Tag Archives: prisons

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 Alexander Pearce 1824

Hobart gaol

The Execution of Alexander Pearce 1824

These crimes occurred at a time in Australian History when newspapers were in there infancy and accounts of these events are sparse by modern standards. Alexander Pearce had been sent to one of the most notorious hell holes of a penal colony in the history of Australia.

The after the initial shock of transportation, Convicts in Australia felt that they had landed on their feet there was many letters sent to the homeland encouraging family members of Convicts to steal something and get themselves sent out to Australia. The British establishment decided to send a harsher Governor. In 1822 Governor Brisbane established a penal colony in Morton Bay to be a Prison within a Prison. This colony had a weather pattern so pleasant it kind of defeated its purpose. Governor Brisbane next established a Penal colony in the inhospitable and geographically isolated Macquarie Harbour on the western coast of Tasmania. Bleak is not putting a too fine a point on this place. This is where Alexander Pearce was sent as he was a repeat offending absconder.

To quote Mark Twain, Australian History is made of the most delicious lies, or rather  that the truth is stranger than fiction, to imagine that a prisoner confessed to eating his fellow escapees to be not believed and sent back to the prison camp to do it again is one of those particular and peculiar Australian historical moments.

The newly established Supreme Court of Tasmania cast it first death sentence on Alexander Pearce and was hung in Hobart gaol 1824.

young hobart

THE TRIAL

Hobart Town Gazette
25/6/1824
THE SUPREME COURT,
OF VAN DIEMEN’S LAND.
Alexander Pearce, a convict, was arraigned for the murder of a fellow-prisoner named Thomas Cox, at or near King’s River, in the month of November last, and he pleaded—Not Guilty.
The circumstances which were understood to have accompanied the above crime had long been considered with extreme horror. Report had associated the prisoner with cannibals; and recollecting as we did, the vampire legends of modern Greece, we confess, that on this occasion, our eyes glanced in fearfulness at the being who stood before a retributive Judge, laden with the weight of human blood, and believed to have banquetted on human flesh! It was, therefore, with much satisfaction we heard His Majesty’s ATTORNEY- GENERAL, whilst candidly opening his case for the prosecution, entreat the Jury to dismiss from their minds all previous impressions against the prisoner; as, however justly their hearts must execrate the fell enormities imputed to him, they should dutiously judge him, not by rumours—but by indubitable evidence.
The Learned Gentleman then proceeded to detail, certain confessions made by the prisoner, before the late much-lamented Lieutenant CUTHBERTSON, (Commandant at Macquarie Harbour), and at his examination by the Rev. ROBERT KNOPWOOD—confessions which, although in some respects inconsistent, would yet, when coupled with all the facts, merit the most serious attention.

From them it appeared, that as other evidence would prove the prisoner and the deceased, on the 13th November, absconded from their duty into the woods, each of them taking his axe, and the prisoner being heavily ironed;—that they for several days wandered on without provision and reduced by weakness, until, on the following Sunday evening, the deceased and prisoner arrived at King’s River;—a quarrel then arose because the deceased could not swim, and after prisoner had struck him on the head three times with his axe, the deceased seeing him about to go away (his irons having been knocked off), said, in a faint voice, “for mercy’s sake come back, and put me out of my misery!” Prisoner struck him a fourth blow, which immediately caused death; he then cut a piece off one thigh, which he roasted and ate, and after putting another piece in his pocket, he swam across the river, with an intent to reach Port Dalrymple.
Soon afterwards, however, he became so overwhelmed with the agonies of remorse, that he was constrained to recross the river, and, on seeing a schooner under weigh from the Settlement, he made a signal-fire, which on being seen, induced the pilot boat to put off and take him on board. He was then conveyed to the harbour, where he publicly owned the murder, and said “he was willing to die for it.
The Attorney-General concluded a thrilling tale of almost incredible barbarity, by calling Thomas Smith, who swore, that in November last he was coxswain to the Commandant at Macquarie Harbour; he knew the prisoner and the deceased; they absconded from Logan’s gang on the 13th; on the 22d, Pearce made his signal fire on the beach, near King’s River, and was taken back to the Settlement; he said Cox had died, and he had cut off a bit of his flesh to show what had become of him.
Witness, on the following day was ordered by the Commandant to go with prisoner, and get Cox’s body; he went, and it was found. The head was away, the hands cut off, the bowels were torn out, and the greater part of the breech and thighs gone, as were the calf of the legs, and the fleshy parts of the arms. Witness said to the prisoner, “how could you do such a deed as this?” he answered, “no person can tell what he will do when driven by hunger.” Witness then said, “Where is the head?” the answer was, “I left it with the body.” Witness searched for and found it a few yards off under the shade of a fallen tree; witness then picked up what appeared to be the liver of the deceased, and an axe stained with blood, on which prisoner was asked “if that was the axe with which he had killed Cox,” and he answered, “it was.” The fragments of the body were quite naked; near them were some pieces of a shirt, and the cover of a hat.
There had been a fire near the body, and not far from it lay a knife, which witness picked up. The body was then placed in two rugs, and witness, with the prisoner, returned to the Settlement. Prisoner on being asked “where Cox’s hands were,” said “he had left them on a tree where the boat landed;” a search was then made for them, but they could not be found.

Prisoner said, “he had cut off Cox’s flesh to support him on his intended journey to Port Dalrymple, but when he had crossed the river, something came over him, and forced him to return; he threw the flesh into the river, made a sign, and gave himself up.”

William Evans, of the Waterloo schooner, had gone on shore to take the prisoner, who said, ” Cox was drowned in the King’s River.” Prisoner’s hands were fastened, and his pockets searched, in one of which was a piece of flesh; he was asked “what that was?” and said, “it’s a piece of Cox, and I brought it to show that he is lost.”Witness heard the Commandant say to prisoner, “tell me, Pearce, did you do the deed?” prisoner answered “yes, and I am willing to die for it.” Witness asked him “why he had killed Cox ?” he said, “I’ll tell no man, until I am going to suffer.”

Many other witnesses were then called, who corroborated the above depositions in every essential point; and proved, that the clothes and hat, worn by the deceased when he absconded, were those which the prisoner wore when he was taken on board the pilot boat; but that the hat covering had been taken off.

The prisoner’s written confessions were afterwards most fairly commented on by the CHIEF JUSTICE, who addressed the Jury at considerable length with much solemnity, and submitted to their consideration, whether or not it was fully proved that the deceased had died from blows inflicted by the prisoner? and then, even if he had so died, whether, as a quarrel had been stated to have occurred before death, the prisoner was guilty of the crime charged, or of manslaughter? The Jury retired for a short time, and found a verdict of—Guilty.

alex pearce d sent

THE HANGING
24/7/1824
Hobart Town Gazette
Executions.—On Monday, Alexander Pearce, for murder, and yesterday, John Butler, for sheep stealing, John Thompson, Patrick Connolly, James Tierney and George Lacey, for burglary and highway robbery, were executed in this town pursuant to their sentence

Pearce’s body was, after it had been suspended the usual time, delivered at the hospital for dissection. We trust these awful and ignominious results of disobedience to law and humanity will act as a powerful caution; for blood must expiate blood and the welfare of society imperatively requires, that all whose crimes are so confirmed, and systematic, as not to be redeemed by lenity, shall be pursued in vengeance and extirpated with death !

We have reason to expect that by next week, we shall, through the kindness of an esteemed Clergyman, be empowered to communicate some extensive information, of a very interesting kind, respecting the murderer Pearce!

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THE PREIST’S ACCOUNT OF THE CONDEMNED MANS CONFESSION
6/8/1824
Hobart Town Gazette
ALEXANDER Pearce. –
In our Paper the week before last we noticed the execution of this criminal for the Murder of Thomas Cox, the leading facts of whose untimely death have already been reported in this Gazette. From much respected Gentleman, in whose Knowledge and veracity the most un-bounded confidence may be placed, we derive the following particulars, which it is to be hoped may excite a proper feeling among that class of society to which it is earnestly addressed:-

The Rev. Mr. Connolly, who attended this unfortunate man, administering to him the consolations of Religion, addressed the crowd assembled around the scaffold, a few minutes before the fatal drop was let to fall, in words to the following effect:- He commenced by stating, that Pearce, standing on the awful entrance into eternity on which he was placed, was desirous to make the most public acknowledgment of his guilt, in order to humble himself, as much as possible, in the sight of God and Man; – that, to prevent any embarrassment which might attend Pearce in personally expressing himself, he had requested and directed him to say, that he committed the murder of Cox, under the following circumstances:

Having been arrested here, after his escape from Macquarie Harbour, Pearce was sent back to that Settlement, where the deceased (Cox) and he were worked together in the same gang. Cox constantly entreated him to runaway with him from that Settlement, which he refused to do for a length of time. Cox having procured fishhooks, a knife, and some burnt rag for tinder, he at last agreed to go with him, to whom he was powerfully induced by the apprehension of corporal punishment, for the loss of a shirt that had been stolen from him. For the first and second day they strayed through the forest – on the third made the beach, and travelled towards Port Dalrymple until the fifth, when they arrived at King’s River.

pearce 2

They remained, for three or four days, in an adjoining wood to avoid soldiers who were in pursuit of them, and were all the time, from the period they started, without a morsel teat. Overcome by famine, Pearce determined to take Cox’s life, which he effected by the stroke of an axe while Cox was sleeping. Soon after the soldiers had departed, Pearce occupied the place they had been in, where he remained part of a day and a night, living on the mutilated remains of Cox; he returned to the Settlement, made signal, and was taken up by the pilot, who conveyed him to Macquarie Harbour, where he disclosed to the Commandant the deed he had done, being weary of life, and willing to die for the misfortunes and atrocities into which he had fallen.
The Rev. Gentleman then proceeded to state, that he believed it was in the recollection of every one present, that eight men had made their escape, last year, from Macquarie Harbour. All these, except Pearce, who was of the party, soon perished, or were destroyed by the hands of their companions. To set the public right respecting their fate, Pearce is desirous to state, that this party, which consisted of himself, Matthew ravers, Bob Greenhill, Bill Cornelius, Alexander Dalton, John Mathers, and two more, named Bodnam and Brown, escaped from Macquarie Harbour in two boats, taking with them what provision the coal-miners had, which afforded each man about two ounces of food per day, for a week.

Afterwards they lived eight or nine days on the tops of tea-tree and peppermint, which they boiled in tin-pots to extract the juice. Having ascended a hill, in sight of Macquarie Harbour, they struck a light and made two fires. Cornelius, Brown, and Dalton placed themselves at one fire, the rest of the party at the other; those three separated, privately, from the party, on account of Greenhill having already said that lots must be cast for someone to be put to death, to save the whole, from perishing.

Pearce does not know, personally, what became of Cornelius, Brown and Dalton; – he heard that Cornelius and Brown reached Macquarie Harbour, where they soon died, and that Dalton perished on his return to that Settlement. – After their departure, the party, then consisting of five men, lived two or three days on wild berries, – and their kangaroo jackets, which they roasted; at length they arrived at Gordon’s River, where it was agreed, that while Mathers and Pearce collected fire-wood; Greenhill, and Travers should kill Bodnam, which they accordingly did. It was insisted upon that everyone should partake of Bodnam’s remains, lest, in the event of their ultimate success to obtain their liberty, any of them might consider himself innocent of his death, and give evidence against the rest. After a day or two, they all swam across the river, except Travers, whom they dragged across by means of a pole, to which he tied himself. Having spent some days in distress and famine, it was proposed to Pearce, by Greenhill and Travers, that Mathers be killed, to which he agreed.
Travers and Pearce held him while Greenhill killed him with an axe. Living on the remains of the deceased, which they were hardly able to taste, they spent three or four days, through weakness, without advancing beyond five or six miles, Travers being scarcely able to move from lameness and swelling in his foot. –

Greenhill and Pearce agreed to kill Traver’s, which Greenhill did, while Pearce collected fire-wood. Having lived some time on the remains of Travers, they were for some days without any thing to eat – their wants
Were dreadful – each strove to catch the other off his guard, and kill him. Pearce succeeded to find Greenhill asleep – took his life – and lived on him for four days. He was afterwards for three days without any sustenance – fell in, at last, with the Derwent River, and found some small pieces of opossums, &c. at a place where the Natives had lately made fires. More desirous to die than to live, he called out, as loudly as he could, expecting the Natives would hear him, and come to put an end to his existence! Having fallen in with some bush-Rangers, with whom he was taken, Pearce was sent back to Macquarie Harbour, from whence he escaped with Cox, as has been already stated, for whose death he is now about to suffer.

Alluding particularly to those who ought to be deterred from the commission of crime by examples like the present, how often, said the Rev. Mr.Conolly, does the justice of Providence bring to light the dark deeds of death and how frequently do we see it verified, that “Whoever sheds the blood of Man by Man shall his blood be shed !” Having stated that the unfortunate Pearce was more willing to die than to live, he concluded by entreating all persons to offer up their prayers, and beg of the Almighty to have mercy upon him

PEARCE SKULL

 

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The Execution of Nicholas Baxter 1907

darlo nosey  bob

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.

THE CRIME

17/7/1907

Cootamundra Herald

The Enmore Tragedy.

BAXTER COMMITTED FOR MURDER.

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. 

THE CONFESSION

13/7/1907

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 TRIAL

The Byron Bay Record

31/8/1907

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.

THE HANGING

Execution of Nicholas Baxter.

DEATH INSTANTANEOUS.

Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

baxter house pic

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The Execution of Charlie Deen 1913

boggo rd 4

Charlie Deen was the last man to be hung in the State of Queensland and Queensland was the first State in Australia to end Capital punishment in the Country in 1922.

THE CRIME

19/4/1913

Queensland Times

Northern Tragedies.

Commutation and Confirmation.

The Executive Council had before it yesterday the case of Paddy Flyn, an aborigine, against whom a sentence of death was recorded at Townsville, on the 4th March last, by Mr. Justice Shand, for the wilful murder of  an aborigine named Roderick; also the case of a Cingalese, named Charlie Deen, who was sentenced to death at the same sittings, for the wilful murderer of another Cingalese, named Peter Dins.

The sentence on Paddy Flynn was commuted to imprisonment with hard labour for the term of his life, but it was decided that’ the law should take its course in the case of Charlie Deen, at Brisbane Gaol, at 8 a.m. on the 5th May 1913.

The Judge’s notes in connection with the trial of Paddy Flynn, state that at about midnight on the 30th December, the prisoner went into the yard of the Great Western Hotel, Hughenden, where Roderick and two others aborigines where camping and shot Roderick through the head with a revolver, killing him instantaneously, in his sleep. The motive suggested was a desire, not apparently of Roderick himself, but of another aborigine to obtain possession of the prisoner’s gun.

The facts in the case against Charlie Deen briefly were as follow: The prisoner, the deceased, (Peter Dins), a kanaka, and a Chinaman were boarding at a work-shop in Innisfail, kept by a China man named Kum Koon.

At the end of January last the cook-shop was flooded, and on Saturday, 1st February, the house was still surrounded by water.

On the morning of that date the prisoner and Dins were helping. Kum Koon to clear the water out of the house and scrub the walls. A quarrel occurred, in the course of which Dins struck the prisoner with his fist. Kum Koon separated them, and Deen went away to a back room, in which he, the deceased, the kanaka, and others were accustomed to sleep. 

Deen got up into the loft or shelf where he usually slept. The kanaka who did not sleep at the cook-shop on the night of the 31st January, went back to room the morning of the 2nd February and got up into a loft opposite to that occupied by the prisoner.

Dins came into the back room from the front part of the house, and was standing at a side door looking out into the yard, when the prisoner jumped down from his loft, and, coming behind Dins, stabbed him in the right side, under the ribs, with a knife. The prisoner then got back into the loft, and Dina managed to rise and stagger into the front portion of the house. Dins died at about 7 a.m. on the 3rd February.-“Telegraph.”

 boggo rd 1

THE HANGING

Townsville Daily News

6/5/1913

Charlie Deen Hanged.

(By Telegraph.) BRISBANE,

May 4.

Charlie Deen, a Cingalese, suffered the extreme penalty of the law in Boggo Road Gaol this morning. Punctually at eight o’clock the prisoner who was rather short and thick set, walked from the condemned cell, escorted by a number of warders, and accompanied by Major Geo. Wilson, of the Salvation Army. The Army officer was reciting the Lord’s Prayer in slow measured tones as the condemned man walked into view of the scaffold. Deen walked with firm steps, and did not require any assistance from the warders. He walked with a steady tread up the stairs to the drop, where he stood unflinchingly, gazing down upon the small group of prison officials and pressmen.

He called out in a firm voice: “Good-bye, all you gentlemen, I am going.” The noose was placed round his neck, and he was asked the usual questions as to whether he had anything to say before he died. Deen appeared to have become bewildered, and slowly replied: “Nothing to say.” The question was again put to him, and he replied “Nothing.” The white cap    was placed over his face and the rope adjusted.

The under Sheriff dropped his handkerchief by way of a signal, and the hangman pulled over a lever causing the trap doors to fly open with a crash. Death was apparently instantaneous, as there was not the slightest tremor in the body. After waiting 15 minutes Dr. Dods  examined the swinging body, and pronounced life extinct.

The body was quickly placed in a rude coffin and taken from the prison. The prisoner, who was middle-aged, weighed 11st. 7lb., his height being 5ft. 6½in., and he was given 7ft. 1in. drop. He gave the prison officials no trouble during the time he was under their care. Deen was sentenced to death at Townsville in March last for murdering a fellow countryman named Dins at Innisfail, after having a quarrel with him. Deen was a Buddhist prior to being placed in Boggo Road Gaol, but he became a convert to Christianity.

 

boggo rd 3

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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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The Execution of Frances Knorr 1894

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The Execution of Frances Knorr

Frances (Minnie) Knorr (nee Thwaites) born in England, Frances (known as ‘Minnie’) migrated to Australia, in 1887, she was one of only five women hanged in Victoria.

 On 2 November 1889 at St Philip’s Church of England married Rudolph Knorr, a German-born waiter. They moved to Melbourne, then onto Adelaide. During the financial depression, of the 1890’s and after the birth of their daughter in 1892, Rudi was sentenced to a gaol term in Adelaide for selling off the family’s furniture, even though, they did not own the furniture yet themselves.

Fending for herself and child Frances tried to support herself by dressmaking but when this venture failed she stole money and returned to Melbourne. Whilst in Melbourne she had an affair with a man named Ted (Edward) Thompson, living together, but he soon left her as well.

Desperate for money Frances turned to the business of ‘baby farming’ taking care of other women’s (usually illegitimate, read into that, unwanted) children. Frances Knorr moved around Melbourne frequently living in several rented houses and when her husband was released the couple returned to Sydney.

After a new tenant, discovered of the corpses of three infants in premises at 25 Davies Street Brunswick, Melbourne, that Frances rented, she was arrested and, after giving birth to a second child on 4 September 1893,Frances was  brought back to Melbourne, where she was tried for murder.

THE CRIME

The Argus

5/9/1883

TRAFFIC IN BABIES.

SHOCKING DISCOVERY AT

BRUNSWICK.

A CHILD’S BODY BURIED IN A

FURTHER SEARCH BEING MADE.

Added to the long list of child murders on the records at the City Morgue is one which was discovered yesterday by Mr. Clay, a commercial traveller, who has recently taken up his residence in Moreland-road, Brunswick.

 He was digging in the garden, when he came across the body of a child, which had been buried about a foot beneath the surface. The police were advised of the matter, and Senior-constable Percival went to the place and took charge of the body.

The state of decomposition indicated that the child had been buried for about three months. The coroner for Bourke, Mr. Candler, has been informed of the discovery, and he will hold an inquest when the Brunswick police have had time to make the inquiries necessary in the case.

An examination of the body clearly showed that its death had undoubtedly been caused by violence, and that murder had been com-mitted. The skull was fractured, in fact almost broken to pieces. Other injuries were also visible on the body, which was perfectly nude. The corpse was placed by the police-man in a box and sent to the morgue.

Mr. Clay, the present occupier of the house, has only been in the occupation of the premises for a very short time, they having previously been vacant for a considerable period. From information gained by the police, it appears that a local agent was visited on the 10th of April last by a woman who wished to rent the house.

 She paid a deposit of 4s., and got possession of the keys. On the 15th of the same month, or five days after securing the keys, she sent them back to the agent by a boy, who de-livered a message that the house did not suit. The same woman, it has been discovered, then removed to a house in Davis street, in close proximity to the one in which the body was found. It has also been discovered by the police that the woman, while in the former house, borrowed a spade from a neighbour, which she only kept for about a  hour and then re-turned, the plea given when asking for the spade being that she wished to dig the garden. This woman, while occupying the house in Davis-street, came under the notice of the police in connection with a baby-farming case, and soon afterwards she most mysteriously disappeared from the district. Since her removal she has been most anxiously required by the police, owing to her connection with nearly all the recent cases of trafficking with babies which have been reported in The Argus as occurring in nearly all of the suburbs.

 The Prahran, Carlton, Brunswick, and Coburg courts have each had cases brought under their notice, and the woman’s identity, owing to her innumerable aliases, has almost become an impossibility. It is estimated by the police that this woman has been the means of scattering scores of children throughout Melbourne and suburbs. Owing to the discovery the police at Brunswick are making a thorough search of the yards of the two houses which have been occupied by this woman. These yards are being thoroughly dug over, but up to last night nothing further had been discovered. The work will be continued this morning.

From the information already in the possession of the Brunswick police, it may be seen that there is reasonable ground for sup-position that the present case of child murder will be presently cleared of all the mystery, and the perpetrator of the murder brought to justice. For many months past the crime of infanticide has been prevalent in the city and suburbs, and the records of the city and district coroners have been plentifully marked with cases in which verdicts of murder have been re-turned against some person or persons un-known in connection with the deaths of infants.

The bodies have been found in field and river, on the public street, and in private enclosures, and while most have been wrapped in paper and clothing, some have been absolutely nude. The post-mortem examinations made by the doctors have generally shown that death was caused by suffocation, induced by pressure, and that the abandonment was after death, but in one instance recently, where the body was found in the bay, it was discovered that death had been due to drowning, and that therefore the child must have been cast alive into the water and abandoned to the tide.

In all these cases the police and detectives were employed in the task of tracing the parentage of the children, but in none did they succeed. Indeed it  is remarkable that for years past only one  such case has been satisfactorily cleared up. In that the detective police succeeded in establishing the identity of the child, but only after its mother had committed suicide at the residence of her employer in East Melbourne. In addition to the children thus murdered and abandoned, there have been many others which have come directly under the notice of the police though not of the coroners. Those are the unfortunates which have been left alive in public parks and on doorsteps by baby farmers, such as the one who was residing in April last in Brunswick.

These women, until the passing of the Infant Life Protection Act, had an easy way of ridding themselves of children they had undertaken to nurse. They had merely to feed them with unsuitable food till marasmus rendered death certain. Then a doctor would be called in ,and while under his care the child would die. His certificate of death from wasting was generally accepted as sufficient, unless there were circumstances surrounding the case specially suspicious and known to the police.

Since the passing of that act, however, every death of an infant boarded out has to be inquired into by the coroner, whether the circumstances are suspicious or not. The inquests thus held have exposed the regular baby-farmers to much danger    of verdicts of manslaughter, and it has been noticed that of late such inquests have become less frequent, whilst cases of desertion or murder have be-come more common.

The suburban courts have been inundated with the deserted children, and the state is now supporting many who have been commended to it by “a heart-broken mother who cannot afford  to bring the child up,” and is a “Roman  Catholic” or a “Protestant,” as the case may be. If the discovery at Brunswick be traced to the woman who was suspected of being responsible for many of these desertions it will have considerable importance, the police having hitherto sought her in vain as an inveterate baby-farmer whose capture was much to be desired.

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THE INQUEST

26/9/1893

The Argus

THE BRUNSWICK INFANTICIDES.

CONCLUSION OF THE INQUESTS.

The inquest on the third child, whose body was found buried in the back yard of a house at Brunswick, was concluded at the Morgue yesterday before the coroner for Bourke, Mr. Candler. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Mrs. Knorr, and found that Rudolph Knorr was an accessory before the fact. Both prisoners were committed to take their trial at the Criminal Court on the15th November,

25 Davies Street as it is today, ( it is the house with a trailer locked to a tree).

 http://www.street-directory.com.au/sd3_new/gsv/index.php?ll=-37.756637,144.966586

 

THE TRIAL

29/11/1893

Sydney Morning Herald

[BY TELEGRAPH.]

(FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.)

THE BRUNSWICK BABY-FARMIMG CASE.

THE TRIAL OE FRANCES KNORR.

MELBOURNE, TUESDAY.

A sensational turn was given to-day to the trial of Frances Knorr, for the Brunswick baby-farm murder, by the appearance in the box of a young man named Edward Thompson, to whom she sent a letter while the inquests were going on at the morgue, asking him to ” manufacture ” certain evidence for production at her trial. Thompson, who described himself as  a fishmonger, is a man about 27 years of age, with

the dress and demeanour of a better class artisan. In the letter certain lines had been obliterated by the witness with black chalk. His explanation was that when he got the letter these lines had already been run through in pencil, and as the words referred to” his intimacy” with the prisoner with whom he  had lived, and as he did not want his mother to see them he blotted them out. Counsel for the prosecution asked whether the words scratched out were not these :—” Ted, you know you are guilty of what I am charged with, and if you look after my two children I will never divulge. I will bear the blame.” The witness replied that  

there was not a word of truth in this. He could not remember either the exact words he had scratched out or the substance of them. The trial will be resumed to-morrow.

 

2/12/1893

Sydney Morning Herald

THE BRUNSWICK CHILD

TRIAL OF FRANCES KNORR.

A VERDICT OF GUILTY.

[BY TELEGRAPH.]

(FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.)

MELBOURNE, FRIDAY.

At the Supreme Court criminal sittings to-day, before Mr. Justice Holroyd, the trial was concluded of Frances Knorr, alias Minnie Thwaites, for the wilful murder of a female child unknown  at a house in Moreland-road, Brunswick, on or  about the 11th April last. Mr. Walsh, Q.C., in    addressing the jury on the whole case, said the account given by the prisoner in the box was the most extraordinary piece of audacious evidence he had ever heard in a court of justice.  

Mr. Justice Holroyd, in summing up, said in this case there was no direct proof of killing,  but the jury might, as the prosecutor asked them to do, come to a conclusion. The surrounding circumstances brought before them constituted such a charge that it was impossible to escape coming to the conclusion that the prisoner was guilty. Was there motive to impel the prisoner to commit the crime ?The highest sum she appeared to have got aspremium with any child was £20, and the lowest  about £5. Judging from her impecunious circumstances, she seemed to have spent the money almost as soon as she got it. What she did was to hire out those babies, in some instances to pay for them for a time, and then cease to pay, and in other instances to take the children back, while in some cases it was not known what became of them. Of three children the prisoner herself had given an account. That being her habit, and it being necessary for her to live, she had a strong temptation upon her if she could not pay to get rid of the child by some other means. That was the force of  the whole of the evidence as to the prisoner’s dealings with the babies. Whether that temptation overbore her on any occasion was another matter. The jury would have to consider what would be the conduct of a sensible innocent woman under such circumstances as those described by the prisoner.

She knew the law relating to the boarding-out of  the children and regarded it as troublesome and inconvenient to comply with its provisions. That being so, she must have known the law would be still more particular in requiring an account  from her of the death of a child under her charge.

 Would a sensible woman bury a child in the garden, and would she not give in-formation to the police, and at any rate to the neighbours, who could as soon as possible ascertain whether or not the child died from convulsions ? If it had died from convulsions it was to her own interest to have made the fact known as promptly as possible.

The prosecution put it that if these precautions were taken to avoid the discovery of death what conclusion could be drawn but that the child met with foul play ? It was difficult to understand the object of substituting one child for another. The prosecution put the question, What was the object of passing one child for another except to conceal something from persons likely to make inquiries ?

 As to the prisoner’s accusation against Thompson the jury would have to consider what motive Thompson had to murder the child, seeing he was under no obligation with regard to it. If the prisoner’s    evidence were true, Thompson ought to stand his trial. If false, it was a horrible accusation. There were several coincidences in the mode of burying the three bodies. It was extraordinary, if the prisoner’s story were true, that three persons—Wilson, the prisoner, and Thompson should each bury a body at precisely the same depth, within an inch or two, and that the prisoner should bury a body in exactly the same  spot, or so close as to touch that which she alleged had, unknown to her, been buried by Thompson.

The summing-up occupied three hours. At 25minutes past 3 the jury retired. Mr. Mullen asked his Honor, in the event of a certain verdict, to hear an application by Mr. Smith (the prisoner’s counsel), in Chambers on Monday. Mr. Justice Holroyd assisted.  

After an absence from the Court of a little over half an hour, the jury returned, and at their own request were supplied with the versions of the prisoner, Edward Thompson, and Mrs. Thompson, in the letter from prisoner to himself respectively, of the words scratched out by Thompson in the letter.

At 5 o’clock the jury once more returned into court, this time with a verdict of ” guilty.” On  hearing the verdict the prisoner swayed backwards    and forwards in the dock, and sank down in tears upon the seat. Mr. Justice Holroyd said the prisoner would be removed until after Monday in order to hear an application from her counsel. The prisoner was then removed from the dock. She sobbed and cried, and had to be supported by a female warder and a police officer.

As she descended the steps from the dock, she turned to the gallery where Thompson was sitting, and exclaimed, ” God help yours ins, Ted,” and still sobbing and crying her last words as she disappeared through the doorway were ” God help my poor mother,” and ” God help my poor baby.” The scene was a most    painful one.

The hearing of the further charges of murder against Mrs. Knorr and her husband, Rudolph Knorr, has been postponed till the 15th instant.

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19/12/1893

Evening News

Melbourne Baby Farming.

FRANCES AND RUDOLPH KNORR.

Melbourne, Tuesday. — The Crown has entered a nolle prosequi in the two child murder cases in which Mrs. Knorr was committed for trial together with her husband, Rudolph Knorr. The latter was in consequence discharged from custody. A special meeting of the Cabinet has been convened for December 29, when the case of Frances Knorr, who is lying under sentence of death for the murder of an infant at Brunswick, will be considered.

 (Nolle prosequi means a Crown Law Officer may inform any court, by writing under the officer’s hand, that the Crown will not further proceed upon any indictment)

 

THE HANGING

15/1/1894

The Argus

THE CASE OF MRS. KNORR.

CONDITION OF THE CONDEMNED WOMAN.

The execution of Mrs. Knorr will take place at the Melbourne gaol at 10 o’clock  this morning in the presence of the sheriff, Mr. L. Ellis, the governor of the  gaol, Captain Burrowes, and several magistrates. The sheriff has been approached by all sorts and conditions of men for orders for admission to witness the execution, but he has very properly refused them all, and has only issued orders to those who are entitled by virtue of their positions to gain admittance to the gaol. The  suicide of Jones, the late hangman, having deprived the sheriff of the services of the only person in the colony who had had practical experience in the working of the gal-lows, special care has been taken to see that  the new executioner, Howard, should have the benefit of any information or instruction that experience has suggested. As a result it is expected that no difficulty or hitch will occur this morning so far as the hangman is concerned. Much will depend on the behaviour of the condemned woman, however, and her state of mind during yesterday indicated that she was not likely to face her death calmly. In the morning she laboured under the influence of a strong religious excitement and while the other female prisoners were gathered together at a church service, sent messages to them asking them to sing “Abide with Me,”  

and other hymns. Her requests were, of course, complied with, and in the singing of the hymns the condemned woman joined heartily. Later in the day her state be-came calmer, but at night, when her husband visited her and took farewell of her, the interview greatly disturbed her, and she utterly broke down. Her actions then and subsequently showed  her to be thoroughly unnerved, and led Captain Burrowes, the governor of the gaol to enjoin upon the guard set over the woman the strictest watchfulness, lest in her excitement she might do herself injury.

DEPUTATION TO THE GOVERNOR.

The approaching execution of Mrs. Knorr was the occasion yesterday evening of a largely attended public meeting in Russell Street at the instance of a number of persons who object to capital punishment. From9 to 10 the little audience which assembled on the vacant land in Russell-street were addressed by a number of speakers, the most prominent of whom was Mr. Hancock; and  having been reinforced by the Rev. Dr. Strong and the Rev. Mr. Edgar, a deputation of some 150 persons proceeded to Government-house. The news had been previously conveyed by telephone, and under the impression that an attack might possibly be made upon the premises a strong force of police, under command of Sub-inspector Walstab, was  detailed from the neighbouring barracks to command all the avenues of approach. Presently the deputation arrived, and in view of its powerful character a selection of dele-gates, including the Rev. Dr. Strong, the Rev.

A. R. Edgar, Mr. Hancock, Mrs. Goldstein,  and Mrs. Oldfield, was allowed to enter the building and to interview the Governor.

The Rev. Dr. Strong said that they had come    with the object of getting Her Majesty’s  representative, if he had it in his power, to  extend the prerogative of mercy to Frances  Knorr, now lying under sentence of death.

They had no word to say in extenuation of the crime of which the woman was convicted, but they felt that the ends of justice would be sufficiently met if the  sentence of death were commuted to imprisonment for life. The hanging of a woman would be felt as a blot on Melbourne, and thus even at this late hour they had ventured to intrude upon His Excellency in the hope of saving the criminal’s life.  

The Rev. S. R. Edgar said that the  sentiment of the people was in favour of the extension of mercy towards the condemned woman. Had sufficient time been allowed he was sure that a numerously-signed  petition would have been prepared on the prisoner’s behalf. The hanging of a woman  would be an act which would disgrace the colony. In fact, as a proof of the strong public feeling on the question he might mention that at a meeting held in his church on an entirely different subject a petition in favour of the commutation of Mrs. Knorr’s  sentence was dawn up and largely signed. They had no fresh facts to bring forward, but they asked for a reprieve on the simple ground of mercy.

Mr. J. Hancock said that everybody must sympathise with the position in which His Excellency was placed. They came at this late hour because they realised that a woman’s life was to be saved. If action had    been so long delayed it was only because from the first the public had believed that women would not be executed. In a great number of similar cases in the old country female prisoners had been reprieved. When the public of the colony read the details of the execution in the  papers they would recognise that the real criminals had escaped. The colony was not  in such a terrible condition that a victim was required. Unfortunately, at the trial stress had not been laid upon the epileptic symptoms to which the unfortunate woman was subject. The subject had been brought under the notice of the Premier by telephone, but Mr. Patterson had held out no hope of any remission of the sentence. If His Excellency would only intervene it would add to his popularity, not only in this world but in the next.

 

16/1/1894

Narracourte Herald

Tbe Execution of Mrs. Knorr.

(By Telegraph.)

Melbourne, January 15.,

Mrs. Frances Knorr, the baby farmer was hanged at the  Melbourne Goal at ten o’clock this morning. . A large crowd of morbid minded people collected outside the goal in “Victoria, and Russell Streets, but only a few persons were allowed in to witness the execution.

Shortly before the new hangman (Roberts) entered the condemned cell, Mrs. Knorr sang the hymns “In the Sweet By-and-bye and “Abide with Me.” She’ walked firmly to the scaffold.

The noose haying been laid on her neck, the Sheriff asked if she had anything to say. She replied “Yes 1 The Lord is with me, I do not fear what man can do to me, for I am at peace at perfect peace” The, lever was then polled, and she dropped into eternity without a struggle.

Mrs. Knorr confessed several days before the execution that she murdered two of the babies, but “No. 3” she did not murder. 

 

The following report is from a record kept by the Gaol Warders closely involved with the Execution of Francis Knorr

H>M Gaol Melbourne

Particulars of the Execution of Francis Knorr on 15/1/1894

Height 5 foot 2 inches

Weight 11 stone 2 lbs add 1lb for her skirt.

Remarks

Death was  instanteneous. On examination after being cut down the Doctor found that  there was just the slightest scratch on the neck. The spine had been dislocated.

R.Burrows

Governor at 

Melbourne Gaol

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