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ON THIS DAY – May 7, 1970

ECHUCA

On May 7, 1970 members of the Victoria Police stationed in Echuca responded to an emergency call at a home in Mitchell Street. They found a heavily-pregnant woman, Beverley Ratten, lying dead in the kitchen from a shotgun wound to the torso. Her upset husband, Leith Ratten, was removed for questioning. Beverley would later be interred in the Cheltenham Memorial Park, Melbourne.

During interview Ratten said he was cleaning an old rusty double-barrelled shotgun brought in from the garage when it fired, hitting his wife under the left armpit while she was in the kitchen at lunchtime. Ratten could not explain how the gun discharged or how it came to be loaded. Subsequent investigations revealed that Ratten was having an affair with Jennifer Kemp, the wife of a family friend, and had spoken to her on the morning of the shooting. He had also applied for a twelve-month posting to a base in Antarctica.

In January 2012, Ratten died, aged 73 years. Ratten was committed to trial for murder and the hearing took place in August, 1970 in the nearby town of Shepparton, Victoria. Despite the assertions of Ratten’s defence counsel that the shooting was accidental and evidence against him was circumstantial, the jury found Ratten guilty and he was sentenced to death. This was later commuted to 25 years’ prison. Following the case, Ratten’s lawyers undertook four separate appeals on various grounds, one of which involved the exhumation of Beverley Ratten’s body in 1973. All four appeals were dismissed. Despite the failure of his appeals there was considerable doubt about Ratten’s conviction, many believing he was found guilty for the questionable morality of his marital infidelity rather than concrete evidence.

His case was widely discussed among the legal fraternity while his cause was taken up by many notable lawyers and politicians, such as Don Chipp. In 1978, the Free Leith Ratten Committee was founded by Monash University law undergraduate, Mark Cowie. Over the next five years, and until Ratten’s release from Her Majesty’s Prison Dhurringile, Cowie was involved in efforts to bring new evidence before the courts that questioned the legitimacy of Ratten’s conviction. He authored an unpublished manuscript on the case, Justice in Shame: The Leith Ratten Case Don Chipp said that in 1971 Henry Winneke had told him the convicted murderer Leith Ratten was innocent. In 1981 when Ratten had yet to be released, Chipp said Winneke denied the conversation had taken place. Later, a member of the Supreme Court at the time of Ratten’s trial, told Tom Molomby Winneke had wanted to remove the jury from the trial. Such a move would require a belief that the evidence would not support a guilty verdict. Ratten served his sentence, was a model prisoner and was released in 1983 (whereupon he worked as a surveyor in Queensland).

In 1981, two years prior to his release, Ratten was advised he would likely be released and was given time on regular day-release opportunities to find a job, which he did. Then he heard via the radio that he would not be released. Politicians making the decision had allegedly been pressured by Victoria Police to not release Ratten. Further examination of the unfired cartridge was undertaken, with the view that it was indeed a reload cartridge, and he was released soon after.

ON THIS DAY – March 26, 1955

Father J. Daly, who returned on the 25th of March 1955, to Trafalgar from Melbourne, said he was horrified at the snatching of the body of his former housekeeper, 73-year-old Miss Catherine Counsel from her Trafalgar Cemetery grave. “This ls something you would have expected to happen about 100 years ago, but not today. Miss Counsel was a gentle, fine lady and this is a shocking thing,” he added. Miss Counsel’s body was found a week later in scrub a short distance from Yallourn. Police are convinced the body was taken from the coffin only two or three days after burial, and possibly the same night. Three homicide detectives will visit towns within a 50-mlle radius of Trafalgar in the hope of gaining a definite clue to the body snatcher.

 

 

Join us this coming Tuesday (July 5) night at 6pm at the historic Blackwood Hotel for dinner, cemetery tour and and investigation of one of the most haunted hotels in Victoria!  Booking can be made by calling 1300865800

But as for the Blackwood Cemetery ….  this is a letter to the editor from 1877 highlighting some of the difficulties of grave digging at Blackwood!!

THE BLACKWOOD CEMETERY

To the Editor of the Courier

Sir – Permit me, through your columns, to draw tot he attention of the trustees of the Blackwood Cemetery (if there are any) to the disgraceful scene that occurs on nearly every occasion an internment takes place.  No matter old or young, large or small, the body has to lie alongside the grave while the grave is made larger, not withstanding ample notice given to the gravedigger.  A child was buried this afternoon, six year of age, and the coffin on being lowered, stuck, and had to be hauled up again, while one of the followers of the corpse had to take off his jacket and with pick and shovel made the grave larger.  The bereaved parents and friends were compelled to stand by while this was being done.  Surely, Sir, the sad necessity that takes us to the cemetery to lay the remains of a loved one in their last resting place, is harrowing enough without being aggravated by having to stand by while the grave is made larger.  Trusting your insertion of this will prevent any future occurrence of the like blundering – I remain yours truly

A. MOURNER

Barry’s Reef, 11th June

ON THIS DAY – May 7, 1970

ECHUCA

On May 7, 1970 members of the Victoria Police stationed in Echuca responded to an emergency call at a home in Mitchell Street. They found a heavily-pregnant woman, Beverley Ratten, lying dead in the kitchen from a shotgun wound to the torso. Her upset husband, Leith Ratten, was removed for questioning. Beverley would later be interred in the Cheltenham Memorial Park, Melbourne.

During interview Ratten said he was cleaning an old rusty double-barrelled shotgun brought in from the garage when it fired, hitting his wife under the left armpit while she was in the kitchen at lunchtime. Ratten could not explain how the gun discharged or how it came to be loaded. Subsequent investigations revealed that Ratten was having an affair with Jennifer Kemp, the wife of a family friend, and had spoken to her on the morning of the shooting. He had also applied for a twelve-month posting to a base in Antarctica.

In January 2012, Ratten died, aged 73 years. Ratten was committed to trial for murder and the hearing took place in August, 1970 in the nearby town of Shepparton, Victoria. Despite the assertions of Ratten’s defence counsel that the shooting was accidental and evidence against him was circumstantial, the jury found Ratten guilty and he was sentenced to death. This was later commuted to 25 years’ prison. Following the case, Ratten’s lawyers undertook four separate appeals on various grounds, one of which involved the exhumation of Beverley Ratten’s body in 1973. All four appeals were dismissed. Despite the failure of his appeals there was considerable doubt about Ratten’s conviction, many believing he was found guilty for the questionable morality of his marital infidelity rather than concrete evidence.

His case was widely discussed among the legal fraternity while his cause was taken up by many notable lawyers and politicians, such as Don Chipp. In 1978, the Free Leith Ratten Committee was founded by Monash University law undergraduate, Mark Cowie. Over the next five years, and until Ratten’s release from Her Majesty’s Prison Dhurringile, Cowie was involved in efforts to bring new evidence before the courts that questioned the legitimacy of Ratten’s conviction. He authored an unpublished manuscript on the case, Justice in Shame: The Leith Ratten Case Don Chipp said that in 1971 Henry Winneke had told him the convicted murderer Leith Ratten was innocent. In 1981 when Ratten had yet to be released, Chipp said Winneke denied the conversation had taken place. Later, a member of the Supreme Court at the time of Ratten’s trial, told Tom Molomby Winneke had wanted to remove the jury from the trial. Such a move would require a belief that the evidence would not support a guilty verdict. Ratten served his sentence, was a model prisoner and was released in 1983 (whereupon he worked as a surveyor in Queensland).

In 1981, two years prior to his release, Ratten was advised he would likely be released and was given time on regular day-release opportunities to find a job, which he did. Then he heard via the radio that he would not be released. Politicians making the decision had allegedly been pressured by Victoria Police to not release Ratten. Further examination of the unfired cartridge was undertaken, with the view that it was indeed a reload cartridge, and he was released soon after.

ON THIS DAY – March 26, 1955

Father J. Daly, who returned on the 25th of March 1955, to Trafalgar from Melbourne, said he was horrified at the snatching of the body of his former housekeeper, 73-year-old Miss Catherine Counsel from her Trafalgar Cemetery grave. “This ls something you would have expected to happen about 100 years ago, but not today. Miss Counsel was a gentle, fine lady and this is a shocking thing,” he added. Miss Counsel’s body was found a week later in scrub a short distance from Yallourn. Police are convinced the body was taken from the coffin only two or three days after burial, and possibly the same night. Three homicide detectives will visit towns within a 50-mlle radius of Trafalgar in the hope of gaining a definite clue to the body snatcher.