ON THIS DAY – May 13, 1900



The trial of Patrick John O’Keefe, on a charge of the murder of his brother-in-law (Frederick Richard Cohen) during a domestic scuffle at Drouin on May 13, concluded at Sale court house. The jury, after deliberating for an hour and a half, returned a verdict of not guilty.

Patrick O’Keefe shot his brother-in-law, F. R. Cohen, the licensee of the Royal Hotel.  A dispute is said to have occurred between Cohen and his wife, and O’Keefe entered the room in response to the request of his sister. A violent quarrel is said to have followed, and O’Keefe is alleged to have seized a breechloader and deliberately aimed at Cohen, and the charged entered the deceased’s neck. O’Keefe subsequently gave himself up, saying, ”I’ve murdered my brother-in-law.” He was arrested on his own accusation. The accused is 21 years of age, and is described as being of a quiet, inoffensive disposition.

ON THIS DAY – May 3, 1898



The trial of Ah Wing for the murder of Quong See, with an axe, on May 3, takes place at Sale on Thursday next, and 15 European and Chinese witnesses left here this morning by special coach for Sale. Mr. Conant, retained by the Crown, will appear for Ah Wing. The prisoner, who attempted to commit suicide by jumping down a shaft 100 ft. deep, sustaining severe injuries, left last week. In charge of Sergeant Pfundt. The defence will be that the prisoner was insane at the time the murder was committed.

ON THIS DAY – February 17, 1947


At the Sale watchhouse James Napper, 24, was charged with the murder of his father, Harry Napper, 56, and his sister, Phyllis Napper, 20. Napper was questioned by the police after his discharge from the Sale Hospital, where he had been admitted for treatment following his taking an overdose of aspirin. At the inquest a neighbour told of quarrels between Napper senior and Napper junior during the last few days before the murder. This neighbour told how he followed the arrested man to Napper senior’s home after an argument about the administration of the farm, which they worked on shares.


ON THIS DAY – January 22, 1893

John Conder was charged with the murder of an Indian hawker, Kaizi Singh, near Buchan on the 22nd January 1893. Conder it is believed to have shoot Singh before dismembering him, before burning the body in his hut fire. After a retirement of about two hours the jury returned a verdict of guilty. The prisoner, on being asked if he had anything to say, said that he was as innocent as a child, and that no murder had been committed at his place. Sentence of death was then passed. The judge said that he entirely agreed with the verdict and he held out not the slightest hope of the prisoner escaping the gallows. Conder listened attentively to all that the judge said and exclaimed, “I am innocent, your Honour.” He was taken at once to the condemned cell in the Sale gaol, and will be removed to Melbourne in a few days.



ON THIS DAY – December 10, 1912

Murder Charge.

The trial of Walter James Anderson for the murder of Fred Flint, who met his death by poisoning at Merriman’s Creek, on Tuesday, December 10, took place on Wednesday at the Sale Supreme Court, before Mr Justice Hood. Mr Leon prosecuted for the Crown and Mr G. A. Maxwell, instructed by Mr Rice, appeared for accused. The following jury was empanelled — M, Taylor (foreman), A. Hogg, W. ; Elaton, T. J. Austin, J. M. Murphy, H. M’Lean, S. R. Lyndon, L. L. Atkinson, A. H. Latham, Clive Lett, F. Andrews, and J. Buchan. The evidence given at the inquest, with which our readers are conversant, was repeated. The jury retired to consider their verdict at 5.27 p.m., and six hours later, not having agreed, they were called into court. His Honour said he understood there was no chance of the jury agreeing. The Foreman : Not the slightest, your honour. His Honour then discharged the jury, remarking that they had no doubt considered the evidence carefully. Prisoner was then remanded for trial at Bairnsdale on 15th April.

ON THIS DAY – October 15, 1930

The districts of Sale and Stratford were disturbed and shocked on the afternoon of Thursday last, October 15th., at information that a highly respected lady of advanced years had been foully murdered at her home about two and a half miles from Stratford towards Sale. At 2 o’clock that afternoon Constable E. C. H. Taylor, of Stratford, telephoned to the Sale police that he had been informed by telephone from Mr Wrigglesworth, of ‘Avon Park’, Nuntin, that Mrs Edward Little, of Nuntin, had been hit on the head and killed and that the man alleged to have committed the deed, an employee of Mrs. Little, had taken a grey horse and buggy belonging to Mrs Little and was making towards Sale at a gallop.

Then with all possible haste the Constable secured a motor car and estimating that the act was that of a mad man he enlisted the assistance of Mr Walter Coloe and together they drove to the scene of the tragedy without delay. Here they found Mrs. Little in the stable which is situated about fifty yards from the house. She was dead. Each hand had been tied with a rope and the two bound together; the rope was then taken round her body and down between her legs and the ankles tied together. The end of her apron had been forced into her mouth. Realising the urgency of apprehending the perpetrator of this awful scene, Constable Taylor did not delay here, but before setting out in pursuit hailed a passing motor truck and sent Daphne O’Brien, a young girl who assisted Mrs. Little in her household work; who did not up to that point know that Mrs. Little was dead, home to her parents who lived some distance away. With the image of his vicious act behind him the alleged murderer having as already stated taken Mrs. Little’s buggy and mare, hastened to wards Sale at a gallop and trot alternately by the road that runs through Airly. Constable Taylor was informed so by some road workmen who had recognised Mrs. Little’s mare as she approached at a gallop. The driver, however, as he passed them steadied up and diverted their intention of stopping her with the remark “It’s all right!” and passed on.

On again at a gallop, the contents of the buggy, suitcase and clothing falling on the way the driver continued to Sale. His track led along the Nuntin Road, the Clydebank Road to Napper’s Corner and along the Princes Highway to Sale where the Constable lost the trail. Constable Taylor without delay came on to the Police Station at Sale and enlisted the assistance of the local staff and Constable Gray and Neil in a second motor car set out to scour the surrounding roads for the man, horse and buggy. They searched towards The Heart, towards Somerston Park and around the Sale Cemetery and were passing along Raglan Street when they observed a grey horse and buggy standing in Desailly Street near Mr. A. E. Brennan’s residence. The horse, a useful sort that gave evidence of the abundant pasture prevailing at present, was still with heaving sides from its unusual exertions. They took possession of the vehicle and from enquiries ascertained that it was the one they were looking for. There was no trace of the wanted man and the horse and vehicle were taken to the police station. In the buggy, they found a dirty dark navy coat and adhering to it were short grey hairs and also strands of long hairs similar to a woman’s. A soldier’s blue haversack, military coat, a travelling case and other wearing apparel belonging to the wanted man were also found in the buggy.

After bringing the horse and vehicle to the police station, Constables Gray and Neal continued their search for the man, and visited Wurruk, inspecting the surroundings of Pearson’s Bridge, but found no traces of him. Returning to Sale they searched the railway carriages that were being shunted on to the 4.30 train, which was about to leave for Melbourne, without result. They were then about to head out to Fulham, when they met Constable Taylor, who had also been scouring the town and outskirts. Constable Taylor informed them that he had been to Fulham without finding any trace, and the three Constables returned to the police station, where they learned that the wanted man had hired Mr. N. Buntine and his car. Herbert Donovan, the name of the youth suspected of having committed the murder, had evidently abandoned the horse and buggy where it was found in Desaily street, and, walking to Raymond street, had called at A. Glover and Sons’ business premises and inquired of Mrs. Glover if a service car were going to Melbourne that afternoon. On receiving a negative reply, he proceeded to the Sale Hotel corner, where Buntine’s car was standing. Donovan told Buntine his desire to make the trip straight away, and the latter drove home, and after attending to a few personal details, and informing his mother that he was going on the journey, left for Melbourne. The police, on learning that Donovan was heading for Melbourne, immediately got in touch by telephone with the Criminal Investigation Branch, Melbourne and a motor patrol was sent out to meet the car and the wanted man. Donovan was thought to be heading for his parents home, which is stated to be No. I Bowlingreen street. Windsor.



On This Day – September 30, 1906

At the Moe (Vic.) court house, before Mr. C. A. Creswell, P.M., the adjourned inquest on the bodies of Sophia Lumsden Mansfield, aged two years and a half, and Janet Cook Mansfield, aged 14 months, who were murdered by their mother, Agnes Mansfield, at Narracan East, on Sunday, 30th September was concluded.

Accused arrived at Moe in charge of Senior-constable Noble and a trained nurse from Sale, where she had been incarcerated pending the inquiry. The woman was met at the Moe railway station by her father, mother and husband, whom she failed to recognise. Her mother was so overcome in giving her evidence that she had to be removed from the court house. Dr. Phelps stated that the wounds inflicted on the little ones were alike, extending from the lower region of the ear to the centre of the throat, all the main vessels being severed. Death was due to syncope, caused by loss of blood. The mother of the accused woman, in giving evidence, stated that her daughter had been devotedly attached to her husband and children. Accused was committed for trial for feloniously and wilfully murdering her two children. She will be tried at the Sale sessions on 11th December. She was taken to the Melbourne Gaol by Constable Taylor and the nurse.

On This Day – September 20, 1916

At the Sale Supreme Court, Victoria, on Tuesday, last, Leslie Thompson, aged 14 years, pleaded guilty to a charge of having administered poison in a manner likely to endanger life at Combimbar on September 20. The facts were that Thompson was living with a family at Combimbar, with whom John Patrick Ward, the schoolmaster, a single man, was boarding, Ward was also postmaster.  A sum of money, about £1, belonging to the State School Patriotic Fund, was missed, and Thompson was suspected of the theft. Knowing that Ward suspected him, Thompson set about trying to remove Ward. He obtained a tin of strychnine, and put some in the milk and some in the teapot which was used by the family with whom Ward was boarding. Thompson, instead of drinking his tea, went outside and threw it away. The milk was thought to be bitter, and was thrown out. Ward was in the habit of taking breakfast later than the family, and porridge was set aside for him on the stove. Into this Thompson stirred some strychnine. Ward gave a spoonful to one of the children, who said that it tasted nasty,” and spat it out. Ward then tasted it an also noticed that it was unpleasant. The porridge was thrown out to some animals, and a dog and a pig , which ate some of it, died. Ward had a habit of sucking the end of his pen, and on this Thompson smeared strychnine, Ward put the pen into his mouth; and only saved his life by causing himself to vomit. His Honor Mr. Justice Hodges said it was a most diabolical attempt to take life. The schoolmaster was the one Thompson wished to hit, but he did not care how many suffered, or now many lives were endangered. If Thompson were a bit older there was not the slightest doubt that he would have been hanged. Thompson was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with hard labor

On This Day – September 7, 1915

Considerable interest was taken at Loch on September 7 in the investigation held before Dr. Cole, P.M., city coroner, at the Loch Courthouse, into the deaths of Elizabeth Dunbabin, spinster, who. was found dead in a paddock half a mile west of the Woodleigh railway station, on Tuesday, August 24, and Peter Allan, aged 33, married, a railway navvy, who poisoned himself in his tent at Woodleigh on the night of August 20. The postmortem examination on the body of Miss Dunbabin, who was 44 years of age, showed that she had been strangled by someone, who had attempted to criminally assault her. After Allan bad committed suicide evidence was procured that left practically no doubt that he was the murderer, and the crime had been committed while Miss Dunbabin, who had come from Melbourne by rail the previous night, was walking to her home at Grantville some four miles distant.

Superintendent Fowler of Sale looked after the. case on behalf of the police; Mr. Maxwell appeared on behalf of the relatives of Peter Allan, and addressed this, urging that it had not been shown that Allan committed the crime, whatever-ground there might be for suspicion.

Dr. Cole said that on certain points there was practically no difficulty, So far as Elizabeth Dunbabin was concerned, in finding that she was murdered, subsequent to an attempt to violate her. The attempt failed, and the reasons were plain, as the postmortem examination showed. There was no doubt that two struggles took place during the attempt at violation, and it was clear that the person who attempted the violation murdered the woman. He found in her case that she died from strangulation. As to Peter Allan, it was clear that he committed suicide. The question was, Was he the murderer? After reviewing the evidence, the Coroner said.that nothing further was required to sheet the crime home to Allan. He was the man. It was an atrocious crime, to be attributed to disease, and probably aggravated by drink.

On This Day – August 26, 1936

Murder Charge in Sale

Following the death of Mrs.W. W. Armstrong at the Gippsland Base Hospital on August 26, Dr. G. A. Haganaeur, of Sale visited Dr. Arthur Lanphier’s surgery at Rosedale and found Dr. Lanphier in a state of collapse.

Police look possession of a note addressed to the coroner, alleged to have been found in the surgery.

Dr. Lanphier was admitted to the Gippsland Hospital and on his discharge on the following day was arrested on a charge of having murdered Mrs Kathleen Patricia Armstrong. He was remanded to September 5. No bail was sought.

Reporting Mrs Armstrong’s death to the police, Dr. Haganauer said he would not give a certificate. He held a post mortem and the organs were removed to be sent to the Government Analyst.

Mrs Armstrong, wife of Walter William Armstrong, railway employee, had been ill for several weeks.

ON THIS DAY – July 20, 1915


At the Sale Police Court Samuel Smith was charged with murdering John Duffy at Genoa, Gippsland, on July 20. It was alleged that at a recruiting meeting a dispute arose, Duffy receiving a gunshot wound from which he died a few days later. Smith received 2 years in the Sale Gaol for manslaughter.

ON THIS DAY – July 19, 1948

John William McRae, 19, was sentenced to death in the Sale Supreme Court today for the murder of his sister, Hazel Mary McRae, Bairnsdale beauty queen, on July 19. The jury returned a verdict of guilty after a retirement lasting exactly an hour. Some of the large crowd, which included many young women In the public gallery, gasped as Sir Charles Lowe passed the death sentence. McRae’s mother, who had been present in the court during most of the trial, was not there when the jury returned. McRae, who was described as mentally backward, and frequently fidgeted with his hair and clothing daring the trial showed no emotion. Sir Charles Lowe asked him if he had anything to say before, being sentenced, and be replied: “No, sir.” Hazel McRae’s partly-clad body was found In the back yard of her Bairnsdale home on the morning of July 20 with her head bashed and a bullet in her head.