ON THIS DAY – October 27, 1856

At around 4am on the morning of October 27th, 1856, Sergeant-Major Cahir discovered a woman coming along Bellarine Street from the direction of the Barwon River. He recognised her as Catherine Finnegan, the wife of Sergeant Owen Finnegan. Cahir asked her why she was out so early and she admitted to murdering her two youngest children, 3 week old twins John and Judith. Mrs Finnegan was known for her eccentric behaviour, and so Cahir escorted her back to her Bourke Crescent home, where he found Sergeant Owen Finnegan in distress. Finnegan asked his wife what she had done with the children, which she wouldn’t answer. Cahir and the Finnegan entered the property and soon discovered a bloody razor on the foot of the little bed where the children had lain. Mrs Finnegan was conveyed to the watch house and a more thorough search was made for the children. The foot of Mrs Finnegan’s bed was found to be saturated with blood although the covers had been drawn over the mess. The bodies of the children were found at the bottom of the water closet, when blood stains were discovered at the top. Around 6am Constable Grant went down and retrieved the children’s bodies. Both infants had their throats cut, from their ears to the centre of the throat and John also had a deep cut to one of his hands.  The inquest into the children’s death was conducted at the Portarlington Hotel on the same day, the 27th October 1856. At the conclusion of the inquest, Forster Shaw, the district Coroner, returned a verdict that the children had been “put to death by their mother who was at the time insane”. Catherine Finnegan was committed to trial.