ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1904

The Coroner, Mr. Cole, concluded the inquest to-day concerning the death of Mrs. Mary Amelia Veitch, at Clifton Hill, on July 19. James Williams, the young man who was arrested on a charge of murder, was present in custody. He displayed hardly any interest in the proceedings. The evidence tendered added nothing to the facts already stated. The Coroner found that the deceased met her death at the hands of James Williams, who was committed for trial on a charge of wilful murder.

ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1890

The inquest touching the death of Donald McDonald, the murdered fisherman, near Tyntynder, was resumed on Monday morning. A number of witnesses were examined, the most important being John M’Donald and Joseph Wells. The former gave evidence respecting the ill-feeling that existed between himself and the deceased. He went to the deceased’s hut, and charged him with cheating while they were in partnership together, and asked to see the returns, but would not go inside the hut as he was frightened of the deceased doing him some injury, as he had threatened to shoot several persons whom he had a spite against. He (witness) confessed to having used threats against the deceased. A man named Thompson told witness that the deceased had said that he was not honest and that he might have replied, ” I’ll let him see whether he is honest or not if I catch him in a quiet corner.” Constable Egglestone and Sergeant Mahoney gave an account of tracking the prisoner to Oxley and finding burnt caps and cartridges in the camp fire, and the barrel of a gun a short distance off. Joseph Wells said that he found the prisoner at his camp on July 19. He told him that he had come from Donald M’Donald’s hut, and talked about the deceased and larrikin fishermen, and that he should not be surprised to hear of a fisherman being shot. The inquiry was adjourned to October 4,

ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1947

Melbourne Gangster James Coates who scammed £40,000 from an Australian grazier, £19,000 from an Austrian nobleman, £15,000 from the son of the Sweden’s King, and from an Indian prince, he stole £80,000 was murdered.

The weeks before Coates murder he had received anonymous phone calls, first calling him Constable Coates, second an ambulance was called to his apartment saying a man had been shoot and third a hearse had been called to collect Coates body.

Coates body was found in a vacant allotment at the corner of Punt rd and Union st, Windsor.


ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1947

DESPITE an intensive investigation, no evidence had been found to establish responsibility for the shooting of James Coates, 46, on July 19, Detective W. W. Mooney said yesterday at an inquest into Coates’ death. Coates was found dead on a vacant allotment at the corner of Punt rd and Union st, Prahran. There were three bullet wounds in his abdomen and one in his neck. Mr H. B. Wade, PM, city coroner, found that Coates had died from the effects of revolver shots feloniously inflicted by a person or persons unknown.


Chief witness at the inquest was Coates’ widow, Mrs Edith Coates, of Walsh st, South Yarra. She covered her face with a long black veil before entering and leaving the courtroom.Mrs Coates said her husband helped to wipe the dinner dishes on the night of July 19, and then left the flat saying he was going to buy a newspaper. When he did not return she thought he had gone to play cards. She believed he intended to walk and had not known he had been using a motorcar. About two weeks before her husband’s death several anonymous telephone calls had been made to their flat. On each occasion a male voice asked for “Constable Coates.” She did not remember the caller using the words “the police pimp.” On several occasions the caller said she should poison her husband, and that he was going to be shot. Her husband did not tell the police of these threats, nor did he tell her he knew the identity of the caller. Bonnie Joy Bricknell, of Glenhuntly rd, Elsternwick, said she had known Coates for several years. She owned a small sedan car which was found near the allotment where Coates’ body was found. She had frequently lent the car to Coates and lent it to him on July 18, when he said he wanted it for a few days. Louise Lambert, of Murphy st, South Yarra, said she was a shop assistant in a newsagency in Toorak rd. Coates, who was a customer, bought two newspapers in the shop about 7.40pm on July 19. Another man who was in the shop when Coates entered patted Coates on the back and said, “How are you?” They seemed friendly, and left the shop together.


Joan Holding, of Union st, Windsor, said she left home about 9pm on July 19 to exercise her dog. She turned into Punt rd when she heard a shot, which was followed by three more shots. She saw a man jump over the fence at the western end of the corner allotment. The man was wearing a long overcoat. He went into Union st. She then saw two constables run towards the allotment. First-constable Charles White said he was on duty in the police station near the allotment when he heard the shots. He approached two girls waiting at a bus stop and asked if they had heard revolver shots. They said: No, it is only some boys letting off crackers in the paddock.Witness did not see any person leave the allotment, but saw a man leave a lane off Union st and walk toward St Kilda rd.

ON THIS DAY – July 18, 1927


From the effects of an illegal operation, Annie Florence Treagar, aged 21 years, of Paisley street, Footscray, died at the Women’s Hospital on July 18. The city coroner (Mr. D. Berriman, P.M.) held an inquest. It was alleged that Miss Treager went to a house in Armadale where an illegal operation was performed. Mary Adeline Le Neve. The coroner committed Mrs. Le Neve for trial at the Supreme Court on August 15 on a charge of murder. Bail was fixed at £1,000 with a surety of a similar amount. Mrs Joan Rosanova appeared for Le Neve, and Inspector Koetsveld appeared to assist the coroner.


ON THIS DAY – July 13, 1979

At about 11.30 am on Friday, 13th July, 1979 Detective Lane accompanied David Bernard Chapman, an 18 year old car theft suspect, to a disused bus parked in a camp site at Kyalite, Southern New South Wales. Chapman had been living there for a short time, and had told the Detective he had a receipt amongst his possessions which would exonerate him of the theft.

Whilst Lane searched the bus Chapman took a .22 calibre rifle and shot the Detective in the head. The policeman fell to the floor, and Chapman then walked up and again shot him in the head. He then dragged the corpse to a nearby sullage pit, where he dumped it, before making his escape in the police car, in company with his 17 year old girlfriend Kerryn Anne Bonser.

He later dumped the car in the Edwards River, 5 kilometres away and took to the bush. Despite a massive man hunt he was not located until the 19th uly, 1980 at a property in the Kyalite District. He admitted his guilt, and appeared before Paramatta Supreme Court charged with the murder. On 1st July, 1980 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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 – July 13, 1961

A slight, auburn haired woman yesterday had a 25th birthday she will never forget. She was acquitted in the Criminal Court of the murder of her 17 month old daughter.

Mrs Hughann Legget Prescott, of Murphy Street, Gardenvale, had pleaded not guilty to the charge before Mr. Justice Little and a jury. In a three day trial the Crown claimed that Mrs Prescott had attempted to take her own life and that of her daughter, Elizabeth Louise. Mrs Prescott was found beside the body of her daughter in the gas filled kitchen of their home in Gardenvale on July 13 this year. Eight days previously, Mrs Prescott’s husband, Peter, had gassed himself in the same kitchen after an argument over financial matters. She blamed herself for her husband’s death,

Crown witnesses told the court. Mr. E.D. Lloyd (for Mrs Prescott) did not lead any evidence in defence, but relied on his final address to the jury yesterday. Mr Lloyd told the jury that in 70 years of trying cases in the Criminal Court there had never been a case like this. “It would be cruel, unjust and wrong to convict this woman of wilful murder as it would be the culmination of a long series of wrongs done to her. A gift of £1900 from Mrs Prescott senior to buy a house had to be repaid within three years with interest. If they would not do this, Mrs Prescott threatened to take legal action,” Mr Lloyd said. He said that by some strange irony of fate this little woman was on trial for murder on her 25th birthday. Never Known “For the rest of your lives how will you know that the door inside the house from the kitchen, which was not locked, might not have swung open? And the little girl, driven by the most basic urge of all – mother love – came in and laid down by her mother, who was at this stage affected by the gas?” Mr Lloyd asked the jury. Mr J F Moloney appeared for the Crown.

ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1926

When Bertha Elizabeth Ross (33) was charged, in the Criminal Court with having attempted to murder William Woods, builder and contractor, on July 10, Mr.. W, S. Sproule, for the Crown, suggested that there were two probable motives. In the first place they had been living on intimate terms for six years, and Woods had ordered her out of the house after a quarrel. Secondly; there was a will made by Woods in favour of the accused woman and her children. She may have wished to hasten Woods’s death to acquire the benefits. Mr. Sproule, outlining tie case, said after the woman was ordered out of the house she took the furniture away, but returned several times. On July 10 she entered the house at Thornbury and passed the safe, on which Woods kept a cup and some bicarbonate of soda, which he took after meals. Woods later took some of the mixture, leaving half of it in the cup, as it tasted bitter. He became very ill, but after being treated at hospital, had the contents of the cup examined. It contained grains of strychnine, which had not dissolved enough to make the solution fatal.


ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1914

In the Brunswick court when Frank White (22) appeared on a charge of having inflicted grievous bodily harm upon Richard Wood on July 10, the charge was altered to one of the murder. Sergeant McLoughlin said Wood died in the Melbourne Hospital as the result of a depressed fracture of the skull, alleged to have been caused by a blow with a bottle from White. White was further remanded, and bail was refused. Subsequently Mr Justice Hodges, in the Supreme Court, granted bail in two sureties of £500 each, and White’s own bond of £1000.


ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1910

The trial of Peter Long on a charge of murder, arising out of the death, at Ballarat, on July 10, of Florence Jelbart, was continued in the Melbourne Criminal Court, October 28. Dr. Crawford Henry Mollison, Government pathologist, said:-I heard Dr. Champion’s evidence on the previous day, and from that and from my examination of the parts I am of opinion that death was not due to air embolism, but to shock. Professor H. B. Allen (dean of the faculty of medicine in the University of Melbourne) and Dr. Frank Reginald Longden (of Buninyong) expressed a similar view. This concluded the case for the Crown. Peter Long, the accused, said his Chinese name was Lee Yee. He had been practising in and around Ballarat for 13 years. On the night of July 10, he left the deceased in his consulting-room while he went into the shop. A few minutes afterwards he heard a scream, and rushed into the consulting room. He then found her lying on the floor of the room, and she died soon after. He did nothing to the girl to cause her death. Dr. William Edward Davis, who attended the post-mortem examination conducted by Dr. Champion, said he thought the condition of the heart was inconsistent with death by shock. The wounds could have been self-inflicted. Drs. R. A. Stirling (of Melbourne) and G. E. Cussen (of Ballarat) gave evidence to a similar effect. The hearing of the case was concluded when the jury, after a retirement of two hours, found Long not guilty, and he was acquitted.

ON THIS DAY – JULY 9, 1873

Henry McKay was charged with the murder of his lover Emily Yeomans. McKay, who for some time had been working in Barnawartha, had returned to Hurdle Flat to visit Emily. That evening was spent at McKay’s aunt’s house. During the night, a dispute arose between the couple about a boot Emily had lost whilst in an intoxicated state.

At 7 a.m. the following morning McKay ordered Emily to go and look for the missing boot but she refused to do so. He then attempted to beat her but was prevented from doing so by a man named Thomas Beazley, who happened to be present. Emily and McKay then left together to look for the boot, but had not gone more than 150 yards when two carriers, who had camped close to the house, heard cries of “Murder!” One of them, named Robert Eveston, ran out, and saw McKay strike Emily two heavy blows with a piece of paling, which he swung round his shoulder. Both men immediately ran to help her, but finding Emily quite insensible, they removed her to the house, McKay assisting them to do so. In spite of everything that could be done by the neighbours, Emily died in about three hours. McKay stated that he would go and give himself up. However he went to Mrs. Irvine’s public house, and got drunk. He was found there by Senior-constable Steele about half-past 2 p.m., information having reached the Police Camp about 2 p.m. McKay was taken to a lock-up. An inquest was held on Monday on the body of the woman. The Jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against McKay; he was committed for trial at the Beechworth Circuit Court. Henry McKay was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.  The local newspaper report pointed to the fact that McKay, through his associations with characters such as Mrs. Herbert, Toke, Mitta Mitta Jack and Harry Power, knew a lot more about the unsolved murder of Soames Davis and some other crimes that had taken place in the district. It was thought that had McKay been sentenced to hang, that he may have given up his secrets!