On this day …….. 23rd May 1930

When part of the seating in Wirth’s Circus collapsed during a performance at West Maitland, New South Wales, on this day in 1930, a woman threw her baby forward over the heads of five rows of people, as she fell. It was caught unharmed by a man in the audience. Some 700 people sank to the ground in a heap when seating collapsed, but there was no panic. Although many suffered from bruising and minor cuts, only one woman needed medical attention.

EXECUTED ON THIS DAY …….. 23rd of May 1892

Frederick Deeming was tried at Melbourne Supreme Court on 25 April 1892, for the murder of his wife in Windsor. Alfred Deakin, (who would become the 2nd Prime Minister of Australia) his counsel, tried to mount a plea of insanity. The defence also questioned the impact of newspaper reporting of Deeming on the jury. Perhaps wishing to aid the defence of insanity, Deeming also claimed to have caught syphilis in London, and to have received visitations from his mother’s spirit, which urged his actions. Before the jury retired, Deeming made a “lengthy,… rambling, speech of self-justification.” He repeated a story he had told police that Emily had “run off with another man”. “That is my one comfort…knowing that she is not dead”. The prosecution case was conducted by Robert Walsh, Q.C. Deeming was found guilty as charged, however. Deeming spent the last days writing his autobiography and poetry; “The Jury listened well to the yarn I had to tell, But they sent me straight to hell.” He also spent time talking to the Church of England ministers, to whom he supposedly confessed. The sentence of the court was confirmed by the Executive Council on 9 May 1892 and the judicial committee of the Privy Council refused leave to appeal on 19 May 1892. Deeming was hanged at 10:01 am on 23 May 1892, he weighed 143 pounds (65 kg), 14 pounds (6.4 kg) less than when he entered prison. The autobiography which Deeming wrote in gaol was destroyed.

It was believed at the time that Deeming was Jack the Ripper, as he was in White Chapel, London at the time of the murders. The Victoria police were asked by the British police to question him in relation.

 

Labassa is an outstanding Victorian era mansion with opulent architectural features at 2 Manor Grove, Caulfield. Labassa was the filming location for the home of Squizzy Taylor and Lorna Kelly in the highly popular Underbelly series. Set between 1915–1927 in Melbourne and tells the story of one of the city’s most notorious criminals, Squizzy Taylor, who made an appearance in Underbelly: Razor, which was set in 1920s Sydney. Justin Rosniak did not reprise his role as Squizzy as Jared Daperis took over the role.

EXECUTED THIS DAY…… 23rd May 1854

An execution which took place at Melbourne on the this day in 1854, was reported by the Argus newspaper:—”William Thoroughgood, convicted last criminal sessions of rape upon a child of tender years, was executed yesterday at the common gaol, at 8am. The convicted man was a Wesleyan Methodist, and expressed himself very penitent for his offences. In accordance with our usual custom we do not pander to the taste of the lovers of the horrible, by minutely chronicling the details of the last deal struggles of the wretched criminal, whose offences, like fierce diseases, doubtless require strong remedies; but we have yet to learn that public strangulation is the most appropriate—in fact our own experience of the colonies, where life is held so cheap, loudly tells us it is not.”

 

ON THIS DAY……22nd May 1947

The coroner found that Howard James Richard, 25, a timber worker of Thornton 75 miles north-east of Melbourne, had shot and killed a workmate on this day in 1947. However, the coroner found that Richard had not committed murder or manslaughter because he acted in fear of serious bodily injury.

 

Executed On This Day…….22nd May 1876

John Duffus, age 50, was executed on this day in 1876 in Castlemaine for a charge of Rape. Mrs. Duffus, who was living isolated with her family, husband and three daughters at the Bendigo Creek, near Goornong, gave information to the police that her husband, John Duffus, had criminally assaulted his own daughter, Mary Ann, 11 years of age. Mounted Constable Clark arrested Duffus, who was formally placed in the dock at the City Police Court at Sandhurst (now Bendigo) and charged with carnally knowing a girl under 12 years of age, a capital crime. Duffus not only had assaulted his youngest daughter between the 27th January and the 17th February, but also had incestuous relationships with his elder daughters, at that time 22 and 15, who both became pregnant. The youngest daughter affirmed that her father had abused her for a period of over four years, which was confirmed by a medical officer who examined her. The isolated condition of the family and the thorough control which Duffus obviously exercised over all family members was the reason why his crimes had been detected earlier. John Duffus was convicted of rape at the Criminal Sessions of the Assize Court at Sandhurst, and was sentenced to death on 29 April 1876. He was hanged at Castlemaine Gaol on this in 1876, at 10am

 

Executions have been a part of Australian history since the beginning.

The indigenous people had death sentences that were carried out under Aboriginal customary law.

The first executions carried out under European law in Australia took place in Western Australia in 1629, when Dutch authorities hanged the mutineers of the Batavia.

The first execution after European settlement came just weeks after the arrival of the First Fleet when Thomas Barrett was hanged from a tree on February 27, 1788 for plotting to rob the Government stores.  He was buried near the Gallows tree.

Executions began to be abolished in the states and territories starting with Queensland in 1922 and Western Australia the last in 1984.

The last person to be sentenced to death was Brenda Hodge in Western Australia in 1984 for murder but it was commuted to life imprisonment.

Victoria has the dubious honour of having the final woman and final man executed in Australia with Jean Lee on 19th February 1951 and Ronald Ryan on 3rd February 1967.

In 2010, Federal Parliament passed laws that prevent the death penalty from being reintroduced by any state or territory in Australia.

 

Executions in Australia were abolished by most of the states in the 1960s – 1980s, excepting Queensland who had abolished the death penalty in 1922.

Queensland’ final execution was that of Ernest Austin on 22nd September 1913. Austin was executed for the rape and murder of 12 year old Ivy Mitchell near Sanford.  He was hanged in Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane.

NSW’s final execution was that of John Trevor Kelly  on 24th August 1939 at Long Bay Correctional Centre in Sydney.  Kelly was hanged for the murder of Marjorie Sommarlad at Hillcrest.

In Tasmania, the final execution took place in the Hobart Gaol on 14th February 1946.  It was that of Frederick Henry Thompson, a serial rapist and murderer for the murder of 8 year old Evelyn Maughan.

In the Northern Territory, the final execution was a double one at Darwin Gaol on 7th August 1952.  The men were John Novoty and Jerry Koci, aged 20 and 19 years respectively who were hanged for the murder of taxi driver, George Grantham.

Western Australia’s final execution was that of Eric Edgar Cooke on 26th October 1964 at Fremantle Prison.  He was hanged for the murder of 18 year old John Sturkey, but confessed to more murders before his execution.

In South Australia, the final execution took place on the 24th November 1964 at the Adelaide Gaol with the hanging of Glen Sabre Valance for the murder of Richard Strang.

The final execution in Australia was that of Ronald Ryan in Victoria on 3rd February 1967, who was hanged for the killing of a prison officer in an escape from Pentridge Prison.

On This Day ……. 22nd May 1916

A strange premonition happened in Swan Hill, Victoria to Mr Robert Henry Athorne, farmer aged 47, who was run over by his wagon, and died on this day at the Swan Hill Hospital. In March Athorne dreamt that he would meet with a fatal accident, which he took such notice of the premonition, that he at once insured his life against accident for between, £4,000 and £5000. He left a wife and ten children, the eldest of being 21 years and the youngest nine months.

ON THIS DAY……22nd May 1926

Arthur Kerchival who was charge with having murdered Mrs Margaret Edgell, at Preston, on this day in 1926, was withdrawn in the City Court. Sergeant Seales said that Kerchival had been committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter by the city coroner Mr. Berriman.

 

This beautiful 19th century Manson “Wardlow” at 114 Park Drive Parkville, is the filming location for the home of Miss Phryne Fishers (Essie Davis) from the popular ABC Drama Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This traditional crime drama explores the fascinating and varied sub cultures of 1920s ‘between-the-wars’ in Melbourne. From the shadowy lanes of the city to the halls of academia, from high-class brothels to haute couture, she defends the innocent and juggles admirers with her usual panache, all the while keeping up her delicious dance around Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.

On This Day ……. 22nd May 1903

At the Police Court on this day in 1903, a man named Martin Cunningham was charged with attempted suicide. The accused a fortnight ago cut his throat at Colac, and was remanded to the Geelong’ gaol to medical treatment. This morning a certificate from the medical officer was produced to the effect that Cunningham was now able to look after himself, and he was discharged.