was going on.


None could look on the scene, with all its exceptional quietness, without a thankful feeling that this was to be the last public execution in England. Towards 7 o’clock the mass of people was immense. A very wide open space was kept round the gallows by the police, but beyond this the concourse was dense, stretching up beyond St. Sepulchre’s Church, and far back almost, into Smithfield-a great surging mass of people which, in spite of the barriers, kept swaying to and fro like waving corn.

 Now and then there was great laughter as a girl fainted, and was passed out handover hand above the heads of the mob, and then there came a scuffle and a fight, and then a hymn, and then a sermon, and then a comic song, and so on from hour to hour, the crow d thickening as the day brightened, and the sun shone out with such a glares to extinguish the very feeble light which showed itself faintly through the glass roof above where the culprit lay.

 It was a wild, rough crowd, not so numerous nor to violent as that which thronged to see Muller or the pirates die. In one way they showed their feeling by lewdly hooting a magnificently attired woman, who, accompanied by two gentlemen, went down the avenue kept  open by the police, and occupied a window afterwards right in front of the gallows.

This temporary exhibition of feeling was, however, soon allayed by coppers being thrown from the window for the roughs to scramble for. It is not right, perhaps, that a murderer’s death should be surrounded by all the pious and tender accessories which accompany the departure of a good man to a better world, but most assuredly the sight of public executions to these who have to witness them is as disgusting as it must be demoralising even to all the hordes of thieves end prostitutes it draws together. Yesterday the assembly was of its kind an orderly one, jet it was such as we feel grateful to think will under the new law never be drawn together again in England.

Within the prison itself the attendant proceedings were divested of whatever public interest they might otherwise have had by an unusual arrangement to which the authorities in the exercise of their discretion, had n course, and with the view, it would almost stem, to baffle publicity while appearing to court it.

 One had better, however, narrate the circumstances as they occurred in the order of time, promising that for years the custom has been for the Sheriffs and Under Sheriffs, with the rest of the authorities, and a few of the recognised representatives of the Press, to be present at the process of pinioning a convict about to be executed, At that supreme moment a doomed man has occasionally volunteered statements of more or less public interest, others been led to make them, in reply to a question from some of the authorities as to whether he had any-thing more to say.

Sometimes, but the occasions are rare, he has availed himself of the opportunity to cast aspersions upon others, who had no means of answering him, and to whom a certain amount of odium might attach in consequence ; but, upon the whole, the balance of advantages has inclined in favour of the custom, and it has obtained at Newgate and in most other prisons for years. It had another recommendation.


 At such a moment, when a man was about to expiate a great crime by o violent death, and when no relative or friend, however dear, could be permitted to see or console him, there is reason to believe he has denied satisfaction from knowing and feeling that he was closing his days in the presence of humane men, clothed with authority, and disposed to sympathise with him in his untimely end. From that custom, however, such as we have a tempted to describe and explain it, there was a manifest  departure yesterday, for reasons known only to the authorities themselves, but in haying recourse to which they are understood to have been far from unanimous.

The Sheriffs (Mr. Alderman Stone and Mr. Macarthur), with the Under-Sheriffs (Mr. Septimus Davidson and Mr. Roche), arrived at the prison shortly after 7 o’clock, and, according to custom, spent the interval until 8 in their official apartment connected with the Court-house.

 There they were joined by the Governor of Newgate (Mr J ones), the prison surgeon (Mr. Gibson), and the Ordinary (the Rev. F. Lloyd Jones). A few representatives of the Press to whom tickets of admission had been given were also present.

The convict Barrett Lad retired to rest about 10 on the previous evening, and, having spent a somewhat restless night, rose at Ó yesterday morning, dressed himself, and engaged in prayer. Shortly) afterwards he was joined in, his cell by the Rev. James Hussey, attached to the’ Roman Catholic chapel in Moorfields, who had attended him regularly since his conviction, and who remained with him to the last. It is understood that the received the Sacrament one day last week, and again yesterday morning.

Towards 8 o’clock the Sheriffs paid him a visit, accompanied by the Governor, and then retired to a part of the prison leading to the scaffold, where the rest of the authorities and the public representatives had already assembled.

By a pre-determined arrangement.’ and contrary to the usual practice, the convict was not pinioned in the press-room, as it is called, but in his own cell, and, this process over, he was conducted to the drop by a private way, accompanied by his priest and attended by the executioner and three or four warders, the prison bell and that of St. Sepulchre’s Church, hard by, tolling the while. The Sheriffs and Under-Sheriffs, who, with others, Stood in a group in a gloomy corridor behind the scaffold, just caught a glimpse of the doomed man as he emerged with his attendants from a dark and narrow passage, and turned a corner leading to the gallows.

He was dressed in the short claret coloured coat and’ grey striped trousers, both well worn, by which he, had become familiar to all who were present during his protracted trial. His fate had lost the florid hue lit then wore, and in other respects he was an altered man.

With the first sound of the bells came a great ‘hungry roar from the crowd outside, and a loud, continued shout of ” hats off,” till the whole dense, bareheaded mass stood white and ghastly looking in the morning sun, and the pressure on the barriers increased so that the girls and women in the front ranks began to scream and struggle to get free.


 Amid such a scene as this, and before such a dense crowd of white faces. Barrett , was executed. His clergyman  came first. Barrett mounted the steps with the most perfect firmness, This may seem a stereotyped phrase, but it really means more than is generally imagined. 

To ascend a ladder with one’s arms and hands closely pinioned would be at all times difficult, but to climb a ladder to go to certain death might try the nerves of the boldest. Banett walked up coolly and boldly.

His face was as white as marble, but still he bore himself with firmness, and his demeanour was as far removed from bravado as from fear. We would not dwell. On these details, but from the singular reception he met as he came out upon the scaffold. There was a partial burst of cheers, which was instantly accompanied by loud hisses, and so it remained for some seconds, till as the last moment approached  the roars dwindled to a dead silence.

To laughter, hisses and cheers the culprit made the slightest recognition. He seemed only interested in what the priest was saying to him, and tole engaged in fervent player. The hangman instantly put the cap over his face and the rope round his neck.

Then Barrett turning spoke through his cap and asked for the rope to be altered, which the hangman did. In another moment Barrett was a dead man. After the bolt was drawn and the drop fell with the loud boom which always echoes from  it, Barrett never moved. He died without a struggle. It is worthy of remark that a great cry rose from the crowd as the culprit fell a cry which was neither an exclamation nor a scream, but it partook in its sound of both.

With the fall of the drop the crowd began to disperse, but an immense mass waited till the time for cutting down came, and when 9 o’clock struck there were loud calls of “Come on, body snatcher!” “Take away the man you’ve killed!” &c. The hangman appeared and cut down the body amid such a storm of yells and execrations as has “seldom been heard even from 6uch a crowd. There was nothing more  to be seen, so the concourse broke up with its usual commitments of assault and robbery.

The body on being taken down was placed in a shell and removed to an adjoining building in the presence of the Sheriffs and Under-Sheriffs, the Governor, the prison Surgeon, and the Ordinary. there the rope having been removed from the neck, and the leather  straps by which the legs and arms had been pinioned, the surgeon certified that life was extinct.

The expression of the face was marvellously serene and placid, and the features composed to a degree irreconcilable at first sight with the notion of a violent death, though the lips and parts of the forehead were unusually livid.

Towards evening the body was buried in the accustomed place within the precincts of the prison, in a grave upwards of five feet deep, in the presence of the governor and other officers of the gaol. Barrett w as an Irishman by birth, about twenty-seven years of age, of a thick-set, muscular figure, rather below the average height, and with a prepossessing countenance. He was unmarried, and by trade a stevedore.

Neither before nor after his conviction did any relative call at the gaol to see him, and after sentence he was only, or chiefly, visited by the Rev, Mr. Hussey, who was with him a considerable time daily, and by his counsel and occasionally by  one or other of the Sheriffs,

His behaviour in prison was uniformly becoming, and he bore himself to the last with great fortitude, submitting himself at the same time with affectionate docility at the exhortations of his priest, and gratefully receding the consolations of religion. He was never unduly buoyed up by the efforts made out of doors to reverse his sentence, but rather welcomed the repeated respites as affording him further time to prepare himself for the worst, should it come to that.

He died without making any confession of the crime of which he was convicted, so far as any of the authorities are informed. What he may have said to the priest, if anything, in reference to the murder« may never be divulged. All that is known is that he gave him “immense satisfaction,” to use that gentleman’s own expression, by his humble and demeanour, his extraordinary fortitude, and by the earnestness with which he strove to prepare himself for his end. Yet there was this peculiarity about him, as observed more than once by one of the authorities in his visits to him after sentence-that he never absolutely denied his guilt.

 On those occasions, whenever he referred to the crime, he always said he had been convicted on insufficient evidence, and that he was not guilty of murder.

Since the execution, the police who have  guarded the prison of Newgate for months past have been relieved. They were a body of picked men from the City force, and they patrolled the outer walls day and night.


 It was a duty in the last degree monotonous and irksome, but their incessant vigilance was never in the least relaxed. The police arrangements yester-day at the execution were simple and effective, and fully equal to the necessities of the occasion. A considerable number of special constables had been enrolled in the parish of St. Sepulchre, and were pre-pared to aid the regular force if required, but happily the necessity did not arise.



Filed under Gone right

The Execution of John Makin 1893

The Crime

Sydney Morning Herald



In the Charge Division of the Central Police Court yesterday, before Mr. James Giles, D.S.M, John Makin, 50, and Sarah Makin, 43, were charged on suspicion with having caused the death of the illegitimate child of Amber Murray on or about the 27th June last (1891) and Blanche Makin, 17, and Florence Makin, 14, were charged on suspicion with having been concerned in causing the death of the said child. The accused were remanded to the Darlinghurst Gaol until Monday next for examination at the Coroner’s Court on that day.


Sydney Morning Herald




About three weeks ago the bodies of two infants were found buried in the yard of an empty house in Burren street, Macdonaldtown, Sydney ,by two drain makers. At the inquest one of the bodies was proved to be that of a child stillborn, and in the other case an open verdict was returned.

Since then Senior-constable Joyce and Constable Brown, of the Newtown station have been working assiduously in the matter. A few days ago they obtained information which they thought justified them in asking per-mission of the owner of the house to allow them to make further search in the yard.

This permission having been obtained, the officers last week commenced digging operations. That afternoon they came across the body of a child very much decomposed, and next day four more bodies were dug up making seven in all.

Blankets and other materials were wrapped round the bodies, which appeared to have been in the ground about two months. They were conveyed to the South Sydney Morgue. The yard where the ghastly discovery was made abuts on the Illawarra Railway line, and is surrounded  by a high fence, palings from 6ft, and  wire for 4ft. It is very narrow, and is divided by a fence running parallel with the street.  Altogether four arrests were made in connection with this strange case.

About 4 o’clock in the afternoon Constable Brown arrested Sarah Makin in George-street West, and later on Constables Joyce and Brown arrested her husband, John Makin, and her two daughters, Blanche and Florence, at their home, Chippen street, Chippendale.

The four were conveyed to the Newtown Police Station, and were charged on suspicion with having caused the death of an infant. These people lived in the house in Burren street from the end of June to the middle of December.

The inquiry which was opened at the City Coroner’s Court on Monday last into the circumstances surrounding the death of one of the five infants was concluded on Tuesday. The medical evidence was to the effect that decomposition had advanced to such a stage that it was impossible to determine the cause of death. The Government Analyst deposed that he had been unable to discover any trace of poison in the stomtach, while the evidence of the police and other witnesses failed to identify the body. Under these circumstances the jurors returned a formal verdict, finding that there was nothing in the evidence to enable them to say when, where, or by what means the infant came to its death.

The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the female child identified as No 2was at once proceeded with. The evidence given consisted almost wholly of a repetition of that given in the first case, and was unfinished when the Court rose till Friday.

On that day the inquests into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the infants identified as No 2, No 3, and No 6 were completed. The evidence given was almost wholly a repetition of that given in the first case, and in each instance the jury returned a verdict similar in terms to the verdict returned at the first inquiry. To-day, at 11 am, the City Coroner will open an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the infant identified as No 4. It is understood that in this case the police are prepared with additional evidence. Further particulars appear in another column of this issue.


Sydney Morning Herald


Several painful scenes occurred in the Coronor’s Court yesterday during the inquest on the body of the fourth infant found in the yard of the house in Burren-street, Macdonaldtown.  

Clarice Makin swore positively that she had seen some of the clothing which was found on the dead bodies in her parents’ house. During the adjournment for lunch, Mrs. Makin caught sight of her daughter Clarice, and called down a terrible curse upon her.

A little girl named Daisy Makin, another daughter, was called, but Makin protested against such a child being put in the box. Blanche Makin went into hysterics, and her mother fainted. As the little girl was disconcerted by the trying scene her examination was postponed.

The Verdict

Sydney Morning Herald



The jury which was locked up on the night of the 8th considering the charge of murder brought in the Central Criminal Court against John and Sarah Makin, returned into court next morning with a verdict of guilty against both the prisoners, but strongly recommended the woman to mercy. Makin, on hearing the decision, manifested no concern, but his wife threw herself backwards, simulating a fainting fit, and then commenced to sob.

Something of the kind had been anticipated in the event of the jurors giving their verdict against the accused, so that when the woman was about to fall her equilibrium was promptly restored by a constable. His Honor Mr. Justice Stephen deferred sentencing the prisoners pending the result of an application to the Full Court for its decision upon the points raised during the hearing of the case by the solicitor for the defence. As the woman was being assisted out of the dock she    exclaimed, “It’s Clarie, it’s Clarie, it’s Clarie  that did it!” The name being that of her daughter who had been called as a witness by the Crown.


Sydney Morning Herald




(Before Mr. Justice STEPHEN.)


His Honour Mr. Justice Stephen sat in the Central Criminal Court yesterday to pass sentence upon    John and Sara Makin, both of whom had been found guilty of the murder of a child whose name was unknown. Mr. Henley, Crown Prosecutor and Mr.  Williamson, who defended the prisoners, were present.

The prisoners, on being brought into court, were asked if they had anything to say why sentence  should not be passed upon them.    

John Makin was understood to say, “We are innocent.” He stood up in the dock in that semi defiant attitude which he maintained to the last, and, although pale, he appeared to be quite  at ease. Sara Makin, on the contrary, had to be helped to her place in the dock.

Almost immediately after she had taken her seat she hid her face in a pocket handkerchief, and did not remove it for one second during the whole of the time that she was in Court. She leaned for support upon her husband throughout the delivery of the sentence, alternately sobbing and moaning to herself. Towards the end she collapsed altogether, and had to be carried bodily out of Court by two constables.

Mr. Williamson, on behalf of the accused, said he would like to take the opportunity of thanking his Honor for the impartiality and fairness manifested throughout the trial, and the facilities afforded for settling the points of law reserved. If it were considered advisable to appeal to the Privy Council in the matter, he presumed that his Honor would afford an opportunity of so doing. The point was of great importance, and had not before been decided by that tribunal.

His Honor: I need no thanks for impartiality or any pains which I may take in any case which may come before me. The question of appeal does not lie with me in any way whatever. It is a matter entirely for the Executive. (Turning to the prisoners.) John Makin and Sara Makin—You have been asked to say anything why judgment should not be passed upon you, and you have said nothing.    

John Makin: I have only got to say that we are innocent ; for the sake of our children—

His Honor: I have one duty to perform; I am simply the mouthpiece of the law. The jury who tried your case have convicted you, and the Full Court after having heard the whole of the evidence, has decided that the verdict was justified by the evidence. You stand before me, therefore, convicted of the same of murder—a murder committed, and one must say, accompanied by almost every incident that could possibly add to its wickedness.

You took money from the mother of this child : you beguiled her with promises which you never meant to perform, having already determined on the death of the child : you misled her by false statements as to your name ; you deceived her as to your address, and in that way made it utterly fruitless  that any search should he made. Finally, in order to render detection impossible, as you thought, you buried the child in the yard, having bereft it of its life. You buried it, I say, as you would the carcase of a dog. I cannot forbear to say a few words with regard to another portion of this case.

No one who has heard it but must believe that you were engaged in baby-farming in it a worst phase and its most hideous and revolting aspect.

Three yards of houses in which you lived testified with that ghastly evidence that you were carrying on this nefarious and hellish trade, destroying the lives of those infants for the sake of gain.

For I think no one can believe but that four of the other bodies—not the one for which you were convicted—of infants found in George-street and Burran-street were those of mothers named Ward, Risby, Stacey, and Todd, for if they were not the bodies of these, then the children of those four mothers still remain to be accounted for.

These young women testified against you and gave witness against you, and they are those who called upon you, each of them with a cry, “Where is my child?” To that cry of these mothers you could give no answer; you have never given an answer; you gave none when called upon, and do not oven now.

Who, then, can doubt that the children met with their deaths in one way or other by immoral conduct on their part ? And what for? What for?  For a paltry sum of £5, or £3, or£2, that you might appropriate those sums to your own benefit—sums which you count as nothing against the lives and sufferings, and God knows the sufferings, of those poor babies.

Surely two people stand before me whose hearts must be as hard as adamant; utterly indifferent to human suffering, and in whom conscience must be utterly dead. I only hope that in the time that may remain to you, your hearts will be softened, and that you will endeavour to find mercy at the hands of Him who gave the lives you have taken away.

I do trust you will remember that these 13 children—I am not unjust in referring to them—I only hope and trust that you may remember that though you have given no account of them, the community calls upon you, and you must account to God, who gave the lives which you took. Nothing remains for me but to pass the sentence of death upon you.

The  sentence of the Court upon you, John Makin, is that  you be taken to the place from whence you came and thence to the place of execution, at a time to be appointed by his Excellency the Governor, and that there you be hanged by the neck until your body be dead. The sentence of the Court upon you, Sarah Makin, is that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, at a time to be appointed by his Excellency the Governor, and that there you be hanged by the neck until your body be dead.

 In your case, of course, I shall forward to the Executive the recommendation to mercy, where it will receive consideration, but the effect of that consecration I am notable to say. And may God have mercy on your souls.

The prisoners were then removed. As Mrs Makin was being assisted down the steps, she sobbed loudly, and cried out “Oh! my babies ; oh! my babies.”



Sydney Morning Herald



The consideration of the sentences passed upon John and Sarah Makin, for child murder, has been dealt with by the Executive Council. It was finally decided that in the case of the husband, John Makin, the law should be allowed to take its course, and that in Sarah Makin’s case the sentence should be commuted to one of imprisonment for life. During the sitting of the council, however, a communication was handed in from the solicitor who has had charge of the defence of the prisoners, Mr. T. M. Williamson, requesting to be granted leave to appeal to the Privy Council against the decision of the Full Court upon the points raised at the trial. The usual course in such cases is for the Executive to submit the matter to the Crown Solicitor for report, and it is under-stood that this is to be done.

The form of procedure adopted in cases of this kind is somewhat peculiar. The Supreme Court has no power to sanction leave to appeal in criminal cases. What prisoner’s counsel has to do is to petition for leave to appeal to the Privy Council.

The Cabinet in this case ordered the death sentence not to be carried out in the case of Makin until it has been definitely determined whether or not the appeal will be granted.


Sydney Morning Herald





A deputation consisting of Mrs. Joseph Makin, Messrs. George and Daniel Makin (the sister-in-law

and brothers of John Makin, the man who now lies  under sentence of death in connection with the baby  farming disclosures). Messrs. Nicholson and Campbell, Ms. L A, yesterday waited on the Colonial    Secretary, Sir George Dibbs, and pleaded for a  (reprieve) of the death sentence passed on John Makin.

Mr. Nicholson said that a number of citizens of Wollongong had signed a petition praying for the    commutation of the sentence of death which had been passed on John Makin. The deputation did not wish to go into the merits of the case or the motives that induced the jury to find him guilty, and the Judge to condemn him to death, while his wife was sentenced to imprisonment for life.  

They simply asked that, for the sake of his brothers and their families, and his own family, that      the extreme penalty of the law should not be carried out, and that his punishment should be made the same as that inflicted on his wife.

Mr. Campbell said that he sympathised sincerely with Sir George Dibbs in the position in which he     was placed regarding the matter, especially as he knew he possessed a very feeling heart. He was present as a person who had known John Makin since he was a lad growing up at Wollongong. He had never been known to manifest a disposition for cruelty or anything in that direction.

He had the reputation of being a foolish young man, but no one would ever have thought of associating him with murderers or brutal crimes. His parents were most respectable people, and his father was for 30 years agent for the Illawarra S.S. Company at Wollongong, and the surroundings of the condemned man were in every way of a creditable character while he was young. He was certain that John Makin was not cruel. The real fact of the matter was that he was led to whatever he did by his wife.

She was the arch-aggressor, the arch fiend in the matter, and Sir George would readily conceive that the whole business was woman’s matter, as no man would ever start a baby farming business. John Makin’s wife was a strong-minded    woman, not only a woman that would not be wound  round the fingers of any man, but was a woman possessed of an almost fiendish disposition. He was certain that John Makin was made use of by the woman whose neck had escaped, and if the man had not been associated with her he never  would have been in the position to be charged with the crimes which he was at present held responsible for. He had known the condemned man’s relatives for many years.

George Makin filled the position his father held in connection with the Illawarra Steamship Company, and was highly respected in Wollongong. There was not a better father or man in New South Wales, and the same could be said about Daniel Makin and Joseph Makin. To his mind the case of John Makin was worth considering, especially as he was in his position through the woman who had escaped. To prevent the stigma resting on them and their children for generations, the relatives hoped that the sentence on the condemned man would be commuted.

Mr. Joseph Makin said Sarah Makin had been known to knock her own blind mother down with a  chair, and she had struck her mother-in-law in the  face. She had known John Makin from the time he was a young man, and a better-hearted young man never lived, but his wife could turn him round her fingers. If he had got a good woman he never would have been in the position he was. He was easily led — in fact he was a fool. Years ago Sarah Makin, who went out as a monthly nurse, took charge of a  young baby while the mother went to England ; if  the mother-in-law had not stepped in the baby  would have died from neglect and cruelty. She was a barmaid at the time John Makin married her, and she was known to have a temper more like a fiend than a woman.    

Mr. CAMPBELL said that Mr. Cochrane, at whose hotel she was a barmaid, said she was a strong minded woman with a violent temper.        

Mrs. JOSEPH MAKIN : So she had ; she was a terrible woman.    

Sir GEORGE DIBBS: Supposing the tables had been reversed, could you as a woman not have gone    out of your way to see her?  

Mrs. Jos MAKIN: No, I could not. I honestly believe Sarah Makin was the whole cause of the trouble.

Mr. G. MAKIN asked the Colonial Secretary to have mercy on his poor wife and family. They had had a good deal of trouble with John Makin, but it was all the fault of his wife, who used to drink, and spend all the money he earned.

Mr. D. MAKIN also begged for mercy on account of the family, so that in time to come people would not  be able to point the finger of scorn at them.  

Mr. NICHOLSON said that Dr. Bowker had asked him to point out that there was no actual proof of  violence or poison found on any of the bodies, and the fact that they were buried in the yards might simply have been result of parsimony, and it was quite possible that a good many of the children had died from natural causes.

Mr CAMPBELL said that they did not touch the question of legality at all. The burden of their petition was that the woman started the business and led him into it.

Sir GEORGE DIBBS, in reply, said that they were quite right in saying that his position was a painful one. It was rendered doubly painful by the fact that he had been interviewed by the brothers of the unfortunate man.

There was an impression in the minds of people that the Executive Government, in dealing with questions of that kind, took upon them-selves to set aside the sentence passed by the Judge upon the verdict of the jury. In no case did the Executive Government take the function of a jury upon themselves: the jury alone had the sole responsibility of deciding upon the facts in any trial.

The jury dealt entirely with the facts, and it was the function of the Judge to pass sentence according to law. That was what was done in Makin’s case. There was a very patient trial, and the jury arrived at the conclusion that he was guilty, and the Judge passed the sentence.

All that the Executive could do in a matter of that kind was to reopen a case, if any further facts were brought forward, either by petition or by other means. In this particular case he would call a special meeting of the Executive Council on Monday morning, for the purpose of putting before the members of the Executive Government what had been said there that morning. The business was a particularly painful one from beginning to end, but his position was only to administer the law in the faithful discharge of his duties, and he could not act on his own responsibility, it was for the Executive Council to decide what should be done.

No doubt the petition was signed by very many reputable citizens of Wollongong, but already the matter had been very carefully considered in all its detail by the Executive. Up to the present they had declined to interfere with the operation of the law, although he had never known of a case where more care was shown by the members of the Government in arriving at a proper conclusion. Although it had been decided that the law should take its course, the fact that a human life was trembling in the scale was sufficient to induce the Government at the last moment to take into account any matters that might be brought before them. They would have to consider the question whether the feelings of the relatives should    be allowed to influence the punishment where the jury had brought in a verdict of guilty. The case had caused him more consideration than they were aware of, and the final decision was a matter that he should be glad to see taken out of the hands of the Executive.

Mr CAMPBELL: We desired to place before you the character of the man.

Sir GEORGE DIBBS: You are not prepared to give me any facts which show that the verdict of the jury  is not a just one.  

Mr CAMPBELL: We do not touch on that matter at all. But you will see amongst the people who signed the petition that there are three mayors, aldermen, clergymen, and justices of the peace.    

Sir GEORGE DIBBS: They are not charged with the responsibility of carrying out the law. Outside of signing the document they have no responsibility.          

Mr CAMPBELL: It is a strong statement to make — that in their opinion the woman and not the man was responsible.    

Sir GEORGE DIBBS: All I can promise is to call a meeting of the Executive for Monday morning.  


The Hanging

Sydney Morning Herald




John Makin, who, with his wife Sarah, was convicted on the 9th March last of the murder of the  illegitimate child of a woman named Amber Murray, was yesterday morning executed in the precincts of the Darlinghurst Gaol.

The body of the murdered infant was one of a number found buried in yards of various houses occupied by the man and his wife, and at the time it was shown that the couple had carried on an extensive baby farming business, and in nearly every instance infants entrusted to their care disappeared very suddenly.

At the trial at the Criminal Court the woman, although found guilty with her husband, was recommended to mercy, but, as in cases where a woman is charged in conjunction with her husband of any offence the law recognises that the wife acts under the direction of her husband, the death sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life in her case. Several efforts were made to obtain a remission of the capital sentence in the case of the man, but the Executive on Monday finally decided that the law should take its course.

When this decision was conveyed to Makin he expressed himself as ready to die, and during the afternoon some of his relatives bade him an affectionate goodbye. A good portion of the evening the condemned man spent in religious exercise, but he was writing until just before midnight on Monday.

He then engaged in prayer, and afterwards slept soundly. Yesterday morning early Canon Rich, his spiritual adviser, was in attendance, and engaged with the condemned man in devotional exercises. When the time for the execution arrived, Howard, the hangman, entered the condemned cell, and pinioned Makin’s arms. He submitted without a murmur, and walked to the scaffold with a firm step.

The clergyman accompanied him to the door of the gallery, and after a final prayer retired. The Sheriff (Mr.Cowper), with the executioner and his assistant, were the only persons who remained on the scaffold with Makin. The condemned man’s face was pale, and as the cap was dropped and the rope fastened round Makin’s neck, his lips moved in prayer. When the signal was given and the drop fell, the body went through the trap, and hung almost without a quiver.

Not a muscle seemed to move, and death seemed to have been instantaneous. A subsequent examination showed that the neck was broken, so that the end was almost painless. It was about eight minutes past 9 o’clock when the bolt was drawn, and owing to the instantaneousness of the death 10 minutes was considered sufficiently long to allow the body to hang before being cut down. 

Makin at the time of his death weighed about 12 stone, and a 10ft. drop was given him. There was not the least hitch in the arrangements, and the spectacle was as little repulsive as it is possible to make an execution. The usual inquest was held, and a formal verdict was returned.

One of the documents that Makin spent his last night in writing was a letter to his daughters. It was couched in the most affectionate terms, and expressed the conviction that the writer had been forgiven his sins.

 The girls were besought to be good, look after their little sisters, and urge their mother to beg God’s forgiveness, so that she might meet her husband in heaven. The other epistle which it was asked should be given to the writer’s brother, after the authorities had seen it, was not an actual confession, but it dealt with the crime for which the man was executed.

It was dated 14th August, 1893, and was couched in the following terms:—

“I, John Makin, sincerely and solemnly declare that the body of the infant found in the yard of the house at Redfern, for the murder of which I was tried and am being executed, is not the body of Horace Amber Murray, nor the child of Amber Murray.

Nor was the clothing found on the body, the property of Amber Murray, and which Mrs. Patrick swore they themselves had pre-pared and put on, ever worn by Horace Amber Murray. The clothing was never in their possession, nor did they see it until it was produced in the Coroner’s Court for their identification. My wife, Sarah Makin, did not murder the child supposed to be Amber Murray’s, the body was  buried in the yard four or five weeks before  we got her child, and I also solemnly declare that the child that I and my daughter Blanche took to the door of the residence of Mrs. Patrick, with whom Amber Murray resided in the month of July, 1892, was the child of Amber Murray and no other, although Mrs. Patrick said it was not.”

During yesterday afternoon Makin’s body was handed over to his relatives for burial.

 sarah makin

Sarah served her time at Darlinghurst, Bathurst and Long Bay prisons. Her daughter Florence, petitioned for her release in 1909, and succeded in 1911 based on her advanced age. She died 1919, in Marrackville aged 74 years.

Sydney Morning Herald


MAKIN.—In loving remembrance of Sarah Jane Makin,

who departed this life September 13, 1919.

She bore her pain, she bore it well. What she suffered none can tell;

Peacefully sleeping, resting at last, Life’s weary troubles and suffering past.

Inserted by her loving daughter, Blanche Deacon.

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