ON THIS DAY – November 2, 1884


John Redden and his companions, John Riley and James Duggan had met up on the evening of 2nd November 1884 and made their way to the Fire Brigade Hotel. Riley had originally gone out that evening to meet his friend George Vale. He had parted company with George and had then met up with Redden, Duggan and Edward Stewart.  As it was past midnight the hotel was closed, but when the group knocked on the back door, Bridget answered and let them in to have some drinks. The group finally left about 2 am and Redden said he was going back to Bryant’s smithy where he worked as it was too late to bother going home.

On the way along Little Ryrie Street when they were met by a woman, Mrs Elizabeth Gillies, who yelled out to them that they were larrikens, blackguards and responsible for breaking her windows. Redden told her to “Go home and mind your own business”. Elizabeth who was not sober, turned to leave but slipped on the footpath and screamed ‘Murder, police’. All of a sudden a man named John Hunt rushed at Redden and the group, wielding a knife. Duggan received minor cuts but Redden fell to the ground having been stabbed severely. Hunt called out ‘Aha, aha you got that then”!

John Kelly was a bootmaker of Lt Ryrie Street and on hearing the noise went to assist. He helped Duggan and the others take Redden to the smithy’s, having to pass Hunt’s house on the way. Constables Lee and Daniels also came to help. By the time they got Redden to Bryant’s he had died in Constable Lee’s arms. Henry Pride and his wife were in a nearby cottage. He heard windows being broken by boys and called Sgt Wickham to make investigations. Together they went to Hunt’s house. On arriving there Hunt said that the group of boys were his friends. It appeared that Elizabeth had invited them ‘to come up to her house’ and then once they had stepped inside, asked ‘Who’s going to get the beer?’ Hunt said he would pay for it if someone went to get it.

The group of boys included Joseph Burr, William Winter, Joseph Atkinson, Lawrence Davey and Robert Grierson. The boys had all agreed not to tell the police anything and Sgt. Wickham on visiting Hunt’s house found one of the boys was in the bedroom with Elizabeth. He also found the knife with blood on it. Hunt had said he’d gone to Elizabeth’s rescue as Duggan was holding her down while Redden raped her. He had acted in self-defence. It wasn’t until Elizabeth was taken to the morgue to identify Redden as her attacker and then back to the lock-up that she mentioned the rape charge.

Duggan was remanded but discharged as the evidence was not sufficient against him. Supt. Toohey objected as the court proceedings had not ended so he was remanded again until the next morning. Hunt was brought up for trial as was Duggan on a charge of rape. The Doctor attending the inquest stated that Gillies injuries to her face and body had not been caused through any assault. Duggan was discharged but given some stern advice by the magistrate that he should give up street-walking, late hours, bad company and be mindful of his present painful position! Duggan replied ‘Thank you, Sir”.

Hunt and Gillies were charged with having wilfully murdered Redden. Gillies was released due to not having anything to do with the murder nor inciting Hunt to do anything but re-arrested for vagrancy. She was given 6 months gaol, with a combined charge for prostitution also. Hunt was sentenced to death but it was commuted to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour.