On This Day ……. 1st of August 1930

John Taylor had been found battered to death on the floor of his Fitzroy shop on the corner of Argyle and Fitzroy Streets at 6am on the 7th of June 1930. It was believed that Taylor had been killed shortly after closing time on Friday, when the thief entered the shop, killed Taylor and left with a large sum of money. A post mortem revealed that Taylor, and 80 year old man, suffered a broken jaw, 4 broken ribs, an injury to his throat as well as various bruises and lacerations. Arthur Skerritt was arrested on Friday the 13th of June, 1930. He was arrested as he had goods that had been brought at Taylor’s shop and it was also alleged that some of Taylor’s property was discovered in the house where Skerritt lived. Much was made in the newspapers of the fact that Skerritt was a coloured man. Evidence presented at the inquest stated that Skerritt was drunk and had left home with nothing but had returned with a sugar bag full of goods and a quantity of coppers and a sovereign. The accused lived a few doors down from Taylor’s shop. Skerritt was heard to remark that he must of done it as he was drinking. The trial for murder took place in July and on this day in 1930, Skerritt was found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death. An appeal was lodged but was dismissed. The Government of the day stepped in as the Labour party was opposed to capital punishment. Skerritt’s life sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for the term of his natural life without benefit of regulation. Skerritt was originally incarcerated at Pentridge prison but was transferred to Geelong Gaol at some stage. Pleas for his release because of his age began in 1946 and were still going in 1949. Authorities described him as crafty and unscrupulous and saw no reason to release him, fearing that he would continue to steal and would end up back in prison. Skerritt died of cardiac failure in 1953 still incarcerated in the Geelong Gaol.

 

Certainly per European history shows Tasmanian Tigers-Zebra Wolfs (Thylacine) roamed large parts of main land Australia. There is plenty of evidence in fossil remains and Aboriginal cave art. But is it possible they still lived in Victoria as little as 100 years ago. Interesting idea when the last known Thylacine died at the Hobart Zoo on the 7th of September 1936, and Thylacine’s were declared extinct by international standards in 1986. However there are many accounts of wolf-lions-tiger like animals killing live stock through Gippsland, North East and central Victoria and as far as Tantanoola in South Australia. Below is an account of animal killed by a farmer on the 29th June 1916 at Mirboo North, South Gippsland, Victoria.

The sheep-killing animal that was found poisoned in Mr J. Gilfedder’s paddock, close to the Mirboo North township, Victoria recently, does not appear to be either a dingo or a fox. It was two or three times as large as either of those animals. It had the legs, paws and nails of a dog, and the snout and tail of a fox or a dingo. Its mode of killing sheep was to worry their rumps and pull away some of the entrails. Residents who saw-it say that it was a cross between a dingo or a fox and a dog. To ascertain if possible what the animal was, Mr. Gilfedder intends sending the skull, claws and tail to the Director of the Melbourne Zoo, who is recognised as an authority on animals. Some people at Yinnar who had sheep destroyed in the way described poisoned the carcases; but the animal would not take the bait. A successful way to destroy any other of such breed as turn up among sheep is to skin rabbits and put them in a fire, and thus destroy the smell of the hands, and use one as a trail, and cut others, and lay the baits along the trail, without touching them with the hands. This was the method Mr Gilfedder used. Since the death of the animal we have not heard of any sheep being worried around the district. Mr Gilfedder received the following letter from Mr D. Gibson, of the National Bank, Maffra: – “Dear Sir, – I saw in the paper some few days ago that you had poisoned an animal, somewhat like a dingo, but larger, that had been destroying your sheep. I enclose a rough sketch of the Tasmanian zebra wolf, in the hope that it may enable you to identify it with that animal. I and others have seen them up in the mountains; but the fact of their being indigenous to Victoria has never been established by their capture. Probably they are the animal vaguely called the ‘Tantanoola tiger’ and the ‘Morwell lion,’ which has been seen in so many localities. The zebra wolf is a marsupial, coloured from French-grey to russet brown, according to the season, and striped with dark brown to black on back and tail, and less conspicuously on the legs. The coat is short and close, build very strong, pads especially large for its size, powerful hindquarters, progresses either at a trot or by long bounds, height at shoulder 2ft. 6in. to 3ft. I have seen one in captivity which stood on its hind legs over 5ft. high. They are night prowlers, and carry their young in a pouch. They use hollow logs, etc., to camp in, and cover long distances, rarely coming out in the daylight. This is the reason why they have escaped capture so long. The skin or cleaned skeleton would be eagerly purchased by either Melbourne Zoo (D. Le Soeuf), or the National Gallery Museum. Probably they would fetch £20 or so; so they are worth saving.”