ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1926

When Bertha Elizabeth Ross (33) was charged, in the Criminal Court with having attempted to murder William Woods, builder and contractor, on July 10, Mr.. W, S. Sproule, for the Crown, suggested that there were two probable motives. In the first place they had been living on intimate terms for six years, and Woods had ordered her out of the house after a quarrel. Secondly; there was a will made by Woods in favour of the accused woman and her children. She may have wished to hasten Woods’s death to acquire the benefits. Mr. Sproule, outlining tie case, said after the woman was ordered out of the house she took the furniture away, but returned several times. On July 10 she entered the house at Thornbury and passed the safe, on which Woods kept a cup and some bicarbonate of soda, which he took after meals. Woods later took some of the mixture, leaving half of it in the cup, as it tasted bitter. He became very ill, but after being treated at hospital, had the contents of the cup examined. It contained grains of strychnine, which had not dissolved enough to make the solution fatal.


ON THIS DAY – June 19, 1894

The trial of Cecilia Anderson for the murder of John Fraser at the Southern Cross Hotel, Bourke-street, on 19th June, was held on Thursday at the Criminal Court, Melbourne, before the Chief Justice. Mr. Walsh, QC., stated the case for the Crown. He said that on Mrs. Anderson’s last trip from Sydney, she met Mrs. Healey, of New Zealand, and told her she meant to shoot Fraser in Melbourne. She procured a revolver, and made a pocket to carry it about in. On one occasion, Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Healey met Fraser, and Mrs. Anderson took him away. Accused afterwards told Mrs. Healey it was a pity that she had not had the revolver with her when she was with Fraser, as she could have of done the trick nicely. The counsel described the scene at the Southern Cross Hotel, and said that accused had apparently been driven almost mad with jealousy, because a man who had promised to marry her three years before had married another woman. The taking of evidence having been concluded, the counsel addressed the jury, and his Honor summed up. The jury, after a short retirement, found the prisoner guilty of the murder of Fraser. The chief Justice in passing sentence of death, said there was no doubt that Mrs. Anderson had suffered severe wrongs at Fraser’s hands through his not paying her what he owed, and perhaps in other ways, but wrongs like these were no reasons for taking human life. The ultimate penalty for the crime did not rest with the Court. She might escape the sentence of death, but he did not wish to hold out any expectations in that direction. In the meantime he begged of her to make preparations for another world. Anderson revived 2 month gaol time.


ON THIS DAY – 19 June 1921


In the Criminal Court, Henry Slater was charged with the murder, of Peter Monaghan on June 19. Peter Monaghan, the father of the deceased, stated that on the night of the tragedy, some men came to his house in Campbell street. One of the men Carmody, held a revolver to his head, and another Slater, said “Shove it into them”. Two shots were fired. He heard someone groaning, and saw his son lying on his back in the backyard.


ON THIS DAY – June 19, 1954


Ronald Eugene Smith was sentenced to death in the Criminal Court for the murder of a six-year-old girl at Flemington on June 19. Smith, who sat motionless in the dock during the whole of the four-day trial, his head bowed so that only his black, wavy hair showed above the dock rail, made no reply when asked if he had anything to say. As he was escorted down the steps to the cells below he stumbled and collapsed, but quickly recovered. The only words he uttered during his trial were “Not guilty” when he was charged, and when he challenged four jurymen. Only once did he appear to show any interest in the scene about him. That was when he glanced briefly towards the witness box when the senior Government Pathologist, Dr. Keith McRae Bowden, identified clothing worn by the murdered girl. By its verdict, reached after a retirement of 40 minutes, the jury rejected a plea of insanity on Smith’s behalf. Smith, 25, clerk, of Illawarra rd. Flemington, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Pamela Dale Walton, also of Illawarra rd. The girl’s partly undressed body was found in the grounds of a powerhouse near her home on the night of June 19. She had been criminally assaulted, severely bruised about the head and face, and choked to death. The defence did not dispute that it was Smith who assaulted and killed the girl, whose home he frequently visited as a friend of the family. The defence was that he was temporarily insane after suffering a cataclysmic crisis – an emotional “explosion.” Mr. J. M. Cullity (for Smith), in his address to the jury, said the defence was not required to show that Smith was insane before or after the crime. The defence, he suggested, had done more than the Crown to help the jury decide on the state of Smith’s mind at the time of the crime. Mr. Cullity suggested that the jury may consider Dr. N. A. Albiston, a Collins st. psychiatrist called by the defence, the most competent medical witness. Dr. Albiston also had the unique advantage of having known Smith for a number of years. “I suggest that on the balance of probabilities the man was legally insane at the time of the act,” said Mr. Cullity. Mr. H. A. Winneke, Q.C., Solicitor-General (for the Crown), said the jury should have little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that the child died by Smith’s hand. Smith’s verbal statements to the police and his written confession had not been challenged. “The real problem is whether he was criminally responsible,” he said. “The answer to that must be ‘yes,’ unless the defence has satisfied you he was insane in a legal sense when he killed her.” Mr. Winneke said the defence had placed a great deal of emphasis on the evidence of the doctors. But the jury had also the evidence of what the police found and what the accused man said. Mr. Winneke quoted the Lord Chief Justice of England as having said, “Where the question of insanity is raised in a criminal case it is not to be tried by the doctors.” The case was for the jury to try, taking into account the opinions expressed by the doctors, he added. Mr. Justice Dean told the jury that if it was satisfied Smith was guiltv of murder or manslaughter, it must then consider what was probably the most important aspect of the case-whether Smith was legally insane at the time. In a plea of insanity, the defence must prove tho accused person was legally insane at the time of the crime. The burden of proof, however, was lighter than that imposed on the Crown in proving its case. In this instance, the defence was required to prove it was more probable, or more likely, that the accused man was insane at the time. The jury had to decide whether the defence had established, on the balance of probability, that at the time of the crime Smith was in such a condition of mind as to be unable to judge the nature and quality of his act, or whether it was wrong.


ON THIS DAY – June 17, 1929

Charged with the manslaughter of John Brown, a labourer of Footscray, at Benalla on June 17 Ernest Walker of Footscray, a labourer, aged 34 years appeared before Mr Justice Wasley in the Criminal Court. Mr Book, Crown prosecutor, appeared for the Crown, and Walker was defended by Mr Winchester. The Crown case was that on June 17, Brown and Walker were in the Benalla district looking for work. They had camped in a shed on the racecourse and had been drinking. On the road near the racecourse a quarrel arose between Brown and Walker over the purchase of a loaf of bread. Brown kicked at Walker and Walker kicked Brown in the chest. Walker followed the kick with two blows on the head. Brown fell to the ground, and Hector William McLennan and Harold Francis Perins, who had been rabbit trapping in the district sent for the police. Plain-clothes Constable Loh went to the spot and found that Brown was dead. The Crown suggested that the two blows on the held had killed him. Loh and Constable O’Farrell went to the shed where they saw Walker asleep on some hay. Asked if he had taken part in a fight Walker said “No the other man fought me.” When he was taken back to the body Walker said “I did not mean to kill him, he was my best friend”. Walker on oath said:- “We were good friends but on this day we had been drinking. I gave him some money to buy bread, and later I asked him if he had bought it. He said that he had not and a row started. He made a kick at me and I struck him once. I did not kick him”. Walker was sentenced to 6 months prison at Pentridge.


ON THIS DAY – June 17, 1913

A tragic affair at the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum on June 17 when a patient was killed with an axe handle as the result of a sudden attack by another inmate culminated in the presentment of Arthur Dowell at the Criminal Court charged with the murder. John Joseph Tissear, medical officer of the asylum, gave evidence that the accused was suffering from dementia and could not possibly realise his position. The jury found that prisoner was not fit to plead to the presentment, and the Chief Justice ordered that he should be detained in custody during the Governor’s pleasure. Dowell was taken back to the Asylum.


ON THIS DAY – April 20, 1948



“In my opinion, your crime was particularly bad, and you are Lucky that the charge of which you were found guilty was not one of murder,” said Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy in the Criminal Court to-day when sentencing’ Esbert Robin Ridgeway (24), of Bruce street, Bentleigh, truck driver, to six years’ imprisonment. His Honor said the Jury found Ridgeway guilty of manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy He had taken this recommendation into account or he would have imposed a more severe sentence, but it was his responsibility to impose a substantial penalty. Ridgeway first came before the Criminal Court in December on a charge of the manslaughter of Vincent Patrick Quinn (28), of Bendigo street, Bentleigh, bricklayer. The jury disagreed, and Ridgeway was again brought before the Court at a subsequent sitting on the same charge. The evidence showed that on April 20 a fracas occurred in a Bentleigh cafe. Ridgeway was put out, but the melee continued in the street Ridgeway was seen to have a knife and “take a swlng” with it. Immediately afterwards, groaning came from Quinn, who sank to the ground and subsequently died.


ON THIS DAY – April 19, 1944



The jury in the Criminal Court this evening found Victor Dowling, a 19-year-old soldier, guilty of the manslaughter of his 15-year-old wife, Jean Dowling, who was shot dead at her mother’s home in North Carlton on April 19. Dowling was presented for trial on a charge of murder, but the jury acquitted him of that charge and strongly recommended him for mercy. Dowling was remanded for sentence.


ON THIS DAY – April 19, 1914



The trial of Betro Callil, warehouse man, on the charge of manslaughter of Rose Despard, telegraphist, was concluded in the Criminal Court to-day. On April 19, deceased was knocked down and fatally injured by a motor car driven by Callil at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets. The defence was that the car was travelling at about 10 to 12 miles per hour, and that defendant could not avoid the collision. After the evidence for the prosecution was given, Mr. Justice Hodges said he was unable to see any evidence of negligence, and the jury, by direction, returned a verdict of ”Not guilty.



ON THIS DAY ……. 8th April 1931



The mystery of a woman’s body, found in a cupboard at Thomas Garrity’s fish shop, in Bay-street, Port Melbourne, on this day in 1931, was related to the jury and Mr. Justice MaeFarlane, in the Criminal Court, when Garrity was charged with having murdered. Mrs. Rose Harvey, 51. The Crown Prosecutor said Mrs. Harvey died from severe head injuries, inflicted by a hard instrument or a kick. On the day before the murder, she had several drinks with Garrity in a city hotel, and later they went to Garrity’s shop. At midnight a man heard the voices of a man and woman in the shop, and half an hour later a constable was passing the shop when he saw shadows on the glass partition. The shadow were of a man and woman struggling. The man had hold of the woman’s throat, and he saw her tear the man’s hands away. Some hours later Garrity asked taxi-driver to dispose of a body for him. He said he had found the body dumped on his premises after two men and a woman had left his shop. The taxi-driver took Garrity to the police station, and Garrity told the police. that lie was drugged by people, who were in his shop, and found the body when he woke up. The Crown Prosecutor said the evidence pointed to Garrity striking Mrs. Harvey dragging her body upstairs, bringing it down again, placing it the washhouse, and then in the cupboard. Cross-examined. Dr. Hart, who, was called by the police to examine the body before it was moved from the cupboard, said it would have been very difficult for one man to have placed the body in the position in which it was found. The hearing was adjourned.


ON THIS DAY – April 7, 1912


Jason O’Mahoney was charged at the Criminal Court, with manslaughter of his wife, Catherine, at Carlton, on April 7. It was alleged by the Crown that O’ Mahoney had knocked his wife down and had caused the injuries which resulted in her death. O’Mahoney denied that he had kicked his wife. The injury which caused her death was brought about by her having fallen over the bedstead. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and O’Mahoney was discharged.


ON THIS DAY – March 31, 1949


Steven Kelly, 46, farm labourer, of Warragul, who had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of John Thomas Bateson, 74, pensioner, at Warragul, on March 31, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment by Mr Justice O’Bryan in the Criminal Court. His Honour described Kelly’s crime as dreadful, but said that he accepted the view that Kelly was inflamed with drink, and that Bateson’s death occurred during a drunken quarrel.