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ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1948

John William McRae, 19, was sentenced to death in the Sale Supreme Court today for the murder of his sister, Hazel Mary McRae, Bairnsdale beauty queen, on July 19. The jury returned a verdict of guilty after a retirement lasting exactly an hour. Some of the large crowd, which included many young women In the public gallery, gasped as Sir Charles Lowe passed the death sentence. McRae’s mother, who had been present in the court during most of the trial, was not there when the jury returned. McRae, who was described as mentally backward, and frequently fidgeted with his hair and clothing daring the trial showed no emotion. Sir Charles Lowe asked him if he had anything to say before, being sentenced, and be replied: “No, sir.” Hazel McRae’s partly-clad body was found In the back yard of her Bairnsdale home on the morning of July 20 with her head bashed and a bullet in her head.

ON THIS DAY – July 3, 1981

Nightclub singer Ms Haroula Kipouridou was found in the half-opened lift of her Richmond Housing Commission block on July 3, 1981. She had been raped and her face was so badly bashed she choked on blood. Prime suspect Barry Harding was killed in a car crash after serving time for the rape and murder of a child in the same flats as Ms Kipouridou. A work boot footprint was left at the scene. Harding wore similar boots. Police say they are “reasonably confident” he was the killer.

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – June 30, 1906

On Saturday, Detective Burvett took charge of the investigations into the murder of Patrick O’Rourke who died in the Alfred Hospital on June 30 from injuries received at St Kilda on the night of June 23. Burvett made three visits to St Kilda on Saturday, and carefully went over the supposed scene of the murder. Then he inspected the dead mans clothing but failed to find anything that would serve as material for any theory as to the murder

O’Rourke when he died had a pronounced black eye. This has been regarded as showing that he was attacked and struck in the eye before receiving the injury that proved fatal. The blow in the eye has also been advanced to account for O’Rourke’s hat having been off when his skull was fractured. Burvett has, however, proved that the black eye was not the result of a separate blow. The fracture of the skull had been very slight and was somewhat below the cut on forehead. The ecchymosis of the eye was the result of this fracture, and did not develop for some days. When O’Rourke was admitted to the hospital no signs of a blow on the eye were discernible.

Detective Sexton and Plain-clothes Constable White are assisting Detective Burvett in his inquiries but very little can be done until the Government analyst has given his opinion with regard to the supposed blood-stained board and O’Rourke’s clothes all of which have been submitted to him.

On This Day – June 25, 1886

The inquest on the body of Mary Taylor, found dead in her house in Kenny street, Richmond, early on Saturday morning, was held yesterday at the Vine Hotel, Richmond.

Thomas Taylor, the husband of the deceased, being present in custody. Denis Hogan,a lodger with the Taylors, stated that the deceased had been drinking on Friday, and that he and Taylor, on going home late on Friday night, found her lying on the floor of the kitchen.  During the night he heard no noises, but Taylor called him in the morning at about 4 o’clock, and told him that his wife was dead, and that he (Taylor) must have killed her.

Taylor made a statement to Senior constable Couche, in which he stated that he struck his wife and kicked her down. The evidence of Professor Allen, who made the post mortem examination of the body, showed that the injuries must have been the results of continued violence On one side 10 ribs were fractured ,on the other side two ribs were
similarly damaged The chest bone was crushed in, and the hyoid bone was fractured in two places The head, trunk, and limbs were covered with cuts and bruises, the back especially being a mass of bruises from the neck downward.

The injuries, in the opinion of the medical experts, were the results of continued blows and kicks, while the more
serious were caused by someone having violently knelt or jumped upon the deceased. There was also compression or the larynx as though throttling had been attempted.

This injury, in the opinion of Professor Allen,was inflicted at a time when the woman was almost dead from other injuries, several of which taken separately were sufficient to have caused death either as the result of shock or from hemorrhage of blood into the chest. The coroner pointed out that in the face of this evidence, there was no room for
the supposition that the wounds were inflicted as mere chastisement, or with any other intent than that of killing.

The jury after being locked up for four hours, found Thomas Taylor guilty of the wilful murder of his wife.

ON THIS DAY…… 3rd September 1890

A Magisterial enquiry has been held concerning the death of the little girl named Veronica O’Neill on this day in 1890, after being severely beaten with a stick about the head and body by her elder sister Eleanor, aged nine and a half years. The latter at the enquiry detailed the circumstance, and said she had always hated the deceased, because she always got everything that came into the house and was always getting witness into trouble. The Magistrate ordered her to be charged with the wilful murder of her sister.

 

 

 

ON THIS DAY …….18th August 2001

On 18 August 2001, at approximately 3am, Lloyd Crosbie sat awake watching a movie. His girlfriend Melissa Maahs lay sleeping beside him in the couple’s bed. Without warning, Crosbie removed a skinning knife from a scabbard and proceeded to stab his girlfriend three times to the head while she lay sleeping. Melissa woke and began to scream and fight off her attacker.  Crosbie then attacked Melissa’s mother Kaye in the hallway of their home as she came to her daughter’s assistance. Realising Kaye was not dead, he attacked her further using two porcelain ornaments, smashing them both; a frying pan, buckling it; and an iron.  Crosbie alternated between attacking Melissa and Kaye many times over, and would have sexual intercourse with Melissa’s dead body, using pornographic magazines on her back while defiling her. After murdering the two women, Crosbie then disturbed the contents of the house to make it appear as if a burglary had occurred.  Crosbie escaped the murder scene in a taxi, travelling to Morwell railway station and purchasing a ticket to Wangaratta. A male relative later found the bodies of the two women when he visited their home after not hearing from them for two days. Crosbie disposed of the murder weapon in a creek in Wangaratta.

 

 

 

ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1948

John William McRae, 19, was sentenced to death in the Sale Supreme Court today for the murder of his sister, Hazel Mary McRae, Bairnsdale beauty queen, on July 19. The jury returned a verdict of guilty after a retirement lasting exactly an hour. Some of the large crowd, which included many young women In the public gallery, gasped as Sir Charles Lowe passed the death sentence. McRae’s mother, who had been present in the court during most of the trial, was not there when the jury returned. McRae, who was described as mentally backward, and frequently fidgeted with his hair and clothing daring the trial showed no emotion. Sir Charles Lowe asked him if he had anything to say before, being sentenced, and be replied: “No, sir.” Hazel McRae’s partly-clad body was found In the back yard of her Bairnsdale home on the morning of July 20 with her head bashed and a bullet in her head.

ON THIS DAY – July 14, 1906

An alleged “welsher,” Donald M’Leod, was killed by the crowd at the Flemington Racecourse on July 14. The victim was a single man, aged 23. He made 27 bets on the Grand National Steeple Chase, 16 of which were on Decoration. As the race was finishing, M’Leod got off a box he was standing on, and walked away. Some one cried “Welsher!” There was à rush for M’Leod, who was knocked down. The crowd then set on him, and literally kicked him to death. His head was battered, his nose smashed, and his neck broken. Several tried to rescue the unfortunate, notably T. Nelson, a well-known Sydney boxer but the fury of the crowd was too great to stem. Two troopers and several foot police managed to clear the ring round the man, who was carried to the casualty room, where the terrible injuries were revealed. A post-mortem examination of the body of M’Leod showed that death was due to suffocation, resulting from the dislocation of his neck.

ON THIS DAY – July 3, 1981

Nightclub singer Ms Haroula Kipouridou was found in the half-opened lift of her Richmond Housing Commission block on July 3, 1981. She had been raped and her face was so badly bashed she choked on blood. Prime suspect Barry Harding was killed in a car crash after serving time for the rape and murder of a child in the same flats as Ms Kipouridou. A work boot footprint was left at the scene. Harding wore similar boots. Police say they are “reasonably confident” he was the killer.

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – June 30, 1906

On Saturday, Detective Burvett took charge of the investigations into the murder of Patrick O’Rourke who died in the Alfred Hospital on June 30 from injuries received at St Kilda on the night of June 23. Burvett made three visits to St Kilda on Saturday, and carefully went over the supposed scene of the murder. Then he inspected the dead mans clothing but failed to find anything that would serve as material for any theory as to the murder

O’Rourke when he died had a pronounced black eye. This has been regarded as showing that he was attacked and struck in the eye before receiving the injury that proved fatal. The blow in the eye has also been advanced to account for O’Rourke’s hat having been off when his skull was fractured. Burvett has, however, proved that the black eye was not the result of a separate blow. The fracture of the skull had been very slight and was somewhat below the cut on forehead. The ecchymosis of the eye was the result of this fracture, and did not develop for some days. When O’Rourke was admitted to the hospital no signs of a blow on the eye were discernible.

Detective Sexton and Plain-clothes Constable White are assisting Detective Burvett in his inquiries but very little can be done until the Government analyst has given his opinion with regard to the supposed blood-stained board and O’Rourke’s clothes all of which have been submitted to him.