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ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – June 19, 1954

FLEMINGTON

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 …….. 8th of June 1916

Mr. Roberts, headmaster of the State School at Flemington, and Samuel Hulme, his assistant, had an altercation in the headmaster’s office. Subsequently Hulme walked out of the office and exhibited what appeared to be a cut on his face. He said : ” I will have it out.” He went down the yard, and soon afterwards was found dead. Whether death was due to violence or natural causes accelerated by excitement has not been ascertained, and no arrest has been made.

ON THIS DAY – July 14, 1906

An alleged “welsher,” Donald M’Leod, was killed by the crowd at the Flemington Racecourse on July 14. The victim was a single man, aged 23. He made 27 bets on the Grand National Steeple Chase, 16 of which were on Decoration. As the race was finishing, M’Leod got off a box he was standing on, and walked away. Some one cried “Welsher!” There was à rush for M’Leod, who was knocked down. The crowd then set on him, and literally kicked him to death. His head was battered, his nose smashed, and his neck broken. Several tried to rescue the unfortunate, notably T. Nelson, a well-known Sydney boxer but the fury of the crowd was too great to stem. Two troopers and several foot police managed to clear the ring round the man, who was carried to the casualty room, where the terrible injuries were revealed. A post-mortem examination of the body of M’Leod showed that death was due to suffocation, resulting from the dislocation of his neck.

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – June 19, 1954

FLEMINGTON

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 …….. 8th of June 1916

Mr. Roberts, headmaster of the State School at Flemington, and Samuel Hulme, his assistant, had an altercation in the headmaster’s office. Subsequently Hulme walked out of the office and exhibited what appeared to be a cut on his face. He said : ” I will have it out.” He went down the yard, and soon afterwards was found dead. Whether death was due to violence or natural causes accelerated by excitement has not been ascertained, and no arrest has been made.

On this day …….. 10th May 1901

A member of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, had the misfortune to lose a valuable horse on this day. Pte R. Ashworth was mounted and standing in the ranks during a military review at Flemington, when his horse was kicked by another horse, and had it’s leg broken. The horse had to be destroyed. Ashworth was compensated.

ON THIS DAY – July 14, 1906

An alleged “welsher,” Donald M’Leod, was killed by the crowd at the Flemington Racecourse on July 14. The victim was a single man, aged 23. He made 27 bets on the Grand National Steeple Chase, 16 of which were on Decoration. As the race was finishing, M’Leod got off a box he was standing on, and walked away. Some one cried “Welsher!” There was à rush for M’Leod, who was knocked down. The crowd then set on him, and literally kicked him to death. His head was battered, his nose smashed, and his neck broken. Several tried to rescue the unfortunate, notably T. Nelson, a well-known Sydney boxer but the fury of the crowd was too great to stem. Two troopers and several foot police managed to clear the ring round the man, who was carried to the casualty room, where the terrible injuries were revealed. A post-mortem examination of the body of M’Leod showed that death was due to suffocation, resulting from the dislocation of his neck.

ON THIS DAY – July 1, 1970

IT takes a truly monstrous man to attach alligator clips to the ears of his sleeping wife and children then zap them with electricity.  The sort of cruel coward who would also use a hammer to belt his six-year-old daughter in the head. Elmer Kyle Crawford is just such a man, a coroner found. He acted not in a fit of rage, but after weeks of planning the ghastly murders of his pregnant wife and three children. Crawford electrocuted and bashed his family to death at their home in Cardinal Rd, Glenroy, on July 1, 1970. And he got away with it – so far.

Running through what is known of the killings, it is easy to see why Victorians were appalled. Although not qualified as an electrician, Crawford worked in that capacity for the Victoria Racing Club at Flemington racecourse for 14 years. Workmates told police there was no indication he was capable of such an atrocity. No trouble at home that they knew of. But something troubled Crawford enough to painstakingly plan what he hoped would be the perfect crime — one that would leave him looking like the deserted husband whose wife ran away with the kids. The evidence points to Crawford planning to report his wife and children had gone missing. The new wills he and his wife drafted two weeks earlier would have left him very comfortably off. He was forced to rapidly change plans and disappear after a quirk of fate meant the bodies didn’t sink in the ocean without trace as planned. Crawford was busy cleaning up the blood in the family home when he found out the car he had earlier pushed off a cliff hadn’t disappeared into the Blowhole at Loch Ard Gorge near Port Campbell. Indeed it had been found teetering on a ledge just above the churning sea. He abandoned plans to destroy all incriminating evidence and simply disappeared .

Police have been unable to establish why Crawford murdered his wife Therese, 35, and children Kathryn, 13, James, 8 and Karen, 6. One possibility is the couple argued over whether or not to terminate Therese’s fourth pregnancy. That theory is based on an unfinished letter from Mrs Crawford to her family in which she indicated she wasn’t happy about being pregnant again. “I have been so upset, but what’s the use, I am two and a half months now,” she wrote. “So looks like I have had it this time. “We were going to come up home this Christmas but won’t be able to now as I’ll be due the end of January.” Police found the letter along with a newspaper article about abortion written by prominent Right to Life campaigner Margaret Tighe. They also discovered items Crawford had stolen from the VRC and evidence he had been selling stolen goods for years. That led to another theory, that Mrs Crawford may have found out her husband was a thief and threatened to expose him.

Evidence left by Crawford paints a chilling picture of how he killed his family. He made a bizarre electrocution device consisting of a 15m length of electrical cord with a plug at one end and an extension cord socket on the other. Running from the main cord were five smaller leads, each with alligator clips on the end. Crawford waited until his wife and children were asleep before murdering them. He used his electrocution device on his wife, eldest daughter Kathryn and James. Crawford also bashed Kathryn and James in the head, almost certainly with a hammer, fracturing their skulls. Little Karen was spared electrocution, but she was beaten to death with the hammer. Crawford had earlier removed the back seat of his 1956 Holden sedan so he could stack the four pyjama-clad bodies inside. He wrapped each body in a blanket and then put a tarpaulin over them. He then drove hundreds of kilometres to Loch Ard Gorge. But a drainage ditch just before the edge of the cliff stopped him from pushing the car over the edge. Undeterred, he spent an estimated two hours building a bridge of rocks so he could roll the car down the slight slope, across his makeshift bridge and over the cliff. His intention was that it would plunge into the Blowhole and never be seen again. As an extra precaution, in case the car and the bodies were later found, he attached a hose to the exhaust and jammed it through the driver’s side window to make it look as though Mrs Crawford had committed suicide after beating her children to death. That’s probably why she was the only one electrocuted and not bashed. As he pushed the car over the cliff, Crawford would not have seen the rocky ledge 16m below. Thinking his grisly task complete, Crawford made his way back home. Police don’t know how he returned to Glenroy, but it is possible he hitchhiked or rode a small motor scooter he carried to Port Campbell in the boot with the bodies. They believe he murdered his family and tried to dispose of the bodies sometime between sunset on July 1 and the early hours of July 2.

Sightseers first noticed the car perched precariously on the ledge at the Blowhole at 1.30pm on July 2. Crawford was seen in the driveway of his home at 5.50pm that day. Broadmeadows police officer John McCarty was sent to the Crawford home at 6.20pm after a registration number check revealed the car was owned by Crawford. It had not yet been possible to search the car because it was a dangerous process requiring cliff rescue experts. Evidence suggests Crawford was inside the house cleaning up blood when Constable McCarty knocked on the door. The knock went unanswered and, because it was just a routine inquiry at that stage, Constable McCarty went back to the station. Police presume it was at this point Crawford abandoned his plan to pretend his wife and children had left him and fled himself. Constable McCarty went back to the house at 10pm after receiving information from Port Campbell there was a rifle in the car and blood on the seats. He and another officer broke in when no-one answered the door. They discovered blood-stained sheets and mattresses. The homicide squad was called in and arrangements made to search the car at first light the next day.

Cliff rescue volunteers George Cumming and Cecil Burgin were lowered down, secured the car to prevent it slipping into the sea then started to search it. “We lifted the tarpaulin and Cec Burgin said ‘I can see some feet’ and as the tarpaulin was lifted further I saw three sets of feet,” Mr Cumming said.”When the tarpaulin was moved a bedspread was folded back and I saw four bodies wrapped in bed sheets.” Homicide squad detective Adrian Donehue, who went on to become head of the major crime squad, was at the top of the cliff that day.” I made an examination of each of the bodies as they were brought up,” he said. He was the first to realise the savagery of a crime that has haunted several generations of Victorian police.

Editors note – This article on the Crawford murders is explored in more detail in the excellent book “Almost Perfect” by Greg Fogarty.

ON THIS DAY – June 19, 1954

FLEMINGTON

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 …….. 8th of June 1916

Mr. Roberts, headmaster of the State School at Flemington, and Samuel Hulme, his assistant, had an altercation in the headmaster’s office. Subsequently Hulme walked out of the office and exhibited what appeared to be a cut on his face. He said : ” I will have it out.” He went down the yard, and soon afterwards was found dead. Whether death was due to violence or natural causes accelerated by excitement has not been ascertained, and no arrest has been made.