On This Day ……. 1st of July 1901

On this day in 1901, Nicholas Keneally, who was sentenced to death at Shepparton on the 6th of December, 1899, for an offence on his grand-daughter,’ but whoso sentence was subsequently commuted to imprisonment for life, died in the Geelong Gaol.

 

On this day …….. 1st of July 1851

When James Cook became the first European to sight and map the eastern coastline of Australia, he claimed the eastern half of the continent for England under the name of New South Wales. After the arrival of the First Fleet, England sought to secure its claim on New South Wales be establishing further settlements south, and eventually north and west. In 1803, the British Government instructed Lieutenant-Governor David Collins to establish a settlement on the southern coast. This settlement was not a success and the site was abandoned, but expeditions continued to be mounted to explore the land between Sydney and Port Phillip. Thanks to the initiative of John Batman, Melbourne was settled in 1835, and despite being regarded as an “illegal” settlement, the foundling colony thrived. Governor Bourke formally named Melbourne in 1837. The Port Phillip Colony encompassed Melbourne and “Australia Felix”, which was the fertile western district discovered by Major Thomas Mitchell. The first petition for formal separation of the colony from New South Wales was presented to Governor Gipps in 1840, but rejected. It was another ten years before the British Act of Parliament separating Victoria from New South Wales was signed by Queen Victoria. The New South Wales Legislative Council subsequently passed legislation formalising Victoria’s separation on the 1st of July 1851.

 

EXECUTED THIS DAY – July 1, 1895

ARTHUR BUCK – MELBOURNE GAOL

Arthur Buck, who murdered Catherine Norton at South Melbourne on the 28th April last, was executed in the Melbourne Gaol last Monday morning at 10 o’clock. The arrangements made by the governor of the gaol, Captain Burrows, and the medical officer, Dr. Shields, were perfect, and the execution passed off without a hitch. The murderer met his death calmly, and at his own request the usual prayers and devotional exercises were dispensed with. Though the chaplain, the Rev. H. F. Scott, had been respectfully received by the prisoner, his ministrations fell on an unresponsive ear, and the man died as he had lived, an atheist. The recently appointed sheriff, Mr. A. McFarland, was present in his official capacity, and the attendance of the public totalled seven, the smallest number recorded at an execution in Melbourne for years past.

The crime for which Buck suffered the extreme penalty of the law was a diabolical one, unrelieved by a single redeeming feature. The victim, Catherine Norton, had a short and an usually wretched existence. She married a labourer when only 17 years old, and within 12 months was not only situated in the most squalid surroundings, but was continually quarrelling with her husband. At length her home became unbearable, and she left it to live with Buck, who was about her own age. After a few months Buck went to New South Wales, Norton meantime going as housekeeper to a labourer named Thorpe in South Melbourne. Buck returned to Melbourne in April, sought out Norton, and having vainly endeavoured to persuade her to go away with him, he cut her throat. The dying woman staggered towards her residence, and Buck stood by in a dark corner while the people gathered and doctors and police were summoned. Then he walked to his home in Richmond, went to bed, and slept till Detectives Cawsey, Dungey, and Carter sought him later in the day. He callously admitted the deed, gave the whole of the horrible details, but expressed no word of sorrow for the victim or remorse for the act.

An hour and an half subsequent to the execution a formal inquest was held by the City Coroner, Dr. Youl, when a verdict of “death from judicial hanging” was recorded. At sunset the body was buried in quicklime in the gaol yard.

On this day …….. 1st of July 1978

The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, bordered by the states of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. From 1825 to 1863, the Northern Territory was part of New South Wales. In 1863, as a result of the successful 1862 expedition of John McDouall Stuart to find an overland route through the desert from Adelaide to the north, control of the Northern Territory was handed to South Australia. On the 1st of January 1911, the Northern Territory was separated from South Australia and transferred to Commonwealth control. This meant that the laws governing people of the Northern Territory were dictated by the authorities in Canberra, in a society vastly different from their own. Over the ensuing decades, the Northern Territory took small steps towards attaining self-government. The Territory was allowed to make its own legislature in 1947. In 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced that self-government would soon be granted, and a Legislative Assembly made up of 19 members was formed. However, a major catalyst to the granting of self-governance was the tragedy of Cyclone Tracy, which devastated most of the city of Darwin at Christmas in 1974. The cyclone and subsequent response highlighted problems with the arrangement of having a federal minister responsible for the Territory from Canberra, thousands of kilometres away. The Northern Territory was granted self-government on the 1st of July 1978. Around 6000 people gathered at the Cenotaph in Darwin. The inaugural ministry was sworn in, followed by a guard of honour and the first official raising of the new Territorian flag by Flight Sergeant Gordon Mcloughlin. The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, stated, “Today’s historic occasion symbolises the strength and the spirit of men and women of the Territory, a spirit that has endured suffering, withstood hardships and overcome many times of adversity.” Most state responsibilities came under the purview of the Northern Territory government. Exceptions included matters relating to Aboriginal land, uranium mining, national parks and some industrial relations. Of major significance was the fact that citizens were now permitted to own freehold land. This was a tremendous boost to the economy, as it allowed for major construction works of new tourism and entertainment facilities such as accommodation and casinos, and educational institutions such as universities, to go ahead without waiting for approval from Canberra bureaucrats. Territory Day continues to be celebrated on the 1st of July every year. It is the only day when fireworks are permitted to be lit by the public.

On This Day ……..1st July 1970

To all our fellow crime fans, it’s not every day on the anniversary of a Victorian murder we can share a book which has been published. But for the Crawford Family Murders in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on the 1st of July 1970, we do………..

Almost Perfect
The True Story of the Crawford Family Murders
By Greg Fogarty

On July 2, 1970, tourists in Australia spotted a smashed car, teetering precariously on a cliff edge, overlooking the raging ocean below. It seemed the car would fall into the water at any moment, but the car lingered … as did a mystery, revealed when police traced the license plate to the Crawford household. Here, the police discovered the shocking truth: a mother and her three children had been murdered, with the husband and father—now missing—the main suspect.
The quadruple homicide sent a wave of panic through Australia. Where was the husband? And what would make a father kill his own children? There was much speculation but few answers, as the Crawford patriarch remained missing. Forty years passed—forty years of “Australia’s Most Wanted,” police dead ends, and silence … until an unidentified body appears in a Texas morgue.

Almost Perfect is the firsthand look at a terrible crime from the perspective of Greg Fogarty—a neighbor to the Crawford family and later a member of the Victoria Police Force, Australia. Using his skills of observation and investigation, Fogarty has put together a tragic and detailed crime narrative with a shocking conclusion. Could a morgue in San Angelo, Texas, hold the body of Australia’s most sought-after murderer … or will the Crawford homicide remain unsolved forever?

On this day …….. 1st of July 1959

“Mr Squiggle and Friends” was a long-running children’s television series on Australia’s ABC. It featured a marionette with a large pencil for its nose. Mr Squiggle regularly flew to Earth from his residence at 93 Crater Crescent, The Moon on his spaceship named Rocket. In each episode, Mr Squiggle would create imaginative and creative drawings from squiggles sent in to the programme by children from across Australia, accompanied by their letters. The concept of Mr Squiggle was created by puppeteer, cartoonist and illustrator Norman Hetherington. Mr Squiggle first appeared on the Children’s TV Club on ABC TV, but developed into a regular series of short, five minute slots, with occasional longer special programmes. Hetherington manipulated the marionette from overhead: drawings were usually completed upside-down, so would remain largely unrecognisable until Mr Squiggle called out “Upside down! Upside down!” and the sketch was turned around. Scripts were largely written by Hetherington’s wife Margaret. A female helper assisted Mr Squiggle each time, variously Miss Gina, Miss Pat, Miss Jane, Roxanne and Rebecca. Other characters included the grouchy Blackboard; Bill the Steam Shovel; and Gus the Snail, who sported a TV for a shell, then a flower pot. The first Mr Squiggle episode appeared on the 1st of July 1959, and the show continued to run for forty years. The final episode, which was produced in 1996, was aired on the 9th of July 1999.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1934

IVY McDONNELL – MOOROOPNA

Before Mr. Justlce Lowe, in the Supreme Court, at Shepparton today, Florence Lillian Thrower, of Orrong crescent, Caulfield, was charged with the murder of Ivy Winifred Rose McDonnell at Mooroopna on July 1. The prosecution alleged that Mrs. McDonnell died as a result of an Illegal operation. The case for the prosecution is part heard.