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In 1938, a double murder took place in the now defunct Windsor Castle Hotel in Dunolly.  One of the last sightings of the murdered men and their murderer was in the bar of the Railway Hotel in Dunolly.  Join Twisted History for dinner and a paranormal investigation here on February 23, 2019.

Noise Said To Have Led To Deaths

December 13, 1938

An alleged statement that he had killed a man because he was making a noise upstairs, and that he had killed another man because he did not want him to be a witness, was read in the Supreme Court today when Thomas William Johnson, 40, of no fixed address, was charged with the murder of the two men.

The victims of the tragedy were: —
Robert McCourt Gray, 73, returned soldier and pensioner
Charles Adam Bunney, 61, war pensioner

They were found in a padlocked upstairs room of the delicensed
Windsor Castle Hotel at Dunolly on October 6 with their heads battered.

Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charges of having murdered Bunney and Gray.

Mr Cussen said that on October 3 there were five people living in the hotel.  Gray and Bunney had lived there for years. On September 26 Johnson arrived there. He said that he was on sustenance and wanted to live there, but could not pay.

On Monday morning, October 3, Gray was seen alive and Bunney was seen alive about 5.15 p.m. by the postmaster.  After that neither of the men was seen until the Thursday. In the meantime Bunney’s room, although it was open, had not been used. Gray’s room was
padlocked.

Two men looked for Gray and Bunney on the Thursday. One of them
climbed to the verandah and saw the men lying dead side by side. When entrance was gained the two men were found with their heads battered. A bloodstained axe was found in the corner.

Johnson, on the Monday, had no money. On the Tuesday he was seen on the road to Maryborough, and got a ride, for which he paid 1/. He returned later, and this time paid 2/6.  When he walked into the Dandenong police station on the Friday he made a statement, although he was warned he need not make it.

Mr Cussen then read the statement alleged to have been made by Johnson. In it Johnson is alleged to have said that he was asleep on the ground floor of the delicensed hotel about 3 p.m. on October 3 when he heard Gray, who was on the top floor, hammering and making a loud noise. He took an axe upstairs and hit Gray on the head. Gray fell to the floor, Bunney came into the room, and he hit him on the head. He then locked the room with a padlock and
threw the key away.

His only excuse for killing Gray was because he was making a noise while he was trying to sleep. He had killed Bunney because he did not want him to be a witness.

He often became bad tempered, and he was in a bad temper when he killed Gray.  He stayed at the hotel for two nights afterward. He then walked to Maryborough, rode on a transport to Melbourne on October 6, stayed in the city that night, and walked to Dandenong
the next day.

One of the witnesses was Elizabeth Whelan, the licensee of the Railway Hotel in Dunolly who testified that Cazneau, Johnson and a man named Alexander and Bunney were in the bar on the Monday morning. Bunney bought Johnson two drinks and left.  Gray came into the hotel at 10.30 and bought a quart bottle of wine, but did
not drink it with the other men. He gave a £1 note and received his change in small silver. Gray took a quart bottle of wine a month.
Johnson had four pots of beer up to 11 a.m., when he left, and he had one again at 2 p.m.

Thomas William Johnson would be found guilty of the murders of Robert McCourt Gray and Charles Adam Bunney and was sentenced to death.

Johnson was executed at Pentridge Prison on January 23, 1939.  When asked by the Sheriff in the condemned cell whether he had anything to say, Johnson shook his head and indicated that he wanted the execution to proceed.

January 4, 1905

On Monday night, between 12 and 1 o’clock, the licensee of the Railway Hotel, heard loud knocking at the door of the hotel, but declined to respond.

A little later the thirsty ones returned, and broke seven of the plate-glass windows facing Broadway with bricks, which were thrown
with force through tho windows. The ruffians then took to their heels and got away.

The matter was at once reported to the police, who have the affair in hand, and believe they have a clue to the guilty persons.

On this day …….. 14th of December 1938

Found guilty of the murder of two prospectors at Dunolly on the 3rd of October 1938. Thomas William Johnson (36). labourer, was sentenced to death at the Ballarat Supreme Court to-night The jury reached their verdict after deliberating for five and a half hours. Both men were found with their heads battered in a locked room at a delicensed hotel at Dunolly.

ON THIS DAY – October 25, 1938

 

Committed for trial at Dunolly on October 25, Thomas William Johnson, aged 40 years, labourer, will appear at the Ballarat Supreme Court to-morrow on a charge of having murdered Robert McCourt Gray and Charles Adam Bunney at Dunolly on or about October 2. Mr. Justice Lowe will preside.

 

 

Murdered on this day …………….. 9th of October 1938

Thomas William Johnson, aged 40, labourer, walked into the Dandenong police Station on the 9th of October 1938 and gave himself up, for the murder of Charles Adam Sunney aged 54 years a returned soldier pensioner, and Robert McCourt Gray aged 73, prospector and old-age pensioner, at Dunolly. Johnson was remanded at the City Police Court on two separate charges of murder.

 

 

ON THIS DAY…… 14th September 1874

On Monday the 14th of September, shortly after 8am, a lad named McKenzie galloped into the Dunolly Police Camp to give information that he had found a man hung by the neck in the bush, just off the Tarnagalla main road, and about a mile and a half out from Dunolly. Sergeant Lynas immediately despatched Constable Rooney with a conveyance to bring in the body for inquest, which, on its arrival, was almost immediately held at the Camp Hotel. The medical evidence given plainly showed that the man had been most cruelly ill-used, and was already dead when placed in the position in which the body was found — viz., kneeling, or rather sitting on his heels, and kept erect by a short piece of hay band, of which a noose was formed and passed around the neck of deceased, and made fast to the branch of a fallen tree, not more than four or five feet from the ground. His hands hung by his side, his hat was on his head, and his clothes in perfect order and undisturbed. He had the appearance of a man about forty or forty-five years of age. His name is supposed to be Louis or Ludwig Theidemann, a receipt to that name being found in his purse. In a German Testament, found in his swag, was the name G. L. D. Theidemann. The unfortunate man had £9 17s. in cash on his person, and a heavy swag of clothes was lying close by. The spot where the body was found is near Tucker’s sawpit, twelve or fifteen yards off the road, and behind a large fallen ironbark tree, and not far from the scene of the horrible murder of Dunlop and McLean, which took place about fifteen years ago, and became known as the Jones’s Creek murder, the perpetrators of which have never yet been found out.

 

EXECUTED THIS DAY – January 23, 1939

PENTRIDGE PRISON

At the Pentridge Gaol, Coburg, on this day in 1939, Thomas William Johnson, aged 40 years, labourer, was hanged for the murder of Robert Gray, aged 73 years, and Adam Bunney, aged 61 years, at Dunolly on the 6th of October 1938. Johnson, who had refused the ministrations of any clergyman, was not attended by a chaplain as he was led to the scaffold, and when asked by the sheriff Mr. T. Kelly whether he had a statement to make before sentence of death was carried out he did not speak but indicated by gesture that he wished the execution to proceed.

 

 

On this day …….. 14th of December 1938

Found guilty of the murder of two prospectors at Dunolly on the 3rd of October 1938. Thomas William Johnson (36). labourer, was sentenced to death at the Ballarat Supreme Court to-night The jury reached their verdict after deliberating for five and a half hours. Both men were found with their heads battered in a locked room at a delicensed hotel at Dunolly.

ON THIS DAY – October 25, 1938

 

Committed for trial at Dunolly on October 25, Thomas William Johnson, aged 40 years, labourer, will appear at the Ballarat Supreme Court to-morrow on a charge of having murdered Robert McCourt Gray and Charles Adam Bunney at Dunolly on or about October 2. Mr. Justice Lowe will preside.

 

 

Murdered on this day …………….. 9th of October 1938

Thomas William Johnson, aged 40, labourer, walked into the Dandenong police Station on the 9th of October 1938 and gave himself up, for the murder of Charles Adam Sunney aged 54 years a returned soldier pensioner, and Robert McCourt Gray aged 73, prospector and old-age pensioner, at Dunolly. Johnson was remanded at the City Police Court on two separate charges of murder.

 

 

ON THIS DAY…… 14th September 1874

On Monday the 14th of September, shortly after 8am, a lad named McKenzie galloped into the Dunolly Police Camp to give information that he had found a man hung by the neck in the bush, just off the Tarnagalla main road, and about a mile and a half out from Dunolly. Sergeant Lynas immediately despatched Constable Rooney with a conveyance to bring in the body for inquest, which, on its arrival, was almost immediately held at the Camp Hotel. The medical evidence given plainly showed that the man had been most cruelly ill-used, and was already dead when placed in the position in which the body was found — viz., kneeling, or rather sitting on his heels, and kept erect by a short piece of hay band, of which a noose was formed and passed around the neck of deceased, and made fast to the branch of a fallen tree, not more than four or five feet from the ground. His hands hung by his side, his hat was on his head, and his clothes in perfect order and undisturbed. He had the appearance of a man about forty or forty-five years of age. His name is supposed to be Louis or Ludwig Theidemann, a receipt to that name being found in his purse. In a German Testament, found in his swag, was the name G. L. D. Theidemann. The unfortunate man had £9 17s. in cash on his person, and a heavy swag of clothes was lying close by. The spot where the body was found is near Tucker’s sawpit, twelve or fifteen yards off the road, and behind a large fallen ironbark tree, and not far from the scene of the horrible murder of Dunlop and McLean, which took place about fifteen years ago, and became known as the Jones’s Creek murder, the perpetrators of which have never yet been found out.

 

EXECUTED THIS DAY – January 23, 1939

PENTRIDGE PRISON

At the Pentridge Gaol, Coburg, on this day in 1939, Thomas William Johnson, aged 40 years, labourer, was hanged for the murder of Robert Gray, aged 73 years, and Adam Bunney, aged 61 years, at Dunolly on the 6th of October 1938. Johnson, who had refused the ministrations of any clergyman, was not attended by a chaplain as he was led to the scaffold, and when asked by the sheriff Mr. T. Kelly whether he had a statement to make before sentence of death was carried out he did not speak but indicated by gesture that he wished the execution to proceed.