In 1938, a double murder took place in the now defunct Windsor Castle Hotel in Dunolly.  One of the last sightings of the murdered men and their murderer was in the bar of the Railway Hotel in Dunolly.  Join Twisted History for dinner and a paranormal investigation here on February 23, 2019.

Noise Said To Have Led To Deaths

December 13, 1938

An alleged statement that he had killed a man because he was making a noise upstairs, and that he had killed another man because he did not want him to be a witness, was read in the Supreme Court today when Thomas William Johnson, 40, of no fixed address, was charged with the murder of the two men.

The victims of the tragedy were: —
Robert McCourt Gray, 73, returned soldier and pensioner
Charles Adam Bunney, 61, war pensioner

They were found in a padlocked upstairs room of the delicensed
Windsor Castle Hotel at Dunolly on October 6 with their heads battered.

Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charges of having murdered Bunney and Gray.

Mr Cussen said that on October 3 there were five people living in the hotel.  Gray and Bunney had lived there for years. On September 26 Johnson arrived there. He said that he was on sustenance and wanted to live there, but could not pay.

On Monday morning, October 3, Gray was seen alive and Bunney was seen alive about 5.15 p.m. by the postmaster.  After that neither of the men was seen until the Thursday. In the meantime Bunney’s room, although it was open, had not been used. Gray’s room was
padlocked.

Two men looked for Gray and Bunney on the Thursday. One of them
climbed to the verandah and saw the men lying dead side by side. When entrance was gained the two men were found with their heads battered. A bloodstained axe was found in the corner.

Johnson, on the Monday, had no money. On the Tuesday he was seen on the road to Maryborough, and got a ride, for which he paid 1/. He returned later, and this time paid 2/6.  When he walked into the Dandenong police station on the Friday he made a statement, although he was warned he need not make it.

Mr Cussen then read the statement alleged to have been made by Johnson. In it Johnson is alleged to have said that he was asleep on the ground floor of the delicensed hotel about 3 p.m. on October 3 when he heard Gray, who was on the top floor, hammering and making a loud noise. He took an axe upstairs and hit Gray on the head. Gray fell to the floor, Bunney came into the room, and he hit him on the head. He then locked the room with a padlock and
threw the key away.

His only excuse for killing Gray was because he was making a noise while he was trying to sleep. He had killed Bunney because he did not want him to be a witness.

He often became bad tempered, and he was in a bad temper when he killed Gray.  He stayed at the hotel for two nights afterward. He then walked to Maryborough, rode on a transport to Melbourne on October 6, stayed in the city that night, and walked to Dandenong
the next day.

One of the witnesses was Elizabeth Whelan, the licensee of the Railway Hotel in Dunolly who testified that Cazneau, Johnson and a man named Alexander and Bunney were in the bar on the Monday morning. Bunney bought Johnson two drinks and left.  Gray came into the hotel at 10.30 and bought a quart bottle of wine, but did
not drink it with the other men. He gave a £1 note and received his change in small silver. Gray took a quart bottle of wine a month.
Johnson had four pots of beer up to 11 a.m., when he left, and he had one again at 2 p.m.

Thomas William Johnson would be found guilty of the murders of Robert McCourt Gray and Charles Adam Bunney and was sentenced to death.

Johnson was executed at Pentridge Prison on January 23, 1939.  When asked by the Sheriff in the condemned cell whether he had anything to say, Johnson shook his head and indicated that he wanted the execution to proceed.

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”

Hurstbridge murder

A memorial erected over his grave commemorates Henry Facey Hurst who was shot and killed by the bushranger Robert Burke in 1866. Henry was a pioneer settler of Hurstbridge where he built the first log bridge over the Diamond Creek so giving the township its name. On 4 October, 1866, Robert Burke, alias McClusky arrived at Allwood and asked Ellen Hurst (Henryand#39;s sister) for breakfast, and later a horse. She sent for Henry, who questioned Burke. When Henry reached for his gun, Burke shot him. Despite the wound, Henry held Burke until help arrived. He subsequently bled to death. The jury found Burke guilty of wilful murder`, with a recommendation to mercy, on account of Hurst having fired the first shot. Robert Burke was sentenced to death . A public meeting was held at the Melbourne Mechanics Institute on the evening of Monday 26th November to adopt a petition with over 2,000 signatures, for submission to the Executive Council, asking for the death sentence to be commuted to imprisonment for life. Some ten days after the trial the sentence was carried out. Robert Burke the bushranger, aged 24 years, was hanged at the Melbourne Gaol on Thursday 29th November 1866.

Actual Monument Dedication Date:

Front Inscription:
‘Sacred to the memory of Henry Facey Hurst (formerly of Hanford Dorset) who while defending his home fell near this spot by a ball fired by the bushranger Burke on October 4th 1866 aged 34 years’.

This memorial was erected by a grateful public as a memorial of his heroic self sacrfifice.

 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 …….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.

 

 

The headless remains of Australia’s most infamous criminal, Ned Kelly, have been identified. Victoria state Attorney General Robert Clark said that a team of forensic scientists identified Kelly’s remains among those exhumed from a mass grave at Pentridge prison in Melbourne in 2009. Kelly led a gang of bank robbers in Victoria in the 19th century. Today he is considered by many Australians to be a Robin Hood-like figure who stood up to the British colonial authorities of the time. He was executed in 1880, but his final resting place had long been a mystery. “To think a group of scientists could identify the body of a man who was executed more than 130 years ago, moved and buried in a haphazard fashion among 33 other prisoners, most of whom are not identified, is amazing,” said Victoria Attorney General Robert Clark. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that investigators revealed that an almost complete skeleton of the outlaw was found buried in a wooden ax box. Clark said DNA analysis and other tests were used to confirm the skeleton is Kelly’s. The Morning Herald said DNA samples were taken from Melbourne school teacher Leigh Olver, who is the great-grandson of Kelly’s sister Ellen. Kelly’s skull was stolen from a display case at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978. A 2009 claim by a West Australian farmer, Tom Baxter, that he had Kelly’s skull was eventually rejected, but led to the investigation that uncovered his bones. The Morning Herald said that investigators believed that Kelly’s remains were transferred from the Old Melbourne Gaol to the Pentridge prison in 1929, then exhumed with the remains of 33 other people during the investigation in 2009. Baxter had handed the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine what he said was the stolen skull, which featured the inscription “E. Kelly” on its side — Kelly’s actual first name was Edward. Baxter has not revealed how he got ahold of the skull. Scientists at the institute set out to determine who the skull belonged to, and to identify Kelly’s full remains among the tangle of skeletons exhumed from the Pentridge site. Through CT scans, X-rays, anthropological and historical research and DNA analysis, the team finally identified one skeleton as Kelly’s. Most of its head was missing. Stephen Cordner, the institute’s director, said the DNA left no doubt the skeleton was Kelly’s. Tests on the remains also uncovered evidence of shotgun wounds that matched those Kelly suffered during his criminal rampage. “The wear and tear of the skeleton is a little bit more than would be expected for a 25-year-old today,” Cordner said. “But such was Ned’s life, this is hardly surprising.” As for Baxter’s “E. Kelly” skull? Not Ned’s. The whereabouts of Kelly’s skull remain a mystery, Cordner said. Descendant Olver told reporters in Melbourne that he hoped his notorious ancestor will finally be laid to rest in a place of dignity. “It’s such a great relief to finally have this side of the story resolved,” Olver said. Kelly’s story has been documented in several books and movies, including a film starring Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and another starring late actor Heath Ledger. Kelly’s use of homemade armor to protect himself from police bullets was even given a nod during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when actors on stilts dressed in similar armor were featured in the opening ceremony. “I think a lot of Australians connect with Ned Kelly and they’re proud of the heritage that has developed as a result of our connection with Ned Kelly and the story of Ned Kelly,” Olver said. “In our family, he was a hero.”

herald Sun

 

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 1918

William Henry Mogdridge,18 years of age, who was found guilty of the manslaughter of Eugene Charles Vernon, 54 years of age at Abbotsford, on August 3, came before Mr. Justice Cussen, in the Criminal Court, for sentence yesterday. The jury made a strong recommendation for mercy. Mr. Justice Cussen passed sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment, to be Suspended on a bond of £100 be entered into for Mogdridge’s good behaviour, and his abstinence from intoxicating liquor For 5 years. Mr. Clarke, who conducted the defence, said that Mogdridge was going to enlist.

 

EXECUTED ON THIS DAY……. 3rd August 1864

On Wednesday morning at nine o’clock the sentence of death was carried into effect upon Christopher Harrison, Samuel Woods and William Carver, convicted at the late criminal Sittings of the Supreme Court in Melbourne, —Harrison, of murder and the others, Woods and Carver, of robbery in company of wounding. Since their condemnation the three prisoners have been visited by ministers of various denominations, and it may be hoped that both Harrison and Carver profited by the consolations of religion; but in case of Woods both Protestant and Catholic clergymen failed to make an impression, and he refused to join in any devotional exercise, saying he could not give his mind to the subject. The Very Rev. the Deane of Melbourne, the Rev. R. N. Woolaston, the Rev. Geo. Mackie, and the chaplain of the gaol, the Rev C. Studdert, were all in attendance on the prisoners yesterday morning.  Prior to the prisoners being brought out, the sheriff mentioned to the persons assembled (about fifty in number) that on the last similar occasion (the execution of Barrett) there had been an indecent exhibition of crowding forward on the part of the spectators, and he begged that this might not be repeated saying at the same time, that if it were he should order the gate of the yard (where the gallows stands) to be closed against them. The hour having arrived, Harrison was the first to leave the cell, and prior to being pinioned, addressed the spectators for five or six minutes in a firm tone of voice, stating he did not complain of the judge, the jury or the law which had condemned him to die. He had no fear of death, but he could not believe he had committed any very great crime; he had only done what other men would have done in his place. He also made a rambling statement about the ad mixture of prisoners of various degrees of crime in the gaol. He said he had endeavoured all his life to do good to society. and would never willingly have done a man an injury. He wished that his body should be given to Professor Halford.

Woods was next brought out and pinioned. He expressed himself bitterly against Jeremiah Phillips alias James Naylor, of Tasminia, and said if he had had in his cell the previous night the two wretches, Phillips and Anderson, that had left him in this, he would have done something to be hanged for. He said he considered they had no right to hang him for he had not committed any murder; and he prayed a fearful imprecation on his head if he intentionally fired the pistol.  Carver, on being brought out, said that he forgave his enemies and hoped for forgiveness himself. He had before his trial objected to a cast of his head, or pictures of him in the newspapers, but now he hoped it would be done, that he might serve as an example. He hoped his punishment by death would make some atonement for the life he had lived.  Woods again spoke, and said he blessed his friends and cursed his enemies. He then in a loud voice, sang a verse of four lines, altered by himself to introduce his name. The behaviour of this man, was offensively unsuited to the solemnity of the occasion and altogether the scene in the corridor of the gaol was of an unusually painful description, two of the condemned showing rather submission than resignation to their fate. The criminals having arrived on the scaffold before the final preparations were concluded, both Harrison and Woods expressed themselves grateful for the kindness they had received from the Governor and the officers of the gaol, Harrison particularly mentioning that he knew they could have put irons on his legs, but Mr. Wintle had forborne to do so. At about quarter past nine o’clock the drop fell and the men died instantly. Harrison never moved at all.

 

 

 

ON THIS DAY …….3rd August 1943

At the close of the inquest today into the death of Mrs Clarice Anasthasia White, 30, of Dawson st, Ballarat, Mr G. S. Catlow, coroner, committed the woman’s husband, Kenneth Geoffrey White, 34, fitter, for trial on a charge of murder. White was present in custody on a charge of having murdered his wife and having attempted to murder Jonathan Stephen Falla, 23, AIF soldier. Jonathan Stephen Falla said he was in bed with Mrs White, and was awakened about 5am by her saying something about getting up to see the time. She got up, and in the darkness he then heard a crash and the sound of a body falling. He sat up in bed, and next thing he knew was he was hit across the head with what he thought was a piece of wood. He did not know then nor could he identify now who it was who had hit him. He was hit several times on the face and stomach. He heard another crash, and started to walk to where he thought Mrs White must be lying on the floor, when he was confronted by a man with the razor. The man thrust at his throat. Witness lifted his left arm, which was in plaster, and the man hit the plaster with his arm at the same time as he cut the left side of his, witness’s, throat with the razor. The man, who had said nothing up till then, then said, “Lay down on the bed.” To Sup Jacobe Falla admitted that the only thing the man said to him was, “You’ll have a lot of explaining to do.” Falla said that he did not see Mrs White at all from the time she got up. He could not see what happened to her. In reply to Mr N. Boustead, Falla said he had only known Mrs White a week, and had gone to the house in response to her invitation.

ALLEGED STATEMENT TO POLICE Const M. O’Leary said that when he and Sen-const Brady went to the house at 5.20am White was in the passage. He said, “They are down there. I have done them up pretty bad. In the bedroom the dead woman was lying with her throat cut on both sides, and her body covered with a military overcoat. Falla was lying on the bed with a gash in his throat. White said, “I done it with a razor,” and produced a razor from his hip pocket. “I found them in bed together,” White continued, “and I intended to give them something to remember for life. She had been carrying on with men for several years. It has been preying on my mind, and I could not stand it any longer.” O’Leary said that White then told him he had left the house the previous afternoon to go back to his job at Ford’s at Geelong, but did not do so. He left pretending to go to the train, and his wife saw him off at the gate. He returned at 7pm, and through the kitchen window he saw his wife take a soldier in. About 9.30pm. they went into the bedroom. Then he went for a walk to try to ease his mind. He returned about 1.30am and stood in the backyard until 5 am, when he got in through the kitchen window. His wife’s bedroom door was locked. He went to the children’s room and told his daughter Carmel to call her mother, and she did so, saying, “Mummy, I’m sick.” Witness stood outside his wife’s bedroom door. The door opened and he struck the person on the head with a file. At that time he did not know who it was. He then made a swing at the soldier who was in the room. His wife caught hold of him, and he lost the grip on the file. He then turned around and slashed his wife’s throat with the razor. He then slashed the soldier with the razor on the left side of the neck, and sent his daughter for a neighbour to go for the police. Sen-det L. H. Thomas said he found the file in the bedroom. White said, “You don’t know what I have put up with. I have not been on friendly terms with my wife for 8 years. She left me and the children twice,” Witness said White told him that when he tried to strike the soldier with the file his wife caught hold of him and tried to stop him. “I could not throw her off,” White is alleged to have said, “and I took the razor from my pocket and cut her on the throat, and she dropped to the floor. Rather than see the soldier get off scot free I decided to give him a nick. I leaned over the side of the bed and gave him a nick with the razor.”  The coroner found that the woman’s death was due to the wounds inflicted by White, and committed him for trial on a charge of murder at the Ballarat Supreme Court on August 3.