ON THIS DAY ……… 30th March 1948

The question of justification arose in the case In which John Kenneth Donnelly (19), of Opie street, Ferntree Gully, apprenticed carpenter, was charged in the Criminal Court to-day with having murdered his step-father, John Palmer (63), laborer, of the same address, at Ferntree Gully on March 30.
The Crown prosecutor (Mr. Nolan) said the family were living unhappily. Palmer came home for his tea in an intoxicated condition and the question arose as to where the children should sleep. Palmer complained of children sleeping in his bedroom.
In a confession to the police, accused had stated: “He (Palmer) had been cruel to my mother and the children. I got home at 6.20 p.m. and he came home at 7 p.m. drunk. The children kept complaining about all sleeping in the one bedroom. I sent one of the children to his bedroom and he told her to get out. I then sent another child to the room and he threatened her. He started to swing at me. He started to belt my mother, and I went on the verandah sleepout and loaded a rifle I saw him belting my mother again as I looked through the window. I look a quick aim and pulled the trigger.
Constable Charles Light, of Ferntree Gully, said during the seven years he had been stationed there he found accused to be hard working, quiet youth. On the night of March 30 Donnelly told him that he had hit him In self defence and thought Palmer was dead. At Palmer’s four-roomed house he found the rifle, which had an empty shell in the breach.

The jury in the Criminal Court took only eight minutes to decide that John K. Donnelly, 19, apprentice carpenter, of Ferntree Gully, was not guilty of a charge of the murder or manslaughter of his stepfather, John Palmer. Donnelly told the court that he shot his stepfather on this day in 1948 when Palmer was attacking his mother. He knew his mother was going to have a baby and his only thought was to prevent Palmer from killing her or earning her such harm that she would die. Mrs Palmer, mother of the accused and nine other children, told the court that Palmer had beaten her regularly.


ON THIS DAY – October 29, 1893


Moonee Ponds Shooting Case.


The coroner’s inquest concerning the death of Caleb Bennett, an auctioneer, who was shot by Lieutenant William Henry Main in mistake for a burglar at Moonee Ponds on Sunday, October 29, was concluded yesterday. The jury found that deceased died from a bullet wound in the heart caused by William Main while in commission of an unlawful act, and they found that Main had committed murder. The foreman and another juryman disagreed with the verdict, for which they would have substituted one of manslaughter. The accused was committed for trial at the Criminal Court on the 15th instant. Bail was refused.



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, 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 – 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….. 28th May 1895

A charge of manslaughter against Detective John Roche was heard at the Criminal Court. Roche on this day in 1895, in company with Detective Brown, went into the shop of Ernest Arthur Gill, in Devonshire-street, Footscray and arrested him on a charge of receiving stolen property. Resistance was offered Roche, and it was alleged on behalf of the prosecution that he struck Gill with excessive violence. The latter was removed to the police station, where on the third day he became ill, and subsequently he died from blood-poisoning. The defence was that unnecessary violence had been used, and without calling all the witnesses subpoenaed on Roche’s behalf the Jury returned a verdict of not guilty.


ON THIS DAY……. 24th May 1935

Found guilty in the Criminal Court of the manslaughter of his wife and child, Clifford Smiles, aged 31 formerly of West Footscray, was remanded for sentence. Smiles had been presented on two charges of murder. One concerning his wife Edna on May 24 and the other concerning his daughter Norma, aged four months who was found dead in the gas-filled kitchen of their home on June 14.


ON THIS DAY……. 14th May 1907

At the Criminal Court Elizabeth Perry was charged with manslaughter. The evidence showed that on May 14 a male child about six weeks old died at Mrs. Perry’s house, she having adopted it for a small consideration. The medical evidence proved that the child had died from starvation, and the jury returned a verdict, of guilty. The prisoner was remanded for sentence.

ON THIS DAY……. 14th May 1948

“You are lucky not to have been found guilty of a more serious charge,” Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy told Leo Vincent Kinsella (35), labourer, when he sentenced him In the Criminal Court to seven years’ hard labour after he bad been found guilty of manslaughter. A Jury found Kinsella guilty of the manslaughter of Frank Vickers (35), labourer, whoso terribly battered body was found in a lane way in West Melbourne on May 14. The Jury decided that Kinsella was not guilty of murder and that Frank Randle Brown (42), a seasonal worker, who was charged with Kinsella, had no part in the killing of Vickers.