ON THIS DAY ……… 30th March 1948

The question of justification arose in the case In which John Kenneth Donnelly (19), of Opie street, Ferntree Gully, apprenticed carpenter, was charged in the Criminal Court to-day with having murdered his step-father, John Palmer (63), laborer, of the same address, at Ferntree Gully on March 30.
The Crown prosecutor (Mr. Nolan) said the family were living unhappily. Palmer came home for his tea in an intoxicated condition and the question arose as to where the children should sleep. Palmer complained of children sleeping in his bedroom.
In a confession to the police, accused had stated: “He (Palmer) had been cruel to my mother and the children. I got home at 6.20 p.m. and he came home at 7 p.m. drunk. The children kept complaining about all sleeping in the one bedroom. I sent one of the children to his bedroom and he told her to get out. I then sent another child to the room and he threatened her. He started to swing at me. He started to belt my mother, and I went on the verandah sleepout and loaded a rifle I saw him belting my mother again as I looked through the window. I look a quick aim and pulled the trigger.
Constable Charles Light, of Ferntree Gully, said during the seven years he had been stationed there he found accused to be hard working, quiet youth. On the night of March 30 Donnelly told him that he had hit him In self defence and thought Palmer was dead. At Palmer’s four-roomed house he found the rifle, which had an empty shell in the breach.

The jury in the Criminal Court took only eight minutes to decide that John K. Donnelly, 19, apprentice carpenter, of Ferntree Gully, was not guilty of a charge of the murder or manslaughter of his stepfather, John Palmer. Donnelly told the court that he shot his stepfather on this day in 1948 when Palmer was attacking his mother. He knew his mother was going to have a baby and his only thought was to prevent Palmer from killing her or earning her such harm that she would die. Mrs Palmer, mother of the accused and nine other children, told the court that Palmer had beaten her regularly.