John Stacey, was charged with the murder of a child named Daniel McDonnell, at Emerald Hill, (South Melbourne) on the 28th of February 1865. Stacey was sentenced to be executed at the old Melbourne Gaol.



On this day ………… 27th February 1788

One of the first permanent structures erected in Australia was the gallows in Sydney Town. The first person to be executed was 17 year old James Barrett on this day in 1788, one month after settlement had been established. Barrett had stolen food because he was hungry, but he had been caught in the act. Justice was swift, he was charged, convicted and sentenced to hang on the same day.



ON THIS DAY – February 23, 1885


Martha Needle is one of our more interesting criminals from Melbourne past, and is only one of five woman executed in Victoria, on the 22nd of October 1894. Over a spate of months Needle would murder by poisoning her husband, 3 children and future brother-in-law. Martha was born near Morgan, South Australia in 1863, an attractive woman with a kindly disposition she grew up in a violent and abusive household, and had shown signs of mental instability from an early age. On the 23rd of February 1885 little Mabel Needle died after a short illness. Martha stated that she “seemed to fade “. Martha later collected 100 pounds (2016 – $40,000) life insurance on Mabel’s death. After exhuming the victims it was found that Needles had used Arsenic to poison all.



ON THIS DAY – February 22, 1897

The murder by Charles John Hall, of his wife at Eaglehawk, on the 22nd of February 1897, is one of the most brutal and cowardly in the annals of Victorian crime. Hall was a well-known footballer, and when he rushed away to call the neighbors to see his wife, who was lying dead in a tub of water, no suspicion of foul play was entertained against him. However, the medical evidence at the inquest went to show that death was caused by suffocation and that, coupled with the fact that Hall had told a barmaid. Eva Scott with whom he had committed adultery, that he had put his wife out of the way, led to his arrest. He was tried on the capital charge, at Bendigo, but the jury failed to agree. On the 27th of July, he was again arraigned at the Supreme Court sittings at Castlemaine charged with the murder of his wife and found guilty, although he strongly protested his innocence. Sentence of death was accordingly passed on him. His version of the crime was that he found his wife in a tub of water, into which sho had fallen when in a fit, and instead of releasing her he went and called the neighbours. A very large number of persons believed Hall’s protestations of innocence, and as he was very popular, a petition praying for the remission of the death sentence was presented to tho Executive Council. A special meeting of that body was held on the 24th of August, at which it was decided to allow the law to take its course, and the execution was fixed for the 13th of September, at the Bendigo gaol. Hall then presented a petition to the Governor, in which he admitted his guilt, but gave his version of the murder. He says that in a moment of passion, brought about by a quarrel with the unfortunate woman, he threw her into a tub of water. He attributed the marks which were on her face to her nose and teeth coming into contact with the edge of the tub, and denied having used pressure over the nostrils and mouth when she was being suffocated. He pleaded that he acted on the impulse of the moment, and not with any deliberation as stated by the Crown Prosecutor. He admitted being guilty of manslaughter but not of the more heinous crime of murder, and expressed the hope that the Executive Council would exorcise their prerogative of mercy and commute his sentence to a long term of imprisonment. Hall would become the last person executed at the Bendigo Gaol.


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.