On this day …….. 28th of October 1880

Ned Kelly first stood trial on 19 October 1880 in Melbourne before the Irish-born judge Justice Sir Redmond Barry. Mr Smyth and Mr Chomley appeared for the crown and Mr Bindon for the prisoner. The trial was adjourned to 28 October, when Kelly was presented on the charge of the murder of Sergeant Kennedy, Constable Scanlan and Lonigan, the various bank robberies, the murder of Sherritt, resisting arrest at Glenrowan and with a long list of minor charges. He was convicted of the willful murder of Constable Lonigan and was sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Barry. Several unusual exchanges between Kelly and the judge included the judge’s customary words “May God have mercy on your soul”, to which Kelly replied “I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there where I go.” At Kelly’s request, his picture was taken and he was granted farewell interviews with family members. His mother’s last words to him were reported to be “Mind you die like a Kelly.”

On this day …….. 20th October 1858

Convict Owen McQueeny was executed at the Geelong Gaol, Victoria, on this day in 1858, after being found guilty of murdering Elizabeth Lowe. After the execution an elderly woman applied for permission to have her hands stroked by the hands of the dead man to help with her arthritis.


ON THIS DAY – October 19, 1917


Alfred Edward Budd, 39 Stevedore’s labourer to-day, at the City Watch house, was formally charged with the murder of Annie Elizabeth Samson, at Princess Street, Port Melbourne, on October 19. Accused was the adopted brother of deceased, who was a married woman. He attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat and was to-day taken from the Melbourne Hospital and transfered to the Melbourne gaol hospital.



ON THIS DAY – October 15, 1872

Living on the goldfields was hard and the threat of bush rangers was constantly on one’s mind. On the evening of the 15th of October three bushrangers named James Smith, Thomas Brady and William Heppanstein bailed up the Wooragee Post Office robbing them of their takings. They then rode to the Hotel next door. When John Watt, the publican of the Wooragee Hotel, opened the door he was confronted with three men with their faces covered. “Bail Up, Your money or your life”. When John refused he was shot, stumbling back into the kitchen where he fell on the floor, and standing back up he fell again, knocking chairs over. His wife then sat him up against the wall and sent a worker for the doctor. On the doctor’s arrival he was amazed that John was still alive. The exit wound on John’s back below his shoulder blade was large enough for a man’s clenched fist to fit into. Unbelievably, John lived for another nine days. Brady and Smith were charged with the murder and sentenced to hang on the 12th of May 1873 in the Beechworth Gaol. On the morning of the execution, Smith handed the Sheriff a hand written statement in the defence of both Smith and Brady. The hangman Bamford, bought up from Melbourne for the occasion, placed a white cape over their faces and the rope around their neck. Brady died straight away. However Smith struggled for minutes after his drop. It was a terrible sight, witnessed by sixty people.

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 8, 1904

“In a Fit of Passion”

The text of the confession made by Williams on the day before his death reads as follows:

7th September 1904

Melbourne Gaol

“I, James Coleman Augustus Williams, who is now about to suffer, the extreme penalty of the law, do hereby make the following confession, and I trust will clear away any doubts which might be on the public.mind :-That I, in a fit of passion, did commit the horrible deed, for which I am very sorry and that it was not for gain, or lust, or any malice which I had against her, for she was always kind and good to me. And I trust that the public will not look down upon my family and friends for the deed that I have done. Trusting that God will forgive me for all that I have done. I also thank the governor and the Rev. Mr. Hardin and the Rev. Mr. Feathers, and the officials for their kindness to me. My last wish is that this should be made public through the press.”

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.


(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 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.

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.