We came across a reference to an unusual murder case the other day. And although it isn’t Australian, there is very definitely some Twisted History to it!

Pype Hayes Park in Erdington, Birmingham, England has been the scene of two murders – one in 1817 and another in 1974. Now you might not think that is particularly interesting but the parallels between these two cases is uncanny!

On May 27, 1817, the belle of the parish, Mary Ashford attended a dance at Tyburn House Inn with her friend Hannah Cox. The two young ladies left around midnight and would return to Hannah’s house.  Mary would leave and would not be seen alive again.  Her body would be discovered a few hours, where a worker discovered a puddle of blood and two sets of footprints leading to the muddy ditch.  Mary had been sexually assaulted and left to drown.

On May 27, 1974, childcare worker Barbara Forrest spent the night out dancing with her boyfriend at various pubs before he escorted her to the Colmore Circus bus stop.  It would be the last time anyone saw Barbara alive.  Her semi-naked body was found under bracken in a shallow ditch just 500 yards from her house on the edge of the park.  Barabara had been raped and strangled.

Two men would be arrested, one for each crime – Abraham Thornton in 1817 and Michael Thornton in 1974.  At their respective trials both men would be acquitted for lack of evidence.  In 1817, Abraham admitted to having sex with Mary but 3 witnesses gave him an alibi which saw the case dismissed.  In 1975, Michael was arrested after blood stains were found on his pants and an alibi proved false.  The case was dismissed.

Both cases remain officially unsolved to this day.

But there are a few interesting facts related to the 1817 murder. Firstly, Abraham Thornton’s boot print was matched to those leading to Mary’s body.  It was one of the earlist recorded cases of footwear identification.  Secondly, after the dismissal of the first trial, Mary’s brother William launched an appeal stating the evidence was overwhelming against Thornton.  Thornton was rearrested and claimed the right to trial by battle – a medieval law that had never been repealed by Parliament.  Ashford declined and Thornton was freed from custody.  The law was repealed in 1819.

But we will leave the final words to Mary Ashford’s family.  On her grave in Sutton Coldfield Churchyard is the following inscription:

 

“As a warning to female virtue and a humble monument to female chastity, this stone marks the grave of Mary Ashford who on the twentieth year of her age having incautiously repaired to a scene of amusement without proper protection, was brutally murdered on 27th May 1817”

The Death of Nelly Horrigan

February 10, 1870

“A disgraceful scene occurred on Friday last, in a brothel near Little Bourke street up on the occassion of a wake taking place.

It appears that a woman of the town, named Nelly Horrigan, was found dead in her bed on Friday morning by the man with whom she had been cohabitating, and it was decided by her companions to “wake” her in proper style.

Accordingly, at night the coffin containing the body was placed on trestles in the middle of the room, plenty of spirits were provided and placed on a table at the head, with pipes and tobacco in abundance at the foot.  The room was lit with candles, till everything was as light as day, and an old woman was seated at the foot of the coffin kept up an unearthly yell throughout the evening.  Towards ten o’clock, about sixty thieves and prostitutes of the lowest class assembled in the room, and commenced drinking and smoking, which finally ended in a regular melee, in which the coffin was upset, and black eyes and broken noses were freely distributed; and it was not until some of the sober neighbours interfered that the orgie was put an end to.

The funeral took place on Sunday, and it was evident from the appearance of those following the hearse, that the fight had been of a very sanguinary character, for there was hardly one of the mourners that had not either a black eye or a bandaged head.”

2018 has been a big year for the team at Twisted History!

And we could not have done it without our customers who come week in and week out to our range of tours across Victoria.

In November we were extremely proud to take away the bronze award for Cultural Tourism in the Victorian RACV Tourism Awards.

We continued to be accredited for the third year, one of only 2 “ghost” tour companies in Australia.  This means we maintain a business standard that allows as to use the national tick.

2019 will see the introduction of at least one new tour with the Castlemaine Cemetery tour beginning in mid January with our miner Andrew O’Reilly and schoolteacher, Miss Myrtle!

We have already locked in a range of dates for our haunted hotel tours, with negotiations continuing with a couple more.

Our murder tours will see Chinatown take on a more “ghostly” focus and will see the introduction of a new guide.  Carlton and Melbourne tours will continue as required.

Geelong Gaol will be back with a ghost tour and an investigtion tour tomorrow night (26/12).  We have a new longer investigation planned for later in the first half of the year.  We will also be expecting some special interstate guests around Easter – now to find a cool location to investigate near Geelong!

Besides all this, with our newly vamped website up and running, we are hoping to bring back our regular blog – not daily unfortunately as we have been too busy!  But we will have some new content up in the new year!

But thats enough from me for now!

So the team at Twisted History would like to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We hope to see you somewhere on a tour in 2019!

 On This Day – August 7, 1913

When going through the many statements taken for the information of the coroner in connection with the murder, on August 7 last, of the old woodcutter, Richard Knight, outside his hut in the bush between Lilydale and Coldstream (says the Melbourne ‘Argus’). Detective-Sergeant Arthur and Detective Keily discovered certain discrepancies in the stories of several boys living in Coldstream. Information concerning their movements around the time of the murder was proffered in such a manner that many possibilities were presented, and in order to satisfy themselves that the boys were not purposely withholding certain facts, the two detectives yesterday returned from Melbourne to Coldstream. Each of the boys was seen, and though they all presisted in their previous statements, they were not able to explain whether certain of their actions were, due to a coincidence or otherwise. They could not be shaken in their first statement that they had not seen the old man after he was shot at, though one of them admitted having been at his hut just previous to the time when two residents of the neighbouring bush heard two shots fired in the direction of the hut. The boys were questioned separately, but they showed no signs of wavering, neither did their statements contradict each other. In view of this, the detectives came to the conclusion that it was useless prolonging the examination.  Unless something unforseen happens nothing more will now be done until the inquest, the date of which the coronor (Dr. Cole) will probably fix within the next few days.  Altogether, about 20 witnesses will be subpoenaed, as the police intend having everyone present who may possibly be able to assist the coroner in determining when, how, and by whom Knight was killed.

ON THIS DAY …….6th August 1938

After a retirement of four hours a jury in the Criminal Court found Edward Allan May aged 30, laborer, not guilty of having murdered Mrs. Yoland Joan Shirley Bordin aged 21, of Carlton, but guilty of manslaughter. He was remanded for sentence after having admitted to prior convictions, including a gaol sentence of five years for armed assault with intent to rob. Mrs. Bordin, who was living apart from her Italian husband, was found bleeding to death from a knife wound at Carlton early on this day in 1938. Some distance away was a long-bladed hunting knife.

ON THIS DAY …….6th August 1955

Domenic “Mick” Gatto was born on the 6th of August 1955. Mick is an Italian-Australian man widely suspected to be involved in the Melbourne underworld. Gatto is a ‘professional mediator’ within the building industry in Melbourne. He runs a company, Arbitrations and Mediations Pty Ltd and has an interest in the crane company, Elite Cranes. In 2004 Mick Gatto was charged with the murder of suspected underworld hitman Andrew Veniamin and remanded in custody for 18 months. He was found not guilty at trial, during which Gatto claimed he had acted in self-defence after Veniamin pulled out a .38 and threatened to kill him. Gatto claims that during a struggle he was able to turn the gun around on Veniamin and fire one shot into his neck, and one shot in the eye. He also claimed that during the argument, Veniamin had implicated himself in the deaths of Dino Dibra, Paul Kallipolitis and Graham Kinniburgh.

ON THIS DAY …….5th August 1947

Twin brothers were in the City Court on this day in 1947, one charged with attempted murder and the other with having conspired to murder. The charge followed the shooting of Keith Kitchener Hull, at St. Kilda on the 27th of July. The men are Charles Martin (26), of St. Kilda, who faced the charge of attempting to murder Hull, and Ernest Alfred James Martin, of South Yarra. who was charged with having conspired to murder Mrs. Thelma Hull, on the 30th of July.  George Barrett (34), of St. Kilda, was also charged with having attempted to murder Hull. Bail was refused on the attempted murder charge, but Ernest Martin was allowed bail. Detective H. R. Donnelly, in evidence, said that Hull would not tell the police who shot him. The accused were remanded to August 12.

ON THIS DAY …….5th August 1946

Bleeding from extensive knife wounds in the forearm, John Kickert, 65, Dutchman, staggered into a confectionery shop at Fairfield at 8pm, on this day in 1946, and slumped into a chair and died. The main arteries in Kickert’s arm had been severed and apparently he bled to death. As he entered the shop, Kickert produced a knife with a 16-inch razor-like blade and said to the proprietress, Mrs. Valda Wild, ‘Look, Miss.’ Police followed the trail of blood from the shop for more than 300 yards to a house in Gillies Street, where Kickert lived with his wife and daughter. They found the house in disorder. Every window in the house had been smashed, and there was evidence a violent struggle. They were told a quarrel had occurred between Kickert and a man. , Kickert had called at Mrs. Wild’s shop at 6.45pm. He was then bleeding from face and head injuries, arid alleged he had been beaten’ up. He asked Mrs. Wild to telephone, the police, and two con constables came to the shop. They then accompanied Kickert back to his home,, and police, thinking there would be no further trouble, left Kickert at the house. Later police were told that there was another quarrel in which Kickert received the death wound. Police are searching for a man.

 

ON THIS DAY …….5th August 1941

Ratcliff Lawson, aged 51 years, from Essendon, and his son, Peter, aged 20 years, were found dead on this day 1941, in a gas filled motor car at Kangaroo Ground, 25 mile, from Melbourne. Police believe that it is a case of murder and suicide. The father had a deep affection for his son, who was a patient in a mental hospital.

 

 

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?

 

 

ON THIS DAY …….4th August 1945

Inquest into the death of 24-year-old WAAAF Corporal Vera Matilda Wiper, of Adelaide, was opened before Coroner Tingate today.

Corporal Wipers body, covered by an overcoat, was found by a milk carter at Auburn on July 15. Five women and two men who have been charged with her murder, were present in Court. They are: 56-year-old widow Ruby Carlos, and 26-year-old married woman Iris Carlos, both of South Yarra; 32-year-old married woman Lillian Halsinger, of Northcote; 25 year-old WAAAF Alice Pearson, and her mother, 49-year-old Josephine Pearson, of Auburn; 37-year-old assistant Health Inspector James Loughnan, of Richmond, and 25-year-old Flight-Lieut James Henry Greaves.

Flight-Sergeant Raymond Atkinson, R.A.A-F.. said that he went to the Pearson home about 8 p.m. on July 13. -Corporal Wiper was there, also Mr. and Mrs. Pearson and Loughnan. During the evening Corporal Wiper and Loughnan left, and he did not see her again. Soon after this evidence was given, Mrs. Ruby Carlos became ill and was absent from Court for a quarter of an hour. Dr. Wright Smith said that an autopsy revealed that death was due to shock following an attempted illegal operation. Corporal Wiper’s condition was advanced about four months. Death had taken place about 24 hours before he made his examination oh July 15.

 

ON THIS DAY …….3rd August 1931

Albert Jones, trapeze artist, was found guilty in General Sessions of the manslaughter of Konrad Erlesen, a Norwegian fireman, at Albert Park, on this day in 1931. The two men had been drinking together, and subsequently had a fight in which Erlesen was knocked down. The jury added a strong recommendation to mercy.