SUICIDE OF CHEW-A-KEY, THE MURDERER OF McELLIGOTT

ON THIS DAY – July 18, 1859

Yesterday morning at ten o’clock was the time fixed for the execution of Chew-a-Key, the Chinaman convicted of the murder of the late Mr. M’Elligott, at Ironbark Gully, Bendigo, On Sunday evening however, he contrived to evade the sentence of the law by committing suicide. He was last seen alive by Mr. Winkle, the Governor of the gaol, and the turnkey in whose immediate custody he was placed, at about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon. There are two doors to the condemned cell in which Chew-a-Key was confined, the outer one similar to those in general use in the gaol, and an inner one composed of perpendicular and transverse iron bars, so as to form a sort of grating, through which the prisoners might be observed by the turnkey on duty. At a quarter to five o’clock on Sunday afternoon, the turnkey went to the cell in which the condemned prisoner was confined, for the purpose of lighting the gas. On opening the outer door, he saw him hanging from one of the transverse iron bars of the inner door. The alarm was immediately given, the prisoner cut down, and every means employed for his resuscitation, but without avail. It was apparent that Chew-a-Key must have premeditated self-destruction for some time from the particular care which he had taken that the attempt should be effectual. He had torn up one of his blankets, and twisted it into a rope for the purpose; and it was evident that he must have managed so to raise himself from the floor of the cell as to obtain a seat on one of the bars of the door, whilst he fastened the rope with which he hanged himself. He had also tied his feet together, and had then connected his hands with his feet by means of a piece of the blanket twisted into a rope in such a manner as entirely to prevent any attempts which he might have made to save himself, supposing his courage to have failed him at the last moment. The Sheriff was not informed of the occurrence until he arrived at the gaol yesterday morning, shortly before ten o’clock, to see the sentence of the law carried into effect. An inquest was held on the body yesterday, at twelve o’clock. The Coroner then drew attention to the fact, that in England, from the time sentence of death was passed on a prisoner until that sentence was carried into execution, he was never suffered to be alone, and said he thought the recent occurrence would show the authorities the necessity of adopting a similar practice in the colony.