On This Day – October 1, 1915

In the early hours of Tuesday, 1st October, 1915 Constable McGrath and other police went to the Trades Hall in Lygon Street, Carlton in answer to a report and a burglary was in progress. The policemen entered the building, and found that an attempt had been made to open a safe. McGrath then confronted two offenders in a passage-way, one of whom fired a number of shots which fatally wounded the Constable. The offender was later arrested at the scene after further shots had been fired. John Jackson, the man who fired the fatal shot, was convicted of McGrath’s murder, and was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol. He was the last person in Victoria to be executed for the murder of a policeman.

On This Day ….. 26th September 1803

Joseph Samuel was born in England and later transported to Australia after committing a robbery in 1801. Samuel then became involved in a gang in Sydney and robbed the home of a wealthy woman. A policeman who had been sent to protect her home was murdered. The gang was soon caught and at the trial Joseph Samuel confessed to stealing the goods but denied being part of the murder. The leader of the gang was released due to lack of evidence and Joseph Samuel was sentenced to death by hanging. In 1803, Samuel and another criminal were driven in a cart to Parramatta where hundreds of people came to watch the hanging. After praying, the cart on which they were standing drove off, but instead of being hanged, the rope around Samuel’s neck snapped! The executioner tried again. This time, the rope slipped and his legs touched the ground. With the crowd in an uproar, the executioner tried for the third time and the rope snapped again. This time, an officer galloped off to tell the Governor what had happened and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. The Governor and others believed that it was a sign from God that Samuel should not be hanged.

 

On this day …….. 26th September 1803

Joseph Samuel was an Englishman legendary for the manner in which he survived execution. Convicted for robbery in 1795, he was sentenced in 1801 to transportation to Australia, one of 297 convicted felons aboard the vessels Nile, Canada and Minorca. Security in the early penal settlements of New South Wales was reinforced by the isolation of the colony: guards trusted the Australian wilderness to kill any convicts who attempted to escape. Samuel succeeded in escaping and, with a gang, robbed the home of a wealthy woman, and in the process, a policeman named Joseph Luker, who was guarding her home, was murdered. The gang was hunted down and quickly captured, and during the trial, the woman recognised Joseph Samuel as one of the culprits. He confessed to robbing her home, but denied having murdered the policeman. The other members of the gang, including the leader, were acquitted due to lack of evidence, but because the woman identified Samuel, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. On 26 September 1803, Samuel and another criminal, convicted of another crime and not a member of the same gang, were driven in a cart to Parramatta, where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the execution. Nooses were fastened securely around their necks from the gallows and after they were allowed to pray with a priest, the cart was driven away. This was the common method of hanging of the day, and caused death by slow strangulation. Not until the latter half of the 19th century did the British employ the drop method, which breaks the neck. The ropes used were made of five cords of hemp, which enabled one to hold 1,000 lb (~450 kg), for up to five minutes without breaking, more than sufficient for human executions. The other criminal ultimately died by strangulation, but Samuel’s rope snapped and he dropped to his feet, sprained an ankle and collapsed. The executioner hastily readied another rope, also five-hemp, and placed it around Samuel’s neck, forced him onto the same cart, and drove the cart away again. The other criminal was still kicking weakly at this point. When the cart drove out from under him, Samuel fell again, and the noose slipped off his neck, whereupon his boots touched the ground. The executioner was sure to have fastened the noose securely around his neck, and as he stood Samuel up to try again, the crowd had become boisterous, calling for Samuel to be freed. The executioner very quickly readied another five-hemp rope, ordered the cart driven back, forced Samuel onto it, fastened the noose around his neck, secured it very carefully and tightly, and then ordered the cart driven away. The rope snapped, and Samuel dropped to the ground and stumbled over, trying to avoid landing on his sprained ankle. Now the crowd stood around in an uproar, and another policeman, watching on horseback, ordered the execution delayed momentarily, while he rode away to find the governor. The governor was summoned to the scene and upon inspection of the ropes, which showed no evidence of having been cut, and the other criminal, who was successfully executed with an identical rope, the governor and the entire crowd agreed that it was a sign from God that Joseph Samuel had not committed any crime deserving of execution and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment instead. Parramatta’s town doctor tended to his sprained ankle.

 

EXECUTED THIS DAY – September 13, 1897 

Charles John Hall who murdered his wife Minnie at Eaglehawk on February 11th was executed at the Bendigo Gaol this morning.  Hall’s parents spoke to him for the last time on Saturday evening, and the parting was a most painful sight, moving the warders to tears.

One warder told me today that he does not want to see such a scene again, and pronounced the sight as worse than witnessing the actual execution.  The mother and father were in a prostrated condition, the mother shrieking in tones that could be heard all over the gaol, “My poor boy, my Charlie”.  She was assisted to a cab and driven home and was at once put to bed.  Both the parents were in a state of collapse with grief, received kind attentions from their neighbours.  Hall broke down himself and the clergymen, Revs Kelly and Crawford, Anglican ministers who attended him, said he very pentinent towards the very end.

Hall passed a bad night and rose at half past seven, when he ate sparingly of bread and butter and drank tea for breakfast.  About nine o clock, the clergymen entered his cell and remained with him until his body was demanded by the Sherriff, spending time in religious exercises.

The prisoner when transferred from Castlemaine Goal weighed 11st 13lbs and today weighed 11st 12lbs. He walked very firmly to the scaffold and looked calmly at the hangman Smith as the latter fixed the fatal noose around his neck.  When asked by the Sherriff if he had anything to say he replied in a low but firm tone “I commit my soul to God”.  He had a drop of seven feet and death was instantaneous.

At the customary inquest a verdict of judicially hanged was returned.

A large crowd of people assembled outside the gaol, the greater portion being women and children. Much feeling was shown against the murderer and great sympathy was expressed for the parents.

EXECUTED THIS DAY – September 13, 1897 

Charles John Hall who murdered his wife Minnie at Eaglehawk on February 11th was executed at the Bendigo Gaol this morning.  Hall’s parents spoke to him for the last time on Saturday evening, and the parting was a most painful sight, moving the warders to tears.

One warder told me today that he does not want to see such a scene again, and pronounced the sight as worse than witnessing the actual execution.  The mother and father were in a prostrated condition, the mother shrieking in tones that could be heard all over the gaol, “My poor boy, my Charlie”.  She was assisted to a cab and driven home and was at once put to bed.  Both the parents were in a state of collapse with grief, received kind attentions from their neighbours.  Hall broke down himself and the clergymen, Revs Kelly and Crawford, Anglican ministers who attended him, said he very pentinent towards the very end.

Hall passed a bad night and rose at half past seven, when he ate sparingly of bread and butter and drank tea for breakfast.  About nine o clock, the clergymen entered his cell and remained with him until his body was demanded by the Sherriff, spending time in religious exercises.

The prisoner when transferred from Castlemaine Goal weighed 11st 13lbs and today weighed 11st 12lbs. He walked very firmly to the scaffold and looked calmly at the hangman Smith as the latter fixed the fatal noose around his neck.  When asked by the Sherriff if he had anything to say he replied in a low but firm tone “I commit my soul to God”.  He had a drop of seven feet and death was instantaneous.

At the customary inquest a verdict of judicially hanged was returned.

A large crowd of people assembled outside the gaol, the greater portion being women and children. Much feeling was shown against the murderer and great sympathy was expressed for the parents.

ON THIS DAY…… 19th August 1865

Patrick Sheehan was found guilty of the wilful murder of James Kennedy, publican of the National Hotel at Rowdy Flat. Sheehan, who was in the bar quite drunk, was turned out of the hotel by Kennedy. Sheehan then went round to the kitchen and got a knife before trying to force his way back into the bar. On the landlord pushing him back, Sheehan stabbed him in the stomach with the knife. Kennedy lingered for a few hours, but died in the night. Sheehan had also stabbed another man, a schoolmaster, at the same hotel, two years earlier. He was tried at Beechworth, and convicted, but received quite a light sentence. Sheehan became the first person to be executed in the Beechworth Gaol, witnessed by 40 people. At just past 8 o’clock the Governor of the gaol delivered the prisoner into the hands of the Sheriff. Father Tierney, who had been with him almost since daylight, was the only one in the cell with Sheehan at the time. Before being pinioned, Mr Castieau asked Sheehan, in the presence of the sheriff, if he wished to say anything. He said “only to give my best thanks.” He submitted to be bound without a murmur, marched with an unwavering step out of his cell, and stood there firmly, pale and earnest, but resignation written in his face. The hangman, having completed his preparations, pulled the cap, already on head, over his face when the doomed man said, “Raise it for a minute.” The executioner promptly complied without a word, and Sheehan said, in a low but unfaltering voice,” God bless you all, and God forgive me; that will do.” Again the cap was placed over his face, the bolt drawn. Sheehan had paid for his crime. Below is a statement made to Mr Castieau, demonstrating the remorse Sheehan had for his crime. On Sunday morning, Sheehan sent for Mr Castieau, the Governor of the Gaol, and asked him to take down a statement he wished to make. He seemed greatly troubled at a report that had been circulated of his having committed a previous murder in New South Wales. Both the Reverand Father Tierney and Mr Castieau had told him that such a report was abroad. The following is his declaration, as nearly in his own words as possible. ”I wish most solemnly to declare that there is not the slightest foundation for a report, that I am told is going about, that I was accused, while in Sydney, of having taken away the life of a man by striking him with a hammer. I came to Sydney a free man about twelve years since. I worked for Henry Campbell, a blacksmith, at Parramatta, also with James Gamble. Then I went to the Braidwood diggings. I was in no trouble of any kind while in New South Wales – never even brought before a magistrate for drunkenness. I came to Yackandandah about ten years ago, and have remained there ever since. The only time I ever appeared at a court before was when I was charged with an assault, and received a month’s imprisonment. This is true, as l hope for forgiveness, and I trust the public will be made acquainted with this statement so that I may not be unjustly accused of crimes of which I am entirely innocent, it does not do for a man to tell a lie with his last breath. I hope, therefore, I shall be believed when I say I do not remember anything of the dreadful occurrence of which I was found guilty. More than that, I know I had several nobblers of brandy besides partaking of three bottles of whisky, which were had amongst six of us; when the policeman came to my house I was sitting by the fire, getting sober, I suppose; and when he charged me with stabbing poor Kennedy, I was thunderstruck; how I could have done such a deed to one to whom I owed no grudge, he a man with a large family, and I a man with a large family too, I cannot tell; I begged hard to be allowed to see Kennedy. A dying man, I knew, would not lie, and If he told me I had stabbed him I should have believed It. I remember nothing of what was sworn, and have to blame the cursed drink for the death of poor Kennedy and my own doom. I trust for the forgiveness and prayers of Mrs Kennedy. May God protect her and her family and have mercy on my poor wife and children. Had I listened to my wife’s advice, I should not have been here. She tried, like a good wife and mother as she Is, to keep me away from the drink. Had I harkened to her, such a trouble as this could never have come upon us.”

Sunday, 6th November, 1866, half-past 10 a.m.

PATRICK SHEEHAN

(Witness) J.B. Castieau, Governor of Gaol

After the execution a collection was taken up around town for his wife and children.

Doctor Dempster carried out the post mortem examination on Sheehan and stated that all organs of the body were healthy, height 5 foot 7 1⁄2 inches, eyes blue, hair brown, mole corner right eye, little finger right hand crooked.

ON THIS DAY…… 11th August 1873

 

A shocking outrage was committed by the American black named James Wallace, at Mount Beckwith, on Friday last. Mrs Mary Cook, the wife of a contractor and farmer well known throughout the Talbot district, was at home with her three children on the morning of the 4th instant. Her husband was away on business, and there were no male or female servants about the house, which is situated some distance from any other farm or dwelling-place. Shortly after ten o’clock a man entered, and “stuck up'” the premises. He was disguised by a bran bag wrapped about his head, and a sack over his body, but his accent and his hands betrayed him to be a negro. He asked Mrs Cook for money, but she told him there was none in the house. He then took a double-barrelled gun from over the mantel piece, and having driven the children into an adjoining room and locked them in, the brutal ruffian returned with a butcher’s knife in his hand. With this murderous weapon at the throat of Mrs Cook he pushed the poor woman into her bedroom, thrust her upon the bed, and committed a capital offence. He then made off, and although information was given to the police, he made good his escape from the Talbot district— calling at Kangaroo Flat, and obtaining from Edwards’ store a supply of heavy shot, a flask of powder, and some caps. He was tracked towards Lexton, where his clue was lost.

The police all round the country were on the alert, and on Monday information was received that the “nigger” had been seen on the Ararat road, and that he had stuck up and robbed several men, taking £6 17s from one of his victims. He also fired at, with intent to kill, a Mr. Prentice, near the cutting at the Big Hill beyond Beaufort. Hearing of this, Senior- constable Woods, now stationed at Beaufort, but recently of the Ballarat force, disguised himself as a digger and went out in search of his man. About eight o’clock in the evening his errand proved successful, for he saw Wallace making some purchases in a store. Before the negro had time to use the butcher’s knife—which he still carried with him—Woods was upon him, and after a struggle, the negro was secured and held till another constable arrived, and the desperado was lodged in the Beaufort lock-up. He had planted the gun in the bush before he entered the store, but there is no doubt that the weapon will be found. It seems that the prisoner was only released from Pentridge on the 24th of June, where he had suffered two years imprisonment for larceny from a dwelling. The man he shot at (Mr. Prentice) and Mr. Kelly, landlord of the Telegraph Junction Hotel, were the principal witnesses against him at that time, when he swore that he would have Kelly’s life as soon as he came out. Since his arrest he says he was on his way to Kelly’s to carry his threat into execution, and he would have shot Prentice too if his aim had been sure. He said he would have stuck up the Pleasant, Creek coach on Monday, only he thought there was a trooper on the box.

The wretch seems perfectly indifferent to his fate, for, when rolling up his blankets in the lock-up yesterday morning, he jocosely said, “I feel very stiff, but I suppose it don’t matter; I’ll be stiffer very soon” —no doubt making a truthful prophecy of his approaching end by the hangman.

ON THIS DAY…… 11th August 1884

A petition having been prepared for presentation to His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, praying for a reprieve on the ground of insanity in the case of the prisoner James Hawthorne, who was convicted of the murder of his brother at Brighton and sentenced to death.  It was decided to subject the unhappy man to a medical examination with a view of ascertaining the state of his mind. The inquiry was accordingly placed in the hands of Doctors Shields, Deahon and Peacock, who after a long interview with the condemned man sent in a report on this day in 1884 to the effect that in their opinion he is of sound mind, and consequently responsible for his actions. He was executed on the 21st of August at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

A rare photo of Ned Kelly not seen by the public in 138 years has resurfaced

A RARE photo of outlaw bushranger Ned Kelly not seen by the public for 138 years went under the hammer at auction in February 2016. The photo has only previously been seen by a select few when Lawsons auction house sold it in 1988. The photo formerly belonged to descendants of William Turner, the 1878-9 Mayor of Launceston in Tasmania and since its 1988 sale it has been kept in a private Sydney collection. It has now resurfaced and will go under the hammer once again. The photo taken in December 1878 shows a relaxed Ned Kelly, centre, standing with his brother Dan Kelly on the left and gang member Steve Hart on the right. The photo was signed by all three men but the signatures were written by Joe Byrne, a Kelly Gang member, as none of the other men could read or write. Tom Tompson, a publisher and specialist for auction houses, told News Corp Australia the photo was taken in the town of Euroa on the day the Kelly Gang robbed the local bank. This was the Kelly’s first bank robbery and a means to support themselves while in hiding from authorities. Tompson said the photo was taken as an attempt for the men to gain support from sympathisers. “Ned was compiling letters, which Joe Byrne actually wrote for him, and these were put to newspapers who in the main would not publish them because the Victorian police were coming down hard on anything that looked like sympathetic treatment of outlaws,” Tompson said. Tompson said the photo shows the three men deliberately portraying a different image of themselves having gotten rid of their old clothing. “You can see a larrikin streak which is obviously there, they’ve got their new duds (clothes), they’re making their mark and it’s a very likeable shot of the Kellys instead of the dour, dark and troubling ones that exist,” he said. The photo has been pasted on a Tasmanian photographer’s card, then glued to 1920s Kodak paper. The photo has now been published in the new edition of George Wilson Hall’s book The Kelly Gang, Or, Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges. Tompson said there is huge historic value to the photo. “The Kellys are very much part of a mythical Australia,” he said. “At the time the Irish were being treated incredibly badly, they weren’t allowed to have schooling or own horses. “They bought out the Irish police to create the Victorian police force to keep a form of class distinction,” he said. The Kelly Gang became a Robin Hood-type myth for a lot of people who were struggling with their life in Australia, he added. Tompson said photos such as this one were traded between sympathisers and photographers for years. Lawsons auction house expects the photo to sell for between $10,000 and $15,000 but Thompson predicts it could go for much more. The photo was taken just over a year before the Kelly Gang’s last stand with police at the siege at Glenrowan where Ned and others wore their homemade metal armour. Ned Kelly was the only one of his gang to survive the siege and was hung at Melbourne Gaol in 1880 where he uttered “such is life” before he was hung.

 

Convict Joseph Samuels was sentenced to death for burglary in Sydney in 1803. Whoever on the day of the execution 26th of September 1803, the rope broke 3 times. As Samuels was about to be executed the 4th time, the Governor stopped the proceedings on the grounds of divine intervention. Samuels left the gallows with his life and a sore neck.

 

This picture was taken in the graveyard of the old Melbourne Gaol, which was demolished in 1924, to make way for the Working Men’s College. The crudely engraved initials E.K., standing for Edward Kelly, the notorious bushranger of 50 years ago, are directly over the grave, on a heavy bluestone wall which is being pulled down. The grave, which is covered with rubbish and an old ladder, is a grim reminder of the Kelly gang. The bluestone blocks and grave markers were bought from the government by the shire of Brighton and used to stop erosion along the foreshore. Today 5 Grave markers can be found at Brighton Beach, but sad not Ned’s.

 

ON THIS DAY …….4th August 1863

A dreadful murder was perpetrated at Warrnambool on this day in 1863, by a prisoner called James Murphy, on a Constable named Daniel O’Boyle. The murder was committed in the Court house, while O’Boyle was stooping down it is presumed to light the fire in the room of the Clerk of Petty Sessions, Murphy struck the deceased, while in the stooping posture indicated, a blow on the right side of the head with a heavy stone hammer, which caused immediate insensibility—of which the prisoner took advantage in making his escape. O’Boyle who had just completed his 27th birthday only survived the attack twenty-two hours. The Warrnambool papers state that Murphy has been since apprehended, and is now lodged in the Geelong Gaol awaiting his trial for the murder.

Murphy was executed in the Geelong Gaol, the hangman William Bamford was an old mate and fellow convict ……… Could you hang your mate?