On This Day – September 11, 1951

William Henry McPhillips, 28, of Hampton, carpenter, was charged with murder at Brighton today after a man had died at Alfred Hospital from a gunshot wound in the stomach.

The dead man was William Walpole, 48, also of Hampton. McPhillips appeared before a justice of the peace at Brighton Court today and was remanded to the City Court on September 11. Bail was refused.

ON THIS DAY…… 11th August 1884

A petition having been prepared for presentation to His Excellency the Governor of Victoria, praying for a reprieve on the ground of insanity in the case of the prisoner James Hawthorne, who was convicted of the murder of his brother at Brighton and sentenced to death.  It was decided to subject the unhappy man to a medical examination with a view of ascertaining the state of his mind. The inquiry was accordingly placed in the hands of Doctors Shields, Deahon and Peacock, who after a long interview with the condemned man sent in a report on this day in 1884 to the effect that in their opinion he is of sound mind, and consequently responsible for his actions. He was executed on the 21st of August at the Old Melbourne Gaol.

This picture was taken in the graveyard of the old Melbourne Gaol, which was demolished in 1924, to make way for the Working Men’s College. The crudely engraved initials E.K., standing for Edward Kelly, the notorious bushranger of 50 years ago, are directly over the grave, on a heavy bluestone wall which is being pulled down. The grave, which is covered with rubbish and an old ladder, is a grim reminder of the Kelly gang. The bluestone blocks and grave markers were bought from the government by the shire of Brighton and used to stop erosion along the foreshore. Today 5 Grave markers can be found at Brighton Beach, but sad not Ned’s.


ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1913

A young domestic servant named Ellen Muston, was charged in the Criminal Court yesterday before Mr Justice Cussen with the wilful murder of her female child at Brighton on July 19. The Crown prosecutor (Mr Womarski, KC) conducted the case against the accused, who pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr E J Corr (of Messrs Corr and Corr) The accused gave evidence on her own behalf and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the grounds of insanity, and Muston was ordered to be detained in strict custody at the Church of England Home, Cheltenham, until the Governor’s pleasure was known.

EXECUTION THIS DAY – April 4, 1853

Shortly after eight o’clock, the extreme sentence of the law was carried into effect upon George Whitfield Pinkerton, the murderer of the unfortunate Mrs Smith and infant at Brighton, the particulars of which must fresh in the recollection of our readers. From the moment of Pinkerton’s condemnation, the Rev. Mr. Hetherington, Presbyterian minister, has been unremitting in his attention to him, and it is to be hoped that the Rev. gentlelman’s exertions have not been without their beneficial effects. The same apparent indifference to his fate which was manifested by the prisoner at his trial, was however persevered in to the last moment; no expression of regret for his enormous crime escaped him, and to those around he frquently ridiculed the only plea which could have assisted to save his life. His health had become much improved since his trial, and there can be no doubt he would, under skilful medical treatment, have fully recovered from the inflicted injuries, which it was at first thought would have proved fatal within a few hours of their infliction. During the night previous to his execution, Pinkerton slept soundly and on waking immediately remembered and remarked upon that being his last day upon earth. He attired himself in the suit which he had worn upon his trial and at an early hour was visited by the Reverend Mr. Hetherington, to whom he apparently attended with great attention till within a few moments of eight o’clock, when the wretched man who was so soon to terminate his career upon the scaffold, appeared in the passage, when, upon a signal from the Governor of the Gaol the executioner, who had been for some time in the western extremity of the Gaol, made an appearance, and commenced the task of pinioning the prisoner’s arms. It has been remarked by persons in the habit of attending public executions that it is at this moment the courage of the prisoner usually gives way. Such was certainly not the case on the present occasion, the prisoner remaining as firm as a rock, and immediately afterwards the white cap having been adjusted, he expressed his readiness to meet his doom. On entering the yard in which the instrument of death was erected, the sight which usually strikes terror to the hearts of the most hardened, had no effect on him. He mounted the scaffold with a firm step, attended by the Reverend gentleman we have named, and on the very instant that he reached the platform, the rope was adjusted round the criminal’s neck, the bolt was drawn, and all was over. Death, to all appearance, did its work in a moment, without creating even the slightest appearance of a struggle in the victim. On gazing at the suspended and stiffened corpse, the thought intruded itself that such a scene was more adapted for the barbarous ages than an enlightened nineteenth century. The number of spectators was quite as large as usual on such occasions, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, and amongst them, to their shame be it said, we observed many females and children. The body, after hanging an hour, was cut down, and upon examination, the features were found to be distorted to a far less extent than is usually the case. It has been stated to us upon good authority, that Pinkerton within the last few days admitted to a person who visited him, that his original statement to the effect that the attack upon poor Smith was unpremeditated, was untrue. Doctors Youl, Barker, and Hutchison, held a post mortem examination on the head of the murderer, and gave a written opinion which could not fail to prove satisfactory to the Executive Council that the brain was in a sound healthy state, and denoting nothing to lead to the supposition that he had ever been deranged.


ON THIS DAY – March 21, 1884


The trial of James Hawthorne, for the murder of his brother William Hawthorne, near Brighton, on March 21, was concluded in the Central Criminal Court, before the Chief Justice to day. His Honor, in charging the jury, said that at the outset he would tell them to dismiss from their minds the words which the deceased man was alleged to have uttered when he was shot. He would also tell them that even if the deceased man died from the effects of the treatment which he was subjected to after the wound was received, it would not affect the responsibility of the man who caused the wound. The evidence showed that a little animosity had existed between the brothers, and it was a true, but sad fact, that when brothers fell out they become very bitter enemies. Whoever murdered, William Hawthorne did not intend to rob him. The crime must have been committed by some one who had a grudge against him. It was also committed by someone who was well acquainted with the premises of the deceased. The man who fired the shot ran, away, exclaiming ” Ah, you b-, you have got it now.” Did not that show that the murderer had done what he had done to gratify some vindictive feeling. The jury retired to consider their verdict at a quarter past 10. At 20 minutes to 12 the jury returned into court. In answer to the associate’s question, the foreman said Guilty, with a recommendation to mercy.” His Honor : “On what ground ?” The foreman “The excited state of his mind.” His Honor: “Your recommendation will be considered by the Governor but it does not rest with me to consider it. The prisoner, when asked whether, he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed on him, said, in a somewhat disjointed manner, that he was innocent of the charge of which he had been found guilty and he was not frightened at that moment to meet his Maker. Sentence of death was pronounced, and the prisoner was removed.

On this day ………… 28th February 1932

“Myrtleford, in the Mount Buffalo district of North East Victoria, has a mysterious animal, which stands like a human being, and is described as being 7ft high, with a large round hairy head, carrying four tusks. Search parties tried to capture the creature, but an all-night search failed to locate it. That the animal does exist and that it is savage is vouched for by Mr. William Nutall of Myrtleford. “He was returning home from Brighton with his sister and a companion, when, nearing Europa railway station, he alighted from his horse to adjust the saddle gear, the others riding on. Suddenly, he said, he was attacked by the strange animal. It snarled at him and charged, tearing his shirt to ribbons.” While the startled rider’s horse managed to break free, poor Nutall was chased onto the railway line. Luckily, for Nutall, the animal was prevented from continuing the pursuit by a wire fence, through which the terrified man made good his escape.



On this day ………… 20th February 1935

An unusual coincidence took place in a Melbourne court on this day in 1935, when it emerged that the man who was standing in the dock was on the jury list for a subsequent trial in the same court. Keith Hall of Brighton was before Judge Foster charged with the manslaughter of Alan Balding, a motorcyclist who had died after his vehicle had collided with Hall’s car . Amazingly his name was called for the swearing in of a new jury, just after the jury that was trying him had retired to deliberate their verdict. But in the circumstance Judge Foster excused Hall from duty. The jury deliberating his case returned a verdict of not guilty and Hall was discharged.


An inquest was held, at the Little Brighton Hotel, on the body Bridget Smith, the unfortunate woman who, together with her child, had been murdered on this day in 1853, by George Pinkerton, at a farm house, situated about four miles from Brighton. Smith’s was found with a sugar bag tied around her head, she also had a flattened nose, her lips swelled, and much discoloured, a bruise on the left side of the chin, and some finger-marks round her throat; the marks appeared to have produced a great deal of pressure. It was clear to see she had been strangled, as was the child. The bushranger Pinkerton, had after the murders shot himself, but recovered to take trail.



12366740_222048201459649_246887403_nOn this day …….. 23rd of November 1930

Two business girls who share a flat in South Yarra were distressed when they found their pet cat dead. As their ‘yard’ consisted of a square or concrete, they could not give the body proper burial, and they did not like consigning it to the dust bin. After much debate, they decided to consign it to the sea, so they wrapped it up and put it in an old suit-case no longer required, together with a couple of bricks. On The 23rd of November 1930, they journeyed to Brighton, but the band was playing on the pier and the place was crowed with people no chance of getting rid of pussy there. So they went back to St. Kilda, determined to drop it off the end of the pier. Halfway along the pier a man spoke to one of them: ‘Excuse me, but are you Miss Jones?’ ‘No, certainly not,’ she replied, and was turning away when he snatched the suitcase and ran. The girls were too surprised to move for a moment, and then they laughed them selves to tears as they watched the man still running hard, disappear into the crowd on the Esplanade with the body