ON THIS DAY – July 29, 1976

Three men who battered an older man to death in the course of “teaching him a lesson” were each found guilty of murder by a Criminal Court jury. Mr Justice Jenkinson sentenced each of the three to be imprisoned for the term of his natural life. They were Mr Allan Raymond Robinson, 33, invalid pensioner, of Fitzroy, Mr Kenneth Graeme Wright, 19, labourer, of Richmond, and Mr Paul Maurice Stanton, 28, assistant manager, of Abbotsford. All had pleaded not guilty to a charge of having murdered Mr Sydney Thomas Crowe, also known as Mr Peter Johnson, 54, labourer, of Collingwood, on July 29 last year.


photo of Kenneth Graeme Wright

ON THIS DAY – July 5, 1894 

A short account was given last week of the supposed murder of a young woman named Minnie Hicks, aged 23, by Frederick Jordan, negro wharf labourer. She kept house for Jordan and Albert Johnson, at Sydney-place, and was last seen alive at the house occupied by a glassblower named Charles Turnbull and his mistress. This was at midnight on July 5. Next morning Jordan reported to the police that he had found her dead at 7 a.m. in the room he himself slept in, and he had no knowledge how she arrived there. Turnbull, however, put a different complexion on the case, stating that Jordan came to his place after the woman, found her tipsy, began beating her, and when remonstrated with dragged her off home. An examination of the body showed that she had died from the effects of severe beating about the head and body. It has since transpired that Minnie Hicks was married in 1888, at the age of 17, to a man now living at St. Kilda. They parted about 1890, through the wife taking to drink, and she left their one child with the father. About two years ago she took up with Jordan, who was often cruel to her. On the night preceding the fatality Jordan was hunting round the hotels for her, in the company of Charles Champ, wharf labourer, until nearly midnight. They then separated at Champ’s house, and Jordon went off to Turnbulls where he found the woman. The police in examining the premises discovered in the same room as the body a pair of trousers which were blood stained and torn. At the inquest on Tuesday Johnson gave evidence. All he knew was that on Thursday, July 5, Jordan told him not to give the woman money, as she would be sure to spend it on drink. In the afternoon she got 6s. from him to buy provisions for tea and came back with them, after which she left. Other witnesses showed that Jordan went to several public houses looking for the girl, who had got her friends to promise not to tell-of her whereabouts. Jordan ultimately found her at midnight and dragged her home. The man she married six years ago, Henry Crabtree, labourer, St. Kilda, said that she left him in November, 1891, having become a confirmed drunkard. He was a teetotaller. It appears that after being some time with Jordan, Minnie Hicks had shown a liking for another negro named Adam, and stayed with him. The society of the locality was proved to be anything but nice, and one or two of the women called owned to having been drinking with Minnie. The jury found that Jordan had committed wilful murder.

ON THIS DAY – June 29, 1991

Life sentence for ‘nightmare’ killing

A judge, his voice cracking with emotion and with tears in his eyes, yesterday sentenced a former church elder to life imprisonment for the “terrible” murder of a six-year-old girl. “Life means life,” Justice Philip Cummins said, as he sentenced Robert Arthur Selby Lowe, 57, for the murder of Sheree Beasley. The judge did not set a minimum term. What you did was every child’s fear and every parent’s nightmare,” Justice Cummins said Lowe was found guilty on Wednesday of kidnapping and killing Sheree at Rosebud, on the Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne, on June 29, 1991. Justice Cummins also sentenced Lowe to 15 years’ jail for kidnapping.

Sheree disappeared while running an errand for her mother near her home. Her remains were found in the nearby suburb of Red Hill three months later. Justice Cummins said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lowe had sexually attacked Sheree and that she had choked to death. Lowe had then forced her body down a drain. After Justice Cummins sentenced Lowe, the public gallery erupted in cheers and people yelled, “Suffer Lowe”, “Sheree got the life sentence”, and “You’ve still got your life”. There were similar scenes on Wednesday, when the verdict was announced.

In his sentencing comments yesterday Justice Cummins said the trial had been one of the most harrowing he had experienced. Before sentencing, Lowe’s previous convictions, including ones for indecent assault and offensive behaviour dating back to 1956, were read to the court. Justice Cummins said Lowe’s “sexual interests” had been fuelled by the abduction of Karmein Chan, 13, who was kidnapped from her, home in Templestowe, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, in April 1991, two months before Sheree’s murder. The judge said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt with evidence given by a cell-mate of Lowe’s. Lowe had told the prisoner that he had forced Sheree to do “dirty acts”. “She choked to death,” Justice Cummins said. “You were uncomfortable with the words oral sex you used the words ‘dirty acts’.”

Justice Cummins said Lowe had first seen Sheree when he had been in Rosebud the weekend before she was murdered. He had returned on June 29 and had forced her off her bicycle and into his car before speeding off. Witnesses said, they had seen a fearful Sheree in the car. Justice Cummins said Lowe had been articulate and manipulative in his lies to police, whom he commended for their persistence.”Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” the judge told Lowe. “And you wove a tangled web around yourself which eventually captured you.” Justice Cummins said Lowe had shown no remorse for his crimes and had even been excited when he had gone to the scene of the crime with his psychotherapist. Lowe stood impassively as Justice Cummins sentenced him. He held an envelope to the side of his face, to hide it from journalists sitting near the dock. Sheree’s grandfather, Neil Greenhill, told reporters the sentence was what the family had hoped for. “You can’t replace what’s been taken away,” he said. “I hope he gets no peace … we hope he rots in hell. There’s no forgiveness … none at all.”

ON THIS DAY – June 14, 1935


“I am not guilty! I am Innocent! God knows I am not guilty!” With those words Clifford Earl Smiles, aged 31 years, motor mechanic, of Warleigh road, West Footscray, burst into sobs in the dock of the Criminal Court on September 18 after a jury had found him guilty of the manslaughter of his wife and child. The jury had deliberated for a little more than three and three-quarter hours, having left the court at 5.15 p.m. Smiles was remanded for sentence.

Smiles was charged with having on June 14 murdered his wife, Edna May Smiles, aged 24 years, and his daughter, Norma Elizabeth Smiles, aged four months. The bodies of Mrs. Smiles and her daughter were found in the gas-fllled kitchen of their home at Warleigh road, Footscray, on the morning of June 14. The Crown alleged that Smiles had suffocated his wife and had then placed the dead body, with the baby, which was then alive, in the kitchen, turning on the gas at the stove to make it appear as if Mrs. Smiles had committed suicide and gassed the baby.

ON THIS DAY – June 8, 1968

Mr Justice Lush pronounced the death sentence for the second time in a week in the Criminal Court yesterday, when a labourer, 20, was found guilty of murdering his 17 year old former girlfriend.

The youth, Leigh Robinson, of Markham Avenue, Ashburton,  sat down when he heard the death sentence, put his head in his hands and wept silently.

Mr Justice Lush asked him if he had anything to say. “No Sir”, Robinson replied.

Robinson was charged with having murdered Valerie Ethel Dunn at her home in Margot Street, Chadstone on June 8.

Evidence was given that the girl was stabbed 16 times and that a youth who tried to rescue her was also stabbed by Robinson.

The jury retired at 11.42am and returned a verdict of guilty at 12.40pm.

Robinson pleaded not guilty at the beginning of his trial, which started on Monday – four days after Mr Justice Lush had sentenced Irwin Richard Hans Weise to death for the murder of his wife.

ON THIS DAY ……. 3rd June 1849

Sarah Mullins, alias White, convicted of the manslaughter of Kelly, was next brought up for sentence. His Honor said she had had a very narrow escape from the sentence of death, as it was quite open to the jury upon the evidence to have returned a verdict of guilty on the capital charge of murder. He knew she was drunk, but that was no excuse at all, for he bad often laid it down, that a prisoner who committed an offence whilst drunk must bear the full responsibility. The jury had convicted her of manslaughter, but a recent act prevented him from passing a sentence of transportation, other-wise he should have felt it his duty to have done so. Various punishments had been provided in lieu of transportation, and his Honor thought he should be dealing leniently with the prisoner in sentencing her to the least period of imprisonment substituted for seven years transportation, which was two years. That sentence he accordingly passed.

On This Day …….. 21st April 1858

One of the most shocking murders which has ever been seen in Beechworth occurred at Chinaman’s Flat. Luke Lyons and Patrick Saxton arrived in the Colony together and were believed to be sharing a claim. The murderer and his victim were mates and up until the time of the fatal occurrence lived next to each other on terms of great friendship. On the evening of the murder the men were drinking together, in the company of Patrick’s family. After two bottles of brandy were drunk, the conversation turned to arranging a marriage alliance between Luke and Patrick’s sister. After all the brandy was finished, Luke left the tent for the purpose of procuring more brandy. Instead of going for the liquor as he intended he loitered outside the tent, and heard himself spoken of by the Saxton’s in terms of disparagement. Rushing into the tent, Luke started a violent rant before leaving the tent. Patrick followed and the fight began. The argument was taken into Luke’s tent and whilst in the tent Patrick was stabbed by Luke. When they both struggled out together, it was discovered that a wound from a knife, or another sharp instrument, had been inflicted, and that Patrick’s entrails were protruding some inches from his stomach. A blow was also made at Patrick’s brother with a knife by Luke, but he was only slightly hurt. Patrick died in front of his tent. Luke, having run off in the bush, was apprehended about an hour afterwards by Detective Alexander. An inquest was held on the body of Patrick Saxton, and after hearing the evidence, the Jury was divided in opinion but a majority concurred in the verdict of wilful murder, and the prisoner was committed for trial. On July the 21st, Luke Lyons was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to three years hard labour on the roads.


ON THIS DAY ……… 30th March 1948

The question of justification arose in the case In which John Kenneth Donnelly (19), of Opie street, Ferntree Gully, apprenticed carpenter, was charged in the Criminal Court to-day with having murdered his step-father, John Palmer (63), laborer, of the same address, at Ferntree Gully on March 30.
The Crown prosecutor (Mr. Nolan) said the family were living unhappily. Palmer came home for his tea in an intoxicated condition and the question arose as to where the children should sleep. Palmer complained of children sleeping in his bedroom.
In a confession to the police, accused had stated: “He (Palmer) had been cruel to my mother and the children. I got home at 6.20 p.m. and he came home at 7 p.m. drunk. The children kept complaining about all sleeping in the one bedroom. I sent one of the children to his bedroom and he told her to get out. I then sent another child to the room and he threatened her. He started to swing at me. He started to belt my mother, and I went on the verandah sleepout and loaded a rifle I saw him belting my mother again as I looked through the window. I look a quick aim and pulled the trigger.
Constable Charles Light, of Ferntree Gully, said during the seven years he had been stationed there he found accused to be hard working, quiet youth. On the night of March 30 Donnelly told him that he had hit him In self defence and thought Palmer was dead. At Palmer’s four-roomed house he found the rifle, which had an empty shell in the breach.

The jury in the Criminal Court took only eight minutes to decide that John K. Donnelly, 19, apprentice carpenter, of Ferntree Gully, was not guilty of a charge of the murder or manslaughter of his stepfather, John Palmer. Donnelly told the court that he shot his stepfather on this day in 1948 when Palmer was attacking his mother. He knew his mother was going to have a baby and his only thought was to prevent Palmer from killing her or earning her such harm that she would die. Mrs Palmer, mother of the accused and nine other children, told the court that Palmer had beaten her regularly.


ON THIS DAY – October 30, 1955

John Kevin Seach, 26, quarry worker, was sentenced to death in the Central Criminal Court today after a jury convicted him of murder. Seach, who showed no emotion when the verdict was announced, had pleaded not guilty, on grounds of insanity, of murdering John Frederick Ward, 7, at Portland on October 30 last year. The Chief Justice (Mr. Justice Street) described Seach’s crime as an abhorrent and detestable one. The Crown Prosecutor (Mr. C. V. Rooney, KC) said that Ward and another boy, Albert Colin Spiers, 7, disappeared while they were attending a sports meeting at Portland on October 30. Their bodies were found in a cave four days later. It was alleged that Seach had lured them to a cave in a local quarry, claiming that he would show them some pigeons’ nests.



ON THIS DAY…… 26th September 1934

After a retirement of about three hours the jury found John Hope Boles guilty of the murder of Kathleen Dorman aged 28 years on this day in 1934. They added a strong recommendation to mercy. Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, before whom the case was tried in the Criminal Court, sentenced Boles to death, adding that the recommendation would he forwarded to the proper quarter. Boles was charged with the murder of Miss Dorman in July, 1933. He was arrested a year after the murder at Ensay, near Omeo, where he had been working as a rabbit trapper. Mr. Mulvaney, who appeared for Boles, indicated that the defence would be a plea of temporary Insanity. He called evidence to show that Boles had talked of suicide before the murder, and he also called psychiatrist, Dr. Godfrey, to prove that Boles was of neurotic temperament. Boles, in a statement from the dock, said that his relationship with Miss Dorman were of the most innocent kind. Both of them were passionately In love, but when he lost his employment he could think of nothing but suicide. When he called on Miss Dorman for the last time he intended to leave her, and then take his own life. He had no recollection of events immediately before or after the murder, and it was not until some time after he left Miss Dorman’s house that he realised that he had done something terrible.  Boles, who was greatly affected while making his statement, concluded saying: “Whatever happens to me now whatever the verdict may be, no one can feel the terrible horror that I feel when I realised what I had done to her the only one In this world that I loved and adored.”


On This Day – September 14, 1914

Accused Sentenced to Death

The Italian, Antonio Soro, was found guilty in the Criminal Court to-day of the murder at Royal-park, on September 14, of Miss Patricia Angela Bickett, school-teacher, aged 28, and was sentenced to death. Expert evidence was given of the accused’s sanity.

When the jury brought in a verdict of guilty Soro trembled and sobbed violent-ly and when asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed on him made no reply. Mr. Justice Hood then pronounced sentence of death.

ON THIS DAY – July 29, 1976

Three men who battered an older man to death in the course of “teaching him a lesson” were each found guilty of murder by a Criminal Court jury. Mr Justice Jenkinson sentenced each of the three to be imprisoned for the term of his natural life. They were Mr Allan Raymond Robinson, 33, invalid pensioner, of Fitzroy, Mr Kenneth Graeme Wright, 19, labourer, of Richmond, and Mr Paul Maurice Stanton, 28, assistant manager, of Abbotsford. All had pleaded not guilty to a charge of having murdered Mr Sydney Thomas Crowe, also known as Mr Peter Johnson, 54, labourer, of Collingwood, on July 29 last year.


photo of Kenneth Graeme Wright