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ON THIS DAY – July 12, 1950

A Criminal Court  jury found Winifred Therese Walford, 42, of Gordon Street, Deepdene, not guilty of the murder of her husband on July 12, on the ground of insanity. The Crown alleged, that she struck Keith Hartley Walford, 51, company secretary, on the head with an axe while he was reading a paper in the dining-room. The jury took less than half an hour to arrive at a verdict. Mr. Justice O’Bryan sentenced Mrs. Walford to custody at Pentridge Jail during the Governor’s pleasure.  A quiet plea of “not guilty” was all that Mrs. Walford said, throughout the trial. She was not called to give evidence. Three medical witnesses called by the Crown and the defence save evidence that she suffered from’ depressive psychosis following the birth of a child 12 years ago. In their opinion she would not have known that she was doing wrong when she struck her husband with the axe eight times, but she would have known the nature of the act. Detective J. Oakes said that soon after the husband’s death Mrs. Walford told him she must have been crazy. She said they had always been happy together and he was a loving man, who had been extremely considerate of her. Her doctors had told her that she must have more hospital treatment and this was worrying her.

On This Day…….8th of July 1934

George Fairburn, alias Fuller, 41, a Pentridge prisoner, escaped from the Creswell Sanatorium at Mont Park on the 11th of July 1934. The penal authorities, who have appealed for public co-operation in recapturing Fairburn, state that he had been placed in the Sanatorium because of illness. He was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, which in its present form in Fairbuir, is highly infective. The escape was certified as having but a short while to live, and, for this reason, it was not thought necessary to place a prison guard over him.

ON THIS YEAR – July 5, 1974

A young labourer who shot and killed a judo instructor at North Altona on July 5 last year was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter by a Criminal Court jury today. Mr Justice Crockett sentenced the labourer, Mr David Robert Elbourne, 24, of Morwell, to nine years’ jail with a non-parole minimum of six years. Mr Elbourne and Mr John Adam Adamic, 38, a Pentridge prisoner, were tried for the murder of Mr Andrew Donnelly, 39, of North Altona. Both pleaded not guilty. The jury acquitted Mr Adamic and found Mr Elbourne guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter. The Crown, had alleged that Mr Elbourne, while a prisoner in Pentridge, had been offered $5,000 by Mr Adamic to “get rid” of Mr Donnelly, who was having an affair with Mrs Adamic. Rifle for protection Mr Elbourne told the court that he had intended to tell Mr Donnelly to keep away from Mr Adamic’s family. He had taken the rifle in case Mr Donnelly attacked him. Mr Donnelly had turned on him and he had involuntarily fired. Mr Adamic said he had asked Mr Elbourne to speak to Mr Donnelly but had not suggested that he kill him. Both men denied that Mr Elboume had been offered $5,000 to “get rid” of Mr Donnelly.

ON THIS DAY – July 4, 1984

BARRY QUINN

In Pentridge Prison, Alex Tsakmakis shared a cell with double murderer Barry Robert Quinn. They had a tense relationship and Quinn would often bait his hot-headed inmate to cause trouble. One day he pushed Tsakmakis too far. Quinn brought up the memory of the rape of Tsakmakis’s girlfriend, taunting him about it. Tsakmakis retaliated the next day. It was about 9am on July 4, 1984 and Quinn was in Day Room 2 watching TV soap “The Restless Years”. Tsakmakis doused him with model glue and then flicked matches at Quinn as he tried to hide behind a table. A newspaper at the time reported that it was the fourth match Tsakmakis flicked that set Quinn alight. Tsakmakis stood in the cell doorway and watched him burn, refusing to allow prison officers to get in and help. The room filled with thick black smoke and Quinn ran around the room in agony. Photos presented to the court later showed black marks on the wall from where, in complete terror and desperation, he had collided into them. When prison officers finally reached Quinn they tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher, before using a blanket to smother the flames. Quinn refused to tell police who was responsible for the assault, in fear that his family would be targeted. He died at the Alfred hospital with burns to 85 per cent of his body. Tsakmakis’s actions that day gave him the nickname “the barbecue king”. Also in 1978, Tsakmakis murdered professional runner Bruce Lindsay Walker, allegedly over a dispute involving a vintage 1935 Plymouth car. The two had gone out on a fishing boat, but only Tsakmakis returned. Walker’s body washed up at Point Lonsdale soon after with his hands and feet bound with chicken wire.

Tskamakis was murdered in Pentridge on July 22, 1988 by Russell St bomber Craig Minogue, 26. He was hit up to seven times with a pillow case full of 5kg gym weights and suffered a fractured skull and brain damage. Photo of Barry Quinn.

 

On This Day ……. 20th June 1911

A vagrant from the Sale district who had been on remand at the Geelong Gaol for a week, appeared before the bench at the Police Court. Superintendent Charles stated that the man was in a shocking state of health, and suggested that he should be returned to gaol for twelve months so that he could be given a course of medical treatment. The bench considered nine months long enough, and the stranger will probably go to Pentridge for attention.

On This Day ……. 14th June 1901

Three prisoners arrived under escort from Pentridge at the Geelong gaol on this day in 1901, where they complete their term of imprisonment under which they were sentenced. One of tho number included John Sissons, who was recently sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for a disgusting offence in Kardinia Park. He suffered considerably from fits at Pentridge, and the penal authorities decided to transfer him to the local gaol. A man named Joseph Laithwaite, who was convicted at Colac on a charge of unlawful assault was also lodged within the confines of the local gaol.

ON THIS DAY – June 6, 1881

ROBERT ROHAN SMITH – BEECHWORTH GAOL

The Yalca Murder – EXECUTION OF ROHAN. 

THE ARGUS correspondent at Beechworth wired on Monday the following account of the execution of Robert Rohan for murder:—Robert Rohan, alias Smith, the murderer of John Shea, at Yalca, near Shepparton, on the 23rd January last, was executed in Beechworth gaol this morning by Upjohn at 10 o’clock. 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 cay, 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 clergyman, “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. After remaining the usual hour the body was cut down, and an inquest held upon it by Mr W. H. Forster, P.M., and a jury, who found a verdict of death by hanging. 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 ……. 1st June 1927

Clive Frankston, aged 36 years, was charged on the 1st of the June 1926, with larceny and sentenced to two years in Pentradge. On the 28th April 1927, the Penal Authorities at Pentridge decided to transfer Frankston and another prisoner, Henry Tacke, to the Geelong Gaol. The two prisoners were escorted by Senior Constable Matthews and Constable Springfield, took the two prisoners from Pentridge Gaol to the Flinders street station in a prison van. Frankston was placed in a carriage on the Geelong train at No. 1 platform, and the two police officers returned to the van to carry Tacke, who was disabled by an injured leg, to the train. Upon reaching the carriage they found that’ Frankston was gone. Frankston seeing an opportunity to escaped from the carriage while the police escort was carring Tacke who was disabled to the police van out side the station. He dashed from the carriage and rushing through the ticket barrier and disappeared among the crowds in the street. On the 14th of May 1927, following up inquiries detectives raid a house in Napior street, Fitzroy owned by Frankstons wife. Inside Frankston was recaptured, he offered no resistance, he was so weak from illness that he could scarcely stand. He told the police that he was glad to get back to gaol and that he was suffering badly from consumption and that that he believed that the sea air at Geelong would kill him. Frankston received an extra 6 months to his sentence.

ON THIS DAY……. 23rd May 1926

In his opening address at the inquest into the death of Lim Kwong, chinamen aged 62 years, at the Mansfield Court House, Inspector Koetsveld caused a stir. Kwong, who was a Chinese market gardener, was found murdered on this day in 1926. The inspector said that Phillip (Bert) Woods, who was in custody charged with murder, had stated while an inmate of Pentridge Prison that he intended to rob Kwong. Woods was alleged to have added that if the Chinese resisted he would “knock him.” Two prisoners from Pentridge were in court in custody giving evidence.

 

Executions in Australia were abolished by most of the states in the 1960s – 1980s, excepting Queensland who had abolished the death penalty in 1922.

Queensland’ final execution was that of Ernest Austin on 22nd September 1913. Austin was executed for the rape and murder of 12 year old Ivy Mitchell near Sanford.  He was hanged in Boggo Road Gaol in Brisbane.

NSW’s final execution was that of John Trevor Kelly  on 24th August 1939 at Long Bay Correctional Centre in Sydney.  Kelly was hanged for the murder of Marjorie Sommarlad at Hillcrest.

In Tasmania, the final execution took place in the Hobart Gaol on 14th February 1946.  It was that of Frederick Henry Thompson, a serial rapist and murderer for the murder of 8 year old Evelyn Maughan.

In the Northern Territory, the final execution was a double one at Darwin Gaol on 7th August 1952.  The men were John Novoty and Jerry Koci, aged 20 and 19 years respectively who were hanged for the murder of taxi driver, George Grantham.

Western Australia’s final execution was that of Eric Edgar Cooke on 26th October 1964 at Fremantle Prison.  He was hanged for the murder of 18 year old John Sturkey, but confessed to more murders before his execution.

In South Australia, the final execution took place on the 24th November 1964 at the Adelaide Gaol with the hanging of Glen Sabre Valance for the murder of Richard Strang.

The final execution in Australia was that of Ronald Ryan in Victoria on 3rd February 1967, who was hanged for the killing of a prison officer in an escape from Pentridge Prison.

EXECUTED THIS DAY……. 15th May 1885

Melbourne

William Barnes was executed at the Melbourne Gaol for the murder of Joseph Bragge Slack at South Melbourne on the 9th September last. Since his conviction the prisoner had been much depressed, and he showed signs of breaking down. He became subject to fits of stupor, but during the visits of the Rev. H. R. Scott, who attended him assiduously, he listened attentively, and showed signs of repentance. On the night before his execution he sank into an apathetic state of half consciousness, and it was feared that he would not be able to walk on to the drop. At half past 7am he refused breakfast, and he had to be supported when an hour later his irons were knocked off and he was conducted to the condemned cell near the gallows. Presently the Rev. H. F. Scott arrived at the gaol, and found him in a most abject condition, but he rallied under the reverend gentleman’s ministrations, and asked that his last words should be given as words of warning to all evil doers to give up their crimes before they were brought to die on the scaffold like “Billy Barnes.” He said gambling and women had been his ruin. He also told Mr. Scott that on the drop he would say he was guilty, but the clergyman said he need not do so, as he had already confessed. Just as the clock struck 10 the sheriff, Colonel Rede, accompanied by Dr. Shields, the medical officer of the gaol, went to the door of the condemned cell and demanded the body of the prisoner. The hangman, William Jones, pinioned Barnes, who was offered a cordial by Mr. P. Dwyer, governor of the gaol, but he declined it. He walked on to the scaffold with a feeble step, and looking very livid. In a low voice, when Colonel Rede asked him whether he had anything to say, he replied, “No.” While the rope was being adjusted, prisoner’s fingers twitched at it convulsively. The white cap was then drawn over his face and while the Rev. H. F. Scott was reading the service for the dead the signal was given, and Barnes died instantaneously, the sole sign of life after he fell being a single convulsive contraction of the legs. The usual inquest was held an hour after the execution, and a formal verdict returned. The crime for which Barnes suffered the last penalty of the law is doubtless familiar to our readers. His victim, Joseph Bragge Slack, an old man, lived by himself and had some jewellery in his keeping which had once belonged to a man named Thompson, who was a fellow prisoner of Barnes, while the latter was serving a sentence in Pentridge. On the 9th September, a few days after Barnes was liberated, Slack was found dead in his bed with his throat cut, and with a razor clasped in his left hand. The verdict of the jury at the inquest was one of suicide, but three months afterwards Barnes, who had returned to Pentridge on a charge of robbery, confessed that he had gone into Slack’s house to steal his jewellery, that he was surprised while under the bed waiting his opportunity, and that in a struggle with Slack he killed him, and made it appear that the unfortunate man had died by his own hand. Slack’s body was exhumed, when it was found that his neck was broken. Some of his property was traced to the possession of Barnes, and a complete chain of evidence, resulting in his conviction, was established by the police. At the trial Barnes pleaded not guilty, but after his condemnation he repeated his confession and asked for mercy on the ground that the murder would never have been discovered if he had not voluntarily brought it to light. The Executive, however decided that the law should take its course. After this decision His Excellency the Governor was addressed by the prisoner’s solicitors in favour of a commutation of sentence, on the ground, among others, that the murder was unpremeditated, and was really the result of an accident while Barnes was trying to make his escape from Slack’s grasp, but Sir Henry Loch replied that the petition did not raise any considerations which had not previously received full attention, and no respite was granted.

EXECUTED THIS DAY……. 14th May 1950

Mr. Bourke city coroner, found Morris Sutton Ramsden Brewer, 23, clerk, of Asling st., East Brighton, had strangled Carmen Walters, his ex-fiancee. He committed Brewer for trial for murder. Carmen Walters, 19, railway porter, of Glencairn Av, East Brighton, was found dead near her home on May 14. Brewer pleaded not guilty, and reserved his defence. He did not seek bail. In a statement read to the Court by Senior-Detective Currer, Brewer was alleged to have described how he had strangled the girl, and then tried to commit suicide. William Barnes was executed at the Melbourne Gaol for the murder of Joseph Bragge Slack at South Melbourne on the 9th September last. Since his conviction the prisoner had been much depressed, and he showed signs of breaking down. He became subject to fits of stupor, but during the visits of the Rev. H. R. Scott, who attended him assiduously, he listened attentively, and showed signs of repentance. He sank into an apathetic state of half consciousness, and it was feared that he would not be able to walk on to the drop. At half past 7 he refused breakfast, and he had to be supported when an hour later his irons were knocked off and he was conducted to the condemned cell near the gallows. Presently the Rev. H. F. Scott arrived at the gaol, and found him in a most abject condition, but he rallied under the reverend gentleman’s ministrations, and asked that his last words should be given as words of warning to all evil doers to give up their crimes before they were brought to die on the scaffold like “Billy Barnes.” He said gambling and women had been his ruin. He also told Mr. Scott that on the drop he would say he was guilty, but the clergyman said he need not do so, as he had already confessed. Just as the clock struck 10 the sheriff, Colonel Rede, accompanied by Dr. Shields, the medical officer of the gaol, went to the door of the condemned cell and demanded the body of the prisoner. The hangman, William Jones, pinioned Barnes, who was offered a cordial by Mr. P. Dwyer, governor of the gaol, but he declined it. He walked on to the scaffold with a feeble step, and looking very livid. In a low voice, when Colonel Rede asked him whether he had anything to say, he replied, “No.” While the rope was being adjusted, prisoner’s fingers twitched at it convulsively. The white cap was then drawn over his face and while the Rev. H. F. Scott was reading the service for the dead the signal was given, and Barnes died instantaneously, the sole sign of life after he fell being a single convulsive contraction of the legs. The usual inquest was held an hour after the execution, and a formal verdict returned.