MURDERED ON THIS DAY ………. 13th October 1904

A shocking murder was committed at 1.30am on the 13th of October 1904 in Lydiard street, Ballarat, near the Mining Exchange, The victim was Miss Kate Beazley, a resident of Daylesford. It appears that the young woman was being maintained at an hotel in Lydiard by James Rowan, a young man. At about 1 o’clock in the morning the pair had a quarrel, in the course’ of which Rowan made an attack on the woman, who ran across the street, hoping either to get out of his way or to find protection. Rowan followed her, carrying in his hand an axe. Finding that every place was closed, and that no person was at hand to whom she could appeal for protection, Miss Beazley, sought refuge in a doorway, where, it is alleged, Rowan attacked her with an axe, smashing in her skull. Death was, of course, instantaneous. The cries of the woman attracted the attention of Constables Deverall and Cherry, and on proceeding to the doorway they found Miss Beazley lying dead in a pool of blood. Subsequently Rowan, who is 25 years of age, made off, but he was captured in a semi nude condition. He asked if Miss Beazley, was dead and on being answered in the affirmative cried bitterly. Rowan was arrested and lodged in the city lockup. He made no statement. The body of Miss Beazley was conveyed to the morgue.

ON THIS DAY…… 28th September 1890

A terrible murder was committed on this day in 1890 in Golden Square, Sandhurst, the victim being Richard Whitford, a miner, aged 60, and the perpetrator his wife, Catherine, aged 55. On the previously Saturday night Whitford, who had been drinking heavily, went to bed in a drunken sleep. Mrs Whitford get an axe from the yard and struck him a heavy blow on the head, and then quietly lay down on a sofa. Some of the children coming in found their father lying bathed in blood. The alarm was given and the man was removed to the Hospital, where it was found that his skull had been split open. He lingered till the evening and then died. Mrs Whitford was arrested. She displayed signs of mental aberration, and after medical examination was committed to the lunatic ward of the Bendigo Hospital.


ON THIS DAY…… 31st August 1855

On Tuesday the 16th October 1855 John McCabe was found guilty of the wilful murder of Lewis Walker at Snake Valley. Lewis who was once an officer in the army had come to the diggings where he made a considerable sum of money, until the mine he was working with Sherwin collapsed, losing everything. On the 28th of August 1855 both Lewis and Sherwin stopped at John’s house where they resided for 3 nights. On the night of the 31st August, when Lewis was asleep, John struck him in the head with an axe, which caused instantaneous death. Sherwin at the time was very drunk and slept through the attack. Afterwards John went to the Bush Inn, and on being asked where Lewis and Sherwin were, he replied he had left them fighting in his hut. At first it was believed that Sherwin had murdered Lewis, and was taken into custody but later released and the sentence of death was passed onto McCabe. John was tried at the Supreme Court in Beechworth by the Honour Justice Williams and was found guilty by a jury of his countrymen, and was condemned to suffer the extreme penalty of the Law. However during the hearing John had no legal representative even though he had hired and paid for Mr Campbell as his defence. For some unknown reason, through want of time or through neglect, the solicitor did not make his appearance in time for the trial. At this point in time John had been in prison for thirteen days. On the day of the trial John had not been able to instruct a second Attorney. The prisoner attempted to obtain the services of Dr Mackey, barrister, but Mackey had no time to make himself acquainted even with the facts of the case at the time proceedings commenced. Dr Mackey applied, under the very serious nature of the charge, for a postponement of the trial until the following session of Court. His application was successfully opposed by the Crown prosecutor on the grounds of expense, the difficulty in securing all the witnesses at another time and the minute precognition that had been made before the magistrates at Beechworth. Dr Mackey then applied to have the trial postponed for a day, that he might have time to peruse the voluminous depositions, but with no better success. Dr Mackey next applied for an hour’s delay but this application was equally unavailing. Given the circumstances, Dr Mackey declined the responsibility of defending the prisoner. John then applied to the learned Judge to assign him counsel, but his Honor could not direct any counsel to undertake such a responsibility. Therefore, John did not obtain the services of counsel at all, while the full weight of the law was allowed to proceed.

John was sentenced to hang on the 24th of October 1855 in Central Gaol Melbourne. However due to the injustice carried out in the Court room, a petition was signed and delivered with a letter to the Governor General of Victoria, His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham. The petition urged the Governor General to extend the royal prerogative of mercy to the convict John McCabe. John was saved and released, returning once again as the local butcher.


ON THIS DAY – July 17, 1946


The Coroner (Mr Marwick) . at the inquest today into the death oF Philip Elmore Johnson, 65, labourer, near Mornington on July 12 committed Trevor McKenzie, tailor, of Melbourne, for trial on a charge of murder. Johnson’s body was found under a sheet of iron near a hut on July 17. Detective J. Heath of Fitzroy, said that McKenzie telephoned him on July 17 and said: “I have murdered a man. It is awful.” Later at the Fitzroy police station he said that McKenzie told him that the murdered man was a man with whom he had been living at Hastings.


Detective C. H. Petty said that McKenzie made a statement to the police in which he said: “Johnson lived on next to nothing and when I ordered more food he growled. He would not let me listen to anything humorous on the wireless. On July 17 we had an argument about food. He went crook on me for sitting in front of the fire. He went outside and I got a gun and put two cartridges in it. I saw him come around a tree. I aimed and must have pulled the two triggers at the same time. I got an axe but do not remember whacking him with it.”

ON THIS DAY – July 12, 1950

A Criminal Court  jury found Winifred Therese Walford, 42, of Gordon Street, Deepdene, not guilty of the murder of her husband on July 12, on the ground of insanity. The Crown alleged, that she struck Keith Hartley Walford, 51, company secretary, on the head with an axe while he was reading a paper in the dining-room. The jury took less than half an hour to arrive at a verdict. Mr. Justice O’Bryan sentenced Mrs. Walford to custody at Pentridge Jail during the Governor’s pleasure.  A quiet plea of “not guilty” was all that Mrs. Walford said, throughout the trial. She was not called to give evidence. Three medical witnesses called by the Crown and the defence save evidence that she suffered from’ depressive psychosis following the birth of a child 12 years ago. In their opinion she would not have known that she was doing wrong when she struck her husband with the axe eight times, but she would have known the nature of the act. Detective J. Oakes said that soon after the husband’s death Mrs. Walford told him she must have been crazy. She said they had always been happy together and he was a loving man, who had been extremely considerate of her. Her doctors had told her that she must have more hospital treatment and this was worrying her.

ON THIS DAY – July 12, 1946

In the Criminal Court yesterday it was alleged that a man had confessed he killed another man because he irritated him by listening to horror stories on the radio. Before the court was Trevor Francis Sanderson McKenzie, sailor, charged with murdering Phillip Hilton Elmore Johnson, 65, invalid pensioner. The Crown alleges that Johnson was shot with a shotgun and beaten with an axe near Hastings on July 12.



EXECUTED ON THIS DAY ……………. 11th of July 1861

Henry Coolley, sentenced to death for the murder of his wife at Heathcote, was executed on the 11th inst., at the Central Gaol, Melbourne. On the previous night he made a full confession, a copy of which We append:—”Central Jail, Melbourne, “Wednesday evening, 10th July, 1861. “I, Henry Cooley, by the faith of redemption through our Saviour Jesus Christ, before appearing in the presence of my Maker, desire voluntarily, and of my own free will and accord, to make the fullest statement I can in the world for my heinous crime by confession and acknowledgment of the justice of the sentence of death passed upon me for taking the life of my lamented wife Harriet Cooley.

“Incompatibility of temper was unfortunately for us a source of constant disagreement. On the 15th of March, the day previous to this last occurrence, my wife had been to McIvor races, and we quarrelled between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning about her having been in company with another woman whose company it was not proper of her to keep, when, instead of curbing my temper and enduring with patience, trouble and affliction, exasperated by passion, I raised the axe and struck my wile on the head—her death was instantaneous. When I found life was gone I did not know what to do. At last I made up my mind to conceal the body. I took the lighted candle off the table, harnessed my horse, in the spring cart, and carrying the lighted candle in my hand, led the horse into the bush about half a mile, and concealed the remains amongst the branches of a fallen ironbark tree. I heard the voice of some person cooeying in the direction of the hut, and drove off in a fright, leaving the candle burning on the ground. I returned home, and walked about the hut all night in great distress. Next morning (Sunday) I went back to the place and found that the candle had set fire to the grass about the tree and consumed the body. I did not then in any way disturb the remains, but turned in horror from the spot. About ten days after this, on hearing that I was about to be apprehended, I went again to the place and scattered the remains.  “The evidence adduced of the remains having been re-burnt is not true, for to my knowledge they were not. The piece of burnt while metal, supposed to have been a ‘billy’ was what was left of the tin candlestick.

“This is my last confession, and the true statement of the murder of my wife and the concealment of her remains; and may God be merciful unto her, a sinner, hurried into eternity, and pardon her sins. A few faults she had, but her good qualities were many; and I earnestly pray that God will forgive her. Husbands and wives, love one another; children, obey your parents; and blessed are they who keep the Lord’s commandments, and through salvation inherit-eternal life. While I deeply deplore and lament the murder of my wife, I do not now regret to quit this earthly scene and term of trial and tribulation to fit us for a better and a happier state. I deserve and am resigned to my fate, and I earnestly pray that others may take warning by my untimely end. “Farewell? May grace be unto all; and the Lord have mercy on my soul!


ON THIS DAY – July 9, 1944


John Turnbull, 28, soldier, who is appearing before Mr. Justice Martin on a charge of murder, told the court to-day that when he struck Ernest Price, 32, with an axe he was acting in self-defence. It was alleged that Turnbull killed Price in a dark alley-way in Clifton Hill on July 9 and robbed him of a watch and £15 in notes.

ON THIS DAY – June 24, 1907

A Charge of Murder

William Smith and Martha Ellen Webb were charged at the Melbourne Criminal sessions on June 24 with having murdering John Geoghegan at Lilydale on May 15. The allegations were that during a drunken squabble the deceased was struck on the head with an axe, and 16 days later succumbed to his injuries. The jury acquitted the accused; who were discharged.

ON THIS DAY – June 4, 1913

On the 4th of June, 1913, Arthur Dowell an inmate of the Yarra Bend Asylum inflicted with an axe handle such serious injuries on another patient John Joseph Tissear that he died on the 7th of June. At the time of he savage attack several inmates were milking in the cow yard when the Dowell suddenly jumped from his stool, grabbed an axe handle, and began fiercely attacking everybody within his reach. Most of those present were fortunate enough to get clear of the infuriated madman, but Tissear was struck heavily across the head. He fell to the ground, where he lay until picked up by attendants. Dowell then turned his attention to the carter, Michael Carlson who received the axe handle on one of his elbows. As there was nobody else to attack, Dowell then tried to escape, but was captured by George Maloney an attendants. The injured ones were taken to the asylum hospital, where it was found that Tissear had sustained a fracture of the skull and after having lingered for three days he died. Carlson’s injury was also found to be of a somewhat serious nature, Dr Stell, medical superintendent considers it necessary to put the arm under the X rays. During the seven years that he has been an inmate of the asylum the Dowell who used the axe handle conducted himself well, and the authorities had gained the impression that he was not dangerous. Dowell was 32 years of age and the deceased was years older. The coroner found that Tissear died from injuries wilfully, feloniously and maliciously inflicted by Arthur Dowell, of which he was found guilty of wilful murder. Dr Stell, medical superintendent of the Yarra Bend Asylum, made application to have Dowell removed to the criminal ward at Ararat.

ON THIS DAY – May 17, 1936


In the City Court a charge or murder was preferred against Francis George Kelly, 57, laborer, of Kinglake, who had previously been charged with having caused grievous bodily harm to William Joseph Morgan, refreshment room proprietor, of Kinglake. It was alleged that on May 17 Kelly attacked Morgan with an axe in his home. Morgan died several days later in hospital without regaining consciousness.

On this day …….. 15th of April 1908

Whilst watching his brother cutting wood at Buffalo, Gippsland on this day in 1908, William Beckham, four years of age, was struck on the foot by the axe. He was brought to the Melbourne Hospital suffering from a severe cut on the right foot.