ON THIS DAY…… 2nd January 1895

Joseph Clark, a noted criminal, who in had attempted to escape from the Geelong gaol on two other occasion. Clark was believed to be one of the hardest convicts in the colony, and in his life of crime had been flogged 400 times with the cat of nine tales that’s a total of 3,600 cuts on his back. On the night of the 2nd of January 1895, Clark made another determined attempt to escape by smuggled a large jemmy bar into his cell. The idea was to use the bar to brake through the brick ceiling on the third floor and crawl in to the attic space. Clark almost succeeded in breaking, through the roof when he was discovered. He had another 6 months adding to his sentence.


On this day …….. 2nd of January 1905

A strange light was witnessed by residents of Northwood, near Seymour. It resembled a large star, moving about paddocks with great speed, keeping close to the ground and occasionally disappearing from sight. Mr O’Shea had taken a shot at the thing, and a fire broken out when it had crossed Mr N Hogan’s paddock.


On this day …….. 2nd of January 1925

A “ghost” has reappeared in the Victorian Land Titles Office, in Lonsdale-street. Many years ago rumblings, as if a horse were galloping up and down the corridors, used to be heard, so loud that a constables who kept watch in the dark trembled so much that he fired his revolver and shot himself in the arm. Constable W. C. Lawson, of police headquarters, made the following report on this day in 1925 :—” Early this morning I found that a heavy grating over a coal hole outside the office was open. I closed and locked it securely and went to tell the caretaker. When we returned the grating was open again. To open the grating it is necessary to push it from the inside, although the bolts are outside.” A large squad of police surrounded and entered the building. They switched on the lights and made a thorough search without finding anyone. While they were scattered through the building, the lights were mysteriously switched off. A further search was fruitless, as was the careful watch kept over the building until day light.


ON THIS DAY – January 2, 1898


The Melbourne ‘Argus’ of last week reports a singular case of mistaken identity. Henry Hudson was brought up before Mr. Nicholson, P.M., at the District Court on a maintenance summons in respect of the child of Fanny Cooper, of whom it was alleged he was the father.

Mr. Kane described how impropriety had taken place between the parties in March, 1889, the result being the child, which was born on January 2, 1890. A fortnight later Miss Cooper called on the defendant, whom she knew, and whom she now summoned as George Carter and, after meeting with a brutal reception, caused a warrant to be issued for his arrest. It was never executed, and the man disappeared from Melbourne, nothing being seen of him until about 12 months ago, when the prosecutrix encountered him in the Exhibition gardens. They spoke, and renewed their previous intimacy. The defence, Mr. Barrett had very fairly told him, would be that the defendant was at the time serving a sentence in Sydney, and if that were so, he could not be the father of the child.

The complainant then gave evidence in accordance with the opening statement. She had no doubt whatever about the identity of the defendant. He was the father of her child. Mr. Barrett: When you gave the description to the police, did you say he had black curly hair? Witness: Yes; he’s cut it off. A New South Wales criminal album was then handed up to the witness, and she pronounced the photo to be not that of the defendant. Mr. Barrett: But if we bring witnesses who were serving sentences with him?  Witness: I don’t care; he’s the father of my child.

Mrs. Annie Heron said that in March, 1889, she remembered complainant and a young man calling at her house in Abbotsford subsequent to the birth of Miss Cooper’s child she again saw the man, and believed the defendant in court to be the same man. The police photo was then shown, and the witness unhesitatingly pronounced it to be identical with the man she saw in 1889. Mr. Barrett: That will show you how women will swear. Detective Deyerall described the arrest of the defendant. He was satisfied that he was the same man as shown on the prison photo. Defendant was here, called up to the bench by Mr. Nicholson and closely scrutinised, his appearance being compared with the descriptions in the Police Album and the Police Gazette of New South Wales, which showed his discharge from gaol.

Defendant, then stated that on November 22, 1888,  Judge M’Farlane  sentenced him to four years’ penal servitude for receiving. He received a sunstroke in gaol, and as a result got a remission of sentence, being released in either March or April of 1891. He was not in Melbourne in his life until three years ago,and it was about about eight months since the complainant commenced following him about and making herself  a nuisance. He had no twin brother, and the only brother he had was very much younger.

The bench decided that further evidence was unnecessary, and dismissed the case, with £1 1s. costs. The complainant left the court still expressing her, confidence in the identity of the defendant.

On This Day – January 2, 1933

On January 2, John Johnson disappeared from his lodgings in Perth. To-day a wanderer hunting in the sandhills on the coast near Perth reported the discovery of signs of an old fire which appeared to contain human remains. Investigation indicated that Johnson had built a huge pile of wood and set fire to it, and then, shot himself so that his body would fall into the heart of the fire. Parts of the gun, bones and papers in Johnson’s handwriting reconstruct the story of one of the most amazing suicides recorded in this State. Hanging on a tree was a small luncheon bag containing a note in Johnson’s handwriting addressed to a woman asking the finder to inform the addressee “that he had taken a single ticket on a very long journey as he was tired of fighting the depression.”

On This Day – January 1, 1915

At Melbourne on Sunday a double tragedy occurred at Toolern Vale. Mary Wynne (18) was walking near the village with a cousin. Peter Michel approached the girls, and pointing a gun fired killing Miss Wynne. The murderer, who had been on friendly terms with Miss Wynne, committed suicide. The motive is rather obscure, Michel was for six mouths living in a tent near Miss Wynne’s family. He stated he came to Australia with the American Fleet.

Robert Wynne, uncle of the murdered girl, knew him as a hardworking man. He was a frequent visitor at Miss Wynne’s house, and had established himself on friendly terms with the girl, and paid her a lot of attention in an undemonstrative way. Before the tragedy Michel wrote a letter to the girl’s father asking for work, and giving some particulars about himself. The letter read:

“Mr. Wynne,-I am a deserter from a Society of the French, who have taken an oath to fight for their country till death, and if they get me they would shoot me on sight. I am not afraid to go. Sickness would not have stopped me. I was begged not to go. Since then I have had no peace of mind. I used money from their sick fund when I was ill. I was trying to pay it back. I wish you would get done anything you have to do. I will then leave these parts. I will be satisfied with 5s a day from you, as I have had a lot of work from you. Thanking you for your kindness to Toolern Vale, French me.-Peter Michel.”

In 1965 the popular Australian television series Homicide based episode 39, “A Lonely Place”, on the Ethel Belshaw case. The episode first went to air in November 1965, and was introduced by actor John Fegan warning of the importance of protecting children. Unlike many episodes, “A Lonely Place” ended without a voiceover stating what the legal results of the case had been (for example, whether the offender was sentenced to death but later reprieved).

On This Day ……. 1st January 1935

On this day in 1935, Arnold Sodeman a serial killer struck for the third time. His victim, Ethel Belshaw, was a 12-year-old girl whom he strangled at the sea-side town of Inverloch. Belshaw was intending on buying an ice cream when she disappeared. Sodeman would kill one more victim. Sodeman at the time was on a work crew repairing roadways. During a morning tea break a fellow worker jokingly stated he had seen Sodeman on his bike near the crime scene. Sodeman replied angrily that he wasn’t there. He had answered with such anger and rage, which was very out of character for him, that the workers told police. Police rushed to Sodeman’s worksite and took him away for questioning. As soon as police had him in their custody, Sodeman confessed to the crimes. Police were initially skeptical of the confession, but Sodeman gave details of the crimes that only the killer could have known. Whilst confessing to the crimes, Sodeman told police how he would link his thumbs together to simplify the choking of his victims.

On This Day ……. 1st January 1911

Archibald Victor Martin Steane, Government Assistant Surveyor in the Maryborough district of Victoria, was found dead in Edinburgh Gardens, North Fitzroy, early on the morning on the 1st of January. He had a great cut across the eye and foul play was suspected, but investigations tend to show that he must have fallen on the stones in a portion of the Gardens, and after sustaining the injuries, had managed to reach a grass plot before collapsing. However a week later development were made in the mystery surrounding the death of Archibald Steane, aged 24, who, as previously wired, was found dead in the Edenburgh Gardens, North Fitzroy. Percy Lynch informed the police that late on New Year’s Eve he was walking through the Gardens with two females, when a man asked for a cigarette. Lynch gave him one. Then the man remarked that Lynch, had one girl too many, and suggested that he should escort one of them. The girls walked on, and the stranger according to Lynch left, but returned, and molested one of the girls. Lynch struck him, and the stranger pulled out what looked like a revolver. Lynch, fearing he would shoot, wrenched the weapon from his grasp, and hit him on the head. The stranger ; stepped up, and with a staggering blow sent Lynch to the ground. Lynch thought that he would be overpowered, and, rising, he ran away with the girls. He thought no more of the matter until he saw in the newspapers a report of the finding of the body. At a late hour Lynch was arrested on a charge of murder.

On This Day ……. 1st January 1911

About 12.30am, on the 1st of January 1911 Constable Jones and Senior Constable Barclay were escorting a prisoner to the local watch house from the Board Inn Hotel. Whilst doing so they were attacked by two men one of whom was the prisoner’s brother. In the course of the attack Jones was struck on the head by a beer bottle thrown with such force that his skull was badly fractured. Although he received medical attention almost immediately his doctors later stated they could not have prevented his death because of the massive injuries he had received. A local man was charged with the murder and presented for trial but the jury were discharged being unable to agree upon a verdict. The accused was again presented for trial and on the subsequent occasion was found ’not guilty’.

On This Day ……. 1st January 1862

Harriet Webb, aged 40, had been beaten to death in her own house which she shared with Kate Gorman. Fanny Porter, a witness who also lived in the house stated that she returned home at about 1am. Harriet Webb, was in bed lying, propped up with pillows, against the wall and groaning. There was no candle in the house and it was a very dark night. Fanny lay down beside the Webb until she began to fit, she then left, and went into another room. As soon as it was light, Fanny returned to Webb and found her on her hands and knees, trying to get up. Kate Gorman then entered the room asking where her bottle of rum was. Seeing the state that Webb was in Gorman said that drunken beast Webb must have got up and drunk it. Gorman grabbed Webb by hair and commenced beating her stiking head against the floor, over and over. Gorman screaming you drunken beast I will take the worth of the rum out of you. Standing over her Gorman dragged Webb by the hair to the washing stand and smashed her head against it smashing her teeth from her mouth and bricking her nose. Still standing over the top of her victim Gorman washed her hands before leavening Webb convulsing on the floor all day to die. Gorman was discharged in the absence of witnesses.

ON THIS DAY…… 1st January 1910

Recently the sentence of one of the prisoners in the Geelong gaol, who was engaged on some brick work, expired at 9am, but he refused to leave until he had finished his job, and remained till noon. Even then he was loathe to go; but it was pointed out to him that the State could not undertake to keep him longer and that if he did not at once depart an ejectment order would be obtained against him.