On this day …….. 1st of August 1896

One of the central figures involved on the police side during the Kelly Gang Outbreak of the 1870s retired on this day in 1896. Sgt. Arthur Loftus Maule Steele handed over control Wangaratta police to Sgt. Simcocks transferred from Chiltern.

 

On This Day ……. 1st of August 1953

Donald Maxfield was reported missing from Colac on the 13th of May, 1953. He was a 22 year old labourer. On this day in 1953, the torso of a man was pulled from the Barwon River. Divers would eventually find the rest of Maxfield’s body, which had been dismembered and placed in kerosene tins and sunk in the Barwon River. It was believed the Maxfield was attacked and bashed in a garage in Colac by Andrew Kilpatrick and Russell Hill, aged 33 and 22 respectively, both from Colac. The men had placed the unconscious body of Maxfield in the boot of a car and had driven to Geelong. Maxfield regained consciousness and was again bashed to death on the banks of the Barwon. It was reported that this was a payback as it was believed that Maxfield had spoken to police about some of Kilpatrick’s dealings
Kilpatrick and Hill were arrested on the 1st August 1953 for the murder of Maxfield. Hill had confessed that with Kilpatrick, they had beaten Maxfield to death with an iron bar and then dismembered his body and thrown it in the Barwon. Information from Hill led to the divers recovering the torso after a 5 hour search of the river. The torso had been covered in an oat sack, wrapped in wire and weighed down with stone weights so that it was roughly 100lbs. The head and hands were later discovered in kerosene tins in the river. Both men were charged with murder and sent to trial in October 1953. Both Kilpatrick and Hill were sentenced to death. This was later commuted to life imprisonment with no remissions for Kilpatrick and 20 years with no remissions for Hill. Kilpatrick served his sentence in Pentridge, where he was a notorious figure because of his crime. He later became an ideal prisoner and was released on parole in 1976 after serving 23 years. Hill served his 20 years in the Geelong Gaol working in the prison library and other jobs.

 

On This Day ……. 1st of August 1930

John Taylor had been found battered to death on the floor of his Fitzroy shop on the corner of Argyle and Fitzroy Streets at 6am on the 7th of June 1930. It was believed that Taylor had been killed shortly after closing time on Friday, when the thief entered the shop, killed Taylor and left with a large sum of money. A post mortem revealed that Taylor, and 80 year old man, suffered a broken jaw, 4 broken ribs, an injury to his throat as well as various bruises and lacerations. Arthur Skerritt was arrested on Friday the 13th of June, 1930. He was arrested as he had goods that had been brought at Taylor’s shop and it was also alleged that some of Taylor’s property was discovered in the house where Skerritt lived. Much was made in the newspapers of the fact that Skerritt was a coloured man. Evidence presented at the inquest stated that Skerritt was drunk and had left home with nothing but had returned with a sugar bag full of goods and a quantity of coppers and a sovereign. The accused lived a few doors down from Taylor’s shop. Skerritt was heard to remark that he must of done it as he was drinking. The trial for murder took place in July and on this day in 1930, Skerritt was found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death. An appeal was lodged but was dismissed. The Government of the day stepped in as the Labour party was opposed to capital punishment. Skerritt’s life sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for the term of his natural life without benefit of regulation. Skerritt was originally incarcerated at Pentridge prison but was transferred to Geelong Gaol at some stage. Pleas for his release because of his age began in 1946 and were still going in 1949. Authorities described him as crafty and unscrupulous and saw no reason to release him, fearing that he would continue to steal and would end up back in prison. Skerritt died of cardiac failure in 1953 still incarcerated in the Geelong Gaol.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 31, 1922

In the Malvern Police Court Robert Albert Scott, a French polisher, was charged with having, at Malvern, on July 31 shot Marie Dorothy Victoria Frith, a widow, aged 32 years, with intent to murder her.

Marié Dorothy Victoria Frith said that she had known Scott for about 14 months. They had been on friendly terms. On the evening of July 31 she met him by appointment at the Malvern Town Hall, and they walked along High-street until they came to a seat near the reserve at the corner of Edgar-street, where they sat down. In reply to a request by Scott that he should be allowed to continue to meet her witness said : “No, we have talked the matter over before and I am still of the same mind. I do not wish to talk about it any more.” Scott was silent for a few minutes. He then said: “Well if I can’t have you no one will. This ends it.” He drew a revolver and fired at her. The shot missed. Witness ran to the middle of the road. He then pointed the revolver at her face and fired four shots. She put up her left arm to shield her face. She thought that two shots entered her arm. She cried out: “What are you shooting me for? Stop shooting me.”

Witness noticed about half a dozen people standing on the footpath. A carrier’s van passed. The carrier looked out at the side and slowed down, but he passed on. Nobody came to her assistance. Scott said: “What are you making all this fuss about, you silly woman?” He then drew the revolver again and fired about four more shots. . He hit witness three times. One shot was in the left arm, which she had again put up to protect her face. She said to Scott: “You said that you would not shoot again” He said: “I intend to finish you.” Witness tried to run to the road again, but he grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground. Scott fired again, the bullet striking witness in the neck. Witness struggled with her arms over her face and another shot struck her in the elbow. She was trying to scream, but could not, as blood was flowing from her mouth freely. Scott took her further down the paddock and sat her down against a fence in a lane, saying: “Now don’t you move.” He then went to look for witness’s hat and glasses, and returned with the hat. Witness felt very weak and was in great pain. She was bleeding freely from the neck and arm. Scott next took her by the arm, and she said “Now let me get home. Will you stop following me any more? Will you stop shooting me?” They walked towards her home and be held her by the arm. She was holding his other hand so that he could not use the revolver. They walked up Tooronga-road to Wattle Tree-road, where witness resides. He said to her: “Will you promise me not to inform the police or tell anyone?” She said: “No, I will not tell the police.” Witness was terrified. He said “Will you meet me on Wednesday night?” Witness said “Yes,” not meaning, however, to keep her promise. He kissed her goodnight and said again. “Will you meet me on Wednesday night?” .She answered “Yes” and then said suddenly “There is your tram,” and left him. Witness complained to Mr and Mrs. M’Call, where she was boarding. Subsequently she was taken to the hospital. Scott was committed for trial.

On This Day ……. 31st of July 1890

An inquiry into the supposed murder of George Avery, at the Camperdown Hotel, the particulars of which appeared in The Argus, was commenced in the Camperdown Police Court on this day in 1890, Mr. Heron, P. M. , and a jury of five. A man who occupied the same room with Avery on the night the fatal blow was struck, and who disappeared the next morning, was present in custody, having been arrested yesterday in a hut on Mr. Thomas Shaw’s Wooriwyrite Station, about 17 miles from here. He is a man about 58 years of age, strongly built, has a very marked Scottish accent, and gives the name of William Tudehook. For two days and nights the police have been scouring the country in search of this man. They were accompanied by Mr. Henry, the landlord of the hotel, in order that he might identity the man, who had been at his hotel on the previous Saturday night. When the man was seen at the hotel he carried a bush walking stick, but,when arrested the stick could nowhere be found, and he stated to the police that he had thrown it away. At the inquest, Dr. Pettigrew described the nature of the wound on the top of the deceased’s head, which appeared to have beeninflicted by some sharp instrument, and could not from its position have been easily caused by a fall. Some men who were about the hotel gave formal evidence. Senior constable Quinn, who arrested the prisoner, gave the substance of a conversation he had with him. The prisoner stated that when he left the room on Sunday morning the deceased was in bed, and that he did not notice anything peculiar about him. During the night Avery and he had a conversation in which Avery told him that he had had some trouble with his family, but beyond this nothing more passed between the prisoner and the deceased. The prisoner is a stranger in this district, and unknown to the police. He was remanded to the Geelong Gaol, and the inquiry was adjourned until August 19, to allow the police to collect further evidence.

 

On this day …….. 31st of July 1942

In WWII, the first real attack of the Japanese on an Australian base occurred with the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942. That attack was the first of about 90 attacks that occurred at various places in and around Australia during the war. Shortly after this initial attack, the northwest coastal towns of Broome and Wyndham also came under fire, followed by Derby a few weeks later. It is less well known that the town of Mossman, near Cairns, was also bombed. On the night of 31 July 1942, Sub Lieutenant Mizukura dropped eight bombs, thinking that the lights he saw were Cairns. In fact it was Mossman, and while the other seven bombs have never been recovered, one fell on a sugar cane farm near Saltwater, Mossman. It caused a crater that measured 7 metres wide and a metre deep, and sent flying shrapnel through the window of the nearby farmhouse. Farmer Felice Zullo’s two and a half year old daughter was wounded in the head from shrapnel which entered the house, although she was in her cot at the time.

The child grew up to become Mrs Carmel Emmi, and on 31 July 1991, Mrs Emmi unveiled a plaque on a memorial stone commemorating the attack and her survival. The memorial stone is situated on Bamboo Creek Road, after the turnoff to Whyanbeel.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 31, 1943

On a charge of murder, Cecil John Freeman, a fiddler, was committed for trial by the City Coroner. Freeman appeared in custody at the inquest on Ian Gordon Jeffrey, 25, who was injured in a disturbance on July 31 and died in hospital on August 4. Police alleged that Freeman said he attacked Jeffrey because he was paying attention to Mrs. Freeman.

On this day …….. 31st of July 1900

Australia was under British rule from the time the First Fleet landed, in 1788, until 1901. Numerous politicians and influential Australians through the years had pushed for federation of the colonies, and self-government. After not being accepted by the states the first time, the amended Commonwealth Constitution was given Royal Assent on 9 July 1900. Western Australia held back from agreeing to join the federation, as Premier and former explorer John Forrest wanted to ensure the economic security of the state, given its distance from the more highly populated eastern states. Western Australia itself was divided over the decision to join, as the people of Albany pushed to be included as part of South Australia, rather than aligning themselves with Perth and Fremantle. Despite this, Forrest’s 31 July 1900 referendum on whether the Western Australians wished to join the rest of the commonwealth was resoundly accepted throughout the state. Even in Albany, 914 voted “yes” and 67 voted “no”.

 

On this day …….. 31st of July 1902

On this day in 1902 an explosion occurred at Mount Kemble mine in New South Wales killing 96 miners. Unable to find there way out in the aftermath, three miners had the idea to unhitching a pit pony (blind horse used underground) from a skip and grabbing hold of the harness in the hope that it would pull them along in the darkened tunnel to daylight. The pony lead the men to freedom. Another miner abandoned his pony and made his way to the surface. It took him two days to reach safety, while his horse walked out itself a few hours after he had left it.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 30, 1947

When acquaintances of Allan William Paul Rose, poultry farmer, of Seamore Road, Box Hill, entered his house on July 30, last, they found him dead with his skull battered as a result of 17 injuries. Today, Alexander Arthur Fleming (28), of Cairo Road, Box Hill, builder’s laborer, was charged with having murdered Rose. The case came before Mr. Justice McFarlan and jury in the Criminal Court. Among exhibits was a piece of iron about 18 inches in length. The Crown alleged that this was the weapon which was used to batter Rose’s skull. Mr. Sproule, K.C., for the Crown, said Rose lived by himself in a little cottage in a rather isolated portion of the street. On Tuesday, July 29, he was seen going to the pictures in Box Hill, as was his custom of a Tuesday night. This was the last time he was seen alive by anyone except his assailant. About 10 o’clock next morning a man called at Rose’s house and saw a hat under the hedge. He received no answer to his call. Later in the day he called again, and found the works of a wristlet watch on the concrete drive. The watch had stopped at 11.20 o’clock. With another man, he entered the house. He found Rose dead on the floor, which was covered with blood. Mr. Sproule said that when Fleming was first questioned by the police, he admitted borrowing £2 from Rose. Later, to Detective Mooney, Fleming said: “Yes, I did it and I admit it.” Mr. Sproule said Fleming made a statement to the police in which he allegedly said he approached Rose on the night of July 29 with a request for a loan, which was refused. The alleged statement described a fight between Rose and Fleming. In the statement, Fleming said he struck Rose a couple of times with an iron bar. When Rose refused to lend him money he “did his block.” The case was adjourned until tomorrow.

On This Day ……. 30th of July 1929

An Aboriginal, aged 74 years, was on this day in 1929 completed two months imprisonment in Geelong Gaol, declined to leave when he was discharged. It was only after several hours of trouble that he was pressured to sign his property out and go. It was the first time he had been in gaol. He looked the picture of health, and, apparently enjoyed life in the gaol.

 

On this day …….. 30th of July 1768

In 1768, Lieutenant James Cook was commissioned with the task of observing the transit of Venus across the sun from the vantage point of Tahiti. This expedition was originally commissioned by the Royal Society of London as a scientific mission. However, when the British Admiralty became aware of Cook’s expedition to the Southern Hemisphere, Cook was given an extra task – one which, it was hoped, would see the advancement of the British Empire and acquisition of more territory.
On the 30th of July 1768, shortly before HM Bark Endeavour departed England, Cook was handed his orders. They were in two parts: the second section was sealed, and could be opened only by Cook once he completed his observations of Venus. Entitled “Secret Instructions for Lieutenant James Cook Appointed to Command His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour 30 July 1768”, the instructions commanded Cook to find the Great South Land, a ‘Land of great extent’ that was believed to exist in the Southern hemisphere. Although the continent of Australia had been discovered by the Dutch in the early 1600s, it was not thought to be “Terra Australis Incognita”, or the mysterious “Unknown Southern Land”. Cook was instructed ‘… to proceed to the Southward in order to make discovery of the Continent above-mentioned until you arrive in the latitude of 40º, unless you sooner fall in with it’. He was then ordered ‘with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain’. In essence, Cook was awarded the power to consign any indigenous inhabitants of the Great South Land under the King of England’s authority.