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The Execution of Nicholas Baxter 1907

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The Execution of Nicholas Baxter 1907

Nicholas Baxter was the last man hung at Darlinghurst Gaol, hangings after that time were performed at Long Bay Prison. The newspaper report made mention of the older traditions of a hanging were pared away. NSW  in the later part of the  1800’s had the same hangman (read the post Robert Rice Howard, Executioner NSW 1873-1903) for 30 years, he retired just a few years prior to this hanging and must have had his own ways of going about the hanging.



Cootamundra Herald

The Enmore Tragedy.


Sydney, Monday.

The inquest concerning the death of Mrs. Mary MacNamara, who was murdered at Sarah Street, Enmore, on 5th instant, was held today.

Nicholas Baxter was present in custody. The prisoner occupied a seat at the table, and appeared composed. Sergeant Curry said that at the police court, Baxter said, ‘ I don’t know what possessed me to do it.

I must have been mad. I did not intend to hurt the poor old lady, but she would not’ keep quiet. After what I had done I took train for Homebush.’ Baxter said his ‘object was money.

”If I had got a few pounds, he said, ‘I would have gone to Queensland. It is a bad job for the wife and children. ‘The Coroner found that Baxter wilfully murdered deceased, and committed him for; trial. 



Maitland Mercury

The Enmore Tragedy.

Nicholas Baxter, the man held for the brutal murder of Mrs. Mary Macnamara, at Enmore, on Tuesday made a confession.

At 9 a.m he was driven in a cab with two officers from the Burwood police station to the morgue at Circular Quay, and in the presence of the City Coroner (Mr. A. N. Barnett), Dr.Hardman, nephew of the murdered woman, and the police, identified the body.

It’s rather dark, I can’t see, be remarked as he stood before the glass partition running along the front of the chamber. He was taken along through a doorway, and allowed to stand beside (he slab, ‘ That’s the body of Mrs. Macnamara — I know her, ‘were his words Baxter was next taken to the Water Police Court, and while Sergeant Curry was Standing near the door be leaned forward, and, speaking in a low, husky voice, confessed that lie was guilty. He intimated that later he would put his statement in writing.

Five charges were shortly afterwards preferred against’ the prisoner He pleaded guilty to having been drunk in Bridge road, Strathfield, on Monday, and was fined 5 shillings, or the rising of the court. A charge of having murdered Mrs. Macnamara was read, and on the application of the police a remand was granted till Tuesday next. The following charges were also held over till Wednesday: — having in his possession two gold brooches, suspected of having been stolen; assaulting Constable Holtsbaum while in the execution of his duty, and damaging that officer’s trousers. Later in the day Baxter told the police how he entered the house, and conceded with a full confession of the murder.

On Thursday last he left his home, a cottage next door to the factory, on the opposite side to where he committed the terrible deed, and took with him a tent and other things. He told his wife be was going to Nyngan.

He walked along the railway line, and pitched his tent in the scrub near Homebush. He remained there until Sunday, when he started to return, and at 1 o’clock on Monday morning he went to his home.

He did not enter the cottage, however; but passed along the yard, and by climbing: to the roof of an outhouse built against the factory wall, it was an easy matter to reach up a few feet still higher, and then drop over into the factory yard.

The locality was very dark, and Baxter, stealing along the outskirts of the buildings, reached the email double gates leading to the house near the office. Both doors leading to Mrs. Macnamurra’s room were securely looked.

One opened from the hall of the foot of the staircase and tho other stood faking the small verandah overlooking tho factory yard. The watchman was somewhere about tho factory on his rounds, and Baxter pushed his bludgeon through the glass in the double doors outside. He placed his hand through, turned the catch back, and was beside the sleeping women.

Whether he first of all murdered the woman or was disturbed in his search of the boxes and then committed the murder has not been told.

That Mrs. Macnamurra found beaten about the head and with a strip of sheeting round her throat wore subsequent facto. Baxter left tho room by the door he had entered, walked along the verandah, and then opened an unlocked door and was in the hall.

He passed on by the front door of the house, as was shown by bloodstains there, and went away to Homebush again.

About eight hours later he was arrested in Bridge road for drunkenness. When news of the murder reached the Burwood police the bloodstained articles in Baxter’s possession aroused their suspicions, and, as has before been told, he mode a dash for liberty when returning from the bush where, he told the police, he had his humpy. The bludgeon used By Baxter was made from a piece of wood obtained on his way to Homebush.

When found on the roadside on Monday night the unstained port revealed the fact that it bad been made quite recently. ‘ I took it with me to defend myself,’ he remarked to the police on Tuesday. The City Coroner will open an inquest on the victim at noon on Monday next.

The Burwood police on Tuesday made a search in the bush for what Baxter bad called his ‘ humpy,’ and to which he was supposed to have been leading them after he was arrested.

The officers at first thought, when they had been, walking through the scrub, that it was nothing but a hoax, had returned to the station, Subsequent happenings, however, proved that Baxter had taken a tent from home, It was still pitched when the police came across it in tho scrub at Flemington, on the outskirts of Homebush. They gathered in the tent, blankets, and miscellaneous articles belonging to Baxter, and took them to the Burwood Police Station.


The Byron Bay Record


The Enmore Murder.

Sydney, Tuesday.

The trial of Nicholas Baxter, charged with the murder; of Mrs. Mary McNamara, aged woman, at Enmore, was concluded at the Criminal Court to-day.

Accused made a lengthy statement in which he said he did not know what he was doing at the time of the murder, as he was not in his right mind. He attributed the collapse of his mental faculties to the fact that for years he had worked 90 hours a week.

He called as a’ witness his wife, who stated that he had been strange in his’ manner for 18 months. ‘Dr. Bohrsman. who had attended accused for several years, regarded him as of weak intellect. Dr. Paton stated that accused had shown no signs of insanity during his confinement in goal. The jury after a brief retirement returned a verdict of guilty, and accused was sentenced to death.

The only, request made by the prisoner was that his wife should ‘not be present while the sentence was passed.


Execution of Nicholas Baxter.



Nicholas Baxter was hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol this morning for the murder of Mary McNamara at Enmore. The whole affair was carried out quietly and quickly.

Apart from the representatives of four daily newspapers, only officials were spectators of the scene. During the morning the condemned man was visited by the Rev. Father Barry, of St. Mary’s Cathedral, who had been in constant attendance on him since Baxter, was placed in the condemned cell, and from whose, ministrations he derived much consolation.

He was also visited by two Sisters of .Mercy, who left him a few minutes before 9 o’clock this morning Father Barry, however, remained with him to the last, and sought to comfort, him with words of hope. The many formalities of old executions were dispensed with, according to high authority the demanding, of the body by the sheriff is a fiction.

A few minutes before 9 the Executioner and his assistants went to the condemned cell and pinioned Baxter’s arms.

About three minutes after the gaol clock struck – the condemned man appeared at a doorway leading on to the drop. His spiritual adviser was concealed from view behind the doorway, although he accompanied him to the edge of the scaffold.

Baxter was clad in the regulation grey gaol uniform, wearing a tight fitting whitecap, and his arms tied behind, him.

From a momentary glance which was obtained of him he did not appear to have suffered by his incarceration. Although pale, he looked fuller in the face than at the time of his arrest, while his short beard appeared to have thickened and grown more regular.

Without a sign or word he walked unassisted to the drop. Ho gave one glance down to the yard in which the reporters were standing, then gazed on the drop, made a light movement as if to plant his feet solidly upon it, and in another couple of seconds the executioner emerged and placed the rope round his neck, drawing tho knot tightly round under the right ear.

That official then drew down the long flap of the cap over Baxter’s face. Giving the signal the bolt was quickly drawn the doors of the trap opened, and Mrs.’ Macnamurra’s murderer hung lifeless, with a string of rosary beads in his right hand.

Death was instantaneous, not the movement of a muscle being discernible.

During his incarceration Baxter had given no trouble, to the gaol officials. He had been visited frequently by his wife and children, and a commutation of his sentence never appears, to have been considered seriously, by him.

He was perfectly resigned to his fate, last night he, slept, fairly well and awoke quite, refreshed this morning.

baxter house pic


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The Execution of Jackie Underwood 1901.


The Execution of Jackie Underwood 1901.

Jackie Underwood was one of the perpetrators of a crime known as the Breelong massacre that occurred on the night of the 20th July, 1900.

The story of will of the Breelong massacre sound strangely familiar as it has been immortalised in the fictionalised novel and film, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.

Jimmy Blacksmith’s real surname was Governor, he had a fencing contract with a man named John Mawbey at  farm called Breelong, near Gilgandra in Western New South Wales.

Governor in turn sub contracted the work to some of his family and friends. One of them being a man named Jackie Underwood, sometime known as Charlie Brown.

Jimmy had been insulted by reports from Ethel, that Mrs Mawbey and Helen Josephine Kerz, a schoolteacher who lived with the Mawbeys, had taunted his wife for marrying Aboriginal.

On the night of 20 July 1900, accompanied by Underwood, Governor confronted the women, who were alone in the house with seven children and Mrs Mawbey’s 18-year-old sister Elsie Clarke. Jimmy alleged that the women laughed at him and Helen Kerz said: ‘Pooh, you black rubbish, you want shooting for marrying a white woman’.

Jimmy’s reaction was disproportionate to the insults on the day, but he snapped as he had no doubt that this type of insult about him was rife. The cumulative effect of the racism he had endured is an often put up theory as to what initiated the massacre at Breelong, the same could be said for Jackie Underwood’s and explain Jackie Underwood’s actions/reactions at the house that night.

Jimmy Governor  and Jackie Underwood, with nulla-nullas and tomahawk, killed Mrs Grace Mawbey, Helen Kerz, and Grace (16), Percival (14) and Hilda Mawbey (11); Elsie Clarke was seriously injured. Undeerwood was attributed as the killer of Percival Mawbey.

Underwood was quickly caught and held at Dubbo for his trial and hanging.

Jimmy Governor and his brother Joe Governor, continued to rampage, terrorizing a wide area of north-central New South Wales for the next fourteen weeks. Seeking revenge on persons who had wronged them, they killed Alexander McKay near Ulan on 23 July, Elizabeth O’Brien and her baby son at Poggie, near Merriwa, on 24 July, and Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, on 26 July.

After some robberies in the North of the state, they moved onto the Manning and Hastings rivers, pursued by black trackers brought down from Queeensland, bloodhounds and hundreds of police and civilians.

On 8 October the NSW Government offered a reward of £1000 each for their capture.

Jimmy was shot in the mouth by Herbert Byers, a hunter, on 13 October1900; in a weakened condition he was captured by a party of settlers, near Wingham, on 27 October 1900.

Joe was shot dead, north of Singleton on 31 October. They had been outlawed on 23 October 1900.

Underwood was executed on the 14th January1901, in the Dubbo gaol four days later, Jimmy Governor was hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 18 January 1901 and buried in an unmarked grave in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery.

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Kiama Independent

26 July 1900

The Breelong Murders

The whole of the Great West is up in arms in consequence of the murders perpetrated by Blacks in the Breelong district on Friday night last.  Another murder was committed 20 miles from Mudgee on Monday. a man named Mackay being killed and his wife injured; and a woman and child were butchered to death 13 miles around Merriwee, near the Goulburn River, There seems some ground for the belief that word has passed around among the blacks to massacre  different families in widely separated localities at about the same time.

Jacky Underwood, one of the participants in the outrages on the Mawbey family at Breelong, was captured on Tuesday night. Only the two aboriginals named Governor are now at large.


Nepean Times

28 July 1900



Albert Mawbey, stated : I am 9 years old, I canread and write a little; I am the son of John Mawbey, and reside at Breelong ; last Friday night went to bed at about half-past 8 in the back bed-room ; Jack Mawbey, whose proper name is George  Mawbey, went to bed with me ; I think I was asleep, when I was awoke by the voice of a black fellow singing out, ‘I will blow your brains out, and stamping his feet; I jumped out of bed and came out of the door, and saw a black fellow standing in the middle of the sitting-room ; he was big and tall; I saw no head ; he had trousers and shirt on ; I don’t know his name, and never saw him before ; he was belting into Percy, hitting him with a rifle or a stick ; I don’t know rightly what it was; it was dark, but there was a little light from the fire; there was no candle burning ; Percy was on the floor lying down ; he hit Percy 10 or 13times; I was frightened, and ran out over the creek and hid in some bushes for about 10 minutes ; I then heard screams coming from the house ; I saw no other black fellow except the one belting Percy;  I then ran on to our old house, to my father and Fred Clarke and Reggie Mawbey, my brother ; I said ‘A black fellow is killing Percy,’ and father  ran up to this house, where Percy was being killed ; Reg and Fred ran after him, Reg took his rifle ; I saw no more ; I know Jim Governor, who lives at the camp, about three miles away ; the black fellowI saw was not like Jimmy Governor ; I did not see my mother when the black fellow was hitting Percy ; I heard her screaming in her bedroom; Miss Clarke was also sleeping in hers ; I did not see her; My sisters, Hilda and Grace Mawbey, were also sleeping in the room with my mother ;Miss Kerz also slept in the room ; Cecil and Garnet aged 7 and 4, slept in the kitchen ; Percy usually slept in my bedroom in the same bed.

George Mawbey, called also Jack, said : I am 13years ; I am the son of George Mawbey, and live at the house at Breelong with my uncle, John Mawbey ; I remember last Friday night; I went to bed about 7 or 8 with Bert and Percy ; we had undressed, and all got into bed ; we were lying in bed talking; I am sure I did not go to sleep ; Mrs Mawbey always sleeps in the kitchen with uncle, also Garnet and Cecil sleep there; I heard Mrs Mawbey say,’ Oh, there’s a black fellow, he has hit me on the head with a brick ;’ she was screaming this out; Percy ran out of the room ; I lay in bed for a minute and then heard Mrs Mawbey and the girls screaming ; I ran out and saw a black fellow near the back bedroom door ; he was stooping  down, watching Percy; I heard another black-fellows voice outside the house; it was Jimmy Governor’s voice, I am quite sure ; I know it well; I have met Jimmy Governor a dozen times, perhaps more, and have had a good long talk with him ;Jimmy Governor said ‘ Go on, Jacky, don’t take no notice of them ; dash out their — brains ; I have had enough of them ;’ I was frightened and ran past Percy into the front bedroom, but the door was fastened ; afterwards they let us in, and Percy  was standing looking towards the back of the house with something in his hand, and saying to  the black fellow whom I saw first, and whom I think to be Jacky ; ‘What is it you want ?’ Percy  said this several times, and then his voice stopped ;after he screamed I got into the front bedroom, and got under the bed; I heard the sound of blows coming from the sitting-room ; I heard a black-fellow, but which one I don’t know, say ‘ There’s another one about somewhere;’ I then heard a body fall on the floor; I think it was Elsie Clarke ;there was a barefooted black fellow in the bedroom ;I heard a sound as if he was picking up axes or tomahawks; then very shortly I heard Reggie coming in with his rifle; I then heard Jimmy Governor sing out before Reggie came,’ Come on, Jack, come on;’ I came from underneath, the bed, and saw Reggie standing with a lighted match crying and holding his rifle ; Reggie said ‘ Oh, here’s poor little Jack,’ meaning me ; Reggie and I left the house after uncle came in and went from the front of the house towards the creek, and found Miss Kerz this side of the creek, lying dead ; Uncle and Reggie carried her up to the house ;  some time after I saw uncle bring Hilda’s body in ;about two weeks ago I went to the blacks’ camp, about three miles from here ; I saw Jimmy Governor and two other bleak fellows; the black-fellow in custody was not there ; I also saw a white woman, Jimmy’s wife ; I have seen the black fellow Jack Porter outside the court; I don’t think he was one of the two blacks I saw with Jimmy Governor at the camp; I was under the bed when the bedroom door was smashed in ;when I came out from under the bed the window was open ; after I got into the bedroom I heard somebody smashing in the door.”  

John Thomas Mawbey, of Breelong, said : I identify the four bodies as those of Miss Kerz, Hilda, Grace, and Percy Mawbey ; the last three mentioned are my children; Helen J Kens was a teacher at the public school at Breelong : she lived with us as a border ; I last saw the deceased alive at midday on Friday last; she was sleeping at my old building; about 11 p.m. last Friday Jimmy Governor, a three-quarter aboriginal, and another man, I don’t know whether white or black, came to within eight or nine feet of the back door and sang out, ‘ Anyone there ?’ I said, ‘ Hullo there, who’s that ?’ Jimmy Governor said,’ It’s me, will you bring me up a bag of flour in the morning?’I had just gone to bed; I replied, ‘I will bring it  up in the morning or sometime to-morrow;’ I had opened the door and gone out them ; he said, ‘All right;’ I said, ‘You had better come in and have a warm;’ he said, ‘We won’t come in, we will get  home ;’ they went away and I went to bed ; about20 minutes or half an hour afterwards my son Bertie came running, and said ‘ Jimmy Governor has shot Percy and is killing him on the floor; jumped up, put my boots on unlaced, and called Reg. and Fred. Clarke to bring their rifles; I ran on, and they overtook me before I got to the house ;after crossing the creek we heard someone calling out, and we ran up and found my daughter Grace and Miss Kerz close together on this side of the creek; I picked Grace up; she never spoke, but only groaned ; I brought her in through the backdoor, and saw Mrs Mawbey lying across Percy’s face just inside the sitting-room near the back door ;I shifted Mrs Mawbey and put her on pillows ; I thought she was dead ; I sent Fred at once for the doctor and the police; Reggie, I, and little Jack went and got Miss Kerz ; I then stationed Reggie in tbe fireplace, and lighted the lamp on the table and opened the back door ; I told Reggie if he saw any black fellows, to let them come in first and then shoot them ; I then went in search of Hilda; in half an hour I found her in the creek dead ; I could not carry her; I came up to the house and got Reggie; I heard a noise in the bush, and would not let Reggie go out; I then went and carried Hilda into the house, and ran into the bedroom off the kitchen, where my wife and two little fellows and I usually sleep, and found them fast asleep; I  then went to old Johnny Owen, who was camped over the creek, and got him to go for Julias Auber,  who was camped a little higher up ; they came, and I then covered the bodies up; Miss Kerz, Hilda, and Percy ware dead ; Elsie Clarke was lying in her bed in the front bedroom groaning,  and was badly wounded and covered with blood ;  Mrs Mawbey was terribly wounded and unconscious; Grace was wounded in the forehead, and  groaning ; as soon as I saw the wounds I was sure that they were not shot wounds; Grace never recovered consciousness, and died on Sunday morning ; Mrs Mawbey is still living, but frightfully injured ; Elsie Clark is still alive, but unconscious ;my wife knew me on Sunday when I came home, but was too low for me to question her; Jimmy Governor had a contract for splitting, and erecting a fence for me; he had other blacks working for him ; one was his brother, Joe Governor, a three-quarter caste; another was Jack Underwood, a full-blood black fellow, and another named Jacky Porter, who came from Dubbo ; there was a little black boy named Peter; Jimmy Governor’s wife (Ethel Page) is legally married to him ; she has a little baby ; I never saw any other blacks but these mentioned as being in camp; there was no bad feeling existing between me and Jimmy Governor, but I had to condemn about 100of his posts about a fortnight ago; I said ‘I will condemn those posts he said ‘Will you allow me  half-price for them ?’ I said ‘ All right, they will do for a cross fence ;’ that was the only affair in the shape of a grievance that he could have; he  wanted money, but I told him I would give it to  him as soon as he had it coming to him ; I have no  reason for supposing they had any grounds of  enmity against me and my family ; Governor  always got everything be wanted in the way of  rations ; I have never seen Jimmy Governor drunk, ‘nor have I known him to be drunk; I have never  known a drop of grog to come into the camp ; I am quite positive that he was sober that night; he never showed violent temper, nor was he of a quarrelsome disposition ; the boys Percy and  Reggie had heard Jimmy Governor say he would  like to be a bushranger, as no police would ever  catch him ; he was making about 5s a day when  he was working; he spent a lot of time catching  rats and ‘possums to eat ; I believe Mrs Mawbey  told Mrs Governor that Jimmy was not to come  about the place ; I have never refused Jimmy or his wife rations or tobacco ; they had plenty of flour, tea, and sugar; I was not aware of any  money being in the house on Friday last; I have  not missed anything ; all the blacks in the camp  have boots except Jackey Porter ; it was very dark ,when they came to me ; I could not see anything in their hands ; I slept at the old house that night, because we were sacking wheat, and it was very late; my family knew I would not be home; I  often sleep there when I am busy ; Reggy or Percy  always sleep here: Percy always brings his rifle  to this house, but forgot it last Friday and left it  at the old place ; the blacks could not have known  that; Jimmy Governor had an old rifle, and wanted  to sell it to my boy; he also had a tomahawk similar to the one produced ; it is a peculiar make, and rather uncommon in shape ; Jimmy said he bought it; I cannot swear positively that the  tomahawk in the possession of Constable Berry is  the same as that I saw in Jimmy Governor’s hand,  but I believe it to be the same; I never saw a  tomahawk like it before ; I don’t think it has the  same handle that I saw ; we heard no screams as  we ran up to the house on Friday night; I know    of no other aboriginals within 30 miles ; Jacky  Porter came here about a fortnight ago; Jimmy  was the leader and head man of the camp ; I have  not been in camp since Joe Governor and the others  came, but I was there when Jimmy was about; I did not see any aboriginal weapons.  

Mrs Governor stated : My name is Ethel Governor, am married, and wife of James Governor, a half-blooded aboriginal; I reside three miles from Breelong, up the creek ; I am willing to give all the evidence I know about the crime ; I remember last Friday night, and was in the camp with my husband, also Joe Governor, Jack Underwood, and Jacky Porter, and a little blackboy, Peter Governor, who is Jim Governor’s sister’s son ; at tea time I  and my husband quarrelled because he thought me and his brother Joe were sweet with each other; Jimmy said he would leave me, and the others  could do the fencing if Mawbey liked to give it to  them ; Jimmy bid good-bye to Jack Porter and Joe  and went away at 10 at night, accompanied by Jack Underwood ; Jimmy said ‘ We are going down to Mr Mawbey’s, we will see them ;’ they went in  the direction of Mawbay’s ; Joe, Jacky, Peter and  I stayed in camp ; they came back in about an hour ; Jimmy came back by himself, he had the nulla nulla and the blanket with him which he had taken away with him; Jack Underwood had a 44  calibre Winchester 16-shot repeating rifle and a tomahawk when he went away with Jimmy ;  shortly after Jimmy came back, Jack Underwood  came back with the rifle and the tomahawk ; when  Jimmy came back he said to me and Joe Governor  and Jacky Porter, ‘Now all will have to go from the camp to-night, because Mr Mawbey and the  others are close behind us. We have killed all the  women and one boy. Joe, you will have to come with me or I will take your life ; he turned and told Jack Porter and said ‘You can go to the Wollar and get mother and all the children, take  them to Redbank’ (that is a darkies’ mission near  Coonamble) ; He finished speaking and then immediately Jack Underwood came back ; he said ‘ I  heard Mr Mawbey coming up from the old place ;crying out, “Jimmy Governor, you black wretch,”  then I ran out of the house and sang out for you’  (James Governor) ; Jack said ‘ I have killed three  of them with the tomahawk, Mrs Mawbey and  Percy Mawbey are not quite dead, and I killed the  girl; he did not say which girl: Jimmy Governor  said ‘ When the three women jumped out of the  window and ran I ran after them and hit them ;  it was half way between the house and the creek ; I don’t know why Jimmy and Jacky Governor  went to Mawbey’s, except that Jimmy had a grudge against Mrs Mawbey for a few shillings that she made him pay for rations, when she made  up the bill about two months ago ; Jimmy complained to me that Mrs Mawbey made out that he  (Jimmy) owed more than he really did ; he said ‘Mrs Mawbey is a swindler;’ that’s why I judge  Jimmy had a grudge against her; Jimmy never accused me with being familiar with any of the  Mawbey boys, only with Joe Governor ; I was  married to Jimmy Governor at the Church of England, Gulgong, about 19 months ago ;about two months after Jimmy said to me ‘ I will be a bushranger before long ;’ he had been reading about bushrangers before I married him when he was tracker in the Cassilis police ; I am 18 years old ; Mrs Mawbey was always kind to me and Jimmy ; Jimmy never threatened to injure any of  the Mawbeys ; I forgot to say, after Jack Under-  wood came back to the camp last Friday night  Jimmy said—speaking to all of us—’Jack was too  slow for me, or we would have killed Mr Mawbey and all the others down at the old place ; When Jacky Underwood and Jimmy went away to Mawbey’s Jimmy had empty cartridges capped, but no powder in them ; He had loose bullets in his pockets ; I saw Jimmy taking all that there was; Jack Underwood had no cartridges ; there was no  powder in the camp at all; that’s why the shells were not filled ; no other black fellows have been near the camp the whole time we have been camped there, for about four months; the blacks in our camp never said to me they had met any other when out in the bush ; Jimmy also told us all at the camp, when he and Jack Underwood came back from Mawbey’s, that the police would be at the camp that night and watch it, and if we did not go away they would arrest us, because they knew he did it ; in about  a quarter of an hour from the time Jimmy  and Jacky Underwood came from Mawbey’s we all left the camp together at about half-past 11,  as far as I could guess, some time before the moon  rose ; all went ; towards sunrise Jimmy was ahead of me, and Joe and Jack Underwood and  Jacky Porter behind ; in about a mile and a half Jimmy killed with a nulla a dog of Jacky Porter’s, because it was barking, and made a fire where the dog was killed ; Jimmy said to me ‘ You go away to Dubbo, you know which way to go—go across the gully and this pine hill, follow the flat to the dam ; you will come to the creek, follow the creek and you will get to the road ; you will know where you are then ; you can’t keep up with us and I don’t want you with me, or they will say you were in it too ; we are going to Merrygoon, then to Digilah, then to Wollar;’ Jimmy said ‘ Iam going to Wollar to kill the other blacks—old Jimmy  Coombe, and Eliza, and Kitty and Molly, but not my own’—meaning his own mother and brothers and sisters. Jimmy said he would get ammunition from the kangaroo shooters at Wollar he said ‘ We will watch the hut, see the men away, and then go down and take all the ammunition and food, and then we will go out into the mountains and stay; we will go round and get into the point and watch the police, and all that comes underneath, and we will kill them all;’ I would know the ‘tomahawk ; it has a yarran  handle ; the one shown me by Constable Berry is Jimmy’s ; Joe made the handle of green yarran ;Jimmy has had the tomahawk nine weeks; he got it from Sam Ellis, a Mudgee hawker, at our camp ;I have often used it ; I am sure it is his ; it has marks where he put ridges and nails in the back of it ; it has a mark on the blade where Joe Governor threw it at a bird, missed it, and it struck a stone ; Jimmy ‘took the tomahawk when we all left the camp last Friday night ; the yarran stick produced  was made by Jacky Porter and belonged to him;  Jimmy or Jacky Underwood could have taken the stick from Porter’s gunyah that night ; Jacky Porter has been a fortnight in the camp ; Jacky Underwood had no hat on when he came back from Mawbey’s that night ; I would know it again;  it is a straw hat with a red band ; the hat produced is his hat; Jimmy’s nulla had a long point; the wood was not very dark, and there was a little white wood on the knob ; Jimmy and Jacky told me they ran all the way back from Mawbey’s; I have given all the evidence quite freely because people’s lives are in danger from these two men; Jimmy Governor and Jacky Underwood and I would not like to see Joe Governor and Jacky Porter punished for nothing when they had no hand in it; the police have not offered any reward, nor threatened to have me punished.  

Senior-constable Berry, Gilgandra, gave evidence as to finding the wounded and dead, and also to the arrest of Jacky Porter and the black boy, Peter Governor. Jacky Porter, a very old and feeble aboriginal, said : My name is Jacky Porter ; I am 80 ; my father and mother were full bloods; I have been living at the Redbank Mission, and had been at camp about a week ; the camp was Jimmy Governor’s; I remember last Friday night being in  Jimmy Governor’s camp with Joe Governor; Jack  Underwood (also called Jack Brow), Peter the boy, Jimmy Governor, and his missus, a white woman ;Jimmy sneaked away from camp, saying to me, ‘Well, old man, I’m going away ;’ just woke up,  and saw Jack Underwood go away with a blanket,a rifle, and a tomahawk ; Jimmy carried a nulla-nulla ; it was his own, not mine ; they were away about two hours ; Jimmy came back first ; he said  to all of us, ‘ Well, we better get away from here. We have been rushing Mawbey’s house, and have hit tbe girl and the boy and two more girls;’ Jimmy said, ‘ One jumped out of the window, and I hit them with a nulla-nulla ; when Underwood came back he said, ‘Me and you bushrangers now, Jack.  We must go away out of this to the camp at Digilah. The police will shoot us if we stay in camp ;’ I said to Jimmy, ‘You’ll get banged now; Jimmy said, ‘I knocked down four;’ he also said,  ‘ Joe, I’ll kill you. I want to take you with me. If you don’t come I’ll kill you ;’ Jimmy said to Jack Underwood when he was coming into camp, ‘I thought you got killed ;’ Jack said, ‘ You have my blanket;’ Jimmy said,’ Yes—it’s all right ;’ Jimmy said, ‘ Jacky, how many did you knock down he said, ‘ Only one;’ Jacky said, ‘ I hit the little boy with the nulla, Jacky also had a boondah ; Jack also still,’ I hit the little girl on the head ;’ Jimmy said he killed three; Joe owns the tomahawk Peter, the black boy, aged 10, saw Jimmy and Jacky go away ; Jacky had a rifle and a tomahawk  Jimmy had a nulla-nulla ; Jacky had the rifle and tomahawk in his hand; when he came back Jimmy said, ‘Oh, my, uncle Joe, I killed two of the Mawbey’s girls, and Jack killed one boy;’ he said Jimmy was going to kill all the blacks at Wollar, and then go out bushranging ; he said he was going to kill old Jimmy over at that place.

The tomahawk that was picked up by Davidson and some other civilian when they fired on the two blacks at Digilah on Sunday exactly fitted in the wound in Percy Mawbey’s neck, and also fitted Grace Mawbey’s wound.

A verdict of wilful murder was returned against Jimmy Governor, Joe Governor, Jacky Underwood, Jacky Porter, and Mrs Governor.

Mrs Mawbey positively stated that she heard a woman’s voice outside while the men were striking the victims.



Joe Governor (Jimmy’s brother, younger by 2 years)

 Born 1877 – Died 1900. Joined his brother and went on a murderous spree between July through to October 1900. Joe was shot and killed near Singleton late October.

Ethel Governor (Jimmy’s wife)

 Was initially arrested on the evidence of the dying Mrs Mawbey who said she had heard a woman’s voice during the massacre. Ethel was pregnant by Jimmy when all this erupted and gave birth to a Daughter a couple of months after Jimmy was executed. She remarried in Wollongong to Frank Brown. She had two children to Jimmy, Sidney in April, 1899 and Violet in April, 1901. Ethel died in 1945 in Sydney and is buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Lidcombe NSW.

Jackie Porter (Jimmy’s xxx)

Also known as the Old man was initially arrested on very little evidence of being involved in the murders at Breelong, it was decided that he was far too old to have had any  involvement in the massacre. His arrest was mostly for his own protection from revenge inspired vigilantes.

 Peter Governor (Jimmy’s xxx)

Born 1890 Died 1921. Was an Uncle of Jimmmy Governor. Also was initially arrested on very little evidence of being involved in the murders at Breelong, this was also for his own protection from revenge inspired vigilantes. Peter was about 10 years of age at the time of the murders.


3 October 1900

Evening News Sydney



DUBBO, Wednesday.— The trial or Jacky Underwood for the murder of Percy Mawbey, at :Breelong, on July 20, was concluded in the Circult Court, before Mr. Justice Simpson, last evening.

The evidence was practically the same as that given at the inquest. Mr. Colonna Close, in his speech for the defence, admitted the accused’s presence at the house during the murders; but claimed that he was intimidated into attending, Jimmy Governor and struck the fatal blows. The dying depositions of Mrs. Mawbey, in which she clearly implicated accused, were not put in. After an hour’s deliberation by the Jury, a verdict of guilty was returned. The Judge asked the jury for an opinion as to whether the prisoner actually dealt the fatal blow, but the jury failed to agree on this point The prisoner was then sentenced to death.

During the hearing his Honor commented several times on what he regarded as the inexplicable detention of Mrs. Governor and Jacky Porter in gaol for so long a period, they presumably being innocent; and remarked, in summing up, that from the evidence there was nothing to convict Ethel Governor.

Acting under Instructions from the Attorney-General, the gaoler discharged Ethel Governor and Jacky Porter on Monday. Both stayed at the lockup of their own free will till Tuesday.



Mrs Grace Mawbey at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900

Hellen Kerzs (aged 21) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900

Elsie Clarke (aged 18) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900

Grace (aged 16) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900

Percival (aged 14) at Breelong by Jackie Underwood 20 July 1900

Hilda (aged 11) at Breelong by Jimmy Governor 20 July 1900

Alexander Mackay (aged xx) at  Ulan NSW by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor

Elizabeth O’Brien  (aged xx) near Merriwa by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor

James O’Brien (aged 1 Year 3 months)  near Merriwa by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor

Elizabeth O Brien’s unborn child near Merriwa.

Keiran Fitzpatrick near Wollar, by Jimmy Governor/Joe Governor



Duram and Glouster Advertiser

27 July 1900


The third aboriginal, Jacky Underwood, connected with the Breelong murders, was captured by Mr James Hatton, late postal assistant at Mundooran, and lodged in Leadville lockup yesterday afternoon.

Duram and Glouster Advertiser

31 July 1900


Jacky Underground arrived at Mudgee oh -‘Friday at 11.45 a.m. under police escort from, Gulgong, Sergeant Harvey and Constable Dunlop bringing him in. There were about 220 people at the lock up to witness -his arrival. He is a small, wild looking man. ‘




Muswellbrook Chronicle

6 October 1900

Trial of Jacky Underwood.

T:ik Circuit Court opened on Tuesday at Dubbo before Judge Simpson. Mr. Pike was Crown Prosecutor. Jacky Underwood was arraigned for the murder of Percy Mawbey, at Breelong, on July ’20. Mr, Colonna-Close, assigned by the Crown, appeared for the defence.

 Ethel Governor and Jacky Porter, who were committed for trial on warrants from the Coroner’s Court, were on Monday released, the Attorney-General declining to file a bill against either. At the trial on Tuesday Ethel Governor was called as the first witness against accused Underwood.

Other evidence was given by the two boys who escaped on the night of the massacre, but both deposed that they did not see accused among the assailants. Other witnesses were Senior-constable Berry, Mr. Garlin, Mr. W. H. Shaw (at whose house accused was captured), Mr. Mawbey, and Mr. W. Davidson, who fired on the blacks the day after the murders. Jacky Porter and the boy Peter were put forward by the Crown, but were unable to satisfy the Court that they understood the nature of an oath, and were withdrawn. Mr. Colonna-Close, in a speech for the defence, admitted the accused’s presence at the house during the murders, but claimed that he was intimidated into attending ,and struck no fatal blows. The dying depositions of Mrs. Mawbey, in which she clearly implicated accused, were not put in. After an hour’s deliberation by the jury, a verdict of guilty was returned. The judge asked the jury for an opinion to whether the prisoner actually dealt the fatal blow, but the jury failed to agree on this point. The prisoner was duly sentenced to death.

During the hearing his Honor commented several times on what he regarded as the inexplicable detention of Mrs. Governor and Jacky Porter in gaol for so long a period, they presumably being innocent.

 JG capture




The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 24 November 1900

The trial of the aboriginal, Jimmy Governor, on a charge that he did at Breelong on July 20 last feloniously and maliciously murder Helen Josephine Kerr, was continued at the Darlinghurst Old Court yesterday before Mr. Justice Owen and a jury of 12.
Mr. G. G. Wade, Crown Prosecutor (instructed by the Crown Solicitor), conducted the case for the Crown ; Mr. F. S. Boyce (instructed by Messrs. Lane and Roberts), was the counsel assigned by the Crown for the defence.
The prisoner had pleaded not guilty (on the facts).
When the Court rose on the previous (the first) day of the trial, the Crown case had closed.

At the request of Mr. Boyce, John Thomas Mawbey was recalled. In answer to Mr. Boyce he said he did not know whether anything was stolen from his house. He had not looked.
Did you look round the house ?- I did.
Was there anything to lead you to believe that other blacks had been about ?-Yes, I saw other tracks about.
To Mr. Wade: Blacks used to hunt opposums about the place. It was on the Sunday that the strange tracks were noticed.
Constable Berry, recalled by Mr. Wade, said that when he was following the tracks as previously described by him, he saw two tracks of persons going from the camp towards Mawbey’s, and the same two tracks going back towards the camp. That was in the grey dawn of the Saturday morning.
A juror : Did you see tracks of two men only ? Yes, of two only.
Mr. Boyce : If there was a woman there you would find some difficulty in tracking her ? No, not if she wore boots. I could not say whether any other tracks were about the house, because I did not look for them.

Mr. Boyce : Your Honor, the accused desires to hand a statement to the associate to be read. He cannot read well.
The Judge : Very well.
Mr. Wade : If he can write a statement he can read one, and the law is that he may not put his evidence in writing if he can give it orally.
The Judge (with an authority before him) said that the Full Court had laid it down that in their opinion the statement of a prisoner must be given orally if it could. In view of that opinion he could not admit the statement.
Mr. Boyce : I am surprised at the Crown taking such a technical point.
The Judge : It is not a technical point ; it is the law. Such a statement might have a prejudicial effect on the mind of the jury. The Crown has not taken a technical point, but has simply pointed out to me what the law is.
Mr. Boyce : The law in England is such that your Honor has power to admit the statement. This is a case of life and death, and surely in this case where the man cannot read English and desires to make a long statement of fact be ought to be allowed to do so.
The Judge : There is no doubt good reason for the law. I do not even know who wrote this statement. It may not have been written by the prisoner. It may be a document carefully prepared by a solicitor and containing ingenious argument. This man can speak good English -as good as anyone in the Court – and if he can reduce a statement to writing he can surely speak it.
The prisoner rose to speak.
The Judge : I would have liked this statement to be taken by a shorthand writer. However, we must go on.

Accused said : Me and my missus had some words about the Mawbeys at the camp, and I said, “Drop it, don’t tell me no more of it, I don’t want to hear any more of that.” So she said to me, ” They rub it in , they do as they like with you.” I said to her, ” You come down and I will see about it.” So we got ready and made off – me and my wife, Joe, and Jacky Underwood. I was going down for some flour and a bag of sugar. I went down first to Mr. Mawbeys. They were in bed. so I sung out to Mr. Mawbey, ” Is Mr. Mawbey in bed ?” Mr. Mawbey said, “Yes Jimmy, we’re just about turning in.” So he came out. I said, ” Please, Mr. Mawbey, I want a bag of flour up in the morning and a bag of sugar. ” He said, ” All right, Jimmy ; I will send them up in the morning or sometime to-morrow.” He asked me inside. I said, ” No, it is getting late I must got back. ” He said, “Good-night, Jimmy,” I said, ” Good- night, Mr. Mawbey. “
So I came back to where my brother and my wife were I said to my wife, ” I am going to see Mrs. Mawbey about those words she has been saying, I’ll make her mind what she is talking about. I’ll take her to Court if she does not mind herself.”
I went up to the house. I said, ” Are you in, Mrs. Mawbey? Did you tell, my missus that any white woman who married a black fellow ought to be shot ? Did you ask my wife about our private business ? Did you ask her what sort of nature did I have-black or white ? ”
With that Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz turned round and laughed at me with a sneering laugh, and before I got the words out of my mouth that I said in court I struck Mrs. Mawbey on the mouth with this nulla-nulla.
Miss Kerz said, ” Pooh, you black rubbish, you want shooting for marrying a white woman.” With that I hit her with my hand on the jaw, and I knocked her down. Then I got out of temper and got hammering them, and lost control of myself. I do not remember anything after that.
The Judge : Is that all you want to say ?
The accused : After that I went to camp. All this bushranging business that we were talking about we all agreed to. It was not all true that we were going to do it. We wanted to get my missus out of the road. We made it up that Joe was not to be there, nor my missus. I had a great name as a smart man and all that, so when we did this they would know I was the man. But it was not true I was the main man. Away we went that night and we camped in the bush. We parted in the morning.
Accused resumed his seat.
Mr. Boyce intimated that he had no witnesses to call. He asked accused if he had anything more to say, and Governor added : “I am speaking straight from my heart, and I am afraid of nobody.”

Mr. Boyce addressed the jury for the defence. He said the jury could not have helped reading the sensational accounts served up of the tragedy, but he hoped they would succeed in putting aside all thoughts of the public clamour for vengeance on this particular black. Had the jury ever thought that perhaps after all this man was not so bad ? Had they ever reflected how it was that this calm and quiet mannered man suddenly became a raving demon. The man, they must remember, was not being charged for the murders in the bush, of which they had all heard, but of the murder of Miss Kerz. Now the theory of the defence was that the man had acted in a frenzy of temper in the case of Miss Kerz, and the law mercifully said that in certain cases where provocation was given to the accused by the deceased, and such provocation was intentional and of a nature reasonably calculated to rob a person of self control, and really did have that effect, the killing would be manslaughter.
Here was a man of no high feeling or high sentiment, a rover under the roof of Heaven, a man who by his environment and nature had not learned to control himself as other men had. Could we, who had neglected, despised, and taunted the aboriginals, expect them to exercise the ordinary human control.

This particular man had taken a white wife. He was a man of sensitive nature – a better man than most blacks, because he worked when he could get work – and the taunts hurled at his wife were doubly felt by him.
The jury could picture the white wife of a black fellow knowing [kneeling] in the camp and praying ” O Lord take me away from here, I cannot stand what these women are saying.” The husband had seen that and there was then sown the seed of which the harvest was that terrible night.
Jimmy Governor denied that the object of the men was bushranging, and could not that statement be credited when it was remembered that the men went armed not with guns but with sticks, and they stole nothing.
No motive was suggested by the Crown for the murders, because it was clear there was no motive – it was the outcome of sudden passion. Jimmy used to play cricket with the children of the Mawbey family, and so it was apparent that the two families were in friendly relations. If the idea of wholesale slaughter was in Jimmy Governor’s mind, why did he not start by sacrificing Mawbey when he found him alone and unarmed ?
The answer was that the sudden passion was not there ; that having no intention to commit murder, the idea never entered his head in preconceived form. His intention was to ” take Mrs. Mawbey to the court if she did not watch herself.” He went to the house for that purpose, and it could not be supposed that he suddenly became a raging lunatic for nothing. Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz wheeled round on him and laughed and sneered, and Miss Kerz said, ” Pooh, you black rubbish, you ought to be shot for marrying a white woman.” That was the turning point, when those words were spoken to him the sudden passion rose and that was the last of self-control.
The savage heart, tainted with the thirst of blood, burst through reason and one of the foulest of crimes was committed. The man’s mate seemed also to have lost his reason. Was it not corroborative of the accused’s statement about the sneering remarks that Mrs. Mawbey on her death bed referred to the ” black rubbish.”
The statement of Miss Kerz touched Jimmy Governor on two spots which were susceptible-that of his colour and that of his wife. There could be no question of robbery , there was no suspicion of money being in the house, so the motive of robbery and bushranging was out of the question.
There could be no such motive as revenge, else why did he kill the little children ? Could he have wanted revenge on them? And on the other hand, if revenge were the motive why did he not wreak it upon Mr. Mawbey.
Then, again, let them think of the weapons used. Jimmy Governor had been a tracker in the police force, and was a cunning man in many respects. Would such a man, starting out with the diabolical intention of killing eight or nine people, arm himself with a stick ? There was a tomahawk there, but other blacks were also there. Percy Mawbey was killed by a tomakawk, and Jacky Underwood had killed Percy Mawbey. Miss Kerz was killed by a stick, and she was killed by Jimmy Governor.
There would be in the minds of the jury cases where men had been convicted of manslaughter though half-an-hour elapsed between the time of the provocation and the killing. Here in this case the whole of the event was completed at once-in one burst of temper.
That the Crown had selected the death of Miss Kerz upon which to try Jimmy Governor for his life was perhaps fortunate for the accused. If the death of Mrs O’Brien or of the children had been the subject of the trial, perhaps nothing could have been said against the charge, but in the death of Miss Kerz there was abundant evidence of high provocation, and of unreasoning passion.

Mr. Wade said the law was that if a man were provoked and angry, and in anger or passion took a fellow creature’s life, that was murder, unless the man proved that when the blow was struck it was not struck with the intention of taking life.
If Governor had stopped short at the first blow the case might have been different, but it was shown that after he first struck Miss Kerz she ran 100 yards, and Governor, with a murderous implement in his hand, pursued her and beat ber head in.
The case of a black fellow could not be regarded in any different light from that of a white man no matter that his habits of life differed.
The Crown admitted all through that there was ill feeling between the families, and contended that the murder was done as an act of revenge. The reason why the children also were murdered was to clear out the house of all witnesses. The evidence showed that the accused had been taunted by his mates, and told that he had no courage as a bushranger and those taunts no doubt helped him to arrive at the determination to obtain revenge on the Mawbeys.
The accused’s statements had differed in material points on the several occasions on which he had made them.
He (Mr. Wade) proceeded to review the evidence and deduced from it that the two blacks had premeditated an expedition to first ascertain whether, Mr. Mawbey was away from home and if so then to murder Mrs. Mawbey and Miss Kerz and also, in order to remove evidence, everyone in the new house.
Supposing it could be believed that Jimmy Governor merely went down to remonstrate with the Mawbeys, then why did he go with Jacky Underwood, why was Jacky armed with an axe, why did he go into the house, and why did they chase the people out of the house, and kill them outside ? They had to remember the evidence of one of the boys, which was that Jimmy Governor had said to Jacky Underwood, “Go it, Jacky dash their brains out.”
Surely no one would say that was anything but intentional murder then again there was the remark of one of the men, “There’s another somewhere” That again showed the premeditated plan of killing everyone in the house.

Mr. Justice Owen summed up. He said the counsel for the defence need have no fear that he had not done his duty by his client. The address which he gave to the jury and the way in which he had conducted the case throughout had been admirable. He had said everything that could be said and taken all points on behalf of his client. Now it was the duty of the jury to deal with the case which was placed before them.
No doubt learned counsel laboured under considerable difficulty from, probably, twofold causes – their peculiar circumstances of this case and the defence set up by the prisoner himself.
When the murder first took place a thrill of horror passed through the whole community, and the excitement was not limited to the time of the murders, but for weeks or months afterwards the excitement of the public was kept up in the tracing of the footsteps of those who were supposed to have committed the crime. In consequence the minds of the public were necessarily imbued to a very large extent with preconceived ideas of the persons who were ultimately arrested. Therefore it was a task which taxed the ingenuity of counsel to set the jury to view the case apart altogether from their prejudices.
The jury came there to try the case on the sworn evidence presented to them, and had no right to consider anything outside of that. It lay on the Crown to prove to the satisfaction of the jury that the prisoner was guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
Everyone was considered innocent until he was proved guilty, and even if the jury had preconceived opinions before they came to that court as to the guilt of the prisoner, if the Crown had left the case in doubt, the jury would be bound to give a verdict for the prisoner. But of course if the Crown had made out a case to the satisfaction of the jury they must return a verdict of guilty. The defence which had been set up had relieved him (the Judge) of a good deal of trouble in bringing before the jury all the points of the evidence to show tbat the accused struck the fatal blow.
It was admitted by the defence that the accused was the one who killed Miss Kerz. The defence was that he killed her by an unpremeditated act caused by taunts which she threw out against him and his wife and that, therefore, the act was manslaughter.
The section of the Act under which they could bring in a verdict of manslaughter contained three provisions which were necessary to be proved. He particularly wished to draw their attention to one of those provisions, which was “that the act causing death was done suddenly in the heat of passion caused by such provocation without intent to take life.” The law presumed that when life was taken by a blow it was murder unless the prisoner could prove it was manslaughter. That meant that when a person had received grave provocation and struck a blow there and then – being roused by a taunt or blow or insult – and the blow caused death, but the person striking the blow had no intention to kill, but merely to strike by way of punishment, it would be manslaughter.
Now the jury had to decide whether the blow which the accused inflicted on Miss Kerz was intended to take life.
The Judge then briefly reviewed the evidence, and dwelt upon that part referring to the finding of the body at a distance from the house. Of the points taken by the counsel for the Crown, he said the one which struck him was why Jacky Underwood was at the house at all.
If it was merely a question between the Mawbeys and accused and his wife, why was Underwood there, and why was he engaged in the midst of the carnage?
However, the jury’s duty was clear to them – they must be thoroughly satisfied that the blow was a premeditated one for the purpose of killing.

The jury retired at 12.15 p. m., and returned into court at 12.25 p.m. with a verdict of guilty on
a charge of murder.

Mr. Boyce handed in writing the low points he had raised on behalf of the accused. They were as follows :-
1. That his Honor should have directed the jury that on the evidence and law the plea of autrefois convict was made out.
2. That his Honor should have directed the jury to return a verdict in favour of the accused on the plea of autrefois convict.
3. That his Honor should have directed the jury that on the evidence and law the plea of autrefois attaint was made out.
4. That his Honor should have directed the jury to return a verdict in favour of the accused on the plea of autrefois attaint.

The Associate asked the prisoner whether he had anything to say why the Court should not pass sentence of death upon him.
Jimmy Governor, who now appeared to be considerably agitated by the circumstances of his posi- tion, grasped the iron railings of the dock as he stood and shook his head. Being asked if he had made reply, he drank water from a pannikin handed to him by one of the attendant constables, and then said in a weak voice, ” No, nothing.”

The usual warning was given by the usher,-
” All manner of persons are commanded to keep silence in court while his Honor the Judge passes sentence of death.”
The Judge then sentenced the prisoner to be hanged, and Governor was removed from the dock.


Western Herald

19 January 1901



Jacky Underwood, alias Charles Brown, who was convicted at the Dubbo Circuit Court, in October last, of the murder of Percy Mawbey at Breelong on July 20, was executed in the Dubbo Gaol on Monday morning.

The scaffold was erected in the exercise yard, and was surrounded by screen. The rev. Father Brophy was with the condemned man from an early hour. The condemned mini listened attentively to his exhortations, which seemed to buoy him up and give him hope.

A few seconds after tho gaol clock struck nine, a procession headed by the priest, came along the corridor, Jacky walked calmly, and required no support from either Howard or his assistant, we were by his side, At the foot of the scaffold, Father Brophy shook hands with the condemned man, and said ” Good-bye, Jacky.” He replied “Good-bye, sir,” and then walked up the steps and stood firmly on the scaffold while the rope was being adjusted. When the bolt was drawn he fell, death being instantaneous, the body was allowed to hang for the usual time, after which it was cut down, and the customary inquest held.

The Gaol authorities said Jacky was a well behaved prisoner, and realised the calamity of taken the life of his fellow man. His future evidently occupied his thoughts for he said Will I be in Heaven in time for dinner?



Singleton Argus

19 /1/1901


Hanged at Darlinghurst

[By Teleqraph Sydney, Friday.

Jimmy Governor was executed at 9o’clock this morning.- He slept well last night, and had a good breakfast. He had nothing to say, and walked firmly to the drop, smoking a cigarette, he was accompanied by the Rev. Canon Rich. Just before the cap and rope were adjusted Jimmy throw the cigarette from his lips.

The bolt was then drawn and death was instantaneous, Since his imprisonment  Jimmy has been fairly cheerful. He exhibited a strong religious feeling towards and, reading with avidity books upon religious subjects, which were given him. On several occasions the prisoner was visited by his wife and child.

Nothing can be ascertained as to what ; transpired, still it is paid that at no time did he lose his tranquility. Once his wife was been leaving the gaol with the child in her arms,. But she appeared cool as a woman who had been discharging some ordinary business duties.

The last hours of the condemned man were passed peacefully enough, and he 1 gave- no trouble- whatever .The prisoner retired at an early hour in the evening, and his guards state that he slept soundly throughout the night.

Shortly after daybreak he awoke and spent considerable time in listening to the ministrations of the chaplain. He is also said to have eaten, a good breakfast. Before leaving the gaol the whole of the spectators, who, including the loading gaol officials and the Sheriff and Under-Sheriff numbered about 18, signed a certificate to the effect that they had witnessed the execution which had been carried out according to law. Among the …names ‘thus appended to of parchment was one George Mawbey, which attracted attention. – Mawbey is a brother to John Mawbey, the of the murdered family.

Speaking afterwards to a press representative, Ho said, ” I would not have been content if I had not seen him hanged. I am only sorry I could not hang him myself.” Mawbey is the father of the boy George Mawbey, who escaped the murderers by biding under a bed.

pol gaz jg hung

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Robert Rice Howard Executioner (Nosey Bob) NSW 1873 – 1903

Born 1833 – Died 3rd February, 1906

Sydney’s State Executioner, hangman, for a period of 30 years. He was gainfully employed as a Cabbie for many years and had a top notch clientele. He is even supposedly been the transport for the Duke of Edinburgh when he came to Sydney, in 1867.

He had and unfortunate accident in the late 1860’s (aged 37) when a horse back heeled him in the face. Resulting for him, the appearance of having no nose to speak of. This deformation killed the Cab business and he turned to drink. 

Now the most unpopular job in the City was the role of Hangman, the Government usually had difficulty finding someone reliable for the role. The first appointed hangman, was a prisoner from the First Fleet who was to be hanged with one other Prisoner who was hanged first, they spared his life on the proviso that he became the Colonies Hangman as even the Marines of the First Fleet found the role distasteful. Then along comes Nosey Bob (His nickname, given by others, of course). He took up the role between the years 1873 (aged 40) through to 1903 (aged 70). He kept his new job on the quite at first but when the Cabbies at his old taxi rank found out it was all over Sydney in no time. He became a personality in his own right and accepted guest appearances at other State prisons to do his thing, he even did some hangings in New Zealand. During his stay in the role he Hung 64 people, and only one woman, Louisa Collins. 

He almost lost his job in 1889 over the hanging of Louisa Collins, no woman had been hang since 1855, as this was the most public of his botch jobs, Hanging was not a precise science and sometimes went awry, but not usually this badly. 

On the 8th January, 9.00 a.m. Louisa Collins made her way to the gallows. There were 12 Witness’s and 5 were from the Press. Louisa presented very calmly on her final stroll. Her arms were pinioned at the elbows. A Priest followed.

Nosey Bob awaited at the top of the stairs, with his new assistant Mr. Stepping. Collins stood upon the top trap door. The signal for the trap door to be activated but the trap door jammed. A warder grabbed a mallet and bashed the pin 3 times and the trap door opened. Collins fell awkwardly, clipped the side of the drop, split her throat, facing the yard, they left her there for half an hour till dead. Press went berserk whipping up Public opinion and thus was the last woman hanged in NSW. 

Attending a hanging in Wagga Wagga, Thomas Reilly – 4th November 1889, a cousin of the infamous Ned and Daniel Kelly Bros.

When he arrived at Wagga Wagga none of the cab drivers would take him or his luggage from the station to town and had to walk to town carrying his own bags. He went for a walk around the town and was harassed in the street by hooting and cat calls.

There were letters to the Editor on his behalf where by the writer said hanging was not his fault, no one harasses the Judge who commuted the sentence nor did the jury get hassled, he was just doing his job.

Nosey Bob died aged 74, at his home in the sand hills of Bondi near Ben Buckler in 1906. He was the old man in the area who tended to scare the local children. Even the local Publican had issues with his former occupation and would not serve him in his Pub, Bob would have to send a horse down to the pub with a billy can for the Publican to fill with beer and send back to his house.

nosey bob

Sydney Morning Herald

18 March 1882


Mr Buchanan, S M , presided in the criminal cases at the Water Police Court yesterday.

The public hangman, Robert Howard, was committed for trial on the charge of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm upon one Charles Maclean, the evidence, which was rather involved, may be concisely stated as follows -the two men live in Paddington the prosecutor in Weden lane, and the prisoner close by and on the day of the assault they had been drinking together the prosecutor’s account of the assault was that, as he was returning home that evening, a large dog, belonging to Howard, leaped up, and put its paws on his shoulders, and that when he pushed the dog off, Howard suddenly came out in his nightshirt and struck him over the head several times with what appeared to boat life-preserver.

He was taken to the hospital, where Dr Proudfoot found that he had sustained two true wounds and fracture of the outer table of the skull. Corroborative evidence of this was given. The defence set up by Howard was, that tho prosecutor throw stones at his dog, and that when he came out to remonstrate the prosecutor used insulting language to him, seized him by the leg, and tried to drag him down a flight of stone steps, which led to the door of his house. As he was undressed, and feared some injury, lie, in self defence he, struck his assailant on the head with the leg of a chair.

 Bail was ¡Tinted toward m his own surety of £80, and two other surety of £10 each.


Sydney Morning Herald

1 April 1882

Howard, hangman, was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on Charles M’cLean. It transpired pretty clearly, however, that prosecutor was the aggressor, and had on several occasions taunted prisoner about his profession, abused him, and challenged him to fight, Witnesses for the defence gave prisoner an excellent character as a good father and a peaceful man, and the jury returning a verdict of not guilty, he was discharged. The Court was then adjourned until the following morning.


18 July 1884

North Australian

Ill treating a Hangman.

A great deal of ill feeling has been aroused in Sydney at the un friendly -treatment, by the Hay people, of the hangman and his assistant, who had been engaged at the execution of Cordini at Deniliquin. A slight like this on one of the most favoured

I and most obliging Sydney officials is not likely to be soon forgotten. Mr. Robert Howard, the N.S.W. finisher, is a gentleman who almost every day takes his seat among ladies in the Paddington tram, passes their fares, and gives them change, and otherwise makes himself most agreeable.

Certainly Mr. Howard’s appearance is not attractive-his face exhibiting the absence of a nose, whence comes the sobriquet, ” Nosey Bob ;” but otherwise he’s a most acceptable fellow-passenger. It has to be admitted, of course, that as the “fatal day” approaches, Robert usually gives way to drink, and may often then be seen, clad in the strictest black, helplessly clasping a lamp-post.

But on this occasion he doesn’t appear to have touched a drop so that his reception at Hay is unkind. Here is a telegram on the subject:-“The hangman arrived in Hay on the17, from Deniliquin with his assistant. They had their meals in Tattersall’s Hotel, but no one would sit at the table with them. They could get no beds, and the police had to accommodate them in the court-house. On Wednesday the hangman started to trudge through the mud to the railway station, but his assistant waited to get a ‘ lift ‘ in a cab. All the cabs refused to take him. He had therefore to walk to the station,  and on Thursday he cleared.”This kind of treatment is very ill-advised. Mr. Howard may be required at no distant date at Hay, and with this affair before us, we wouldn’t guarantee safe and comfortable despatch for any resident of those parts. It may be however, that we take an incorrect view of this knotty question-and therefore we’ll drop it.


17 November 1887

Evening News

Assault on the Hangman,

Larrikins v. Law.

A  recrudescence of the larrikin nuisance has occurred at Bondi. According to the statements of reputable residents the neighbourhood is frequently disturbed by the exploits of disorderly young men, whose numbers and audacity seem to increase and grow in exact proportion to the laxity of the police supervision. Yesterday afternoon this quiet suburb was the scene of a disgraceful exhibition of ruffianism, and brutality enacted in broad daylight and with impunity. Robert Howard, the public executioner, who lives at Bondi, in close proximity to the beach, was set upon and maltreated by a number of young men who appear to have a prejudice against Howard’s profession, and to resent his having exercised it on some of their friends. They and others have previously threatened to’ do for’ Howard, and to burn him out of house and home, a threat which by the way, might not be very difficult to carry out in view of the fact that Howard’s house stands i& an isolated and somewhat lonely position. The following is Howard’s own statement of the circumstances under v.iiich lie was attacked yesterday : — f’ I left Darlinghurst by the half -past 3 tram, and arrived &t Brown’s public-house, Bondi, at about 4 o’clock. There were four young men in the place.- A well-dressed and gentlemanly looking man was behind, the bar serving. I called for a glass of beer and paid for it.

The man behind the bar said, ‘ You are the bastard hangman?’

I said, ‘You are a gentleman.*

He then replied, You are the one that put the rope on the neck of Moonlight and Rogan, I said ‘ I beg your pardon, I am not the man; why do you insult me when I ask for a glass of beer?’ He then took my beer, for which I had paid, and pitched it out into the sand.

Another young man came behind me and struck my ear; and another one, who wore a white waistcoat and a gold watch chain, also struck me and knocked tae. They then said they would hang me; and three of them, got hold of me and tried to shove me into Brown’s back premises. I clung to the counter, and while holding, one of them kicked me in a dangerous place and again struck me in the ear. I managed to get loose from them, and ran out of the house into the street. I ran towards Sydney, but could see no one about to assist me.

After a while I ventured back past Brown’s public house, which I had to pass on my way home. The four young men were then out on the verandah. They came after me and assaulted me again, and tore my coat and parcel. They tried to throw me over the embankment of the road, and then commenced to stone me with blue metal. They swore they would settle me some day, and burn my place down. I have now been in the Government service for many years, but I have never before been assaulted- in this way. I have been insulted, and people have refused to serve me. Sometimes when I have been travelling by coach up country, they have refused to serve me with meals. But this is the first time that I have been maltreated.’

 bobs house

Sydney Morning Herald

4 November 1889





Robert Howard, the New South Wales hangman, arrived at Wagga by train yesterday morning. None of the cabmen would drive him or take his luggage from the railway station to town; therefore he had to walk. He complains of not being met on his arrival by some person to drive him to a place where he might stop during his stay here. He is to act as executioner of Thomas Reilly on Wednesday morning. The gallows will not be erected in the gaol-yard till Monday or Tuesday.

The condemned man is completely resigned to his fate. He has been several times visited by Fathers Gallagher and Kennedy. Mass has been said during the week at the gaol. Reilly has strictly observed the solemn religious acts of his Church. Another mass will be said before Wednesday. He eats and sleeps well, and the prayer book is hardly ever out of his hands during the daytime.


24 November 1893

The Hangman’s Rebuff.

Howard, the genial gallows-manipulator, obtained a deal of credit the other day for the neat little turn for repartee which he displayed during the hearing of a certain case, but we do not think he would be able to hold his own against the blue-blooded worthy who arranges the dull-sickening thud over here.

 Not long ago Mr Howard boarded a tram bound for his sea-side villa at Bondi ; but as the car was crowded he was forced to stand. Presently a fussy old gentleman called the conductor and angrily objected to having ‘ such an infamous person as the common Hangman standing before him ‘ during a three mile ride.

 Then the pretty vein of wit for which our own knight of the Soaped Rope bubbled up, and Mr. Howard smilingly replied, ‘Don’t you get excited Mister. . One of those days I’ll have you standin’ before me, and then you’d be glad of any company you can get.’ A thrill of horror ran through ull present as the fussy man gave one ‘ convulsive movement,’ and ‘ all was over.’ — Truth.,


Bathurst Free Press

17 August 1894

The Hangman’s Application. — The New South Wales executioner, who in private life is Robert Howard, applied on Wednesday for a license to slaughter Pigs. The case came on at the Paddington Police Court, this application being opposed by Mr. W. T. Ball, the Mayor of Waverley. The applicant wished to convert pigs into pork at his place in North Bondi, but the borough’s objections resulted in . the application not being allowed.


 Maitland Mercury

14 January 1899

Hangman Howard as a Poet.

It is not perhaps generally known that Mr. Robert Howard, Her Majesty’s Chief Executioner. In this appanage of the Crown, is a bit of a poet. In his leisure moments, ‘ Nosey’ — as he is vulgarly. named — breaks out into verse, and they say that on the morning he turned off that Sydney Borgia,

Louisa Collins, he addressed her, as she moved from the condemned cell to the gallows as follows:  My pretty Louise . . .

Step on the trapeze

And I’ll let you down

With the greatest of ease.’ ‘

Anyhow, whether or not she heard the appeal, it is now a matter of history that she was ‘ let down with the greatest of ease.’

 darlo nosey  bob

Cobargo Chronicle

14 January 1899


Ten Minutes with the Hangman.

The exigencies of the law and the necessity to vindicate it, gave Dubbo recently the rare but not enviable distinction of a visit from the most picturesque figure in connection with our criminal jurisprudence.  

The chief executioner, called variously the hang-man and ‘the finisher,’ has been amongst us, done his work, and disappeared as noiselessly as he came. The chief executioner of New South Wales is known as ‘Nosey Bob’ among those classes who fear and hate him, from probably the instinctive feeling that some day or another they will be assisted by him in their last toilet, prior to attending that dance upon air which the State provides for the worst of its subjects. His first professional visit to Dubbo was 20 odd years ago, when he turned off Newman, who was hanged for that terrible outrage and murder at Coonabarabran.

 He was then a well set-up muscular man, with a good head of hair, and except that this face was nose less and consequently his beauty was spoiled, he would, pass among the average crowd as nothing out of the common or possessing any of those qualities which for some reason we associate with the gentleman who carries out the last dread sentence of our British law.

We have seen him  several times since, but on this last occasion we met him and talked with him a few nights back it seemed as if he were breaking up fast. His hair is thinner and whiter, and he does not look so active on his legs. We ventured to remark to him that he was fading, and he resented the imputation, for like most of us he does not like to be reminded he is growing old, and made some remark about the weakness of his legs being attributable to an attack of rheumatism.

‘I showed my leg to the doctor,’ said he ‘but he says its water on the knee.’ Well, I am blessed,’ (he used a stronger expression, and laughed sardonically), ‘I’ve heard of water on the brain, but never of water on the knee.’ And he went a-long with his work of greasing the rope and preparing the paraphernalia with which he was to assist Wong Ming out of the world.

‘Now,’ he continued, did you ever see a prettier bit of rope?’ and he looked at the coil with the eye of an expert, and in his voice was all that admiration which one notices in the tones of a collector when examining some rare bit of bric-a-brac. ‘You say I am getting old—well, of course. I ain’t getting younger, but there’s many a good job in me yet.

Robert Howard—to give the hang-man his full name—was originally a cab-driver and owner in the city of Sydney, and he has been 24 years in, the service of the State. ‘Yes, sir,’ he is always addressing you as ‘sir,’ and lifting his finger in a kind of salute to his forehead—’I have hanged a good few. The number I forget, but if I  was at home I could give them to you for I keep a list. I have had very few bungles, and do you know people think the bungles are when the chaps are chicken-hearted. No, sir, its when they’re too game. They won’t let you do everything for them. They want to do it themselves. Oh, I have hanged some game ‘uns’.

Asked if Butler was courageous, his eyes sparkled with the pleasure that an old cock fighter shows, when he is reminded of a favourite bird, one that I like the Old Guard, died but never surrendered, ‘Butler was a brick. He was game, take my word for it. When went into the cell that morning he says, ‘Bob now then, be quick.’ He never flinched while I pinioned him, and we was walking from the cell to the gallows, he leant this head close to mine, and whispered, Bob, don’t forget, be quick.’  Again on the gallows, as I was arranging the rope and cap, be said ‘be quick I was quick enough for him, and as he dropped, his head hit my knee, and I heard distinctly the words ‘Oh Lord,’ He was a game ‘un.

Howard has recollections too of another steely-hearted criminal, Lee, -who was found guilty of murdering young Mckay, the bank manager at Barraba, and was executed at Tamworth,—showing a contempt of death which was almost extraordinary.  While his mate Cummins’ showed the white feather, Lee was as game as a pebble. Several other instances were mentioned by him, and it is very plain that while he has admiration for the criminal with the courage of a man, he has nothing but contempt for the craven-hearted who were frightened to meet death themselves.

He has just the same eye for a neck that a painter has for a pretty scene. He is not in your company five minutes before he has surveyed your neck is sized up no doubt in his mind’s eye, the proper kind of knot you” would require, and taken in your weight with all the finish of a professional expert, calculated the drop you would require.

He is just as keen on this matter—from of course, the purely professional sense—as that fellow in De Quincey’s magnum, opus, ‘Murder considered as one of the Fine Arts, who never saw a particular throat but the desire seized him to slit it. He has peculiar ideas on the subject top, ‘Prisoners said be in quite’ a confidential and suggestive spirit, ‘ are treated too kindly and kept too long. They get flabby.

The’muscles -of the neck soften, and the neck gets as tender as a chicken. No man should be kept longer than a week or a fortnight if you want good work and a first-class execution.’

Of course, Howard is an authority, and suppose most people will do as we did—make him a present of the argument. He spoke from that conviction which long experience brings, ‘while – we—well, we listened intently to his words of wisdom. We reminded him, however of Moore, who’s head and body parted company when Bob last prosided at an execution at Dubbo. Well yes said he that was a bad case. His neck was brittle as a egg shell I gave him a drop of 7ft 6 in and I never had such an experience. I can’t understand it now and as it is also past the late Mr Moore’s understanding it was no continuing of the subject.

One would think that one who had been present at so many violent deaths -as Bob would be above any trifling superstitious feelings but like most men he has a weak spot.

 When he arrived in Dubbo the other day, his first enquiry was as to the pit or well, dug undeneath the scaffold. When Moore was hanged, his head struck the side, and so did the trunk, and great  splashes of blood were on the whitewashed bricks, lining  the well.

” Any stains on it.,’ said he in a whisper, and when “informed there were not, that all had been white washed over he exclaimed Thank God for that.

When not engaged “obeying ‘that law which decrees that ‘certain people are to lie hanged by the neck till they are dead, Howard puts in a good ‘deal of his time attending the gardens of Darlinghurst Gaol, and when not there engaged, he. enjoys bin case at his pleasant residence at Bondi.

He is a fisherman, hat does not spend his time like most professors of the gentle art in hooking schnapper, whiting, and such harmless members of the finny tribe. As on the land, where his main work is in choking the thugs and human tigers who commit crimes so deep dyed that they cry to heaven for vengeance, so on the “water “he concentrates his efforts to dealing with the savage tigers of the deep. Shark fishing is his speciality, and in his garden at Bondi are some rare specimens of ‘the remains of these marine man-eaters which infest our coast.

‘ When I hook a particularly big chap,’ he tells,  a fellow that is too big for The single handed, I make fast the line, and get the horse to pull him out? He has all sorts and sizes of shark bones, and among the curios which the late member for Petersham, Mr. Jones, took to England with him on a recent visit, were the jaws of a mammoth shark, which Bob had captured.

He is, like every artist in his own particular line, not above the effects of flattery, and it is worth while watching the pleased smile which overspreads his face when a ‘job’ is mentioned in which everything went off satisfactorily.

After Tuesday’s execution a gentleman remarked to him,’ Well, Howard, that was clean work,*and Bob put his hand to his forehead-,saluting, and replied, ‘ Yes, sir, very good job indeed,’ and the expression of his face showed that this great past master of his business in New South Wales is only human after.


Richmond River Herald

4 June 1904

Civil Service Retirement. — Mr. Robert Howard is retiring from the Government service of this State. Howard (better known as ‘Nosey Bob’) has been N.S.W hangman for many years, and has legally ‘tossed off’ into eternity more human beings than any person who filled the grim avocation, since tho early convict days. He prided himself on his ability to make a ‘ clean job;’ but in his time many unfortunates were’ horribly butchered by him — notably some of the’ Mount Rennie ‘ boys.

The Australian

11 November 1905

Some Waverley jokers at the last general election by advertisement invited the friends of a certain candidate  to meet him at the residence of Mr. Robt. Howard, at Ben Buckler-road, Bondi. Mr. Howard is known professionally as Nosey Bob Ex- hangman Howard gained his nickname through a kick administered to him many years ago by a horse when he was coachman to one of the early governors. He is a great horse trainer, and has such influence with then that he has trained his horse to fetch the beer from the Cliff House Hotel, Bondi— quite a mile away from his residence. The horse starts off gaily with the handle of the billy in his teeth and the pence rattling inside. He plods back slowly and carefully so as not to jerk off the lid or spill the beer. Several times he has been stuck up by buccaneers desirous of either beer or browns. In the first case he turns round and threatens them with his heels ; and in the other be takes to them -to his heels, not to the pirates. Howard is a quiet and well behaved man.


Sydney Morning Herald

6 February 1906

HOWARD.-The Friends of the late ROBERT RICE HOWARD are kindly invited lo attend his Funeral to leave his late residence, Bondi Beach, Bondi, THIS (.Monday) AFTERNOON, at 3 o’clock, for Waverley Cemetery.

W. CARTER. Undertaker, Waverley.

howard grave

Sydney Morning Herald

4 February 1907

HOWARD-In memory of my dear father, Robert Rice Howard, who died FEBRUARY, 3rd, 1906. Inserted by  his daughter M A Hawkins  

HOWARD -In loving memory of my father, Robert

Rice Howard, who departed this life, February 3rd  1906. Inserted by his son and daughter in law S.

E. Howard.  

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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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Filed under Gone right, Women

Alexander Green Executioner NSW 1828 -1855


Alexander Green Executioner NSW 1828 – 1855

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


South Australian Gazette


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

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

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

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

Sydney Morning Herald



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sydney Morning Herald

August 23 1830.

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

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

NSW Advertiser



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

 Bench : What are you?

Green : A public officer.

Bench (with astonishment) : What ?

Green : The executioner or hangman.

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


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

The Australian


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


Sydney Gazette



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

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

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

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


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

Morton Bay Courier


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

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

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

The Maitland Mercury


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

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