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The Execution of Ronald Ryan, 1967

With the the 50th  Anniversary of the last man to be hung in Australia, there is a limited amount of newspapers to access on line for this blog entry as the 50 year copyright limit has just been hit this entry will be added to in time as more papers are released.

Ryan was in Gaol for a series of petty crimes and decided to effect an escape.

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

ron-ryan-looks

THE CRIME

Canberra Times

1st February 1967

THE DAY OF THE SHOOTING

Did Ronald Ryan fire the shot that killed the warder, George Hodson, at Pentridge Gaol, Melbourne, in December, 1965? The courts said yes and sentenced Ryan to hang.

But the last-minute production of what purports to be new evidence about the shooting has brought new doubts. The events of December 19, 1965, are reviewed below.

MELBOURNE, Tuesday.—George Henry Hodson was shot dead outside

Pentridge Gaol about 2.20pm on December 19, 1965. The bullet was never found.

Evidence was given by three witnesses at Ryan’s trial about what happened at the No 1 sentry post at Pentridge Gaol during the escape by Ryan and another prisoner, Peter Walker.

A prison officer, Helmut Lange, told the court last March 16 that he had been on duty at the No 1 post at the time of the escape. At 2pm on December 19 he had watched prisoners putting out milk bottles in the yard below him some distance away from the post.

Lange said that when he had turned he had found Ryan standing behind him. “He had his right arm raised and was holding a water pipe”, Lange said, Ryan had got hold of Lange’s rifle, which was in the rack on the post, pointed the rifle at Lange and tried to pull a lever to open the gate.

Then Ryan had asked Lange which lever opened the gate. Lange had pointed to a lever which opened the door at the bottom of the sentry post, but not through the outside gate.

Lange said that Ryan then had marched him at gunpoint towards the stairs leading to ground level, where he had seen Walker hiding.

When they got to the outside gate, Walker had found it was locked. Ryan had told Lange to return and push the right lever this time.

Hodson chased Ryan Lange said that Ryan had prodded the carbine into his kidneys as they went back. When Ryan had pulled the right lever, Walker had called out “the gate’s open”.

Ryan had backed along to the stairs, covering him all the time. As soon as Ryan had reached the stairs, Lange said, he had turned and run down them.

After raising the alarm, Lange said he had seen a scuffle between the two prisoners and Brigadier James Hewitt, a Salvation Army chaplain.

Hewitt had fallen to the ground, and Lange had seen Ryan kneeling beside him holding the rifle.

Lange had told Warder Hodson, who was coming out of the officers’ mess, that two prisoners had escaped and Lange said he had then seen Ryan stopping a car at gunpoint.

The car had driven off without Ryan, and he had then seen a prisoner running up from Bell Street towards North Coburg with Hodson chasing him, close behind.

“I saw Ryan lifting his rifle and aiming it in that direction”, Lange said.

“I looked up at the No.2 post because I felt rather helpless, then looked down at Ryan again.

“The next thing I heard one shot. I saw Hodson  raising his arm above his head and fall to the ground”.

Three times in the trial, Warder William James Bennett denied that he had fired a shot at all on the day of the escape.

Bennett told the court he had been on duty at the No.2 post.

A prison officer, Robert Paterson, who was on duty at the main gate, said at the trial that he had seen Ryan holding two warders at bay with a rifle.

Affidavit on shot Paterson said he had aimed his rifle at Ryan, but had not shot when he had found he would have to fire between the two warders.

He had then jumped over a small wall on to the pavement and taken aim a second time.

“I took the first pressure. Then as I was beginning to squeeze, a woman came into my sights”, he said. Paterson said he had lifted his rifle and fired into the air.

In evidence, none of the warders spoke about another warder named Patterson. In the Supreme Court last night John Henry Tolmie, of Dandenong, said that a warder known as Mr Patterson had fired a shot from the No 1 post at the time of Ryan’s escape.

Tolmie, who said he had been serving a 12-month sentence in Pentridge at the time, said that Mr Patterson was not the Mr Robert Paterson who had given evidence during the trial.

At the trial the defence made the point that, although 14 witnesses had heard only one shot, Warder Robert Paterson had agreed that he had fired one, but the Crown claimed that Ryan had fired the fatal shot that killed Hodson.

demo-ryan

Canberra Times

30 March , 1966

Ryan sentenced to death for gaol murder

MELBOURNE,

Wednesday.—Pentridge Gaol escapee Ronald Ryan, 41, was sentenced to death late tonight for the murder of a warder during the December 19 escape.

His companion in the escape, Peter Walker, was convicted of manslaughter and remanded for sentence.

When asked why the death sentence should not be imposed, Ryan replied: “I still maintain my innocence and will consult my counsel with a view to appeal.”

The slightly built prisoner was led out of the court under maximum security, involving at least 20 uniformed police and warders and a dozen plainclothes police.

After the 12 jurymen announced their verdict after a 7½-hour retirement, they were sent back to their room while Mr Justice Starke sentenced Ryan to be hanged.

The jury returned to hear Walker, whom they had just convicted of manslaughter, admit many previous convictions.

Neither showed emotion Walker, like Ryan, showed no emotion when convicted. The trial had lasted 12 days.

The trial hinged on acceptance of either the Crown case, supported by many witnesses, that Ryan took deliberate aim and shot the warder, George Hodson, or the defence claim that a warder in No 2 guard tower could equally have been responsible unintentionally for the fatal shot.

Whether or not Ryan will hang now depends on the State Executive Council.

The council will wait until Ryan lodges an appeal, if he elects to do so, before deciding whether he should be executed or have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

An appeal is now up to the Public Solicitor to decide. It was he who briefed Mr P. Opas, QC, to defend the case, as Ryan had no money to engage a private solicitor.

 

Sydney ABC Radio

3rd  February 2017

Here is a link to a recent Interview with Mike Richards, an author, who has written about the Ryan Case, on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of his death

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/drive/ronald-ryan/8236574

head lines rayn 1.jpg

Canberra Times

15 December 1966

RIGHT TO HANG, SAYS CLERIC

MELBOURNE,

Wednesday.—To hang a man was just, and vast numbers of Victorians favoured hanging, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Bible Union of Australia, the Reverend W. R. McEwen, asserted tonight.

He said Bishop G. T. Sambell, Coadjutor Bishop of Melbourne, was wrong in saying the Victorian Cabinet had no concern about Christian conscience in deciding that Ronald Ryan should hang on January 9 (1967)for the murder of a Pentridge warder.

Mr McEwen said the articles of the Church of England clearly laid down that a man who took a life should have his life taken from him.

The Bible had several witnesses to say that the realm could take a man’s life in the course of justice.

Reverend McEwen said that to hang Ryan was the decision of the law of the land and as such was justice. “Without justice, from men empowered to carry out our wishes, where do we go?” Mr McEwen asked.

He said Paul, and others throughout the Bible, had clearly indicated that once justice had completed its course and a man was found guilty of taking life, he should be hanged.

“But I must admit I think hanging, as the means of execution is totally archaic”,

Mr McEwen said “Surely in this day and age, even though I know it is a quick and painless end, there should be a more acceptable method of taking a man’s life”.

It was reported today that the Cabinet decision not to commute the death sentence on Ryan was reached by a majority of 11 to 4.

 ryan-burial

The Guardian

Date 4th February 2017

“Good bye, my darlings – remembering the  trauma of Australia’s Last Execution a 50th Anniversary article on the hanging of Ronald Ryan

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/04/goodbye-my-darlings-remembering-the-trauma-of-australias-last-execution?CMP=share_btn_tw

 

 

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The Execution of Alfred Bye 1941

THE CRIME

29.9.1941

Canberra Times

STABBED TO DEATH

Soldier Found with Five Wounds

MELBOURNE, Sunday.

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 TRIAL

20/11/1941

The Argus

GUILTY OF MURDER

IN GARDENS

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.

PENTRIGDE  ELONG

PETITION FOR REPRIEVE

20/12/1941

Adelaide News

PETITION FORREPRIEVE

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 HANGING

23/12/1941

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.

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