By 1800s in Victoria there were 160 crimes that were punishable by death, here is a list of some crimes.

Accessory to homosexuality
Armed robbery
Arson in royal dockyards
Assisting the enemy
Attempted suicide

Being illegally at large
Being in the company of Gypsies for one month
Blacking the face whilst committing a crime

Capital murder
Carnal knowledge of a child
Cattle Stealing
Causing a fire or explosion in a naval dockyard
Causing a fire or explosion in a ship
Causing a fire or explosion in a magazine
Causing a fire or explosion in a warehouse
Child abuse
Course of robbery which involves the use of offensive weapons
Course burglary which involves the use of offensive weapons
Cutting down trees in an avenue of honour
Cutting down trees in a private orchard
Cutting down trees in public place.

Disguise one self whilst committing a crime


Failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy.

Giving false air signals
Grand larceny – theft of goods worth more than 12 pence

High Treason
Horse Stealing
Homosexual behaviour

Impersonating an Egyptian
Incitement to mutiny

Killing a person consider to be evil
Knowingly and intentionally killing another person

Murder of a child
Murder in the course or furtherance of theft
Murder by shooting or causing an explosion
Murder while resisting arrest or during an escape
Murder of a police officer
Murder of a police officer during the course of his duties
Murder of a prison officer by a prisoner

Obstructing operations

Petty theft
Piracy with violence
Premeditated killing of another person
Prostitutes who is the daughter of priests

Rape of a child

Sexual Assault
Serious misconduct in action
Strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age

Turned a blind to homosexuality

ON THIS DAY…. 21st May 1913

John Jones and John Nolan, two labourers at Korumburra, had a dispute on this day in 1913, which culminated in Nolan striking Jones a heavy blow on the cheek bone, breaking his neck. Jones died in the Melbourne Hospital two days later. At the inquest, the Coroner committed Nolan, for trial on a charge of manslaughter.


On This Day ……. 21st May 1908

A lunatic named William Martin aged 50 years old, escaped from the criminal ward of the Ararat lunatic asylum on the night of the 21st of May 1908. Martin was able to escape while some alterations to the walls were in progress. He was seen at Crowlands, but managed to disappear before he could be captured. He was 6ft 7in height, and at the time was dressed in asylum clothes.

On This Day ……. 21st May 1905

Mrs. Ann Mullen died at Williamstown, Melbourne Victoria on this day in 1905, at the great age of 107 years and 2 months. Mullen was born in 1803.

ON THIS DAY……21st May 1921

When Frederick William Lohse appeared at the City Court on a charge of having murdered George Day at Newport on this day in 1921. Sub-Inspector Kane asked that in view of the verdict of misadventure, returned by the Coroner at the Inquest on the body of Day, the charge be withdrawn. The Bench granted the request. Day as the victim of a practical joke at Newport workshops when compressed air was forced into his body by means of a high tension power drill.


On This Day ……. 21st May 1908

The young man Robert Smith, was charged with the theft of a bicycle lamp valued at £15, the property of Charles Wickham of Winchelsea, was imprisonment for 14 days.


ON THIS DAY……. 20th May 201905

In connection with the death of Mrs. William Tierney, which took place at a small settlement near Goroke, in the Horsham district, on this day in 1905, exhaustive inquiries have been made by the police. The facts of the case were as follows: During the morning of May 19, Mrs. Tierney, who lived with her husband at his farm at Gymbowen, complained of a feeling of weakness and the loss of the use of her legs. Not much importance was attached to the attack, as in a few hours, Mrs. Tierney was well again, and performed her household duties as usual. During the afternoon the same feeling came over her, this time accompanied by twitchings of the body. Her husband drove her to Dr R. K. Bird, of Natimuk, who examined her. When questioned by the doctor she stated that she had partaken of some tart for breakfast. Portions of the tart had a bitter taste, and the tea she had at that meal also had a bitter taste. The doctor suggested that some poison was in the tart and advised her not to eat anymore of it. Mrs. Tierney by this time had quite recovered, and with her husband drove home the following morning. In the evening Mr. Tierney killed a sheep, and his wife, who had been watching him, went towards the house, but when she had gone about 50 yards she collapsed. Her husband ran to her assistance, and she died in his arms. Miss Bertram, who was employed as a domestic servant in the Tierney family, also complained of feeling ill after breakfast, but after vomiting she recovered. Dr. Bird refused to give a certificate of death, and an inquiry was opened. Dr. Bird made a post-mortem examination of the body, and removed the stomach, with its contents, which were sent by the police to the Government Analyst. Deceased, who was 31 years of ago, was married on March 1 of that year. Prior to her marriage she was a teacher in the Educational Department, and was teaching at schools around Horsham for about five years. She was the daughter of Mr. John Meehan, of Happy Valley, near Ballarat. As a result of the inquiries Mary Bertram was arrested, charged with murder. Accused was housekeeper to Tierney before his marriage.


On This Day ……. 20th May 1901

A middle aged woman named Mary Ann Boedecker was sent to the Geelong gaol for two months for defrauding an old age pensioner named Ann Brooks of sums aggregating £1. According to the evidence for the prosecution, Ann Brooks, who was in Receipt of a pension of 5 per week, became so ill flint’ she had to go to the hospital, and she handed her pass book to accused to collect her pension. Ann Boedecker collected payments amounting to £1, and failed to give the money to the pensioner.


ON THIS DAY……. 20th May 1950

Two men charged with murder were remanded in the City Court and bail was refused for both men. Senior-Detective W. Mooney alleged that Francis Gordon Millar, of St. Catherine’s College, Heyington Place, Toorak, murdered his wife, Marie Edna Millar, after a quarrel on this day in 1950. Alfred James Hodgkin, of Glen Wills, is charged with having murdered Donald Forsyth, also of Glen Wills, with a .22 pea rifle after a quarrel over a woman.


On this day……… 20th May 1859

On the 20th of May 1859, William Short, aged 60 years, was shot in his own tent, about a mile from Ballan, by a man named William Salt. The inquest was held before Dr. Glendinning, at the Royal Mail Hotel, Ballan, when Sarah Short, wife of deceased, deposed that between 7 and 8pm on the night of the murder, just as they were, going to bed, Salt came to the door with a gun in his hand, the cap of which he fired off asking deceased if he was frightened. Short said it startled him. Salt then entered the tent and sat down for some time conversing with the deceased. She was meantime preparing some “stuff” at the fire with which to rub his breast and shoulder for pains which he had there, when she heard the report of a gun and her husband screaming out. On looking up saw deceased standing up against the bed and his shirt burning about his right breast. She put out the fire, when deceased immediately fell down on his two hands blood gushing out of his breast. He cried out twice, “Lord have mercy on me,” and died almost immediately. Salt ran out of the tent with the gun in his hand, and she ran for help, when two men came to the door of the tent, looked in and said they would fetch the police, who arrived shortly after. She also said that no angry words passed between Salt and her husband. Other witnesses were examined, who proved that the prisoner went out after supper with a gun, as he said for the purpose of shooting possums. Salt was found hid between two trusses of hay in the stable of John Short, the gun lying beside him, and upon being asked why he shot deceased, replied ” God only knows.” The medical testimony of Dr. Heiser proved the cause of death to have arisen from gunshot wounds in the breast, and the jury returned a verdict that ” death was caused by a gunshot wound inflicted on him by William Salt.

Photo of the Royal Mail Hotel


During its operation, the gaol was the setting for 133 hangings. The most infamous was that of bushranger Ned Kelly at the age of 25, on 11 November 1880. After a two-day trial, Kelly was convicted of killing a police officer. As stated by law at the time, executed prisoners were buried (without head) in unmarked graves in the gaol burial yard. The head was normally removed from the body as part of the phrenological study of hanged felons. Historian and associate professor of Wollongong University John McQuilton states that the lack of monitoring for burial processes was odd, given Victorian society’s normally brilliant attention to detail. The first hanging of a woman in Victoria, Elizabeth Scott, was performed in the prison on 11 November 1863 – along with her co-accused, Julian Cross and David Gedge. The last person to be executed was Angus Murray in 1924, the same year the gaol was closed.

EXECUTION ON THIS DAY…….. 20th May 1873

The last sentence of the law was carried out at the Castlemaine Gaol, on the body of Pierre Borhuu, for the murder of Mrs. Smith, of Kangaroo Flat, Sandhurst. Which took place on the 28th April 1872. Pierre Borhuu was a native of Guernsey, his parents, who are still alive and residing at North St. Denis, being French. He was brought up on the sea, and had for some years followed his calling on the coast of England. He arrived in this colony in 1868, and shortly afterwards came onto Sandhurst, taking up his abode in Sunrise Gully, Kangaroo Flat. Here he worked as an alluvial miner, and was very successful, but generally managed to spend most of his gains in the public-House owned by Mr. Smith, the husband of the criminal’s victim. It was during one of his mad paroxysms of drink that he committed the deed for which he has suffered. Since his incarceration at Castlemaine he has behaved himself remarkably well, and frequently expressed his regret for his hasty and intemperate conduct. At 8am the Rev. Father Allen went into the condemned cell, and the irons having been struck off the criminal, the two remained in religious exercises and administering the last offices of the Roman Catholic Church till the arrival of the sheriff. At 10am precisely Mr. Colles knocked at the door of the condemned cell, and demanded the body of the murderer, who was then delivered over to the executioner William Bamford. He was at once pinioned and conducted to the scaffold, the unfortunate man walking with a firm step, and even a smile of resignation on his face. During this time the attendant priest was reciting the prayers for the dead. The white cap was then placed on Borhuu’s face as far as the eyebrows, and the rope put round his neck, but here Bamford bungled the matter considerably by running the hitch so tight as to half strangle his victim before he fell, and thus prevent the knot slipping into its proper place on the fall of the body. Having placed the man in his proper position, the bolt was drawn, and, with a dull heavy thud, the body fell, and the criminal was launched into eternity. For some minutes there was a convulsive twitching of the limbs, death not taking place instantaneously, owing no doubt to the cause abovementioned. The body swung half round, so that the features were not visible to the spectators, but beyond a swelling of the tongue, which protruded slightly, there was little disfigurement. There were about 20 spectators, most of whom were the gaol officials. After hanging the customary time, the body was cut down, and an inquest held on the remains. The usual verdict was returned, and the body then buried within the precincts of the gaol.

Photo of the Castlemaine Gaol