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On This Day – December 2, 1911

 

An appalling domestic tragedy, resulting in the loss of five lives, was enacted at Kyabram early on Saturday morning, when Frank Cooling killed his wife and three of his children with a razor with which he had apparently been shaving, and committed suicide by cutting his throat. A son and a daughter, who were sleeping in the front bedroom, escaped the murderer’s fury. They awoke at the usual time, but waited for their mother to call them. As she did not come, they left their bed, and were confronted with the evidences of the murder. Beside themselves with terror, they ran, horror-stricken, to a neighbours house, and sobbed out the story of the tragedy.

The victims of the tragedy are Frank Cooling, aged 38 years, labourer, Sarah Ann Cooling, his wife, aged 28 years. Alfred John Cooling, son, aged 11 years, Henry James Cooling, son, aged two years, Alexander Francis Cooling, son, aged six weeks.  The two children who escaped are Chrissie aged six years, and Walter, aged 4. There was another child, Alice Mary, aged 9 years, who is in the Echuca Hospital. She had been a patient there for some time and it was the intention of Mr. and Mrs. Cooling to drive to Echuca on Saturday and bring her home. Arrangements had been made with Mr. Tonkin, a neighbour, to attend to the stock while they were away. The family lived in a four-roomed weatherboard cottage in Fernaughty street. They were well known in the district, where Cooling’s father carried on operations as a farmer.

ON THIS DAY – December 2, 1923

On the night of the 1st December, 1923, Kathleen Price and Charles Johnson arrived home about 11pm to the boarding house where they lived at 230 Lygon Street. The boarding house was run by Mrs Clara Aumont, and Charles, Kathleen and Doris, Kathleen’s 9 year old daughter, had been residing there for about a month as a family unit in 2 rooms upstairs. Johnson was drunk and had been witnessed by Mrs Aumont sniffing a substance, thought to be cocaine, earlier in the parlour room. Doris had been in her mother’s bed reading her school books when the couple arrived home. Kathleen ushered her into her own room with a kiss goodnight, where she fell asleep. Johnson was drunk and in a foul mood because Kathleen had refused to give him money earlier in the day.

At around 1.45am on Sunday morning, Doris was awakened by her mother’s screams. She went into her mother’s bedroom to find Johnson had Kathleen by the hair and a table knife to her throat, threatening to cut her. Doris was hit across the face by Johnson as she tried to intervene. Johnson threw away the first knife as it wasn’t sharp enough, and retrieved another from the drawer. Kathleen had rolled under the bed to get away from Johnson but was pulled out by her legs. Johnson threw Kathleen against the side of the bed, kicked her in the head, before cutting her throat with the sharp table knife and throwing her face down on the floor. Doris ran down and wakened Mrs Aumont who told her to go for the police. When Johnson came downstairs, Mrs Aumont asked him what he had done, to which he replied “She is as dead as Julius Ceaser, I will go to the gallows for her as I love that woman”.

When Senior-Constables Murray and Crawford arrived at 2.25am, Johnson met them at the front door. The police noticed his bloodstained hands and suit, and that he was drunk. He was asked what had happened, to which he replied, “come upstairs and see”. Johnson showed them where Kathleen’s lifeless body lay in a pool of blood on the floor of the front bedroom. When asked had he done it, Johnson replied “there she is, she is dead alright”. Senior-Constable Murray later described the room as “bespattered with blood and a desperate struggle having taken place”. The heel of Kathleen’s shoe was torn off and her false teeth were found 3 feet from the body.  Johnson was arrested and placed in the City Watch House while Kathleen’s body was removed to the morgue.

The post mortem reported that Kathleen Price was aged 30 years, “a well built and well nourished woman of 5 feet, 4 inches tall”. Blood was splattered from her neck to her feet. She had numerous cuts and bruises and her right thumb had been almost severed at the first joint. There were cuts on her chin, her elbow and right breast. Her lips were swollen and bruised, along with both eyes and her left cheek. A wound in Kathleen’s throat which measured 5 ½ inches in length and was gaping 2 ½ inches was her cause of death. The cut had severed many of the vessels and muscle in the neck and had opened her windpipe. Hair was found clutched in Kathleen’s hand.

Johnson was sent to trial at the Melbourne Supreme Court on the 15th February 1924, after the coroner found him responsible for Kathleen’s death on the 7th December 1923. Much of the defence rested on whether Johnson was of sound mind or not due to both cocaine use and alcohol consumption. The jury deliberated well into the night before reaching a guilty verdict at 10pm, with a recommendation for mercy. Johnson was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to life imprisonment without benefit of regulation or remission.

Initially incarcerated in Melbourne Gaol, he was later transferred to Geelong Gaol in January 1935 for treatment of hemiplegia and aterio sclerosis. It was attempted to have him released to his sister’s care in Coburg in early 1939 as Johnson had become bedridden and was not expected to live much longer. He died in Geelong Gaol in 1939.

On This Day – December 1, 1876

The adjourned inquest on the body of Ann Hastings, who was murdered near Mornington on Friday, December 1, was continued by Mr. Candler at Mornington yesterday. The husband of the deceased woman, William Hastings, was in custody on suspicion of being concerned in her death. Dr. Neild, who had made the post-mortem examination of the body, was examined, and give evidence concerning the injuries the deceased had received. He considered that death had resulted from the fracture of the skull, and in his opinion the injury had been caused by violence, probably with an instrument such as an axe or hammer. The son of the deceased, a boy of 14, was examined. He stated that on December 1 he and his brother went to Frankston to school, leaving their father and mother at home. They never saw their mother again alive. That night their father did not return home, and next day expressed wonder as to where his wife was. A daughter of deceased, a girl of 15, was also examined, and other evidence of a circumstantial character was taken. The case for the Crown was closed, and some witnesses were examined for the defence.   The prisoner elected to reserve his defence. The inquest lasted until considerably past midnight, and resulted in a verdict of wilful murder being returned against the prisoner.

On This Day – December 1, 1935

 

The little court house at Leongatha was crowded to-day, when the inquest on June Rushmer (6), whose bound and gagged body was found in the scrub on December 2, was resumed.

Arnold Sodeman, (36), who has been charged with murder, was present in court.

The Government Pathologist (Dr. Mollison) expressed the opinion that the girl’s death was due to suffocation. Her hands were tied behind her back with a piece of cloth, a blood-stained garment was stuffed in her mouth and a piece of torn frock tied around her neck.

The inquest is proceeding.

On This Day – November 30, 1900

A prisoner, named Percy Ramage who is serving along sentence for violently assaulting a policeman in Melbourne, is not making his lot any more pleasant by repeated breaches of gaol discipline. He has been frequently dealt with in the local gaol and elsewhere by the visiting justices, he was sentenced to six months in irons by the police magistrates for successive exhibitions of violence, during which he damaged Government property, and for creating disturbances. The sentence is concurrent with that which he is undergoing.

On This Day – November 29, 1946

A young returned soldier who is alleged to have chased and threatened to kill his former fiancee with a Japanese Samurai sword, was committed for trial in the Fourth District Court yesterday.  Charles Francis Wright (22) docker and painter. Spencer St., West Melbourne, was charged with having entered a dwelling by night with intent to commit a felony. Mr Addison, P.M., committed him to the Supreme Court on December 9 with bail of £50 and surety for the same amount.  Greta Marie Watkins, porteress, Parliament Pl., East Melbourne, to whom Wright was once engaged to be married, broke down while giving evidence and wept bitterly. She said that at 11.15 p.m. on November 29, as she was walking in Parliament Pl. Wright grabbed her by the arm and said, “I want to take you to a beautiful spot to see the Crucifix.” She refused to go with him. Wright said. “I will come back with a couple of hand grenades and I will kill you.” Later as she was sitting outside the guest house she saw Wright coming down the stairs with something in his hand. As he chased her she ran into Gisborne St. He yelled. “I’ll get you.” She ran about 200 yards before she heard someone call “stop” and a shot was fired. Wright pleaded not guilty and reserved his defence.

ON THIS DAY – November 29, 1930

Dr. David Rosenberg, a well-known practitioner at Richmond, appeared at the Criminal Court on Friday, before the Chief Justice, having been committed from the Coroner’s Court on a charge of manslaughter, arising out of the death of a child, 5 1/2 years of age, named Ruby May Clementine Kerrison, daughter of John Ernest Kerrison, of Tennyson street, Richmond, such death, it being alleged, having resulted from accused’s negligent driving of a motor car. Mr T. C. Brennan prosecuted for the Crown, and Mr. G. A. Maxwell and Mr C. H. A. Eager appeared for the defence, The case for the prosecution was that at 5.30 p.m. on November 29 accused drove his car under the railway viaduct near the Richmond railway station at a speed of about 15 miles per hour. The roadway beneath the bridge is in deep shadow and the Crown contended that such a speed was it was said accused maintained at that point was highly dangerous to pedestrians. In this instance the child, whose parents live close at hand, was crossing the roadway and was knocked down. Accused was hailed by persons in the vicinity, and promptly pulled up, and took the child into a nearby chemist’s shop where he examined her, and rendered what immediate aid was possible, afterwards removing: her to the Children’s Hospital, where she died shortly after admission.  Accused giving evidence on own behalf, denied that he was driving at the rate alleged, and asserted that the car was travelling at only a moderate pace. There was very little traffic, and when his car. entered the shadow of the bridge he was able, by reason of the bright daylight at the exit, to see that he had clear passage. He did not see the child, and was unaware that an accident had occurred until he was hailed by some four passengers. When he examined the child he found that she had sustained an injury to her face and head, and he found, also, that the lamp bracket on the fore part of car was bent, indicating that it was that portion by which she was struck, There were no injuries indicative of the child having been run over by the wheels. Thomas Lowe, 10 years of age, said he witnessed the accident. The car was travelling at a moderate speed. The child when he first saw her, was standing on the kerb. As the car approached, she started to cross the road, hesitated when in the centre, and was knocked down. The jury, after half an hour’s retirement, returned a verdict of not guilty, adding a rider to the effect that it was desirable that at such dangerous points warnings to motorists should be placed. Accused was discharged, and his Honor intimated that the rider would be brought to the notice of the proper authorities.

On This Day – November 28, 1898

CHILD MURDER

An inquest on the body of the five months old child, who died from a dose of spirits of salts, administered by its mother, Ellen McNabb, was formally opened today. The latter was present in custody, charged with murder.

ON THIS DAY……31st October 1889

Fredrick “Josh” Clark and Christopher “Christie” Farrell were both ex convicts transported from England to Van Demons Land. Once both men had received their tickets of leave they sailed to Victoria, arriving at the beginning of the Victorian gold rush. Both men found there way back to the lives thy once lived in England, preying upon those returning from the gold fields. By 1889 both Clark and Farrell were in there early to late 60’s and were serving 14 year sentences in Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne. Farrell was charged with the attempted murder of a police man during his arrest at Fitzroy in 1887 and Clark for being a systematic malingering. Due to the prisoners age and behaviour both prisoners were transferring Geelong Gaol. About midnight on Monday a warder named Cain commenced his shift at the Geelong gaol. At two minutes to 2am he hard a knocking, from cell 13 occupied by a prisoner named Frederick “Josh”Clarke. Cain unlocked the trap in the door and Clarke asked for a drink of water. The warder brought the water, and was handing it through the hole when he was seised from behind by Farrell. Clarke then came from his cell and seized Cain who saw that the other man was a prisoner named Christopher “Christie”Farrell who was holding a large stone in his hand. He threatened to beat out the warder’s brains if he uttered a single word. Clark had cleverly made a skeleton key, by melting coin into the shape of the key. Clark worked as a blacksmith in the confinements of the gaol. Once the warder opened the trapdoor and walked of to get a glass of water for the prisoner. Clark then simply reached his arm though the opening in the door and let him escape. Once free he quickly unlocked Farrell’s cell before returning to his own and waiting for Cain to return. The men gagged Cain and tied his hands and feet, and took off his boots and carried him to the cook’s house, and tied him to the table, and left him there. He was found just before 6am by the chief warder, who raised the alarm. The two prisoners had meanwhile scaled the gaol wall. Immediately the alarm was given the police who scoured the country in all directions without finding any trace of the escaped prisoners. Farrell was found first on the 16th of October and Clark four days later, both men were heading north to NSW. Warder Cain was confined to his bed, owing to the injuries he received. Four His throat was greatly Swollen, and he is only able to speak with difficulty. An inquiry into the escape was held on 31st October, 1889 which saw the governor of the gaol reprimanded and the warders on duty demoted – this despite Farrell’s saying that the warder Cain had fought like a lion and should not be punished for is failure to prevent their escape. In 1923 a large brass key which proved to be a master key from the era of Clark and Farrell’s escape was found when grounds west of the Geelong Supreme Court were being cleared. Its rough-cut appearance suggested that it was an illegal copy and it was widely believed that this was the key used by Clark and Farrell in their escape. A version of events described in the gaol display has an elderly Clark claiming that he threw the key into the grounds on his way to court however, it seems highly unlikely that having been found in possession of such a key, Clark would have been allowed to keep it. A report in the paper a few days after his arrest indicated that he was found with a skeleton key on his person which had been cut from a penny. At the time the authorities were quick to point out that the make of the key was not such as could have been made in the gaol. Clark died in Geelong Gaol on 4th August, 1904, at the age of 104. Clark had arrived in Tasmania in 1847 at the age of 18, he would go on to send a total of 85 years and 7 months in gaol, over half is life behind bars. Farrell also died in the gaol at the age of 70 on 1st September, 1895. Farrell was also transported to Tasmania, arriving in 1848 and by 1851 he was in Victoria” and joined up with the “Suffolk Gang” as the convict poet. The gang would held up several mail coaches and miners alike. Farrell spent 48 years in prisoned in Australia and 46 of those years were in iron changes.

 

ON THIS DAY……30th October 1922

Senior Warder Rowe, of the Geelong Gaol, who has been acting officer in charge for some time, he was promoted to the charge of the gaol at Sale. Senior Warder Rowe had a splendid record of service in Geelong.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 29th October 1870

The Geelong Gaol, which for some twelve months was used as an industrial school for girls, was re-converted to the purposes for which it was built, and the children in the school, were removed to Sunbury.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 28th October 1849

On the 28th of October 1849 a prisoner named James MacDonald, undergoing a sentence of eighteen months’ imprisonment for robbery at Geelong, attempted to escape from the gaol. He managed to scale the top of the northern wall by climbing the gallows and then let himself down by means of a rope made of his clothes and blanket, but the sentry private Bryan Kennedy greeted him at the bottom, and marched him at the point of the bayonet to the gaol gate, when he was delivered over to the warden. MacDonald was sentenced to seven days solitary confinement on bread and water.