On this day …….. 19th of June 1932

William Augustine McEntee aged 39 was arrested in Stawell on the 1st June 1932 on a charge of unlawful possession of a car. He was also wanted in Adelaide on a charge of having absconded from Gaol. He has convictions dating back to 1915 for shop breaking, larceny, unlawful possession, false pretences, and horse stealing. McEntee was committed to the criminal ward of Ararat Asylum. On the 19th of June 1932, McEntee broke out of his cell and escaped. Staff were amazed and puzzled at the disappearance of McEntee. “God knows how he did it,” said a warden, when asked over the telephone from Melbourne how it was possible for McEntee; have got away undetected. ” One of the most amazed men was the head warden who, a quarter of an hour before, had given McEntee his lunch. At that time the cell was locked and secure, shortly afterwards, while walking along the corridor, was surprised to find the cell door open and McEntee missing. He was described as being very cunning and dangerous criminal. McEntee remained on the run for all must 12 months, before he was court and sent to the Beechworth Gaol. On the 5th of February 1940, William McEntee, made his third escape when he scaled a 15ft wall of the Beechworth Gaol and rode away on a bicycle he obtained in the town. McEntee was arrested in Sydney on the 23rd of December 1942, and charged with breaking and entering and theft of £1000 worth of properly. While being interview by police it was realised that McEntee, had escaped from Beechworth Gaol, and been on the run for nearly three years. He was sentenced to gaol again.

On this day …….. 11th of June 1857

Although there was no such things as the Guinness Book of Records in the 1850s, if there had been Black Douglas would surely have rated a mention as a persistent offender. It was on this day that the notorious vagrant was brought up before the Yackandandah Police Court. He was fined five shillings, and a promise was extracted from him that he would immediately leave the district. Only a week before, he had been let out of the Beechworth Gaol, after being sentenced to three days fir drunken and disorderly conduct. Black Douglas seemed to be always in and out of Courts, and being run out of one town or another. Wether this was the same Black Douglas who was stabbed by miners in Maryborough during a robbery attempt, is not known. That particular Black Douglas survived, only to be later hanger in Melbourne.

ON THIS DAY – June 10, 1889



The trial of William M’Carron and his daughter Jane for the murder of their infant daughter, at Kaarimba, on June 10 last, was continued at the Assize Court this morning, before Mr. Justice Kerferd. In relation to the point raised the previous evening, his Honour announced that he considered that evidence concerning a conversation between Mrs. M’Carron and the male prisoner, when the former was on her death bed was inadmissible. Evidence concerning improper conduct on the part of the male prisoner towards his daughter Esther was also inadmissible, being irrelevant to the issue. He would also exclude any evidence relating to former children born of the prisoner Jane, because they could not be proved to be the children of the male prisoner nor could it be proved whether those children were murdered or died from accident. Esther M’Carron, re-called, said that she had known her father and sister Jane to sleep in the same room on several occasions. Witness and her younger sister were now in service in Melbourne under assumed names. She had known her sister Jane to be enciente on previous occasions. Martha M’Carron, another daughter of the male prisoner, deposed that she had known that her father and sister Jane had acted improperly. Dr. M’Kenna of Shepparton, deposed to having examined the female prisoner on 14th June. She had recently been confined, and was in a weak state. He then thought, and was still of the same opinion that the prisoner Jane was of weak intellect. Dr. Haynes, medical officer at the Beechworth gaol, deposed that the prisoner Jane was not an idiot, nor was she insane, but was a weak-minded girl. The evidence for the Crown was concluded before 10 o’clock, the evidence of Dr. Drinkwater (who made a post-mortem examination of the body) having been put in in deposition form, the doctor having recently died. His evidence was that the child had been born alive, and died from suffocation. Mr. Smyth’s address to the jury was brief. He said the woman might be guilty only of concealment of birth, but the man was guilty of murder or manslaughter. Mr. Purves spoke at length. He contended that Jane M’Carron was a poor weak-minded, degraded being, whose intelligence was not much raised above the level of instinct, and that she could not be found guilty of this crime. Regarding the male prisoner, Mr. Purves argued that had he suffocated the child its dead body would have borne marks of rough treatment. He contended that the child had been born in a chaff-heap during the absence of M’Carron, and had been accidentally suffocated by the chaff, and that when the infant was given to M’Carron by his daughter Jane it was then simply a dead body. Therefore he had not been guilty either of murder or manslaughter, but was guilty of concealment of birth. The prisoner Jane was of immensely powerful physical frame, an admirable specimen of the animal, but of very low moral faculties. Mr. Purves concluded his address by an appeal to the jurymen to give an honest verdict according to the evidence. The Judge’s summing up commenced at noon. He urged on the jurymen the necessity of considering evidence only in arriving at their verdict. He asked them to discard from their minds all feelings concerning the dreadful relations which had existed between the male and the female prisoners. He highly commended the manner in which the Crown had placed the case before them, which was characterised by great fairness. The facts contained in the evidence were uncontradicted by evidence for the defence, but in its place was an exhaustive and able review of the evidence by the counsel for the defence. His Honour pointed out that the prisoners might be guilty of any one of three offences—either murder, or manslaughter, or concealment of birth, and he proceeded to describe what actions or what intent were necessary to constitute each and every of these crimes. One of the prisoners might be guilty of one crime and the other prisoner of another. The mother’s statement and the medical evidence showed that the child was born alive, and its death might have been compassed either by accident or intention. If the child was accidentally smothered in the chaff neither of the prisoners were guilty of murder, but both of them were guilty of the crime of murder if it was intended by them that the child should not live. To gain a knowledge of the intentions of the prisoners they must consider all surrounding circumstances such as suggested by these inquiries—Why did they go into the stable ? did the father remain there till the birth ? There was no provision made in the way of clothing for the child, and this was evidence in favour of concealment of birth, but not of the graver charge. If the male prisoner assisted at the birth of the child so as to conceal and keep secret his ecclesiastical offence, of incest, and did not take proper precautions, and the child lost its life thereby, then he was guilty of manslaughter. And if the child was carelessly laid on the chaff-heap and thus was suffocated, then one or either, or both of the prisoners would be guilty of manslaughter. The secret disposal of the body was an important factor with regard to the charge of murder, and ample evidence had been given in this case of the endeavour to secrete the body. There was nothing to be said in palliation of the male prisoner as being the author of the wrong which had fallen on the female prisoner, and it was a question for the jury now to decide as regarded the male prisoner whether he was guilty of the greater or second offence. The jury retired at a quarter to 1 o’clock. The jury returned into court at 2.35 p.m., and, answering the associate, the foreman said :—”We find William M’Carron not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. We find Jane M’Carron not guilty of murder, not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of concealment of birth. This is our unanimous verdict.” The prisoners were remanded for sentence. The prisoners have been most stolid in their demeanour till today, when the woman frequently shed tears, especially during Mr. Purves’s address and the judge’s summing up. The man also seemed to be uneasy during the day.


ON THIS DAY – June 6, 1881


The Yalca Murder – EXECUTION OF ROHAN. 

THE ARGUS correspondent at Beechworth wired on Monday the following account of the execution of Robert Rohan for murder:—Robert Rohan, alias Smith, the murderer of John Shea, at Yalca, near Shepparton, on the 23rd January last, was executed in Beechworth gaol this morning by Upjohn at 10 o’clock. The condemned man walked on to the scaffold in a calm, deliberate manner, chewing a piece of tobacco, and when asked by the sheriff whether he had anything to cay, replied, “I have been convicted of the murder, and am prepared to hang for it.” The previous evening he said to the governor of the gaol and the Revs. Wm. Brown and Donnes, Wesleyan clergyman, “I have committed several crimes that I ought to have been hanged for, but I never committed this.”  All being ready, the executioner pulled the bolt, and the convict was launched into eternity. Death was instantaneous. After remaining the usual hour the body was cut down, and an inquest held upon it by Mr W. H. Forster, P.M., and a jury, who found a verdict of death by hanging. The prisoner, who was 24 years of age, had served several sentences both in Victoria and New South Wales, including one of 12 months in Beechworth gaol for larceny at Benalla in 1876, and another of two years and a half in Pentridge for robbery at Sandhurst in 1878, under the name of Ernest Smith, alias Rohan. The night before his execution he slept calmly, and ate a hearty breakfast and smoked a pipe next morning, and on being informed by the gaoler that his time had come, he answered, “All right, sir,” and appeared but little affected by the near approach of death.

On This Day……… 8th April 1872

The first flogging in the Beechworth Gaol took place on this day in 1872. The victim was a chinaman call Ah King, convicted of an indecent exposure. He was tied to a wooden tripod, which was known as being married to the three sisters. The prison received 17 lashes from the cat of nine tails by a fallow prisoner. The flogging was extremely distasteful to all concerned, and when the time came for the second series of lashes, there were no volunteers. The victim had to be sent to Melbourne, where the state executioner would have no such scruples.



On this day …….. 20th of December 1942

A convict who escaped from Beechworth goal three years ago was arrested in Sydney on this day in 1942. He was charged with breaking and entering and theft of £1000 worth of property. The man, William McEntee, aged 51, escaped from Beechworth prison by scaling a high wall. An old hand at goal-breaking, Beechworth was McEntee’s third prison escape. He had previously got away from Yatala prison, South Australia, and from Ararat goal. After the second escape he was at liberty for nearly 12 months. Regarded as desperate and declared an habitual criminal nine years ago, McEntee disappeared from Beechworth prison just before the midday muster one day in February, 1940. Stealing a bicycle in a street 150 yards from the gaol, he rode out of the township in his prison clothes, and vanished. After hiding for two days and two nights in the scrub to evade capture by armed warders and police, McEntee got away from the district. Last trace of him until his arrest in Sydney was the discovery on a roadside at Tarrawingee of the bicycle he had stolen.


On this day …….. 10th of December 1937

Richard L Jackson, and Leslie George Atkins, who escaped from the prison reformatory garden on the 3rd of December, were recaptured at Yackandandah on this day in 1937, by Constable W. Knowles, and were both given an extra 18 months’ imprisonment by the Beechworth honorary Justices. Jackson, under the name of Beattie, a former indeterminate sentence prisoner, was released on probation on the 24th of September 1934. He was convicted in December, 1934, for having broken into a garage, and returned to the reformatory. Atkins was convicted on the 1st of May 1934, for having set fire to a house and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. This was altered to an indeterminate sentence, and he was sent to French Island. He escaped, but was recaptured, and was sent back to Beechworth. Constable Knowles said that when he arrested the men he said, “Boys, the game is up.” One of them replied, ” I suppose so. Just our bad luck.” They did not offer any resistance. The Bench commended Knowles’s action and recommended that it be brought under the notice of the authorities.

On this day …….. 9th of December 1873

Daniel Lynch a labour working in Euroa had a turn while at work and was found to be suffering insanity. Lynch was taken to Beechworth by train and transferred to Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum on the 20th of August 1871, on admission it was not known where his family was. Lynch escaped on the 9th of December 1873. Lynch remained at large until the 14th of March 1881, when he found him self incarcerated in the Beechworth Gaol on miner charges. Lynch was transferred to the Asylum where he died on the 17th of August 1882.

On this day …….. 24th of October 1867

On this day in 1867, Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum opened in Beechworth, North East Victoria. The first patients were transferred from the Beechworth Gaol under the control of Superintendent Dr Dick. The Beechworth asylum was one of three large Lunatic Asylums built in Victoria.


ON THIS DAY – October 15, 1872

Living on the goldfields was hard and the threat of bush rangers was constantly on one’s mind. On the evening of the 15th of October three bushrangers named James Smith, Thomas Brady and William Heppanstein bailed up the Wooragee Post Office robbing them of their takings. They then rode to the Hotel next door. When John Watt, the publican of the Wooragee Hotel, opened the door he was confronted with three men with their faces covered. “Bail Up, Your money or your life”. When John refused he was shot, stumbling back into the kitchen where he fell on the floor, and standing back up he fell again, knocking chairs over. His wife then sat him up against the wall and sent a worker for the doctor. On the doctor’s arrival he was amazed that John was still alive. The exit wound on John’s back below his shoulder blade was large enough for a man’s clenched fist to fit into. Unbelievably, John lived for another nine days. Brady and Smith were charged with the murder and sentenced to hang on the 12th of May 1873 in the Beechworth Gaol. On the morning of the execution, Smith handed the Sheriff a hand written statement in the defence of both Smith and Brady. The hangman Bamford, bought up from Melbourne for the occasion, placed a white cape over their faces and the rope around their neck. Brady died straight away. However Smith struggled for minutes after his drop. It was a terrible sight, witnessed by sixty people.

ON THIS DAY…… 15th September 1869

Although old in appearance, Richard Atlas who also went by the alias of Ham and Eggs, was only 37 at the time of his death. Having lived in Wangaratta for 14 years, it is believed that Richard had inherited some £7000 and had previously travelled to Europe before he settled down. Deemed a harmless character who lived a secluded life on the banks of the Ovens River, Richard spent most of his days fishing and doing odd jobs. However it is reported that due to his over indulgence in alcohol he was often in trouble and had been before the police court 40 times, and had spent three months in Beechworth Gaol in an attempt to cure him of his inebriety.

On the 2nd of September 1869, it is believed that Altas was assaulted resulting in his death at Ward’s Railway Hotel. Arrested for the murder was Mr. Louis McDermott Ward, brewer and publican, and barman Mr. Joseph O’Grady. Immediately upon their arrest the prisoners were taken for identification to the Horse and Jockey Hotel where Atlas had been taken. Later that evening Dr. McMullen, having expressed his opinion that Atlas would not live till morning, ordered the two prisoners to be brought up before him at the Horse and Jockey Hotel. Altas’ evidence was recorded and the prisoners were remanded until the following day. Dr. Dobbyn, District Coroner, carried out a post mortem examination on Atlas’ remains and delivered a verdict of manslaughter. Ward was given bail of £400 and O’Grady £200. The assault is said to have consisted of a violent blow on the nose which was broken by O’Grady, and a kick in the stomach by Ward. The kick to the stomach was the fatal blow.




On This Day ……. 7th September 1868

Catherine Carey was transferred from the Beechworth Gaol to May Day Hills Lunatic Asylum on the 25th of April 1868. Carey’s husband Thomas had walked out and left her in 1861, it was believed that he lived on Melbourne rd, Donnybrook. Carey escaped on the 7th of September 1868, by walking out of the grounds before the Ha Ha wall was complete. It was believed that Carey was looking for her husband, she stayed at large for three day before being recaptured and returned to the Asylum. On the 20th of December, Carey once again walked out of the Asylum, but this time was not found. It was believed that Carey had escaped again to find her husband.