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We came across a reference to an unusual murder case the other day. And although it isn’t Australian, there is very definitely some Twisted History to it!

Pype Hayes Park in Erdington, Birmingham, England has been the scene of two murders – one in 1817 and another in 1974. Now you might not think that is particularly interesting but the parallels between these two cases is uncanny!

On May 27, 1817, the belle of the parish, Mary Ashford attended a dance at Tyburn House Inn with her friend Hannah Cox. The two young ladies left around midnight and would return to Hannah’s house.  Mary would leave and would not be seen alive again.  Her body would be discovered a few hours, where a worker discovered a puddle of blood and two sets of footprints leading to the muddy ditch.  Mary had been sexually assaulted and left to drown.

On May 27, 1974, childcare worker Barbara Forrest spent the night out dancing with her boyfriend at various pubs before he escorted her to the Colmore Circus bus stop.  It would be the last time anyone saw Barbara alive.  Her semi-naked body was found under bracken in a shallow ditch just 500 yards from her house on the edge of the park.  Barabara had been raped and strangled.

Two men would be arrested, one for each crime – Abraham Thornton in 1817 and Michael Thornton in 1974.  At their respective trials both men would be acquitted for lack of evidence.  In 1817, Abraham admitted to having sex with Mary but 3 witnesses gave him an alibi which saw the case dismissed.  In 1975, Michael was arrested after blood stains were found on his pants and an alibi proved false.  The case was dismissed.

Both cases remain officially unsolved to this day.

But there are a few interesting facts related to the 1817 murder. Firstly, Abraham Thornton’s boot print was matched to those leading to Mary’s body.  It was one of the earlist recorded cases of footwear identification.  Secondly, after the dismissal of the first trial, Mary’s brother William launched an appeal stating the evidence was overwhelming against Thornton.  Thornton was rearrested and claimed the right to trial by battle – a medieval law that had never been repealed by Parliament.  Ashford declined and Thornton was freed from custody.  The law was repealed in 1819.

But we will leave the final words to Mary Ashford’s family.  On her grave in Sutton Coldfield Churchyard is the following inscription:

 

“As a warning to female virtue and a humble monument to female chastity, this stone marks the grave of Mary Ashford who on the twentieth year of her age having incautiously repaired to a scene of amusement without proper protection, was brutally murdered on 27th May 1817”

ON THIS DAY – June 23, 1978

A dramatic, police-backed, television re-enactment of 12 year old Denise McGregor’s rape and murder prompted a huge community response in 1978 when it was shown during evening television news on Channel 0, now Channel 10, over three nights from the 23rd to the 25th of June. A scene depicting Denise played by Cathrine Lawson, being repeatedly beaten with a crowbar was cut after complaints to the Broadcasting Tribunal. The homicide squad, defended the graphic re-enactment, saying they wanted to move people enough to make them come forward with information. Sadly this is still an unsolved crime.

 

On This Day – June 19, 1980

Theresa Crowe, a vivacious young woman, had been found in her loft apartment, wrapped in a blanket, her body slashed from throat to groin. Despite the horrific wounds that prompted speculation that she had been killed in a satanic ritual, the cause of death was strangulation.

Malcolm Clarke knew her. They had met at a disco, Chaser’s, the year before.

A medical examiner found Crowe had been dead for 12 to 15 hours before she was found, on June 25, 1980. Clarke had an alibi for that period. She had in fact been dead five days, but the bitter winter cold and her unheated apartment had acted like a refrigerator, confusing the pathologist.

Clarke would finally confess to Theresa Crowe’s slaying and was sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter and a separate assault and rape.  Clarke would later be convicted of the murder of 6 year old Bonnie Clarke in 1982

ON THIS DAY – October 6, 1997

The Bega schoolgirl murders refers to the abduction, rape and murder of New South Wales schoolgirls, 14-year-old Lauren Margaret Barry and 16-year-old Nichole Emma Collins of Bega, New South Wales on 6 October 1997. The girls were abducted by Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Beckett, both from the New South Wales town of Yass, some 60 km from Canberra. The men subjected the girls to repeated rapes and sexual assaults on five or more separate occasions, while driving them to remote locations throughout rural New South Wales and Victoria. Over a twelve-hour period the girls had been driven several hundred kilometres from Bega, New South Wales, to Fiddler’s Green Creek in Victoria, where they were stabbed to death by Beckett under the order of Camilleri. The girls were reported missing on the day of their disappearance, and a massive manhunt consisting of family, friends, police and members of the Bega community combed the area but failed to locate any sign of the missing girls. Police investigations lasting several weeks eventually led to Camilleri and Beckett, career criminals with over 200 criminal convictions between them. Camilleri, who claimed he was innocent of any crime and insisted Beckett acted alone, was facing existing charges relating to other sexual assaults against minors at the time of the schoolgirl murders.

 

 

On this day …….. 23rd September 1869

Two convicts who were serving time for rape and murder, were discovered
attempting to make their escape from the Geelong gaol on the 23rd of September 1869. Both men shared a cell together and planned the escape to happen when they were both in the hard labour yard. Both men were court trying to scale the wall into Swanson st.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 11th August 1873

 

A shocking outrage was committed by the American black named James Wallace, at Mount Beckwith, on Friday last. Mrs Mary Cook, the wife of a contractor and farmer well known throughout the Talbot district, was at home with her three children on the morning of the 4th instant. Her husband was away on business, and there were no male or female servants about the house, which is situated some distance from any other farm or dwelling-place. Shortly after ten o’clock a man entered, and “stuck up'” the premises. He was disguised by a bran bag wrapped about his head, and a sack over his body, but his accent and his hands betrayed him to be a negro. He asked Mrs Cook for money, but she told him there was none in the house. He then took a double-barrelled gun from over the mantel piece, and having driven the children into an adjoining room and locked them in, the brutal ruffian returned with a butcher’s knife in his hand. With this murderous weapon at the throat of Mrs Cook he pushed the poor woman into her bedroom, thrust her upon the bed, and committed a capital offence. He then made off, and although information was given to the police, he made good his escape from the Talbot district— calling at Kangaroo Flat, and obtaining from Edwards’ store a supply of heavy shot, a flask of powder, and some caps. He was tracked towards Lexton, where his clue was lost.

The police all round the country were on the alert, and on Monday information was received that the “nigger” had been seen on the Ararat road, and that he had stuck up and robbed several men, taking £6 17s from one of his victims. He also fired at, with intent to kill, a Mr. Prentice, near the cutting at the Big Hill beyond Beaufort. Hearing of this, Senior- constable Woods, now stationed at Beaufort, but recently of the Ballarat force, disguised himself as a digger and went out in search of his man. About eight o’clock in the evening his errand proved successful, for he saw Wallace making some purchases in a store. Before the negro had time to use the butcher’s knife—which he still carried with him—Woods was upon him, and after a struggle, the negro was secured and held till another constable arrived, and the desperado was lodged in the Beaufort lock-up. He had planted the gun in the bush before he entered the store, but there is no doubt that the weapon will be found. It seems that the prisoner was only released from Pentridge on the 24th of June, where he had suffered two years imprisonment for larceny from a dwelling. The man he shot at (Mr. Prentice) and Mr. Kelly, landlord of the Telegraph Junction Hotel, were the principal witnesses against him at that time, when he swore that he would have Kelly’s life as soon as he came out. Since his arrest he says he was on his way to Kelly’s to carry his threat into execution, and he would have shot Prentice too if his aim had been sure. He said he would have stuck up the Pleasant, Creek coach on Monday, only he thought there was a trooper on the box.

The wretch seems perfectly indifferent to his fate, for, when rolling up his blankets in the lock-up yesterday morning, he jocosely said, “I feel very stiff, but I suppose it don’t matter; I’ll be stiffer very soon” —no doubt making a truthful prophecy of his approaching end by the hangman.

ON THIS DAY – June 23, 1978

A dramatic, police-backed, television re-enactment of 12 year old Denise McGregor’s rape and murder prompted a huge community response in 1978 when it was shown during evening television news on Channel 0, now Channel 10, over three nights from the 23rd to the 25th of June. A scene depicting Denise played by Cathrine Lawson, being repeatedly beaten with a crowbar was cut after complaints to the Broadcasting Tribunal. The homicide squad, defended the graphic re-enactment, saying they wanted to move people enough to make them come forward with information. Sadly this is still an unsolved crime.

 

On This Day – June 19, 1980

Theresa Crowe, a vivacious young woman, had been found in her loft apartment, wrapped in a blanket, her body slashed from throat to groin. Despite the horrific wounds that prompted speculation that she had been killed in a satanic ritual, the cause of death was strangulation.

Malcolm Clarke knew her. They had met at a disco, Chaser’s, the year before.

A medical examiner found Crowe had been dead for 12 to 15 hours before she was found, on June 25, 1980. Clarke had an alibi for that period. She had in fact been dead five days, but the bitter winter cold and her unheated apartment had acted like a refrigerator, confusing the pathologist.

Clarke would finally confess to Theresa Crowe’s slaying and was sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter and a separate assault and rape.  Clarke would later be convicted of the murder of 6 year old Bonnie Clarke in 1982

Executed On This Day…….22nd May 1876

John Duffus, age 50, was executed on this day in 1876 in Castlemaine for a charge of Rape. Mrs. Duffus, who was living isolated with her family, husband and three daughters at the Bendigo Creek, near Goornong, gave information to the police that her husband, John Duffus, had criminally assaulted his own daughter, Mary Ann, 11 years of age. Mounted Constable Clark arrested Duffus, who was formally placed in the dock at the City Police Court at Sandhurst (now Bendigo) and charged with carnally knowing a girl under 12 years of age, a capital crime. Duffus not only had assaulted his youngest daughter between the 27th January and the 17th February, but also had incestuous relationships with his elder daughters, at that time 22 and 15, who both became pregnant. The youngest daughter affirmed that her father had abused her for a period of over four years, which was confirmed by a medical officer who examined her. The isolated condition of the family and the thorough control which Duffus obviously exercised over all family members was the reason why his crimes had been detected earlier. John Duffus was convicted of rape at the Criminal Sessions of the Assize Court at Sandhurst, and was sentenced to death on 29 April 1876. He was hanged at Castlemaine Gaol on this in 1876, at 10am

 

By 1800s in Victoria there were 160 crimes that were punishable by death, here is a list of some crimes.

Accessory to homosexuality
Adultery
Armed robbery
Arson
Arson in royal dockyards
Assisting the enemy
Attempted suicide

Being illegally at large
Being in the company of Gypsies for one month
Blacking the face whilst committing a crime
Burglary

Capital murder
Carnal knowledge of a child
Cattle Stealing
Causing a fire or explosion in a naval dockyard
Causing a fire or explosion in a ship
Causing a fire or explosion in a magazine
Causing a fire or explosion in a warehouse
Child abuse
Course of robbery which involves the use of offensive weapons
Course burglary which involves the use of offensive weapons
Cutting down trees in an avenue of honour
Cutting down trees in a private orchard
Cutting down trees in public place.

Disguise one self whilst committing a crime

Espionage

Failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy.
Forgery

Giving false air signals
Grand larceny – theft of goods worth more than 12 pence

High Treason
Horse Stealing
Homosexuality
Homosexual behaviour

Impersonating an Egyptian
Incest
Incitement to mutiny
Infanticide

Kidnapping
Killing a person consider to be evil
Knowingly and intentionally killing another person

Manslaughter
Murder
Murder of a child
Murder in the course or furtherance of theft
Murder by shooting or causing an explosion
Murder while resisting arrest or during an escape
Murder of a police officer
Murder of a police officer during the course of his duties
Murder of a prison officer by a prisoner
Mutiny

Obstructing operations

Petty theft
Piracy with violence
Premeditated killing of another person
Prostitutes who is the daughter of priests

Rape
Rape of a child
Robbery

Sexual Assault
Serious misconduct in action
Shoplifting
Sodomy
Strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age

Treason
Turned a blind to homosexuality

ON THIS DAY – FEBRUARY 2, 1992

Notorious Bega schoolgirl killer Leslie Camilleri has been jailed for 28 years for the murder of 13-year-old Prue Bird in 1992. Victorian Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Curtain said she was satisfied Camilleri, 43, who is already serving two life sentences without parole for raping and murdering Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins in 1997, and two other men had abducted and murdered Prue. Justice Curtain said she had rejected Camilleri’s claims that he had acted alone. She said Camilleri and the two other men had abducted a defenceless 13-year-old from her home in circumstances that must have been terrifying for her. She said the evidence did not disclose how Prue was murdered but Camilleri’s conduct “bespeaks criminality of the highest order”. Camilleri had shown “a cruel and callous disregard for the sanctity of human life”. Justice Curtain did not believe Camilleri’s account that he alone had grabbed Prue as she walked along the street outside her Glenroy home on February 2, 1992. Camilleri claimed he put Prue face down on the back seat of his car and tied her arms and legs with electrical cables before driving around for several hours. Camilleri said when he later pulled over to the side of the road, he realised she was dead. Justice Curtain said Camilleri’s claim that the death was an accident was inconsistent with his guilty plea to murder but she accepted there was no evidence to prove Prue had been sexually assaulted before she was killed. Camilleri had claimed he dumped Prue’s body at a garbage tip in Frankston but police found nothing after digging up the site and a check of council records revealed it was not used as a tip at the time. Defence barrister John Kelly said Camilleri had tried his best to remember where he had left Prue’s body but his memory had been affected by drug taking at the time. Camilleri, who had been on parole after being jailed for assault in Queensland, said that as he was driving Prue’s body to the tip he also had in the car the dismembered body of a man he had murdered for abusing him as a child. Camilleri, a father of four who has converted to Islam while in jail, said he had placed Prue’s body, which he had wrapped in a quilt, inside a discarded wardrobe. Justice Curtain said she was satisfied, based on the evidence of a witness, that Camilleri and another man had been driving around the streets of Glenroy looking for a young girl. Another witness said she saw Prue being driven away by two men. A third man was seen nearby in a second car. The witness, who the judge said was credible, said Prue looked like she was waving and banging on the car’s window as if to say, “Help me, help me.” This witness did not go to the police because “you don’t think your friend is going to be kidnapped”. Police believe Prue was killed between the day she was abducted and nine days later when Camilleri was arrested interstate on outstanding warrants. Prue has not been seen or heard from since February 2, 1992 and her body has never been found. Outside court, Prue’s mother Jenny said she was totally exhausted after more than two decades of trying to find out what had happened to her daughter. “I’m glad of the outcome. “I knew he (Camilleri) didn’t act alone. I knew he was lying. This is the best I was hoping for that it was ruled he didn’t act alone.” Mrs Bird said she still prayed that one day Prue’s body would be found so she could lay her to rest. “I still don’t know what happened to Prue, I still haven’t got Prue. I hope one day that I get to know.”

 

 

On This Day – January 28, 2006

William John Watkins, murdered and raped two sisters Colleen (23) and Laura Irwin (21) in their Altona North home in 2006. Friends discovered their bodies lying side by side on Laura’s bed. In 2007, the coroner found that the girls neighbour William John Watkins had raped and stabbed them to death. Three days later Watkins was shot dead by WA police after being pulled over and an altercation occurred