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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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Tom Long, Executioner New Zealand 1877 – 1906


Tom Long,  Executioner, New Zealand 1877 – 1906

Tom Long was known the length and breadth of New Zealand. Newspapers regularly reported his antics in detail. He was like most of the Hangmen on this site, a habitual drunk, created chaos with his disorderly behaviour and a ealandvagrant. Long was reportedly convicted on over 200 occasions, but was best known as the government’s hangman.

Tom Long was an Irishman who was a bachelor, it appears he never registered to vote, and his life is best known through newspaper reports and people’s later reminiscences.

He claimed he started his killing in the Indian army, acting as official hangman – a claim that is unverifiable.

However, his first New Zealand execution can be dated to Picton in early 1877, when he hanged William Woodgate for murdering a child he had fathered with his 14-year-old niece Susan.


Marlborough Express


At our last issue we had to report a state of things which, so far as we are aware, never before occurred, namely the extraordinary failure of justice m regard to the execution of Woodgate, and we now proceed to place On record how the difficulty was got over, and as we can readily believe that the account will be distasteful to some of our readers, we shall have to request them m that case to pass on to the next article, and leave the following authentic statement to those who really wish to know how the law was Vindicated.” We shall riot say how or by what means a person was discovered who was willing to take the place vacated by one who undoubtedly undertook to do the duty.

Suffice it to say that the police or somebody did discover such a person, and that m the early morning the Sheriff, accompanied by the Inspector of Police, drove through again to Picton. There they called on the Rev. Mr Ronaldaon, who went to the gaol and informed the condemned prisoner of the imminence of his fate at about 4 a.m., and remained v/ith him to the last. At about 620 a.m., a procession was formed from the condemned cell, where the prisoner had already been pinioned, to the scaffold.

The Minister came first, reading the service for the dead, Woodgate came next, followed by the hangman, gaoler, wardens, &c. The other persons present, were the Sheriff, Mr Allen, R. M., Dr Tripe, Mr Caute, Gaoler, the wardens, and the police. The moment the Minister ceased speaking, he turned to Woodgate, and appeared to say something-, as it might be, Now is your time if you want to speak.” Woodgate then turned round and addressed the gaol officials, giving them his best thanks for their kindness to him during his stay m gaol, adding and I thank you, gentlemen, for using your utmost endeavours to get my life spared by trying to get a reprieve.

I thank you all very much indeed, and I die m peace with all men. I have nothing more to aay. He seemed a little affected as he spoke, but he ascended the scaffold with a firm step. Now comes the most disgusting feature of the whole business.

The hangman, while adjusting the cap said to the prisoner, Good bye, old fellow, I wish you a pleasant journey. You’re only going a few days before us, perhaps I might follow you to-morrow, or next day myself.” He then adjusted the rope, and again said, “Well, how do you feel is it comfortable, or is it too tight V Woodgate replied, No.”

He was still looking upwards, The hangman again said, “Well, good-bye. I wish you a pleasant journey,” at the same moment kicking the bolt with his foot, and the drop fell, Woodgate dying without a struggle,, his legs below the knee and his hands just twitching twice at an interval of a few seconds.

The hangman then faced round, and addressing the spectators, said, “Well, gentlemen, are you satisfied?’ There was no reply, and he again asked, Are you satisfied that I have done my duty.” Dr Tripe said there was no doubt that no man could have done it more efficiently, as the neck was quite dislocated.

He further added that Woodgate felt no pain beyond a momentary one. The fall was about five feet. The drop fell at 6*30 exactly, and the body was left hanging for” an hour. Just when they were about taking it down Detective Farrell, of Wellington, came on the scene, with note to the Sheriff, introducing a man who had arrived by the Hinemoa from Wellington, who was willing to undertake the duty. The Sheriff, however, informed the gentleman that his services were not required, and we believe declined to have anything to say to him.

At 11 a.m. an inquest was held before John Allen, Esq., KM., Coroner, and a jury, ox which MrW. Jameson was foreman. The Sheriff and Dr Tripe gave evidence. The former produced his warrant or precept authorising the execution, and the latter testified as to the prisoner’s death.

The verdict was as follows, That William Henry Woodgate was on the morning of the 25th day of January, 1877, within the common gaol of Picton m the said Colony m due course of law hanged by the neck till he died, m execution of the sentence passed upon him by Chief Justice Prendergast, a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand at a sitting of the Circuit Court of the Supreme Court, at Blenheim in the same Colony on the 5th day of December 1876.

The body was buried on the Thursday evening within the precincts of the gaol. On Wednesday, during an interview with the Rev. Mr Ronaldson and one of the warders the prisoner said that he was not at all guilty of the murder, but of everything else attributed to him he was guilty, and deserved the punishment accorded to him. Little more remains to be told.

At 7.15 a.m. the Hinemoa arrived from Wellington being manned with Armed Constabulary, and bringing Detective Farrell and the man alluded to. But we are given to understand that the Captain ranks as Inspector the Chief mate as Sub-Inspector, and all the men as privates m the Armed Constabulary force. These escorted the Detective and his travelling companion to the gaol, and back again.

There was considerable speculation m Picton as to who the gentleman was who performed the loathsome duty, and it was confidently asserted that he had come from Nelson, but we have reason to believe that he was a swagsman, who came into Blenheim on Wednesday from the southward, and offered his services, which were accepted as before recorded. He stated that he had been m the navy as a seaman, and boasted of having served as an artilleryman at the time of the Indian Mutiny, when he “slung them up m dozens.”

Soon after 10 a.m., the gaoler let him out at the back of the gaol, and he succeeded by making his way quietly and quite unobserved along the line, m getting down to the Hinemoa at the wharf, which steamed away at once as soon as he came aboard, arid before the Pictonians were aware of the circumstance.

We have just a few words to add respecting the extraordinary assumed by some of the Picton people, who we regret to learn put every hindrance in the way of the sentence being carried out, independently of the efforts made by a large number who signed a petition praying for a commutation of the sentence.

We touch on this subject with the greatest reluctance, but the fact remains, and to such an extent was this feeling carried out that even the rope had be procured from Blenheim by the police.

Although it may be thought invidious to mention any names, rather than all should be included m the censure which will surely be meted out by the press of the Colony, we learn that Messrs Allen, Conolly and Seymour, spoke strongly m condemnation of the maudlin sympathy exhibited, and defended the action of the law, notwithstanding some, if not all, had signed the petition before referred to. We may add that no representative of the press was present on the above occasion, nor was any intimation given that the event was imminent.

Further we are at a loss to know upon what understanding or supposition the Hinemoa and a force of Constabulary was sent, as it is quite evident that the services of the local police force were not called upon and therefore could not be insufficient for all necessary purposes. We shall look with interest for our next exchanges to see what impression had got abroad about this matter.



Taranaki Herald


[BY TELEGRAPH— PRESS ASSOCIATION.] CHRISTCHURCH, Tuesday. The date of Sheehan’s execution is not yet fixed, but Tom Long, the hangman, from Wellington yesterday in charge of warder, who also brought the scaffolding for the gallows.



Wairarapa Daily Times


By Telegraph.—Press Association. Ashburton, Wednesday.

This morning, Tom Long, the hangman, was convicted of drunkenness and discharged on condition that lie left the town by the next train. He was taken off the express last night very drunk.



Marlborough Express


A STOIC’S DEATH. We cull the following particulars connected with the execution of Stephen Bosher in Wellington on Wednesday from the Post


On Tuesday night Father Ainsworth, who with Father Goutenoire had been attending the prisoner for the last fortnight, spent the time in preparing Bosher for his death. A 11.30 p.m. the condemned man had a cup of coffee, and shortly after 1 a.m. he went off to sleep. Father Ainsworth then left the cell. At about 2 a.m. the sleeping man, who had been uneasy in his slumber, wakened for a minute to ask the time, and then went off to sleep again. He was still sleeping when Father Ainsworth came to the cell at 5 o’clock.

Bosher was then wakened by a warder. He had a cup of coffee at 7.30 a.m., but would not eat anything. Father Ainsworth was engaged with him till the last. As the hangman came to the door of the cell to pinion the condemned man, Bosher for one moment faltered and clutched for support at the hand of his confessor, but a whispered “Courage !” braced up the iron nerves of the man, and there was not a tremor in him as he held out his hands to be pinioned, saying, Thy will be done!”


Then the little procession was formed, and Father Ainsworth began the Service for the Dead; looking back once he whispered words of encouragement to the penitent man, whose nerves were far firmer than those of the priest himself. At about ten minutes to 8 o’clock the sound of a clergyman reciting the Service was heard, as the little procession, in which was the condemned man, wound along the passage from the condemned cell to the scaffold.

Soon afterwards the cortege appeared at the top of the steps leading to the scaffold.


Father Ainsworth was still reading the service when Tom Long, the hangman, a little man with a long white beard, appeared at the other side of the scaffold and curtly said, “Bosher, come this way with me a moment,” at the same time leading the condemned man under the central beam, soon to be burdened with its ghastly freight. Bosher’s arms had been strapped to his sides, the elbows drawn behind, and the hands, strapped at the wrists, left free in front of his waist.

The hangman now pinioned Bosher’s leg’s. Then, at a gesture from the priest Bosher knelt, and was granted the Last Absolution. The condemned man made the responses in an audible tone, but from the voice of Father Ainsworth, it was perceived that the strain was telling on him the most.


 Asked by Father Ainsworth whether he had anything to say, Bosher replied, in a steady, even, firm voice, looking up towards the press representatives: What I have to say now I say of my own free heart, and I have never been asked for it. l am very thankful to be in the position I am. I wish to express my thanks o Mr Gaivey, who has been very kind to me and done everything he can for me, as well as Dr. Martin and Dr. Cahill, who helped to prepare me for my death. Also to Chief Warder Millington, who has done everything in his power for me without going outside his duty, and Warders Keany, Knight, Downs and Bethune, who have been with me night and day, and done all they could, I thank them from my whole heart. I forgive all those who were witnesses in my case; those who spoke the truth and those who spoke the untruth, I forgive all those witnesses who swore falsely against me. Years ago I left my own Church, and have never since known a day’s joy. It has been my own fault.

When I was in my trouble I was left alone, and no one came to see me. Then Father Ainsworth and Father Goute* noire, from Meanee, came to me. I forgive all my enemies. May God bless them abundantly. That is all I have to say.”


The priest then commenced to read the Burial Service, breaking off to comfort Bosher, and at last bending down and shaking him by the hand. Bosher returned the kindly grasp, and in reply to the priest’s Goodbye, till we meet in Heaven,” spoken in French, said in the same language, “Till we meet in Heaven.”

Then the officious hangman placed round Bosher’s neck the noose, adjusting it with a leather washer to prevent it slipping, and put on Bosher’s head the white cap, which completely covered the face.

Father Ainsworth said thrice, “Jesu misericorde,” and twice Bosher from under the cap repeated the words after him, when the bolt was drawn, and the body fell.


There was not a sign of a struggle, and death must have been instantaneous the taut rope swayed gently from one side to the other, and in horror-stricken silence all turned away. A moment later the hangman, who had run down a little ladder at the back, re-appeared on the scaffold, and said “Now, gentlemen, I have done my duty. You, can look for yourselves.” These horrid words, which we believe Long always uses after an execution, gave a shock to every spectator of the grim scene. Bosher, the murderer of Mr and Mrs Jones at Petone, had gone to his last account, penitent and atofcal to the end, and had found that Justice though tardy, had afforded no pity to the pitiless destroyer of two old and inoffensive people.

 It is understood that Father Ainsworth obtained permission from, tho Administrator of the Government to have the body buried at Karori Cemetery.


Within days of being paid for doing his duty Tom long was arrested for drunk and disorderly… 



Otago Times

At the Police Court to-day Tom Long, the hangman, was fined £3 and sentenced to fourteen days’ hard labor on three charges drunkenness, resisting the police, and obscene language.



Mataura Ensign

New Zealand’s Hangman.

A COOL CUSTOMER. Tom Long, the hangman, who gets £25 every time he swings off a human being into space says a writer in a contemporary, was at one time gold-mining at Ross.

I was standing some eighteen months ago by the post-office at the corner (Wanganui). Round in the Avenue leading straight up to St. John’s Hill was the cab stand, and Tom’ Long, who had just returned from the finishing off of Bosher, the Petone murderer, was’ describing minutely to the bystanders how he had done the job satisfactorily.

In the’ long line of cabbies waiting a fare, was one good-natured whip with as thick a neck as I ever remember to have seen in occupation by any human being.

To he in particular Tom Long seemed to be addressing his remarks There’s a art in it— ‘specially in the trussin, then you got to humor him and guy ver him until he  will want to shake hands with you. Then it’s quite a pleasure to swing ’em off. Why, it makes me feel quite sad- when I look’s at that there neck’ of yourn, ‘specially when says to myself, ‘here’s a neck goin’ to waste, of want of proper attention and here is me, Tom Long, a standing idle.’

The cabby, quite disconcerted, drove off, and so lost his place, whilst’ many of the crowd, forgetting- the cold blooded harangue of the callous hangman, roared over the ignominious flight of the cabby with the great neck.



Hawera and Normanby Star


The Wellington correspondent of Christchurch Truth writes to most people Tom Long is no more than a name, and a rather gruesome and misty sort of person. I had tho experience one could hardly call it a pleasure of discoursing with this celebrated individual the other morning.

He is, as he proudly informs you, working in the bush up Wanganui way a vagueness of geographising that he did not seem inclined to strengthen by anything more definite.

He has worked there “and been me own boss” for some twenty years or thereabouts. “They’ve a prejudice against me on account of me doing the executions, but someone has to do them,” he complained, fixing his eye reflectively on my neck.

“Once I refused to do an execution, but they was in a fix, and so I agreed after a lot of persuasion, and ever since then they can get me when they want to. How many have 1 swung off fifteen in this country, but hundreds in India. They pay me £30 a time now. They used to pay £40 and £50, but those times have passed.” He has a grievance, and it is this; that there are men who would do the hangman’s work for £18 and then disappear from the country.

“And I’m here all the time, an’ they know they can get me when they want me, and I reckon they oughtn’t to cut the price.’ He did not seem to think much of my suggestion of a Hangmen’s Union, which I thought would meet this difficulty. He has been offered 10s per foot for some of the ropes he has used, but he has refused.

“There is some callous beggars about,” he commented on this point, of medium height, plump, and with a red face and thick white whiskers, he looks anything but a hangman, until he talks to you on his hobby. He informed me that he would give me a six foot drop, when I asked him out of curiosity.

He is talkative, and sees nothing to be shy about in his business. He relates with many winks how once, travelling with a plain clothes constable from the country to officiate at a hanging, the news got about that ‘Tom Long was on the train.” 

Tom saw a lot of curious people peering through the window of the railway carriage, and lie pointed stealthily to the constable and winked at him without the unfortunate Robert knowing him. The crowd naturally concluded that the policeman was Tom, and the policeman was the most surprised and hurt man in the world when going on to the platform everybody scuttled away from him, and regarded him with disgust from afar. It breaks Tom up to ever think of it now.


It was and expensive exercise for publishers to infer that one was the public executioner as the following article reflects…



Ashburton Guardian

An Unfortunate Name.

In the District Court at Brisbane recently Thomas Valentine Long, formerly of Maryborough, proceeded against Charles Henry Johnson publisher of the Wide Bay and Bamett News at Maryborough, claiming .£5OO damages for alleged defamation.

The alleged libel was contained in a letter from a New Zealand correspondent to the effect that Tom Long, at one time of Maryborough, had performed the duties of hangman at the execution of Ellis, and afterwards discussed the deed with a number of loungers on the wharf whilst he was waiting for the boat. Plaintiff stated that he was not in New Zealand on the date mentioned.

Defendant pointed out that there was at least three Tom Longs in Maryborough, and be offered to publish a paragraph stating that plaintiff was not the person meant. Lengthy evidence was given for plaintiff, but no witnesses were called for the defence. The jury, after a brief returned a verdict for defendant, with costs.


Poor old Tom Long met his death felling trees…



Ashburton Guardian


Per Press Association,

WANGANUI, December 15,

Two accidents occurred this afternoon in the vicinity of the sculling race. A man named Orel was found in a dying condition at Upokongaro, and passed away shortly afterwards. A man named Wheeler was knocked off a bicycle, and fractured one of his legs.

Tom Long, the hangman, was killed while felling bush at Kauangaroa today. An inquest is to be held.

CHRISTCHURCH, December 16. The child Juriss, who was seriously injured by falling into a boiler of hot water in Addington on Monday, died yesterday morning. An inquest was held in the afternoon, and a verdict of accidental death was returned.

Last evening a man named James Jebson was taken to the hospital suffering from a compound fracture of one of his wrists, sustained in a fall from a hay-cart at Sheffield during the afternoon.


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The Execution of Alfred Bye 1941



Canberra Times


Soldier Found with Five Wounds


Thomas Edward Walker, garrison soldier and returned soldier, was stabbed to death last night behind the Mines Department in Parliament Place.

There were six stab wounds on the body, five in the chest and one in the neck.

It appeared that they were inflicted with a dagger or a knife with a blade like a stiletto.

Money found in his clothing indicated that robbery was not the motive of the attack.

The police have not yet ascertained his address.



The Argus



Sentence of Death

Sentence of death was passed on Alfred Bye, 42, driver, formerly of Railhead Camp, Bacchus Marsh, by Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy in the Criminal Court yesterday on a charge of having murdered Thomas Edward Walker, 45, in Treasury Gardens on September 27. Walker, at the time of his death, was a member of the Garrison Battalion at Broadmeadows.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty after a retirement of 45 minutes.

Asked by Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy if he had anything to say, Bye declared, “I never intended to murder him. I had to do something to defend myself. When he had me by the throat I had to make him release his grip.”

From the witness stand Bye denied saying to the police that he was jealous of Walker. On September 27he obtained leave from camp and came to Melbourne. He had a knife which he had bought some weeks before and brought it to town to put in a box to send to a friend in Gippsland. In Swanston st. That night he met Miss Ogier with Walker and her 2 nieces, and was speaking to her when Walker approached and “put his hands up.”

He thought Walker was going to strike him so he “got in” first and struck Walker.

At the corner of Swanston and Bourke streets he again approached Miss Ogier and asked her to forgive him for a previous occurrence and shake hands. Shortly afterward Walker approached and said: “I’ll see you in half an hour.” He did not say anything in reply.

Bye said he did not know where the others were going. He went to the corner of Bourke and Spring St.’s and saw Walker standing there.  Walker said, “Come over here”. He followed Walker, who seemed hostile, into the gardens. When they arrived at a spot in the gardens Walker took his coat off and said: “Come over here and take your coat off.”He walked to a tap and took his coat off.             

“I said to Walker,” Bye continued, “I believe you are an old Digger. Why should 2 old soldiers fight? Walker then let fly and hit me on the jaw. Before I could do anything he made a flying leap at me, knocking me on the broad of my back. He had me by the throat with his 2hands. His thumbs were pressed into my windpipe and he kept calling out, ‘You rotten —, you rotten —’I could not move. I had a knife in my pocket and reached down with my hand to get it out.”

Bye said the knife “got” Walker in the back as Walker rolled over on to it.

Bye then explained how he had struggled with Walker for possession  of the knife. Both had a grasp of it, Walker pulling it toward him, and he (Bye) pulling it back toward himself. He did not realise at the time that the knife was “getting” Walker, who, being stronger in the arm, kept pulling it back toward his  body. He realised Walker was wounded but did not think it was serious. When Walker began to call out he picked up his coat and walked away. After throwing the knife away he stopped to put on his coat. He returned to Bacchus Marsh by the 11.25 train that night. Before catching the train Bye said he washed some blood of his trousers at a horse trough in Spencer Street.  

Mr. Murray McInerney (instructed  by Mr. J. Barnett) appeared      for Bye. Mr. C. H. Book, KC, prosecuted.




Adelaide News


Victorian Murder

MELBOURNE.-A petition for commutation of the death sentence on Alfred Bye, 42, for the murder of Thomas Walker, 45, has been presented to the Governor-in Council by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Executive Council recently decided that Bye should be hanged at 8 a.m. on Monday. The petition states that it was not discovered until after the trial that the condemned man was under 7 st. in weight, and was thus of lighter build than Walker, and that this fact might have influenced Bye in having used a protecting weapon against possible odds in strength. Bye, according to the petition, was backward as a child at school and reached only the third class.




The Argus

Alfred Bye, 42, formerly a military transport driver at Darley Camp, was executed at the Metropolitan gaol, Pentridge, yesterday morning. He made no final statement.

Bye was sentenced to death for the murder of Thomas Edward Walker,45, a soldier, of Broadmeadows Camp, in a reserve near the Government Printing Office on September 19.Walker died from a number of knife wounds.

No appeal against the sentence was made by Bye, but requests for com-mutation of the sentence to life imprisonment were made by the Labour party and the Howard League for Penal Reform.

  interior pentridge

The following report is from a record kept by the Gaol Warders closely involved with the Execution of Alfred Bye…

Alfred Bye aged 42

Executed at Pentridge Gaol 22/12/1941

Height 5 foot 4 inches

Weight 7 stone 2 lbs.

Length of drop (was 8 foot 6 inches) N.B. Extra length of drop was allowed as Bye fell less distance owing to being in a sitting position in a chair. Drop 8 foot 9 inches.

Neck measure 13 inches .

After 13 and a half inches.

Bye was judiciously hanged today in this Pentridge Gaol by the hangman who performed this task in another State (NSW), and whose services were obtained for the last two hangings in this gaol.

“As Bye was a nervous wreck for some days, he was given some sedatives over the week and had hypertension this morning.

“He was therefore in a partially hypnotic condition this morning and incapable of standing erect, so that it was necessary to place him in a chair.

“His legs were not strapped. This preparation was necessary to avoid what would most certainly have been a hysterical scene at the gallows with all its attendant unpleasantness.

“Without delay, the hangman released the trapdoor and there was a slight break in the fall as the chair hit the trapdoor before the body left it.

“Death was instantaneous. The gaol priest anointed the body whilst it was hanging during the first 10 minutes.”

The pulse continued on right wrist for about 12 minutes and on the left wrist for 18 minutes, changing from regular strong beat for nearly 10 minutes to irregular rate and strength later. Heartbeat could be heard with a stethoscope up to 22 minutes.

The  autopsy showed a thin body with no external blemishes there were no marks or abrasions on the neck owing to his light weight, no doubt. The internal organs were well developed. the lungs were not conjested and air was found. a small amount of blood had been inhaled.The organs, kidneys, splein, pancreas and heart muscle were all tough. The heart valves were normal but there were abnormalities in the front part of the aorta. The stomach was empty except for a little fluid and blood stained mucus. The skull was thicker than normal and very hard in nature.

Death was due to fracture of the neck in the region of the lower 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae.


Filed under Gone wrong...

The Execution of Charles Hines 1897

charly hines

The Execution of Charles Hines 1897

The township of Maitland in New South Wales on the tidal extreme of the Hunter River, established in 1820 took 23 years to warrant the construction of a Gaol for the uses of the whole Hunter district.

From 1843 through to 1897, sixteen men were executed on site at the Maitland gaol. Although Public hangings had been outlawed in New South Wales in 1855, Maitland Gaol appears to have not received that particular memo and continued to hang people publicly until 1861. I will endeavour to find an account of that last public hanging in future blog posts.

This post is the circumstance of the last man hung at Maitland Goal, Charles Hines.

The public hangings were held in the area at the front gates and when hanging were no longer a public event, they were held in the north western corner of the main exercise yard of the gaol.

The Hangman was Robert Rice Howard and was one of his better jobs.

 mailand courthouse

Trial and Verdict

 1 April 1897

 Newcastle Miners Herald

A Capital Charge.

Charles Hines was charged that he did at Gundy on 1st May, 1890, without her consent ravish and carnally know Mary Emily Hayne.

Mr. Gannon, instructed by Mr. J. A. Shaw, appeared for the accused.

Matilda Davidson, a married woman, residing with her husband at Spring Yale, near Gundy, said she was acquainted with the accused. She had known Mrs. Hayne, who was now dead, but who formerly lived with the accused.

Witness also knew Mary Emily Hayne, who had lived with Mrs Haynes and Charles Hines. The girl was now 20 years of age. By Mr. Gannon: At the time of her death the girl’s mother and the accused were married.

By the Crown : Hines’ children appeared to be afraid of him.

By Mr. Gannon: She had never seen the accused ill treat the children. He appeared to be kind to them. He left Eaglevale with his family seven years ago, and she had seen very little of the family since.

Matthew Hayne, a resident of Wet Creek, near Bell Trees, stated that his mother and accused had resided together for three or four years. They were married. He had lived away from home for 15 years.

Last November he received a letter from Mabel Hayre, in consequence of which he gave information to the police. He had been athome on short visits occasionally. The girls always appeared to be afraid of the accused. Constable Williams, of Scone, stated that the read the two warrants produced to the accused, who made no reply.

Mary Emily Hayne stated that she was 20years of age. Last August she was delivered of a child. On 11th November last she sent her brother Matthew a letter. Sh. had resided in the house with her mother and the accused from the time of her childhood. The witness gave evidence of an alleged assault upon her when she was 13 years old by the accused, and said he told her that if she spoke to :any one about it he would kill her.

The witness added that she was frequently assaulted by Hine subsequently, and that she had submitted through fear. She remembered her sister Mabel writing to her brother. Witness also wrote to him, and the letters were dispatched in one envelope Accused committed the offence against her consent several times. By Mr. Gannon: She lived at Hine’s house, and was on friendly terms with him until his arrest. She had also been on friendly terms with her mother and sister Mabel. She was living at Ellerston when 14 years of age, and was now residing with Mrs. Lewis, her step-sister, at Wingen. Mrs. Lewis had visited her mother at Ellerston, but she(witness) did not complain to her.

The child was born on 10th August last. In the month of June last a young man named Arthur Cram remained at the house  one night. Mr. Lewis, her brother-in-law, also visited the house. After June she went to stay with Mrs. Lewis She remained four months, and upon going home she wrote a letter. She complained because accused was not nice to her.

He refused to let her marry a young man. She was annoyed at the refusal, and afterwards wrote the letter. On one occasion she said she would give evidence against the accoused, and get him out of the way. She had complained, and felt- annoyed because Hines would not let young men visit the house.

In answer to the Crown Prosecutor, the witness stated that she had not been intimate with any person but the accused. She had been annoyed with Hine about a dress, and it was for that reason she wrote the letter. The intimacy was continued against her wish from the time she was 14 years of age. She was in fear of her life. Mabel Hayne stated that she was two years and seven months younger than her sister Mary.

She (witness) was frightened of her stepfather. The witness gave evidence as to the relationship which had existed in the house, of the accused, and stated that there had ·been regular intimacy between herself and the accused from the time she was 12 years of age. The witness gave a number of details in her evidence which are unfit for publication, and stated that it was on her information that Hine was arrested. She had written friendly letters to him since his committal. This concluded the evidence for the prosecution. The accused, who gave evidence on his own behalf, stated that he was a grazier and farmer, and was 62 years of age. 

Mary Hayne was not his daughter. He did not deny having been intimate with her. The intimacy commenced about five and a half years ago while he lived at Ellerston. The girl’s mother was alive at the time. He had never done anything indecent against the girl’s will. Had never threatened or terrified her. The children had never had reason to be afraid of him.: Hoe had always treated them well-too well.

On one occasion he had a dispute with Mary about a dress, and told her she had Liven him enough trouble, and he was done with her. The letters were then written. The girls were friendly with him after he was taken. By the Crown: He could not say that Mabel was not his daughter. He had frequently been intimate with her.

He understood that he had been the moral ruin of the two girls. In the first instance he suggested the intimacy to the prosecutrix. This concluded the evidence for the defence. Mr. Gannon, in addressing the jury, said the case was really a serious one. It had been put fairly by the Crown, and the accused would have the knowledge that he had been given an impartial trial. The evidence was of a kind to shook the sensibilities of every right-thinking person.

It was a capital charge, and if the case were considered proved the consequences to the accused might be dire. He could say nothing for the morality of his client, but even a brute as the accused was he was entitled to the closest consideration of the jury. The man had allowed his passion to run riot and had polluted the girls he should have protected. Any decent man would despise him, but seeing how easy it was to scorn such a creature, the jury should remember that they were trying him on the most important charge an English jury could try a man upon.

They must also recollect that they might rob him of his eternal soul. If; the case was true that the accused had taken advantage of the girls whose bodies he should have held sacred, his life might pay the forfeit, but the jury must consider the quality of the evidence brought against the man. The surroundings of the home must be remembered. What could come from a home of so much pestilence and sin ? Morality had not been regarded; the occupants were caged there like wild animals. Under these circumstances, was it not probable that the girls were willing instruments? The proseoutrix was at the time the alleged intimacy first took place residing with her mother. Counsel submitted that if any violation had taken place the mother would have been informed; the brother or Mrs. Lewis would have known of it. The advocate drew attention to the fact that the girl Mary was away from the accused for some time and that she returned to him without coercion. Referring again to the period of the mother’s life, Mr. Gannon strongly submitted that the deceased woman must have been cognisant of any impropriety, and would have fought like a tigress for the safety of her children. Counsel concluded a powerful appeal by saying that although the accused might be a moral monster who’s every appearance is just be loathsome to every decent man in the country, the jury should remember that his moral degradation imperilled his life unless they he old the scales of justice with thorough impartiality.. They must dismiss from their minds any preconceived notions of the case, and see justice done.

The Crown Prosecutor said he agreed with counsel for the defence that the jury had to consider only whether the accused had committed the crime with which he was charged. The man had in the witness box absolutely supported the girls in the story that they had been attacked. He had had some education, some experience, and if his evidence were true, had endeavoured to escape by six months the age which rendered him liable, with or without consent. Counsel drew attention to the evidence of Mrs. Davidson, who had testified to the terror  the children seven years ago, and submitted that this agreed with the statements of the girls.

The Crown Prosecutor added that never previously had he known of such a case. The jury were informed that there might be submission without consent and were reminded that their duty was to sift ‘the evidence ‘carefully, and return a verdict thereon, no matter what the results might be. His Honor, in summing up, said it was a case which required perhaps as much care on the part of the jury as any ease ever heard in the colony. The story of the girls and of the accused was a sobering one. The jury must not allow their judgment to be carried away, however, by the natural horror with which the evidence of the accused must have impressed every person who heard it.

The jury must dismiss the story of the girl Mabel from their minds, so far as the present ease was concerned. It was quite possible, and might be extremely probable, that what had taken place during the past five years was with the consent of the proseontrix; but the question was whether she consented on the first occasion.

Was it done with her consent, even though she might have submitted. His Honor referred to the evidence of the prosecutrix regarding what she alleged took place when she was ,between 13 and 14 years of age, and also dwelt upon the version the accused had given of the girl’s action. She had stated that she was 13 years old, he (the accused) stated that she was 14 years of age. If the jury said the girl was immoral, they must ask themselves how she became immoral. If they concluded that the girl was not a consenting party on the first occasion, no matter what her age might have been, they must convict the accused on the capital charge. If there. was a reasonable doubt on the question of the consent, the accused was entitled to the benefit of it.

If the girl were under the age of 14 years, it mattered nothing whether she consented or not, as far as the carnal knowledge was concerned. The case was, as the Crown Prosecutor had stated, a’ unique one. No other case of the kind had overcome before a jury in this colony, and it was to be hoped that admissions of the nature of those made by the accused would not be made again in a court of law.

The jury retired at 6 o’clock, and returned at 7.25 to ask what was the difference in the crime in the case of a girl under 14 years of ago with and without consent. His Honor pointed out that in the matter of carnal acknowledge it was of no moment whether there was consent or not.

His Honor, in answer to another question. said if there was not consent it was rape. If there was consent, it was carnal knowledge. The jury again retired, and returned to court at 9 o’clook with a verdict of guilty, and prisoner was then sentenced to death.

front maitland gaol

The Hanging

21 May 1897

Sydney Evening News








(From Our Special Reporter.)

EAST MAITLAND, Friday.— For the first time in twenty-six years an execution took place in Maitland Gaol this morning, when a resident of the Scone district named Charles Hines, for a serious offence against morality, suffered the extreme penalty of the law.

Death was well-nigh instantaneous, and, on life being pronounced extinct by Dr. Alcorn, the visiting medical officer, the body was cut down, and removed to the gaol morgue.

Subsequently Mr. Scott, P.M., local coroner, and a jury of twelve freemen, held an inquest in the gaol, when the usual verdict in cases of judicial hanging was returned.

Hines bore up well towards the end, and walked to. the gallows with a firm tread. Once or twice he appeared to falter, but he quickly recovered himself, and stepped forward again. At 9 o’clock Mr. S. Guy, the under-sheriff, made a formal demand for the body of the condemned man, and he was immediately handed over to Howard, the executioner, and his assistant, who pinioned him in the cell. Hines was attended by Archdeacon Tyrrell, to whose spiritual ministrations he appeared to pay the utmost attention.

He last night expressed himself as resigned to his fate. He spent many hours in reading his Bible, and did not retire to bed until late. His slumbers were fitful and broken. At Hines’s urgent desire Archdeacon Tyrrell wrote letters to several of his step children, bidding them farewell, imploring their forgiveness and commending them to the care of a higher Power, He is said to ‘have other friends in Sydney, but with these he declined to communicate.

After the final decision of the Executive was made known. Hines was visited by his son, who is engaged in agricultural pursuits near Scone. But few persons were permitted within the precinets of the prison to witness the execution.

The little group of spectators that stood beneath the scaffold as the condemned man mounted to his doom, comprised of these representatives, Dr. Alcorn, (medical officer), Mr. Scott (visiting justice),Mr. Graham (governor of the gaol), and a few other prison officials. The scaffold was erected close to the north-west wall of the gaol, and distant about forty yards from the wing, wherein Hines had been confined since his conviction. The drop was reached by a flight of wooden steps, about fifteen in number. Suddenly turning an angle of the prison building, the condemned man’s face blanched as he beheld the instrument of death. He was assisted up the scaffold steps in the midst of a heavy shower of rain.

Hines, addressing the spectators, in a few words, protested his innocence of the crime for which he was to die. The intervening walk from the cell in a wing !to the scaffold -was a trying ordeal for the unfortunate, it would have been much, better if the gallows had been erected in one of the wings.

At the foot of the steps leading to the drop, the Venerable Archdeacon took his leave. ‘Have courage,’ said he, and Hines, nodding his head in acquiescence, mounted to meet his doom. . Upon reaching the fatal platform he was placed upon the drop by Howard. Then facing round, Hines, in a voice that displayed not a trace of emotion, said: ‘Gentlemen, I am innocent ‘of the crime. I told the judge so at the time. May the Lord Jesus have mercy upon, my soul.’ ]The rope was then affixed, the white cap drawn over the face, and, at a signal from the hangman, the assistant pulled the lever, and Hines, who had been given a drop of 7ft 6in, dangled lifeless in the pit beneath. The man never moved after the bolt was drawn, his neck being dislocated instantly.

The body, later lying in the prison morgue for the statutory eight hours, will be handed over to the friends for interment. Owing to the heavy rain last night it was feared that the timbers of the scaffold might swell, and throw the apparatus out of gear.

Mr. Guy, the Under-Sheriff, as a precautionary measure, had the mechanism of the drop covered with bagging. This morning ‘ a final test was made, and it was found that everything worked smoothly. The trap fell at eight minutes past 9, and twenty minutes later the body was cut down. Last night the Rev. Mr. W. H. Tarrington, vicar of St. Mary’s Church of England, West Maitland, wired to the Acting-Premier, Mr. Brunker, asking that a respite might be granted, with a view of inquiring into the question of Hines’s sanity. A reply was received from Mr. Brunker to the effect that the case had already been fully dealt with, and very fully considered by the Executive, and that It could not be reopened. The old scaffold in the gaol was last erected fifteen years ago for the execution of a prisoner named Sinclair. He was, however, reprieved at the last moment, and tile structure has not been required since.

 Sinclair, whose sentence was commuted to a long term of imprisonment, suicided subsequently in Parramatta Gaol. A man named McMahon, for murder, was the last, prior to Hines, to be hanged in Maitland. The scaffold was erected under the supervision of Mr. Lewis, the local representative of the Government Architect’s Department. Owing to the uprights resting upon the asphalt yard, it was found necessary to excavate an oval-shaped pit beneath to receive the body. Mr. Guy yesterday had this deepened to 6ft.



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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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