ON THIS DAY – December 29, 1888

Joseph Howard, the lunatic charged with murdering Archibald Hunter, a warder at the Yarra Bend Asylum, on the 29th December, was placed in the dock at the Melbourne Criminal Court, before the Chief Justice. The jury found him to be insane, and His Honour ordered him to be remanded. Howard begged that he might not be sent back to the Yarra Bend, for the attendants had threatened to kill him within a month. He would go to Pentridge for life, or to any other asylum, but he would rather die than go back there, for they made him mad at Yarra Bend by starving him and putting him with the maddest lunatics. He had been starved and cruelly treated in the institution, and preferred to be in gaol amongst rational beings. The fact of his having been thrust among madmen had caused him to lose his mental balance at times, and if he were sent back it would be a living death to him. He would sooner suffer for his crime than return to the asylum. His Honour said his order had the effect of directing the prisoner to he kept in custody pending Her Majesty’s pleasure, and he could make no other. He had no doubt, however, that the officials would take note of what Howard had said.


On This Day – December 29, 1932

In a shooting affray in a room at the North Grant Hotel, Ballarat on this day in 1932, Winifred Brooks, a married woman and a barmaid at the hotel was fatally wounded, while Harrys Lloyd, 83, received a bullet wound in the right eye. The sound, of two shots disturbed a boader, who rang the police. On arrival they found, Mrs. Brooks dead and Lloyd wounded.

At the Ballarat Court, Patrick Sheedy, who had been licensee of the hotel for some years, was changed with having murdered, Winifred Brooks and with having fired at Harry Lloyd with intent to commit murder. Constable Speed said it was alleged that during the dispute in which Sheedy had accused Lloyd and Mrs. Brooks of holding £45 which he claimed at his, Sheedy took a revolver from his pocket and fired. Patrick Joseph Sheedy, 29, hotel keeper, was found guilty by a Jury and sentenced to death, on a charge of having murdered Winifred Brooks, at North Grant Hotel, Ballarat.


ON THIS DAY – December 29, 1937


A graphic story of events leading up to and following the killing of Mrs. Edith Rachel Praetz or Walker at her secondhand shop in North Melbourne on December 29, was told by Jean Richards, a young woman who said she was living with an Italian labourer, Antonio Barbara, 35, at the time. Barbara was committed for trial on a charge of murder. Richards told the coroner that after she and Barbara had run away from Mrs. Praetz’ shop, he attacked her with a knife, but it slipped. She grabbed it, threw it away and then escaped herself.

The City Coroner (Mr. Tingate. P.M.) found that at North Melbourne on December 29 Mrs. Edith Rachel Praetz (or Walker) died from the effects of knife wounds in the neck. feloniously and maliciously inflicted by Barbara.

Application for bail was refused. Evidence was given that detectives investigating” the case had been handed the following letter, signed by Barbara: “Sir – Regards Italian you are seeking for in connection with the Victoria street murdered. I am personally writing to you. So you can rely I will call at headquarters. Russell street. not later than noon. Monday, January 4, 1937. “Being a sport follower. I would like to know how the third Test. England v. Australia, starts, as I hope Australia wins the toss, also the match. Wishing you a happy new years. with best respects. Barbara, Antonio.”

Jean Richards. single. said she had known Mrs. Walker for four years, and had stopped at her place several times.. On December 29 she was living with Barbara in North Melbourne. He returned home about 3.30 p.m.. and after an argument about money had become enraged and struck her as she lay on a bed. He had been drinking. She left the house, taking her baby with her and as she was walking along the street Mrs. Walker asked her to go inside. While she was in the kitchen Mrs. Walker came in from the front and told her that someone had gone to tell Tony she was there. “I said I had better go.” continued witness. “but as I was leaving Tony came in. Mrs. Walker asked him ‘What are you doing in my shop? Haven’t the police told you not to come in?’ “Tony replied. ‘You are going to be a copper again.’ Then he knocked her down. “‘I then ran out of the shop.” witness went on. “When I returned Tony had one hand on Mrs. Walker’s shoulder. He picked up a knife from the dresser. and I called out. ‘Tony, don’t. Stop.’ He turned towards me and I ran out on to the footpath. Then Tony came out. took my arm, and told me to come home. He said. ‘Look what she made me do.’ “I turned, and could see Mrs. Walker’s legs protruding from the door. They were bloodstained.

Struggle in Kitchen

On the way home Richards said that Barbara told her he was going to do for her. too. When they reached his house there were about 10 men in the dining room. Barbara ran into the kitchen and returned with a knife. He pushed witness and her baby to the floor. He held her by the throat with one hand and the knife in the other, but the knife slipped, and, grabbing it, she threw it among the men standing in the room. Two of them tried to drag Barbara away, and while they held him she left the house. Next day she went to the police.

In a statement read by Detective Adam and alleged to have been made by Barbara, the Italian stated that Mrs. Walker had sent for him, and when he went round, she had run at him with the knife. He stepped aside. and she again rushed at him. He grabbed her. and they struggled near the stove. Then he saw blood on her neck, and he and Jean Richards ran away. He met another Italian. who drove him to Werribee. and when he returned to Melbourne he heard that Mrs. Walker had died. He then went to Oakleigh by taxi and wandered round in the bush.

Albert Rainsford, 43, butcher, of North Melbourne, said that the dead woman, who was 51, was his sister. Before her marriage her name was Walker, while she had also been known as Sutcliffe. She conducted a secondhand shop in North Melbourne. Walter Boyce, who said he had been living at Mrs. Walker’s place, stated that after taking a mesage to Barbara that Mrs. Walker wanted to see him, he went for a walk. When he returned he saw Barbara and a woman named Jean Richards running out of the front door. Mrs. Walker was following them and she called out to witness to get the police, as Tony had stabbed her She then fell on the footpath

Newman Spielvogel. pawnbroker, told of his discovery of Mrs. Walker lying on the footpath. He had heard rows and fights at Mrs. Walker’s premises. Death was due to a wound in the neck, which could have been caused by a knife, was the evidence of Dr. Mollison. Government Pathologist. According to First Constable Myers a trail of blood led from the spot where the woman’s body was found to the kitchen of her house, where there was a large pool. In the kitchen he found a large bloodstained knife. on the blade of which there was human hair.

On this day …….. 9th of July 1894

A leading player from the Kelly drama of a decade earlier appeared in the Melbourne Court on this day in 1894. Alexander Fitzpatrick, the form police constable who had set off the Kelly outbreak in 1878, appeared to face charge of obtaining money by false pretences, by presenting a dud cheque to the licensee of the Scaracen’s Head Hotel in Bourke Street, Melbourne. He was committed for trail and subsequently sentenced to twelve months gaol.

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December Newsletter

Do you know we run investigations every night? Have you ever wanted to be a “ghost hunter” for the night? Are you curious about who may reside behind the walls of the Geelong Gaol?  If so, why not join us on an investigation running Sunday to Thursday at 10pm, Friday’s at 9.30pm and midnight on Saturdays! Or if you are wanting to spend a bit more time, what about our Deadtime tours from midnight to 3am on the second Friday of the month.  For information and bookings, please call 1300865800

Join us for a New Year Eve you won’t forget! See in the new year behind the walls of the Geelong Gaol with a ghost tour and then drinks (non alcoholic!) and nibbles as we ring in 2016! The evening starts at 10pm.  For more information and bookings, please call 1300865800


A Trojan horse was used to regain possession of a transport and earth moving site run by the Bryant group in St Mary’s, Sydney, which had been repossessed by the Commonwealth Bank over a mortgage dispute that was still before the courts. On the morning of the 6th of January 1992, managing director Joe Bryant arrived at the site with a semi trailer carrying a 4m long cylindrical horse used by farmers during a demonstration against President George Bush in Canberra the week before. Security guards let Bryant in, thinking he was returning the horse to the site. Once inside that gates, the 30 workers hiding inside the horse spilled out, and the outnumbered security guards withdrew, allowing the workers to open the gates and let more supports inside.

A live horse was found stick in the fork of a tree at Myall Creek, near Inverell, NSW on the 19th of January 1910. The tree was cut down and the horse walked away none the worse for it’s experience.

ON THIS DAY – December 28, 1984

A Melbourne Supreme Court jury found a former soldier guilty of the murder of a young Victorian couple whose decomposing bodies were found in the back of a utility in Sydney’s Kings Cross 12 months earlier. Robert Scott Pickford, formerly of Bass Road, Ingleburn, NSW, was found guilty of the murders of Ondine Leith and David Jones on December 28, 1984, and was given a life sentence in Victoria for murder. Mr Pickford was also found guilty of one count of armed robbery at St Kilda on or about the 28th of December,1984 and not guilty on a second count of armed robbery the day after. Justice Southwell had already ordered the jury of six men and six women to return a verdict of not guilty to the two murder charges against Mr Pickford’s girlfriend, Ms Michelle Ann Archer, 28, formerly of the same address. Pickford was sentenced to Pentridge.


On this day …….. 28th of December 1853

On the 28th of December, 1853, what appeared to be the body of a man was noticed floating near an overseas boat, the Royal Shepherdess, at Port Adelaide. Most of those who saw it thought that some unfortunate man had met death by drowning.

However, on being removed from the water the body proved to be a dummy. A jury of ‘highly respectable men’ was assembled with alacrity beyond all precedent and, the foreman having expressed to the coroner a desire for a post mortem examination, the aid of a surgeon was obtained with equal promptitude. The examination went to show, very convincingly, ‘that the deceased met his death from natural causes, and not otherwise.’ A large quantity of mud was said to have been found in the stomach, also, that on removing the scalp the cranium was found to be empty.

The effigy was then paraded through the streets of Port Adelaide, attended by 22 ‘priests in full canonicals’ and followed by several hundred towns people. After this, with all the solemnity of a funeral, the body was removed by boat to one of the ships and hung to the fore yardarm for some time. It was then cut adrift and allowed to float with the tide until, with a cleverly assumed sympathy for the memory of the deceased, several of the mourners brought it ashore and placed it in a coffin. Bearers carried It to where a shallow grave had been prepared. A burial service was read and, with much well-simulated grief, the remains were duly interred. Then all the chips in the port dipped their ensigns, and the ‘sorrowing’ crowd dispersed.

The idea of the strange performance originated in the strong feeling of resentment excited by the Collector of Customs who, when speaking in the Legislative Council, had designated Port Adelaide ‘a mud hole.’

On this day …….. 28th of December 1923

A men named Snaddoiu, a draper from Nottingham, UK, left his home on the 28th of December 1922, promising to return in a few hours. From that moment he disappeared completely, and all efforts to trace him were fruitless. On the 20th of September a Manchester, UK paper published a photograph of a man found in Melbourne, Australia who was reported to be suffering from loss of memory. By chance the newspaper came into the hands of the mans brother, who immediately recognised the portrait as his brother ‘s. Prior to his disappearance he suffered from shell shock, and lived happily with his wife, and two small children.