EXECUTION OF ARTHUR BUCK

EXECUTED THIS DAY – July 1, 1895

ARTHUR BUCK – MELBOURNE GAOL

Arthur Buck, who murdered Catherine Norton at South Melbourne on the 28th April last, was executed in the Melbourne Gaol last Monday morning at 10 o’clock. The arrangements made by the governor of the gaol, Captain Burrows, and the medical officer, Dr. Shields, were perfect, and the execution passed off without a hitch. The murderer met his death calmly, and at his own request the usual prayers and devotional exercises were dispensed with. Though the chaplain, the Rev. H. F. Scott, had been respectfully received by the prisoner, his ministrations fell on an unresponsive ear, and the man died as he had lived, an atheist. The recently appointed sheriff, Mr. A. McFarland, was present in his official capacity, and the attendance of the public totalled seven, the smallest number recorded at an execution in Melbourne for years past.

The crime for which Buck suffered the extreme penalty of the law was a diabolical one, unrelieved by a single redeeming feature. The victim, Catherine Norton, had a short and an usually wretched existence. She married a labourer when only 17 years old, and within 12 months was not only situated in the most squalid surroundings, but was continually quarrelling with her husband. At length her home became unbearable, and she left it to live with Buck, who was about her own age. After a few months Buck went to New South Wales, Norton meantime going as housekeeper to a labourer named Thorpe in South Melbourne. Buck returned to Melbourne in April, sought out Norton, and having vainly endeavoured to persuade her to go away with him, he cut her throat. The dying woman staggered towards her residence, and Buck stood by in a dark corner while the people gathered and doctors and police were summoned. Then he walked to his home in Richmond, went to bed, and slept till Detectives Cawsey, Dungey, and Carter sought him later in the day. He callously admitted the deed, gave the whole of the horrible details, but expressed no word of sorrow for the victim or remorse for the act.

An hour and an half subsequent to the execution a formal inquest was held by the City Coroner, Dr. Youl, when a verdict of “death from judicial hanging” was recorded. At sunset the body was buried in quicklime in the gaol yard.