ON THIS DAY – February 6, 1958


“This is yours, Freddie” was the last words the once-feared gunman and standover man, Freddie Harrison, heard before he was executed at 13 South Wharf, in Melbourne. The gunman, by all accounts, was well known to his victim. It has been said that just days earlier, the killer had been with Harrison on an interstate pig shooting expedition. The blast from the 12-gauge shotgun struck Harrison behind the right ear, removed an inch of spinal cord, and blew away his jaw. Not surprisingly, he died instantly. It was a professional killing, and had been a long time coming. Harrison had attracted many enemies over the years. Along with fellow pig shooter John Eric “Jack” Twist, Harrison had been a major force in Melbourne’s crime scene during the 1950s. He and Twist and their criminal cabal effectively controlled the Melbourne underworld. Harrison, nicknamed “The Frog”, was a violent and unpredictable presence. At his height, he was a man to be feared. In the late 1940s, he earned a considerable income providing protection for Melbourne’s illegal baccarat and two-up games. He also escorted the winners, flush with cash, from the game venue and out of harm’s way. In 1945, he was suspected of involvement in the shooting of Leslie “Scotland Yard” Walkerden, who two nights earlier had dished out a beating to Harrison. Walkerden was leaving a baccarat game when he found his car tyre was punctured. While bending down to change it, shots rang out, leaving Walkerden with an almost severed arm. His stomach had also been torn out. He died the following day. In 1947, Harrison’s reputation was sealed when he killed an underworld rival, unpleasant conman James Coates. Coates was shot four times from behind after being pursued from his car. He was cornered in a children’s playground in Windsor. No one was ever charged. Harrison figured in other attempted killings, and was described in police files as “trigger happy and suffering from a persecution complex”. In 1952, he and Twist successfully beat charges of robbing a jeweller of 1200 pounds in gold bars. But within criminal circles, Harrison was fast becoming a liability. He’d also made an enemy of Twist, a Victorian boxing champion, with an equally fearsome reputation for meting out violence to his rivals. The hostility would be played out during their pig-shooting expedition on February 3, 1958. The hunting party also included the influential Painter and Docker, Harold Nugent. Tempers frayed and more than words were exchanged between the hard men. It all came to a head when Harrison took on Nugent, pointing a shotgun at his stomach. Nugent pushed the gun away and simultaneously Harrison pulled the trigger, hitting Nugent. Harrison then turned the gun on Twist and fired again. The gun misfired and Twist took the gun from Harrison and broke it. Harrison sped off, leaving Twist to get Nugent to hospital with much of his right hand missing and pellet wounds in the stomach. Harrison was now on borrowed time. Three days later, Freddie got his from a 12-gauge shotgun fired by a lone gunman. The wharf was crowded at the time but nobody saw a thing. A youngster was apprehended by police soon after carrying a box of cartridges of the same calibre that killed Harrison. The young boy was Charlie Wootton, stepson of the wounded Harold Nugent. Not unexpectedly, Harrison’s execution wasn’t widely mourned. Newspaper reporters outnumbered the attendees at his funeral. Freddie had become an underworld liability. Police would never find his killer, and during the initial investigation, one of Melbourne’s leading newspaper police reporters, Geoff Clancy, alluded to the gunman’s identity. His story was accompanied by the headline: “New Twist to Harrison Murder”.



ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1924

Angus Murray was sentenced to death by Mr. Justice Mann in the Criminal Court on the 2nd of February 1924. Murray was charged with the murder of Thomas Reginald Victor Berryman, a bank manager at Glenferrie, on October the 8th. After deliberating for two hours the jury returned a verdict of guilty and at 6pm the death sentence was passed. The jury were taken to the Glenferrie railway station, where the outrage and robbery occurred. When the jury returned to announced their verdict Murray was asked the customary question whether he had anything to say while sentence of death should not be passed on him. Murray asked for leave to consult his solicitor; Mr Gorman immediately rose and said, “There is nothing useful that I can say on his behalf at this stage.’ Murray heard the sentence of death without any outward display of feeling. Murray was the last person to be executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol.



EXECUTED THIS DAY – January 29, 1918


Albert Budd was hanged in Melbourne gaol on this day for the murder of his foster sister. When asked whether he wished to say anything he replied “Nothing. ” He shook hands with the governor of the gaol, saying “Good-bye, sir.” Death was instantaneous. Returned soldiers gathered outside the gaol. Budd left a statement expressing sorrow for the crime, adding that had it not been for drink he would not have been in that awful position.



On This Day – January 23, 1881

Robert Rohan, alias Smith, murderer of John Shea, at Yalca, near Shepparton, on the 23rd January 1881, was executed in Beechworth gaol on the 6th of June, by Upjohn, at 10am. The condemned man walked on to the scaffold in a calm, deliberate manner, chewing a piece of tobacco, and when asked by the sheriff whether he had anything to say, replied, “I have been convicted of the murder, and am prepared to hang for it.” The previous evening he said to the governor of the gaol and the Revs. Wm. Brown and Donnes, Wesleyan clergymen, “I have committed several crimes that I ought to have been hanged for, but I never committed this.” All being ready, the executioner pulled the bolt, and the convict was launched into eternity. Death was instantaneous. The prisoner, who was 24 years of age, had served several sentences both in Victoria and New South Wales, including one of 12 months in Beechworth gaol for larceny at Benalla in 1876, and another of two years and a half in Pentridge for robbery at Sandhurst in 1878, under the name of Ernest Smith, alias Rohan. The night before his execution he slept calmly, and ate a hearty breakfast and smoked a pipe next morning, and on being informed by the gaoler that his time had come, he answered, “All right, sir,” and appeared but little affected by the near approach of death.



On this day …….. 15th of January 1833

After a serious of mutiny on Norfolk Island, 55 convicts were tried on this day in 1833, and 29 condemned to death, of whom 13 actually were executed.



ON THIS DAY – January 14, 1891

Shortly after 7pm, a ghastly tragedy was perpetrated in a narrow lane off Chapel-street, Prahran, known as St. James’s-place. In one of the small wooden house lived three women and two or three men, one being a labourer named Monteith. One of the women, Ada Hatton, was constantly visited by a John Thomas Phelan, a railway engine driver, a single man, who was at one time had living with Hatton. Although no longer living with her he was still very fond of the woman, and was jealous of Monteith, about whom he had had several quarrels with Hatton, about. On the night of the 14th of January, Phelan had been drinking, and about 7 pm made his way to the house in St. James’s-pIace, where he found Hatton alone. They had a few short, sharp words, and then terrible screams were heard. Some neighbours rushed in and found the woman lying on the floor in a pool of blood with her throat cut, and Phelan leaning heavily against a portion of the room with a knife in his hand, and gashes in his throat from which the blood flowed freely. He was seized before he was able to dispatch himself. When the police arrived they found the woman’s head half severed from the body and a dreadful gash in the cheek. The woman was dead before medical assistance could arrive. Phelan’s wounds were stitched, and he was taken to the Alfred Hospital in a precarious, though not hopeless, state. Phelan stated to the police that he wished the knife had been keener and he would have been dead, adding—”Now I suppose I shall be hanged. Oh! My mother will break her heart.” Phelan was executed in Old Melbourne Gaol on the 16th of March 1891. At 10am he was led from his cell to the gallows. When asked if he had anything to say, Phelan replayed with a smile “no”. The lever was pulled and death was immediate.



EXECUTED ON THIS DAY ……. 7th January 1886

On this day in 1886, Freeland Morell, formerly a seaman of the barque Don Nicolas, was executed at the Melbourne gaol for the murder of John Anderson, second mate of the vessel. At 9.30am as Morell walked composedly onto the drop, he said, in a clear, firm voice, “You will see how an American can die. Good-bye everyone.” The rope was placed round his neck, and in answer to the sheriff he said he had nothing to say, the bolt was drawn, but death was not instantaneous. The hands and legs twitched convulsively for fully a minute, but the neck fell forward on the breast, and was evidently broken. The continued muscular contraction was due to the great physical strength of Morell.


On this day …….. 20th October 1858

Convict Owen McQueeny was executed at the Geelong Gaol, Victoria, on this day in 1858, after being found guilty of murdering Elizabeth Lowe. After the execution an elderly woman applied for permission to have her hands stroked by the hands of the dead man to help with her arthritis.


On This Day ……. 24th of August 1923

On the 24th of August 1923, Angus Murray, who is serving a sentence of 15 years for robbery under arms, made his escape, by means of a small saw, he removed the stones at the base of his window. The bars were then loosened, leaving him sufficient room to squeeze through. Murray had torn his bedclothes into shreds to form a rope to lower himself to the ground. He was then able to scale the outside wall were a motor car was waiting for him. A boy, passing the Gaol at the time of the escape saw Murray clamber down from his cell and spring into a car. The police scoured the district, but could not find any trace of the fugitive. On the morning of the 9th of October 1923, Murray shot Mr Berriman the manager of the Glenferrie branch of the Commercial Bank and robbed him of £1851. Berriman died the on the 22nd of October. A large force of detectives raided, a house in St, Kilda at 5am, arresting Angus Murray, Leslie (Squizzy) Taylor, and Ida Pender. Angus Murray was charged with the Glenferrie robbery and with escaping from custody. Taylor and Pender were locked up on holding charges, but were later released. A few days after Berriman’s death Murray was charged with his murder and on 14th of April 1924, he was executed in the Melbourne Gaol. Murray stood on the scaffold and made the following statement: “Never in my life have I done anything to justify the extreme penalty being passed upon me. I have prayed hard for those who have acted against me, and I hope that those whom I have injured will forgive me.” Turning to the hangman as the rope was passed around his neck, he said: “Pull it tight.” Murray’s death was instantaneous.


ON THIS DAY…… 19th August 1865

Patrick Sheehan was found guilty of the wilful murder of James Kennedy, publican of the National Hotel at Rowdy Flat. Sheehan, who was in the bar quite drunk, was turned out of the hotel by Kennedy. Sheehan then went round to the kitchen and got a knife before trying to force his way back into the bar. On the landlord pushing him back, Sheehan stabbed him in the stomach with the knife. Kennedy lingered for a few hours, but died in the night. Sheehan had also stabbed another man, a schoolmaster, at the same hotel, two years earlier. He was tried at Beechworth, and convicted, but received quite a light sentence. Sheehan became the first person to be executed in the Beechworth Gaol, witnessed by 40 people. At just past 8 o’clock the Governor of the gaol delivered the prisoner into the hands of the Sheriff. Father Tierney, who had been with him almost since daylight, was the only one in the cell with Sheehan at the time. Before being pinioned, Mr Castieau asked Sheehan, in the presence of the sheriff, if he wished to say anything. He said “only to give my best thanks.” He submitted to be bound without a murmur, marched with an unwavering step out of his cell, and stood there firmly, pale and earnest, but resignation written in his face. The hangman, having completed his preparations, pulled the cap, already on head, over his face when the doomed man said, “Raise it for a minute.” The executioner promptly complied without a word, and Sheehan said, in a low but unfaltering voice,” God bless you all, and God forgive me; that will do.” Again the cap was placed over his face, the bolt drawn. Sheehan had paid for his crime. Below is a statement made to Mr Castieau, demonstrating the remorse Sheehan had for his crime. On Sunday morning, Sheehan sent for Mr Castieau, the Governor of the Gaol, and asked him to take down a statement he wished to make. He seemed greatly troubled at a report that had been circulated of his having committed a previous murder in New South Wales. Both the Reverand Father Tierney and Mr Castieau had told him that such a report was abroad. The following is his declaration, as nearly in his own words as possible. ”I wish most solemnly to declare that there is not the slightest foundation for a report, that I am told is going about, that I was accused, while in Sydney, of having taken away the life of a man by striking him with a hammer. I came to Sydney a free man about twelve years since. I worked for Henry Campbell, a blacksmith, at Parramatta, also with James Gamble. Then I went to the Braidwood diggings. I was in no trouble of any kind while in New South Wales – never even brought before a magistrate for drunkenness. I came to Yackandandah about ten years ago, and have remained there ever since. The only time I ever appeared at a court before was when I was charged with an assault, and received a month’s imprisonment. This is true, as l hope for forgiveness, and I trust the public will be made acquainted with this statement so that I may not be unjustly accused of crimes of which I am entirely innocent, it does not do for a man to tell a lie with his last breath. I hope, therefore, I shall be believed when I say I do not remember anything of the dreadful occurrence of which I was found guilty. More than that, I know I had several nobblers of brandy besides partaking of three bottles of whisky, which were had amongst six of us; when the policeman came to my house I was sitting by the fire, getting sober, I suppose; and when he charged me with stabbing poor Kennedy, I was thunderstruck; how I could have done such a deed to one to whom I owed no grudge, he a man with a large family, and I a man with a large family too, I cannot tell; I begged hard to be allowed to see Kennedy. A dying man, I knew, would not lie, and If he told me I had stabbed him I should have believed It. I remember nothing of what was sworn, and have to blame the cursed drink for the death of poor Kennedy and my own doom. I trust for the forgiveness and prayers of Mrs Kennedy. May God protect her and her family and have mercy on my poor wife and children. Had I listened to my wife’s advice, I should not have been here. She tried, like a good wife and mother as she Is, to keep me away from the drink. Had I harkened to her, such a trouble as this could never have come upon us.”

Sunday, 6th November, 1866, half-past 10 a.m.


(Witness) J.B. Castieau, Governor of Gaol

After the execution a collection was taken up around town for his wife and children.

Doctor Dempster carried out the post mortem examination on Sheehan and stated that all organs of the body were healthy, height 5 foot 7 1⁄2 inches, eyes blue, hair brown, mole corner right eye, little finger right hand crooked.

No one knows when Ned Kelly was born:

True. What we do know is that Ned was the third of 12 children born to Ellen Kelly (from three different fathers). There is no clear evidence of his actual birth, but it was most likely 1854 or 1855, near Beveridge north of Melbourne, meaning he was just 25 or 26 when he died.

Ned Kelly was illiterate:
False. There are enough surviving examples of Ned’s handwriting to know that he could write. This myth most likely evolved from the belief that fellow Kelly Gang member, Joe Byrne, penned the famous Jerilderie letter. This letter has been described as Ned Kelly’s manifesto and is a direct account of the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated.

How did he wear such a heavy helmet?
If you have ever seen or tried on a replica of one of the Kelly gang’s helmets, you’ll be struck by how heavy they are and how much they cut into the collar bone. The fact is that the weight of the helmet was not meant to be borne on the collar bones at all. The helmets have holes punched on front, back and sides of each helmet, through which leather straps were strung, meaning most of the weight was felt on top of the wearer’s head. Ned Kelly is reported to have worn a woollen cap to pad his head.

A film about Ned Kelly was the world’s first feature film:
True. It is often reported that Charles Tait’s 1906 film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was the world’s first full-length feature film. Its first screening was at the Athenaeum Hall on December 26, 1906, and is alleged to have prompted five children in Ballarat to hold up a group of schoolchildren at gunpoint. This resulted in the Victorian Chief Secretary banning the film in towns with strong Kelly connections. And for many years the film was thought to be lost, but segments were found in various locations, including some found on a rubbish dump.

In 2007 the film was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first fill-length feature film.

Ned Kelly’s last words were “Such is life”.
Many believe that the last utterance by Ned Kelly just before his hanging were three simple word, “Such is life”. Whether uttered with weary resignation or an acceptance of misfortune, the notion that the quote is attributed to Ned Kelly survives today (even inspiring one or two tattoos).

But what Ned Kelly actually said as his last words is uncertain. Some newspapers at the time certainly reported the words “Such is life”, while a reporter standing on the jail floor wrote that Ned’s last words were, “Ah well! It’s come to this at last.” But one of the closest persons to Ned on the gallows, the gaol warden, wrote in his diary that Kelly opened his mouth and mumbled something that he couldn’t hear.

Ned Kelly courtroom curse killed the judge:
It is true that judge Sir Redmond Barry died 12 days after Ned Kelly was executed. The two men, Kelly and Barry, had been antagonists for some time, so after being sentenced to death at his trial, Ned Kelly famously replied to Sir Redmond Barry, “I will see you there where I go” or a version of that quote.

Ned Kelly was executed on the November 11, 1880, and Sir Redmond Barry died on the 23rd of the same month. However Barry’s certificate did not list the cause of death as “curse”, rather it is more likely that the judge died from a combination of pneumonia and septicaemia from an untreated carbuncle.

If you have a Ned Kelly tattoo you are more likely to die violently:
Depending on how you interpret the forensic data, wearing a Ned Kelly tattoo can be very dangerous. A study from the University of Adelaide found that corpses with Ned Kelly tattoos were much more likely to have died by murder and suicide. But it was a pretty small sample size.


ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1858


Elizabeth Lowe was buried on the side of the creek, near to where she was murdered. A white picket fence was built around her burial site, which remained until a bush fire in the 1920s. Today nothing is left to suggest that a community once stood here or even a public house where weary travellers would stop. The man Owen McQueeny, charged on suspicion as the murderer of Elizabeth Lowe, at the Green Tent, was examined at the Police-office this morning. The prisoner is rather a forbidding looking man, an Irishman apparently, from his dialect, and is of dark complexion, with dark hair, and a defect in his right eye similar to what among horses is denominated a “wall-eye.” Among the property missing from deceased’s tent, the purse, or portemonnaic, has been fully identified, also the bowie-knife and small flute. The wedding-ring produced is sworn to by her brother as being hers, to the best of his belief, being remarkable for the depth of impression of the Goldsmith’s hall stamp on the inner side. The keeper of the wedding-ring has not yet been found. The two principal links yet wanting to connect the prisoner more fully with the terrible crime are the time when Mrs. Lowe was last seen alive on Friday, 9th July, and the time the prisoner was last seen about her tent. During the examination the prisoner tried frequently to joke on the evidence, and repeatedly laughed at the questions he put; but there can be little doubt, from his efforts, that these were forced. The Inspector of Police applied for a remand for seven days, to enable him to produce the doctor who had attended the inquest, and to collect further evidence. Remand granted. Owen McQueeney was found guilty of the wilful murder of Elizabeth Lowe and was hanged at the Old Geelong Gaol on the 20th October, 1858.