Alexander Avenue

Alexander Avenue



A Painter Charged

George Devitt, (27), a painter, who has discharged from the Melbourne Hospital this afternoon was immediately brought before the City Court on a charge of having murdered Emma Hill on the Yarra Bank on December 3. Devitt was remanded to December 23, the day after the inquest is to be held.

George Devitt

George Devitt

The crime alleged against Devitt happened on the night of December 3. About midnight he staggered across Alexander Avenue on the bank of the Yarra with blood streaming from his body. He stopped a motor car and asked to be driven to the Police Station saying he had murdered a girl and he then tried to commit suicide. He had been in the river.

After an all night search, the police found the body of the girl, a domestic employed at the Y.W.CA. The girl’s body was lying on a rookery on the bank of the river.

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On the night of the 1st December, 1923, Kathleen Price and Charles Johnson arrived home about 11pm to the boarding house where they lived at 230 Lygon Street. The boarding house was run by Mrs Clara Aumont, and Charles, Kathleen and Doris, Kathleen’s 9 year old daughter, had been residing there for about a month as a family unit in 2 rooms upstairs. Johnson was drunk and had been witnessed by Mrs Aumont sniffing a substance, thought to be cocaine, earlier in the parlour room. Doris had been in her mother’s bed reading her school books when the couple arrived home. Kathleen ushered her into her own room with a kiss goodnight, where she fell asleep. Johnson was drunk and in a foul mood because Kathleen had refused to give him money earlier in the day.

At around 1.45am on Sunday morning, Doris was awakened by her mother’s screams. She went into her mother’s bedroom to find Johnson had Kathleen by the hair and a table knife to her throat, threatening to cut her. Doris was hit across the face by Johnson as she tried to intervene. Johnson threw away the first knife as it wasn’t sharp enough, and retrieved another from the drawer. Kathleen had rolled under the bed to get away from Johnson but was pulled out by her legs. Johnson threw Kathleen against the side of the bed, kicked her in the head, before cutting her throat with the sharp table knife and throwing her face down on the floor. Doris ran down and wakened Mrs Aumont who told her to go for the police. When Johnson came downstairs, Mrs Aumont asked him what he had done, to which he replied “She is as dead as Julius Ceaser, I will go to the gallows for her as I love that woman”.

Crime scene

Crime scene

When Senior-Constables Murray and Crawford arrived at 2.25am, Johnson met them at the front door. The police noticed his bloodstained hands and suit, and that he was drunk. He was asked what had happened, to which he replied, “come upstairs and see”. Johnson showed them where Kathleen’s lifeless body lay in a pool of blood on the floor of the front bedroom. When asked had he done it, Johnson replied “there she is, she is dead alright”. Senior-Constable Murray later described the room as “bespattered with blood and a desperate struggle having taken place”. The heel of Kathleen’s shoe was torn off and her false teeth were found 3 feet from the body.  Johnson was arrested and placed in the City Watch House while Kathleen’s body was removed to the morgue.

The post mortem reported that Kathleen Price was aged 30 years, “a well built and well nourished woman of 5 feet, 4 inches tall”. Blood was splattered from her neck to her feet. She had numerous cuts and bruises and her right thumb had been almost severed at the first joint. There were cuts on her chin, her elbow and right breast. Her lips were swollen and bruised, along with both eyes and her left cheek. A wound in Kathleen’s throat which measured 5 ½ inches in length and was gaping 2 ½ inches was her cause of death. The cut had severed many of the vessels and muscle in the neck and had opened her windpipe. Hair was found clutched in Kathleen’s hand.

Johnson was sent to trial at the Melbourne Supreme Court on the 15th February 1924, after the coroner found him responsible for Kathleen’s death on the 7th December 1923. Much of the defence rested on whether Johnson was of sound mind or not due to both cocaine use and alcohol consumption. The jury deliberated well into the night before reaching a guilty verdict at 10pm, with a recommendation for mercy. Johnson was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to life imprisonment without benefit of regulation or remission.

Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson

Initially incarcerated in Melbourne Gaol, he was later transferred to Geelong Gaol in January 1935 for treatment of hemiplegia and aterio sclerosis. It was attempted to have him released to his sister’s care in Coburg in early 1939 as Johnson had become bedridden and was not expected to live much longer. He died in Geelong Gaol in 1939.



On the charge of having murdered John Edward Sigward Ericson at Macedon on December 2, Aurelia Pomare of the Aliens’ Forestry Camp, Macedon, was remanded to December 12, in the City Court today. Sub-Inspector Ainsworth (prosecuting) said it was alleged that Ericson and Pomare, who were employed in the forestry camp at Mount Macedon, had an argument and as the result, Pomare stabbed Ericson with a pair of scissors, from the effects of which Ericson died soon afterwards.



Tragedy at Kyabram.


An appalling domestic tragedy, resulting in the loss of five lives, was enacted at Kyabram early on Saturday morning, when Frank Cooling killed his wife and three of his children with a razor with which he had apparently been shaving, and committed suicide by cutting his throat. A son and a daughter, who were sleeping in the front bedroom, escaped the murderer’s fury. They awoke at the usual time, but waited for their mother to call them. As she did not come, they left their bed, and were confronted with the evidences of the murder. Beside themselves with terror, they ran, horror-stricken, to a neighbours house, and sobbed out the story of the tragedy.

The victims of the tragedy are Frank Cooling, aged 38 years, labourer, Sarah Ann Cooling, his wife, aged 28 years. Alfred John Cooling, son, aged 11 years, Henry James Cooling, son, aged two years, Alexander Francis Cooling, son, aged six weeks.  The two children who escaped are Chrissie aged six years, and Walter, aged 4. There was another child, Alice Mary, aged 9 years, who is in the Echuca Hospital. She had been a patient there for some time and it was the intention of Mr. and Mrs. Cooling to drive to Echuca on Saturday and bring her home. Arrangements had been made with Mr. Tonkin, a neighbour, to attend to the stock while they were away. The family lived in a four-roomed weatherboard cottage in Fernaughty street. They were well known in the district, where Cooling’s father carried on operations as a farmer.

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Yesterday morning, at ten o’clock, the culprit James Barrett, convicted at the last criminal sittings of the Supreme Court, Melbourne, of the murder of Mrs. Beckinsale, suffered the extreme penalty of the law, in the presence of about sixty persons. The wretched criminal, who had been brought up as a Roman Catholic was attended in his last hours by the Rev. Fathers Bleasdale and Williams, who performed the last rites of the church applicable to the occasion. The prisoner throughout the preparations and down to the time the drop fell, said nothing, but appeared to feel an indifference as to his fate, which was shown in a quiet and impassive demeanour, and he died almost without a struggle. It appears that on Monday evening, about eight o’clock, the wretched man said he wished to write a statement or confession of the crime for which he was to suffer. A prisoner who was confined with him was then allowed to write the following, at the dictation of Barrett, who read it carefully over and signed it: — “Confession of James Bermingham, alias Barrett. On the 21st of October I went to the house of Mr. Beckinsale, and saw Mrs. Beckinsale in the bedroom, in the act of putting on her boots. I demanded what money she had in the house, she threw about £6 in silver on the bed, and commenced crying and making a great noise. I then struck her with a tomahawk I held in my hand on the head, and followed up my blows until I killed her. I then robbed the house of about £6 in silver, a watch, and a pair of boots;   I then locked the door. I am not certain what I did with the key. It is not through (true?) that I chased Mrs. Beckinsale round the house; everything took place in the house. Mr. Beckinsale was away from home when I committed the murder. He had no knowledge of my being about to commit the murder. I used no weapon but the tomahawk. (Signed) JAMES BERMINGHAM, alias BARRETT. Witness — F. M. Quin, senior-turnkey. November 30, 1863.” The account given by him of himself was that he was fifty years of age, and was a native of Cork, and had originally enlisted in the 36th Regiment, but having struck one of the sergeants was transported for seven years, and arrived in Australia by the Lord Goderich, in 1848, in bonds. On gaining his freedom he worked as a labourer, but ever afterwards led an irregular life. The usual formalities, the inquest, &c., were observed, as required by the Private Executions Act. It may be remarked, that the conduct of the persons permitted to be present in the gaol yesterday morning was marked by such disgraceful impatience, that if it were possible to publish the names of all that were present, it would show, in the great majority of the names, what persons should not be allowed to intrude themselves on any such solemn occasion. It appeared at one time, while the process of pinioning was being performed, that the crowd would have so pressed upon the ministers of religion, the executioner, and the culprit, that there would not have been space for the proper conduct of the ceremony; and as the spectators passed through the door into the gallows-yard, there was a crush as of an eager and rude mob rushing the entrance of the pit-door of a theatre. It seems so much the more strange that such conduct should have been observable, as there was an unusually large number of the police present, both officers and men.

779149-grave-of-murdered-girl-june-rushmerTHE INQUEST

Into June Rushmer’s Death

The little court house at Leongatha was crowded to-day, when the inquest on June Rushmer (6), whose bound and gagged body was found in the scrub on December 2, was resumed.

Arnold Sodeman, (36), who has been charged with murder, was present in court.

Arnold Sodeman

Arnold Sodeman

The Government Pathologist (Dr. Mollison) expressed the opinion that the girl’s death was due to suffocation. Her hands were tied behind her back with a piece of cloth, a blood-stained garment was stuffed in her mouth and a piece of torn frock tied around her neck.

The inquest is proceeding.


William Hastings

William Hastings

The adjourned inquest on the body of Ann Hastings, who was murdered near Mornington on Friday, December 1, was continued by Mr. Candler at Mornington yesterday. The husband of the deceased woman, William Hastings, was in custody on suspicion of being concerned in her death. Dr. Neild, who had made the post-mortem examination of the body, was examined, and give evidence concerning the injuries the deceased had received. He considered that death had resulted from the fracture of the skull, and in his opinion the injury had been caused by violence, probably with an instrument such as an axe or hammer. The son of the deceased, a boy of 14, was examined. He stated that on December 1 he and his brother went to Frankston to school, leaving their father and mother at home. They never saw their mother again alive. That night their father did not return home, and next day expressed wonder as to where his wife was. A daughter of deceased, a girl of 15, was also examined, and other evidence of a circumstantial character was taken. The case for the Crown was closed, and some witnesses were examined for the defence.   The prisoner elected to reserve his defence. The inquest lasted until considerably past midnight, and resulted in a verdict of wilful murder being returned against the prisoner.


Mary Ann Parker, married woman, was charged at the Fitzroy Police Court on the 12th of December 1911 with having on the 1st December illegally operated on Lillian May Ellen Holdich. She was further charged with having caused the death of Holdich. Detective Bearnt said that the first charge be withdrawn, and that the accused be remanded until December the 20th on the charge of murder. The application was granted, and bail was refused.