Bushranger ‘Black Douglas’ Charles Russell

The legendary ‘Black Douglas’ Charles Russell was an English-born bushranger who held Melbourne and its surrounding areas to ransom during the 1850s. Russell preyed on those diggers travelling to and from the goldfields between Bendigo and Melbourne. There are several accounts of victims being tied naked to a tree or fallen log with their boots full of bull ants, left to die a slow and excruciating death. He reportedly led a gang of 16 bushrangers who worked together in their marauding. Their camp was strategically located a few kilometres away from the Alma minefields in Maryborough, Victoria. Eventually, a frustrated group of nearly 200 diggers burnt their camp to the ground and overpowered Russell in May 1855. He was 75-years-old when he died in Bendigo gaol in 1892.


ON THIS DAY – July 18, 1859

Yesterday morning at ten o’clock was the time fixed for the execution of Chew-a-Key, the Chinaman convicted of the murder of the late Mr. M’Elligott, at Ironbark Gully, Bendigo, On Sunday evening however, he contrived to evade the sentence of the law by committing suicide. He was last seen alive by Mr. Winkle, the Governor of the gaol, and the turnkey in whose immediate custody he was placed, at about four o’clock on Sunday afternoon. There are two doors to the condemned cell in which Chew-a-Key was confined, the outer one similar to those in general use in the gaol, and an inner one composed of perpendicular and transverse iron bars, so as to form a sort of grating, through which the prisoners might be observed by the turnkey on duty. At a quarter to five o’clock on Sunday afternoon, the turnkey went to the cell in which the condemned prisoner was confined, for the purpose of lighting the gas. On opening the outer door, he saw him hanging from one of the transverse iron bars of the inner door. The alarm was immediately given, the prisoner cut down, and every means employed for his resuscitation, but without avail. It was apparent that Chew-a-Key must have premeditated self-destruction for some time from the particular care which he had taken that the attempt should be effectual. He had torn up one of his blankets, and twisted it into a rope for the purpose; and it was evident that he must have managed so to raise himself from the floor of the cell as to obtain a seat on one of the bars of the door, whilst he fastened the rope with which he hanged himself. He had also tied his feet together, and had then connected his hands with his feet by means of a piece of the blanket twisted into a rope in such a manner as entirely to prevent any attempts which he might have made to save himself, supposing his courage to have failed him at the last moment. The Sheriff was not informed of the occurrence until he arrived at the gaol yesterday morning, shortly before ten o’clock, to see the sentence of the law carried into effect. An inquest was held on the body yesterday, at twelve o’clock. The Coroner then drew attention to the fact, that in England, from the time sentence of death was passed on a prisoner until that sentence was carried into execution, he was never suffered to be alone, and said he thought the recent occurrence would show the authorities the necessity of adopting a similar practice in the colony.


ON THIS DAY – June 25, 1918


The adjourned inquest concerning the death of Christian Andrea, who died on June 25 from the effects of a revolver wound received in McKenzie street on June 22, was concluded on Monday by the coroner, Mr. D. Berriman, P.M., who committed a youth named Clyde Buddle, 17 years of age, for trial on a charge of manslaughter. Bail was allowed in one surety of £200 and a personal bond of a like amount.


ON THIS DAY – June 22, 1892


The position in which a man named David Storey found himself recently at Bendigo should be a warning to all men who, with hasty temperaments and temporary under the influence of liquor, give vent to passion and action. Storey was in company with a Constable named Brown, who was in private clothes, and several others, and had been drinking, so much so, apparently, that they were in that condition described by the poet, “When the wine is in ths wit is out,” A dispute arose about the payment of some drinks. Brown, it is asserted, used some forcible language towards Storey, who, after a brief interval, retaliated by striking Brown in the mouth. The blow, coupled with undoubtedly an unsteady gait, caused Brown to fall, and in doing so his head came in contact with a sharp stone. This caused concussion of the brain, from which the unfortunate man died. The whole occurrence passed very rapidly, and doubtless Storey was as much amazed as anyone to find what was at first a trivial affair, having such a tragic termination. Storey was duly committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter, and at the ‘Criminal Sessions in Bendigo the other day, before Mr Justice Holroyd, found guilty, the jury adding a strong recommendation to mercy. Mr Justice Holroyd, in delivering addressed a few remarks to Storey, and
remarked that he hoped the occurrence would be a warning to him for life not to go into any street brawls again. Storey, was then sentenced to pay a fine of £20. The sentence may seem light, and if every street brawler imagined he wae going to get off with a fine for any serious termination of a disturbance through deeming the sentence in question a precedent, it might be regretted that the judge did not impose a heavier penalty, Judge Holroyd, however, was humane enough to think of keeping Storey from contact with ordinary criminals. The whole surroundings of the case olearly showed that it was altogether a chance circumstance that led to the tragical termination of very trivial quarrel, and the evidence brought forward showed that Storey had held positions of trust in connection with two business firms for very long periods, was usually of an inoffensive nature, and was not hitherto known officially to the police. Under all those circumstances, the imposition of the fine is to be regarded as a proper vindication of justice. It cannot be regarded as a certainty, how ever, that quarrelsome people who get drunk and aggressive in action and bring themselves into a similar position will get off either with a fine, or as lightly. On the other hand, it ought to be a warning to people that cannot control their tempers under the influence of liquor, that no brawl is unattended with more or less serious consequences, from manslaughter to murder, and therefore the whole case should carry its moral with it.


On this day …….. 20th of April 1908

On this day in 1908, a Bendigo-bound holiday train collided with another heading for Ballarat in the Sunshine rail yards, west of Melbourne. Forty-four people were killed and more than 400 hurt. The Age did not believe in sheltering the victims’ next-of-kin. Down on the rails among the piles and piles of splintered woodwork and the upholstery, their blood and brains splashing the wheels, many more dead bodies and bodies in which there was still life, mingled in frightening sickening heaps in a way that seemed to defy extrication.


On Saturday morning an accident happened, at the North Old Chum Company’s claim, on the Ironbark line of reef, resulting in the instantaneeus death of one man and the injury of another. The two men, named respectively Thomas Pearce and Steadman, were engaged working in the 250ft. level of the above company’s shaft, when a quantity of mulloch from a slippery place in the shaft fell and almost buried them in the debris. Both, on assistance arriving, were immediately conveyed to the surface, when it was found that the unfortunate man Pearce was quite dead, but Steadman was only slightly injured, and was able to walk to his home. The corpse was conveyed to Sterry’s Goldmines hotel, where an inquest will be held. Both men were experienced miners, and had been for a considerable time working together as mates. Pearce was about thirty years of age and was unmarried. — Bendigo Evening News.

On this day …….. 18th of December 1894

An escaped lunatic from the Ararat Asylum, William Price was recaptured at his parents house in Corop, a small town near Bendigo. The police who were on the lookout for Price, escorted him to the Bendigo Hospital. It is believed that after escaping from the Bendigo Hospital he walked home and appeared quite rational. On the 18th of December 1894 at his parents house, Price violently struck his sister over the head with an iron bar, killing her. On the 23rd of December Mr Smith, J.P held an inquest before a jury of five in relation to Miss Prices death, found that she died from paralysis brought on by shock to the nervous system. The body bore traces of smaller injuries, suggesting the deceased had probably been shoved about by her brother. Price was arrested for the murder of his sister, at the time of the arrest he was so violent that he had to be put in a straight jacket. On the 22nd December Price was sent to the Kew Asylum.

ON THIS DAY – December 17, 1932

Accused Man’s Insanity.

William John Daly, 54, was charged at the Bendigo Court with the murder of Emily Louisa Cherry, 48, at Woodvale, on this day in 1932. Counsel for the accused said that Daly was mentally unfit to plead. A jury found Daly not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Daly was ordered to be detained during the Governor’s pleasure.


ON THIS DAY  – 12th December 1931

Mrs. Louise Cherry was murdered in the kitchen of her home near Bendigo on the 12th of December 1931. She was in the kitchen preparing the midday meal with her 16 years-old girl, when a man entered carrying an axe, and offered her a bunch of flowers. She told him to go away, but he then attacked her with the axe and killed her and made his escape into the bush. A man named William Daly, whose clothes and an axe he was carrying were bloodstained, was arrested two miles away from the scene of the tragedy. He has been charged with murder.


ON THIS DAY – November 17, 1988

‘Suspect warned’ before being shot Police Special Operations Group members had repeatedly told a police shooting suspect to drop his gun before hitting him with three shotgun blasts at close range, the Melbourne Coroner’s Court heard yesterday. Jedd Houghton, 23, died almost instantly during a raid on a caravan park in Bendigo on November 17,1988.  He had been an alleged member of a gang planning an armed robbery and there was a link be tween him and the killing of two constables in Walsh Street, South Yarra, Graeme Morrish, QC, assisting Coroner Hal Hallenstein, said. Mr Morrish said Houghton’s death was linked to that of Graeme Jensen on October 11, 1988, and a shooting the following day when Constables Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre were gunned down while checking an abandoned car.  Jensen, a close associate of Houghton, had been killed while armed robbery squad detectives were trying to arrest him at Narre Warren, the hearing was told. From the outset, due to his as sociation with Jensen, police had considered Houghton a suspect in the killings of the two constables in Walsh Street, Mr Morrish said. Houghton, Jensen, and two other men were believed to be planning an armed robbery, he said. Visual and electronic surveillance had been carried out by the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence of Houghton’s movements in the period leading up to the SOG raid, he said. It had been decided to arrest Houghton as a suspect in the Walsh Street killings. Four SOG members had entered the cabin where Houghton and his girlfriend, Kim Cameron, had been staying, at 12.08pm. Mr Morrish said two had gone for Houghton and the others had placed a hood over Ms Cameron’s head before whisking her away.  Houghton had pointed a gun at SOG member Sergeant Paul Carr and had been repeatedly told 10 drop the weapon, he said. Fearing one of them would be shot, Sergeant Carr and his partner had both fired their pump action shotguns, acting in self defence. The hearing, attended by Houghton’s mother, sister and Ms Cameron, viewed a nine-minute videotape which included graphic footage of the blood-soaked body and horrific wounds.  The cause of death was a shot gun blast fired at a distance of 10cm, hitting him in the chest.  Two other blasts fired from 10cm had hit Houghton in his upper body and arm. Three revolvers and a pistol had been found in the cabin. The hearing continues.




ON This Day – 17th November 1895

At Bendigo on the 17th November 1895, a Spaniard named Salvador Sapana, aged 27, informed Constable Green that he had murdered a compatriot named Francois Ferrandaz by breaking his skull with a sapling. Constables Reilly and Green proceeded to a small holding occupied by the two Spaniards, on which they raised vegetables, and found the dead body of Ferrandaz behind a bush some fifty yards from the hut. The whole of the left part of the head and face was broken in, as if the deceased had been struck repeated blows. The police found an iron bar eighteen inches long covered with blood, and this u believed to have been the weapon used. In a corner of a hut was a rough mattress saturated with blood, and the police believe that Ferrandaz was lying asleep on that mattress when the murder was committed.



‪ON THIS DAY – October 19, 1945


A mother of six children was charged in the Bendigo Supreme Court today with the murder of her husband who, according to the Crown, was stabbed in the abdomen on October 19 after he arrived home ‘drunk and in raging temper.’ The accused is Mrs. Dorothy Franklin (42) and the husband was Eric Franklin (41), a railway fitter who died in hospital on October 20. The Crown Prosecutor said that the statement made by Mrs. Franklin declared that her husband struck her several times and attempted to kill her. When he struck her again she seized a bread knife and threatened to run it into him if he came near her. The next thing she knew was that he had been stabbed. In hospital her husband told her to say that he had tripped and fallen against the knife. After 20 minutes consideration the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.