We came across a reference to an unusual murder case the other day. And although it isn’t Australian, there is very definitely some Twisted History to it!

Pype Hayes Park in Erdington, Birmingham, England has been the scene of two murders – one in 1817 and another in 1974. Now you might not think that is particularly interesting but the parallels between these two cases is uncanny!

On May 27, 1817, the belle of the parish, Mary Ashford attended a dance at Tyburn House Inn with her friend Hannah Cox. The two young ladies left around midnight and would return to Hannah’s house.  Mary would leave and would not be seen alive again.  Her body would be discovered a few hours, where a worker discovered a puddle of blood and two sets of footprints leading to the muddy ditch.  Mary had been sexually assaulted and left to drown.

On May 27, 1974, childcare worker Barbara Forrest spent the night out dancing with her boyfriend at various pubs before he escorted her to the Colmore Circus bus stop.  It would be the last time anyone saw Barbara alive.  Her semi-naked body was found under bracken in a shallow ditch just 500 yards from her house on the edge of the park.  Barabara had been raped and strangled.

Two men would be arrested, one for each crime – Abraham Thornton in 1817 and Michael Thornton in 1974.  At their respective trials both men would be acquitted for lack of evidence.  In 1817, Abraham admitted to having sex with Mary but 3 witnesses gave him an alibi which saw the case dismissed.  In 1975, Michael was arrested after blood stains were found on his pants and an alibi proved false.  The case was dismissed.

Both cases remain officially unsolved to this day.

But there are a few interesting facts related to the 1817 murder. Firstly, Abraham Thornton’s boot print was matched to those leading to Mary’s body.  It was one of the earlist recorded cases of footwear identification.  Secondly, after the dismissal of the first trial, Mary’s brother William launched an appeal stating the evidence was overwhelming against Thornton.  Thornton was rearrested and claimed the right to trial by battle – a medieval law that had never been repealed by Parliament.  Ashford declined and Thornton was freed from custody.  The law was repealed in 1819.

But we will leave the final words to Mary Ashford’s family.  On her grave in Sutton Coldfield Churchyard is the following inscription:


“As a warning to female virtue and a humble monument to female chastity, this stone marks the grave of Mary Ashford who on the twentieth year of her age having incautiously repaired to a scene of amusement without proper protection, was brutally murdered on 27th May 1817”

On this day …….. 20th of July 1889

On the 20th of July 1889, Mr. Lewis Lewis passed away at the residence of his son, Mr. F. B. Lewis, in Mollison-street, Abbottsford at the great age of 106 years. Mr. Lewis was born on the 6th of October, 1783, at Rochester, in Kent, England. He left England when he was 75 years of age, and arrived in Victoria in the year 1857. He came direct to Bendigo, where a portion of his family resided, and has remained here ever since, excepting a few years’ absence in New Zealand. In 1820, Mr.
Lewis being then 37 years of age, was married at Rochester, in Kent, and he was accompanied by his wife to Bendigo. On Mr. Lewis’ side the longevity of the family is remarkable. His father lived to the age of 107 years, and his mother also reached a venerable age, having battled the world for over a century. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis were the progenitors of a long race of children. They had 17 in all, of whom nine are now living. They reared eleven to become men and women, some of whom Mr. Lewis himself outlived. Mr Lewis had 41 grand-children, and 13 great grand-children. Mr. Lewis was an early riser, and temperate in his habits. He could enjoy a good glass of wine and a cigar up to a few days of his death.


On this day …….. 19th of July 1911

Sir George Reid, High Commissioner for, Australia, (4th Prime Minister of Australia) and members of his family, had a sensational experience this afternoon. As a result of a motor car collision Sir George sustained painful injuries, and his son aid daughter are suffering from shock. Sir George Reid and his family wire spending the week-end at the Grenville Hotel, at Ranisgate, in Kent, and some of the party went out this afternoon for a motor ride. When at the intersection of Gladstone and Ramsgate roads, Broad stairs, about two miles from Rams gate, their car was struck broadside on by another car. Sir George Reid’s car was dashed against a tram standard. The impact was so violent that the High Commissioner’s car was smashed to pieces, and the tramway post, which carried the electric wires, was cracked in two places. Fortunately the post did not fall. Sir George Reid and his son and daughter were picked np in a ‘dazed condition. Miss Reid appeared to be seriously injured, and was taken to a nursing home. It was there found that she was suffering very severely from shock. She is now progressing as well as can be expected. It was at first thought that Sir George Reid and his son were merely suffering from shock, and they returned to their hotel. It was then found that one of the High Commissioner’s arms was broken in two places. A report received late to-night stated that Sir George Reid was progressing favourably.


ON THIS DAY – July 13, 1956

Both the Crown Prosecutor and the defence council challenged statements by a Crown witness yesterday at the murder trial of John Alfred Somerville in the Criminal Court. He was charged following the death of an Englishman, George Neville Eastham, 27 at Crimea Street, St Kilda, on July 13 last year. Because Eastham’s death resulted from an alleged stabbing following an argument over the prospects of the Australian and English sides in the Test matches, the fatality was dubbed the “Test match murder”. Somerville, a clerk, also of Crimea Street, St Kilda, pleaded not guilty. He is being defended by Mr F. Galbally.


A Crown witness, William Frank Paull, 30, a clerk, who at the time lived at the same address, yesterday refused to answer certain questions and also denied statements allegedly made by him to the police. In the absence of the jury, the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. W. Irvine) made an application to have Paull treated as a hostile witness but Mr Justice Barry declined to grant the application. When the jury was returned and Paull was further examined by Mr. Irvine regarding certain statements. Mr. Justice Barry told the witness that if he felt he might incriminate himself by answering he should remain silent. During cross-examination by Mr. Galbally, Paull admitted he had been in custody at Pentridge because police thought he might abscond. He also admitted he had recently sold his car and changed his name and address. In Custody He was brought into court from custody and returned into custody at the conclusion of the hearing yesterday. During cross-examination Mr. Galbally said: “I put it to you that you stabbed Eastham yourself”. Judge Barry: You need not answer that question Mr Galbally (to Paull): Do you prefer not to answer or will you say : “Yes it’s the truth?” Witness remained silent. The Crown alleged that on the night of July 13, last year, Somerville and Paull were in a room they shared in the boarding house in Crimea Street, St. Kilda. Eastham had entered the room and he and Somerville began to argue about the Test match prospects. According to the Crown, Somerville said to Eastham: “You are like the rest of the Pommies and I haven’t any time for you” Eastham then struck Somerville on the nose, knocking him down. He then left and went to his own room. The prosecution alleges that while Paull was away getting some water, Somerville armed himself with a small vegetable knife and went to Eastham’s room. Later Paull allegedly saw the two men struggling on a bed in Eastham’s room. He went in and pulled Eastham off the bed and took Somerville back to their room. Collapsed Paull had told the police that he saw Eastham crawl out of his room and collapse. He went to him and saw that he was bleeding from the chest. He then called a doctor. In a statement, the Crown alleged, Somerville said that after he had been punched in the nose: “I went wild, went to the kitchen and got a small knife. I then went to Neville’s room to have it out with him. I had the knife and there was a struggle. After that I don’t know what happened.” The trial will continue this morning.


On this day …….. 7th of July 1835

William Buckley was born in Marton, Cheshire, England in 1780. He arrived in Australia as a convict, and was a member of the first party of Europeans to attempt the first settlement at Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. On 27 December 1803, soon after his arrival, he escaped from custody. Despite the friendliness of the local indigenous Wathaurong people, Buckley was concerned they might turn hostile, and initially chose to try to survive on his own. However, he soon realised his inability to fend for himself in the harsh bushland, and he sought out the Wathaurong again. On his way, he happened upon a spear stuck in the grave of a recently deceased member of the tribe; the Aborigines, finding him with the spear, believed he was their tribal member returned from the dead, and greeted his appearance with feasting and a corroboree. Buckley spent the next 32 years living among the indigenous Wathaurong people. Bridging the cultural gap between Europeans and Aborigines, he gained many valuable bush skills and was a crucial factor in reconciliation in those early days. To keep the peace between the two races, Buckley gave himself up to free settler John Batman’s landing party on 7 July 1835. Ultimately, Buckley was pardoned and became a respected civil servant. The Australian saying “Buckley’s chance” means to have a very slim chance, and was spawned by his amazing story of survival in the bush.


On this day …….. 1st of July 1851

When James Cook became the first European to sight and map the eastern coastline of Australia, he claimed the eastern half of the continent for England under the name of New South Wales. After the arrival of the First Fleet, England sought to secure its claim on New South Wales be establishing further settlements south, and eventually north and west. In 1803, the British Government instructed Lieutenant-Governor David Collins to establish a settlement on the southern coast. This settlement was not a success and the site was abandoned, but expeditions continued to be mounted to explore the land between Sydney and Port Phillip. Thanks to the initiative of John Batman, Melbourne was settled in 1835, and despite being regarded as an “illegal” settlement, the foundling colony thrived. Governor Bourke formally named Melbourne in 1837. The Port Phillip Colony encompassed Melbourne and “Australia Felix”, which was the fertile western district discovered by Major Thomas Mitchell. The first petition for formal separation of the colony from New South Wales was presented to Governor Gipps in 1840, but rejected. It was another ten years before the British Act of Parliament separating Victoria from New South Wales was signed by Queen Victoria. The New South Wales Legislative Council subsequently passed legislation formalising Victoria’s separation on the 1st of July 1851.


The tradition of having goats in the military originated in 1775, when a wild goat walked onto the battlefield in Boston during the American Revolutionary War and led the Welsh regimental colours at the end of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Another Welsh military goat, Taffy IV, served in the First World War. Taffy, of 2nd Battalion, Welsh Regiment, is officially recorded as “The Regimental Goat”. He embarked for the war on 13 August 1914 and saw action in the Retreat from Mons, the First Battle of Ypres (including the Battle of Gheluvelt) and the Battles of Festubert and Givenchy, before dying on 20 January 1915. He was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The royal goat herd was originally obtained from Mohammad Shah Qajar, Shah of Persia from 1834 to 1848, when he presented them to Queen Victoria as a gift in 1837 upon her accession to the throne.

The herd thrived on Llandudno’s Great Orme; by 2001 they reached a population of 250, and were in danger of running out of food. Following complaints about goats wandering into people’s gardens, the council rejected proposals for a cull, deciding to use a combination of rehoming and birth control. RSPCA marksmen tranquilised nannies and inserted contraceptive progesterone implants to control the numbers of the genetically unique breed. By 2007, 85 goats had been relocated to areas including Kent, Yorkshire, the Brecon Beacons and Somerset, but further efforts were interrupted by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

William Windsor I

Billy, a Kashmir goat, is descended from the same royal bloodline as the original herd, but was not selected from the wild population; he was born in Whipsnade Zoo. He was presented to the regiment by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001. The tradition is not new: since 1844, the British monarchy has presented an unbroken series of Kashmir goats to the Royal Welch Fusiliers from the Crown’s own royal herd.

Billy—Army number 25232301—is “not a mascot, but a ranking member of the regiment”, according to the BBC. Since joining in 2001, he has performed duties overseas, and has paraded before royalty. His primary duty was to march at the head of the battalion on all ceremonial duties. He was present for every parade in which the regiment participated. Billy’s full-time handler was Lance Corporal Ryan Arthur, who carried the title of “Goat Major”.
Another regimental goat: Taffy IV, of the 2nd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment, was on active duty in France during World War I, participating in the Retreat from Mons, the First Battle of Ypres and other famous battles. He was awarded the 1914 Star.

Temporary demotion

On 16 June 2006, a parade was held to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday, at the Episkopi base near Limassol, Cyprus on the Mediterranean island’s south coast. Invited dignitaries included the ambassadors of Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden and the Argentine commander of United Nations’ forces on Cyprus.

The deployment to Cyprus with the 1st Battalion was Billy’s first overseas posting, and despite being ordered to keep in line, he refused to obey. He failed to keep in step, and tried to headbutt a drummer. The goat major, Lance Corporal Dai Davies, 22, from Neath, South Wales, was unable to keep him under control.

Billy was charged with “unacceptable behaviour”, “lack of decorum” and “disobeying a direct order”, and had to appear before his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Huw James. Following a disciplinary hearing, he was demoted to fusilier. The change meant that other fusiliers in the regiment no longer had to stand to attention when Billy walked past, as they had to when he was a lance corporal.

A Canadian animal rights group protested to the British Army, stating that he was merely “acting the goat”, and should be reinstated. Three months later, on 20 September at the same parade ground, Billy regained his rank during the Alma Day parade which celebrates the Royal Welsh victory in the Crimean War. Captain Simon Clarke said, “Billy performed exceptionally well, he has had all summer to reflect on his behaviour at the Queen’s birthday and clearly earned the rank he deserves”.

Billy received his promotion from the colonel of the Royal Welsh Regiment, Brigadier Roderick Porter. As a result of regaining his rank, he also regained his membership of the corporals’ mess.

Billy is not the first goat in the army to have troubles. At one time a royal goat was “prostituted” by being offered for stud services by the regiment’s serving goat major to a Wrexham goat breeder. First charged with lèse majesté, the goat major was ultimately court-martialled under the lesser charge of “disrespect to an officer” and reduced in rank. The goat major claimed he did it out of compassion for the goat, but this failed to impress the court. Another royal fusilier goat earned the nickname “the rebel”, after he butted a colonel while he was stooped over fixing his uniform’s trouser-strap. The incident was described as a “disgraceful act of insubordination.”


On 20 May 2009, following eight years of distinguished service, Billy retired due to his age. Soldiers from the battalion lined the route from his pen to the trailer as he left the camp for the last time, in ceremonial dress that included a silver headdress which was a gift from the queen in 1955. Billy was taken to Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire where keepers say he had an easy life at the Children’s Farm.

William Windsor II

In order to replace Billy, thirty members of 1st Battalion set off to Great Orme in Llandudno on 15 June 2009 at 03:00, hoping to catch the feral goats in a docile state. A team led by Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Lock (Commanding Officer) included the goat major and several veterinarians. Army spokesman Gavin O’Connor said, “We are looking for a goat which is calm under pressure and a team player”. During the selection of a replacement goat, the battalion helped to start an alternative vaccine method of birth control among the herd, since hormone implants that were previously employed to control numbers are no longer available.

With some difficulty, a five-month-old was chosen, and assigned army number 25142301—which represents regiment number 2514, 23rd Regiment of Foot (the original name of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers), and 01 denoting the 1st Battalion. The new goat will also be called William Windsor, beginning as a fusilier while being trained for military life. He will receive a ration of two cigarettes per day, which he eats, but will not be permitted Guinness until he is older.


On this day …….. 15th of June 1839

The first Englishman to explore New Zealand was James Cook, who charted and circumnavigated the North and South Islands late in 1769. In November, Cook claimed New Zealand for Great Britain, raising the British flag at Mercury Bay, on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. This signalled the start of British occupation of the islands which had previously been occupied by the Maori. On 15 June 1839, letters patent were issued in London extending the boundaries of New South Wales to include “any territory which is or may be acquired in sovereignty by Her Majesty … within that group of Islands in the Pacific Ocean, commonly called New Zealand”. Also in 1839, the British government appointed William Hobson as consul to New Zealand. Prior to Hobson leaving Sydney for New Zealand, Sir George Gipps, then Governor of New South Wales, issued a proclamation declaring that the boundaries of New South Wales were extended to include “such territory in New Zealand as might be acquired in sovereignty”. New Zealand officially became a dependency of New South Wales when the Legislative Council passed an Act extending to New Zealand the laws of New South Wales, on 16 June 1840. The Council also established customs duties and courts of justice for New Zealand. This arrangement, intended as a temporary measure, lasted just a few months. In November 1840, New Zealand became a separate colony.

On This Day ……. 8th June 1919

On this day in 1919, Mr. W. Rowe was appointed chief warder of the Geelong Gaol. He had been on the staff for some time, and is a native of Wexford, England.

On This Day ……. 12th April 1923

After remaining a mystery for more than, 30 years the solution of the method by which the convict Frederick Clark escaped, from Geelong gaol in 1889 has now been found. A larger brass key was discovered while prisoners were clearing the grounds of the Geelong Supreme Court. It suggests crude workmanship, Investigations proved it was a master-key for every lock in the gaol at the Clark made his sensational escape. Records show that Clark was crafty, clever and incorrigible. Prison officials are unanimous that the key is the solution of Clark’s escape. Clark came to Victoria in 1852 from Van Dieman’s Land, whither he was transported from England in 1847. He spent more time in gaol than out. When he died in Geelong gaol, he had sentences aggregating 85 years.



ON THIS DAY…… 19th November 1834

Edward Henty establishes an illegal settlement at Portland Bay, Victoria.

Edward Henty is considered to be the founder of Victorian settlement. Born at West Tarring, Sussex, England, in 1809, he came to Van Diemen’s Land with his father Thomas in 1832. On 19 November 1834, he landed at Portland Bay on the southwest coast of Victoria, to found a new settlement without official permission. Very few people knew about the settlement, as it was remote from major centres. The first recognition Henty received was when Major Thomas Mitchell, seeking a possible harbour, wandered into the area in 1836 after discovering the rich, fertile farming land of western Victoria. By this time, Henty and his brothers had been established for two years, and were importing sheep and cattle from Launceston.

ON THIS DAY……31st October 1889

Fredrick “Josh” Clark and Christopher “Christie” Farrell were both ex convicts transported from England to Van Demons Land. Once both men had received their tickets of leave they sailed to Victoria, arriving at the beginning of the Victorian gold rush. Both men found there way back to the lives thy once lived in England, preying upon those returning from the gold fields. By 1889 both Clark and Farrell were in there early to late 60’s and were serving 14 year sentences in Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne. Farrell was charged with the attempted murder of a police man during his arrest at Fitzroy in 1887 and Clark for being a systematic malingering. Due to the prisoners age and behaviour both prisoners were transferring Geelong Gaol. About midnight on Monday a warder named Cain commenced his shift at the Geelong gaol. At two minutes to 2am he hard a knocking, from cell 13 occupied by a prisoner named Frederick “Josh”Clarke. Cain unlocked the trap in the door and Clarke asked for a drink of water. The warder brought the water, and was handing it through the hole when he was seised from behind by Farrell. Clarke then came from his cell and seized Cain who saw that the other man was a prisoner named Christopher “Christie”Farrell who was holding a large stone in his hand. He threatened to beat out the warder’s brains if he uttered a single word. Clark had cleverly made a skeleton key, by melting coin into the shape of the key. Clark worked as a blacksmith in the confinements of the gaol. Once the warder opened the trapdoor and walked of to get a glass of water for the prisoner. Clark then simply reached his arm though the opening in the door and let him escape. Once free he quickly unlocked Farrell’s cell before returning to his own and waiting for Cain to return. The men gagged Cain and tied his hands and feet, and took off his boots and carried him to the cook’s house, and tied him to the table, and left him there. He was found just before 6am by the chief warder, who raised the alarm. The two prisoners had meanwhile scaled the gaol wall. Immediately the alarm was given the police who scoured the country in all directions without finding any trace of the escaped prisoners. Farrell was found first on the 16th of October and Clark four days later, both men were heading north to NSW. Warder Cain was confined to his bed, owing to the injuries he received. Four His throat was greatly Swollen, and he is only able to speak with difficulty. An inquiry into the escape was held on 31st October, 1889 which saw the governor of the gaol reprimanded and the warders on duty demoted – this despite Farrell’s saying that the warder Cain had fought like a lion and should not be punished for is failure to prevent their escape. In 1923 a large brass key which proved to be a master key from the era of Clark and Farrell’s escape was found when grounds west of the Geelong Supreme Court were being cleared. Its rough-cut appearance suggested that it was an illegal copy and it was widely believed that this was the key used by Clark and Farrell in their escape. A version of events described in the gaol display has an elderly Clark claiming that he threw the key into the grounds on his way to court however, it seems highly unlikely that having been found in possession of such a key, Clark would have been allowed to keep it. A report in the paper a few days after his arrest indicated that he was found with a skeleton key on his person which had been cut from a penny. At the time the authorities were quick to point out that the make of the key was not such as could have been made in the gaol. Clark died in Geelong Gaol on 4th August, 1904, at the age of 104. Clark had arrived in Tasmania in 1847 at the age of 18, he would go on to send a total of 85 years and 7 months in gaol, over half is life behind bars. Farrell also died in the gaol at the age of 70 on 1st September, 1895. Farrell was also transported to Tasmania, arriving in 1848 and by 1851 he was in Victoria” and joined up with the “Suffolk Gang” as the convict poet. The gang would held up several mail coaches and miners alike. Farrell spent 48 years in prisoned in Australia and 46 of those years were in iron changes.