On this day ………… 2nd February 1896

A peculiar scene occurred in the Rylstone Roman Catholic Church on this day in 1896. Mr. John Sheehan and Miss Annie Morrissey had contracted to be married there on that date, and as both were well known in the district the church was packed with their friends. When Mr. Sheehan and Miss Morrissey made their appearance Dean O’Donovan refused to perform the ceremony on the ground that Miss Morrissey was only 20 years of age and had not her parents’ consent to the marriage. Miss Morrissey some 16 years ago, when she was a little child was left by her mother with a police officer named Kearns, and neither her mother nor her father has been heard of since. When Dean O’Donovan refused to perform the ceremony there were manifestations of great indignation on the part of those present, whilst the bride and her maids took womanly advantage of the situation to have a good cry. The dean ordered all the people out of “the church, and the bridegroom went in search of the Wesleyan clergyman, but that gentleman refused to do the coupling under the circumstances. Meanwhile a large concourse gathered outside the Roman Catholic church and a “scene” seemed inevitable. At last Dean O’Donovan withdrew from his position and agreed to marry the pair if Constable Kearns, as guardian of the girl, took the legal responsibility of giving the bride away This burden the constable cheerfully undertook and the wedding proceeded without any further hitch. As Mr. and Mrs. John Sheelian left the railway-station on their wedding tour they were greeted with a hearty demonstration of public sympathy.

When Sir George Reid died in London on 12 September 1916, the Australian government was faced for the first time with the need to arrange an appropriate funeral ceremony for a former prime minister. The funeral procession set out from Australia House in the Strand, with the coffin draped with the huge Australian flag usually flown from the building. The Australian Government ordered wreaths from a Knightsbridge florist, and supplied a diagram outline of Australia so a wreath of wattle could be fashioned in the correct shape of the continent. At St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Pont Street Kensington, the pallbearers included Prime Minister WM Hughes and former prime ministers Andrew Fisher and Joseph Cook.




Notorious Bega schoolgirl killer Leslie Camilleri has been jailed for 28 years for the murder of 13-year-old Prue Bird in 1992. Victorian Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Curtain said she was satisfied Camilleri, 43, who is already serving two life sentences without parole for raping and murdering Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins in 1997, and two other men had abducted and murdered Prue. Justice Curtain said she had rejected Camilleri’s claims that he had acted alone. She said Camilleri and the two other men had abducted a defenceless 13-year-old from her home in circumstances that must have been terrifying for her. She said the evidence did not disclose how Prue was murdered but Camilleri’s conduct “bespeaks criminality of the highest order”. Camilleri had shown “a cruel and callous disregard for the sanctity of human life”. Justice Curtain did not believe Camilleri’s account that he alone had grabbed Prue as she walked along the street outside her Glenroy home on February 2, 1992. Camilleri claimed he put Prue face down on the back seat of his car and tied her arms and legs with electrical cables before driving around for several hours. Camilleri said when he later pulled over to the side of the road, he realised she was dead. Justice Curtain said Camilleri’s claim that the death was an accident was inconsistent with his guilty plea to murder but she accepted there was no evidence to prove Prue had been sexually assaulted before she was killed. Camilleri had claimed he dumped Prue’s body at a garbage tip in Frankston but police found nothing after digging up the site and a check of council records revealed it was not used as a tip at the time. Defence barrister John Kelly said Camilleri had tried his best to remember where he had left Prue’s body but his memory had been affected by drug taking at the time. Camilleri, who had been on parole after being jailed for assault in Queensland, said that as he was driving Prue’s body to the tip he also had in the car the dismembered body of a man he had murdered for abusing him as a child. Camilleri, a father of four who has converted to Islam while in jail, said he had placed Prue’s body, which he had wrapped in a quilt, inside a discarded wardrobe. Justice Curtain said she was satisfied, based on the evidence of a witness, that Camilleri and another man had been driving around the streets of Glenroy looking for a young girl. Another witness said she saw Prue being driven away by two men. A third man was seen nearby in a second car. The witness, who the judge said was credible, said Prue looked like she was waving and banging on the car’s window as if to say, “Help me, help me.” This witness did not go to the police because “you don’t think your friend is going to be kidnapped”. Police believe Prue was killed between the day she was abducted and nine days later when Camilleri was arrested interstate on outstanding warrants. Prue has not been seen or heard from since February 2, 1992 and her body has never been found. Outside court, Prue’s mother Jenny said she was totally exhausted after more than two decades of trying to find out what had happened to her daughter. “I’m glad of the outcome. “I knew he (Camilleri) didn’t act alone. I knew he was lying. This is the best I was hoping for that it was ruled he didn’t act alone.” Mrs Bird said she still prayed that one day Prue’s body would be found so she could lay her to rest. “I still don’t know what happened to Prue, I still haven’t got Prue. I hope one day that I get to know.”



ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1946


Frederick George Poland aged 32, was charged with the murder of Ethel Mavis Nyman aged 17, at Prince’s Pier, Port Melbourne, on the 2nd February. Poland made a statement to police, “I didn’t mean to kill her. She must have drowned herself. I only pushed her.” Poland said in his statement that he was sitting on Prince’s Pier eating fish and chips when a girl approached him and asked him for a drink. He told her he did not have a drink. After two more requests the girl scratched him on the neck. He pushed her and they both fell into the water. When he called out and asked her if she was all right she replied that she was, and went farther into the water. He could not find her and thought that she had drowned.


ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1924

Angus Murray was sentenced to death by Mr. Justice Mann in the Criminal Court on the 2nd of February 1924. Murray was charged with the murder of Thomas Reginald Victor Berryman, a bank manager at Glenferrie, on October the 8th. After deliberating for two hours the jury returned a verdict of guilty and at 6pm the death sentence was passed. The jury were taken to the Glenferrie railway station, where the outrage and robbery occurred. When the jury returned to announced their verdict Murray was asked the customary question whether he had anything to say while sentence of death should not be passed on him. Murray asked for leave to consult his solicitor; Mr Gorman immediately rose and said, “There is nothing useful that I can say on his behalf at this stage.’ Murray heard the sentence of death without any outward display of feeling. Murray was the last person to be executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol.



ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1923

A nude decomposed and decapitated body of a young woman in a bag in the River Yarra, was found on this day in 1923. The body was recovered by Detective McGuffie and two constables after they had dragged the river for three hours. A communication was received at police headquarters that two men had been seen at 11pm driving onto the Anderson-Street bridge. A witness Mr. Harold Montrose Sharkey Lloyd, of West Melbourne, told the police that he was about to cross the bridge at 11pm when he saw two men drive up in a motor car and stop suddenly near the kerbstone close to the bridge on the south side of the Yarra. The rear light of the car was obscured by a piece of cloth or bag and the headlights were dimmed. Soon after the car stopped two figures. Mr. Sharkey Lloyd says, emerged from the shadows of the bridge carrying a heavy object. The engine of the motor car was running at high speed. Mr. Sharkey Lloyd saw in the actions of the men something ominous and walked back to the end of the bridge where he hid himself in the darkness. Soon afterwards he saw the men lift what he thought was a coffin, to the railings of the bridge, they looked round to see that no one was watching and then threw the object into the river. There was a loud splash as the object struck the water. Immediately afterwards the men walked hurriedly off the bridge and jumping into the car drove off rapidly towards Richmond. Mr. Sharkey Boyd suspected that the men had committed a murder and had disposed of the body by throwing it into the river. He ran along the road and communicated with the criminal investigation department. After three unsuccessful attempts to bring this object to the surface he recovered a heavy bag which was taken to the river bank and opened. Spectators who had gathered were horrified at the discovery, that it contained the decomposed body of a woman, thought to be aged from 15 to 18 years. The body had been decapitated and the head was found inside another bag. The dead woman’s hair appeared to be auburn or dark brown and was plaited. In the bag were also about a hundredweight of blue stone, used as a sinker. The state of the body indicated that death had taken place some months previous. From evidence obtained it was determined the body was that of Bertha Coghlan who was buried shortly after her death, and that fearing discovery of the crime its perpetrators had it brought to the city and thrown into the Yarra.



ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1948

William Shields, 48, of North Yallourn, was arrested on his discharge from hospital and charged with the wilful murder of his wife, Eileen Mary Shields, on the 2nd of February 1948. Mrs Shields was found dead in her North Yallourn home. Her husband was admitted to hospital the same day for treatment to cuts to his throat and wrists.



On this day ………… 2nd February 1829

Captain Charles Sturt was born in India in 1795. He came to Australia in 1827, and soon after undertook to solve the mystery of where the inland rivers of New South Wales flowed. Because they appeared to flow towards the centre of the continent, the belief was held that they emptied into an inland sea. Drawing on the skills of experienced bushman and explorer Hamilton Hume, Sturt departed in late 1828 to trace the Macquarie River. Following the Macquarie inland, they came to a smaller river which, due to the drought, was merely a series of waterholes. This was the Bogan, named after an Aboriginal word meaning “birthplace of a king”. Sturt followed the Bogan downstream past the site of today’s Bourke, until he arrived suddenly at what he described as “a noble river”, on the 2nd of February 1829. This was the Darling, which Sturt named after Governor Darling. The discovery of the Darling brought a new element to the mystery of the rivers: its banks clearly showed that during flood-times, it would carry huge amounts of water. It remained to be determined whether the river drained into an inland sea to the southwest, or whether it flowed elsewhere.



On this day ………… 2nd February 1937

On February the 2nd 1937 crewman Lars Rasmussen of the Penang was lost near Port Germein, South Australia, when a 12 ft long dinghy capsized in rough seas. His body was later seen in the jaws of a shark, though it is unknown whether he drowned or died as a result of a shark attack.



On this day ………… 2nd February 1895

Women in South Australia gained the right to vote in 1894, and voted for the first time in the election of 1896. It is generally recognised that this right occurred with the passing of a Bill on the 18th of December 1894. However, a letter from the Attorney-General advising Governor Kintore that Royal Assent would be required to enact the Bill, is dated the 21st of December 1894. The Bill was enacted when Queen Victoria gave Royal Assent on the 2nd of February 1895. South Australia was the first colony in Australia and only the fourth place in the world where women gained the vote. The issue of women voting had been discussed since the 1860s, but gained momentum following the formation of the Women’s Suffrage League at Gawler Place in 1888. Between 1885 and 1894, six Bills were introduced into Parliament but not passed. The final, successful Bill was passed in 1894, but initially included a clause preventing women from becoming members of Parliament. Ironically, the clause was removed thanks to the efforts of Ebenezer Ward, an outspoken opponent of women’s suffrage. It seems that Ward hoped the inclusion of women in Parliament would be seen as so ridiculous that the whole Bill would be voted out. The change was accepted, however, allowing the women of South Australia to gain complete parliamentary equality with men.



ON THIS DAY – February 1, 1925


William Patrick Marshall, a contractor, of Cowwarr, Victoria, aged 26 years, was found guilty in the Criminal Court, of having, at Cowwarr, on February 1, caused strychnine to be administered to his wife, Agnes Marshall, with intent to murder her. He was also found guilty of having caused strychnine to be administered to his wife at Heyfield on February 6. There were two alternative charges of having caused strychnine to be administered to his wife, thereby endangering her life. Sentence of death was recorded against the accused.

Mr James McArthur, after the jury had returned a verdict of guilty on the first count and the first two charges acted under section 504 of the Crimes Act and instead of pronouncing sentence of death, ordered to be entered on the record. The case will now be considered by the Executive Council.


ON THIS DAY ………… 1st February 1902


 Ernest Dowell, aged 19, was arrested on a charge of having murdered an old man named John Membrey. The deceased was being assaulted by a crowd of boys in York street, Prahran, when the accused happened to come along. He joined in the attack, and, striking Membrey, knocked him down, his head striking the kerbstone. He was taken to the Melbourne Hospital, were he died from the injuries.