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 5, 1894 

A short account was given last week of the supposed murder of a young woman named Minnie Hicks, aged 23, by Frederick Jordan, negro wharf labourer. She kept house for Jordan and Albert Johnson, at Sydney-place, and was last seen alive at the house occupied by a glassblower named Charles Turnbull and his mistress. This was at midnight on July 5. Next morning Jordan reported to the police that he had found her dead at 7 a.m. in the room he himself slept in, and he had no knowledge how she arrived there. Turnbull, however, put a different complexion on the case, stating that Jordan came to his place after the woman, found her tipsy, began beating her, and when remonstrated with dragged her off home. An examination of the body showed that she had died from the effects of severe beating about the head and body. It has since transpired that Minnie Hicks was married in 1888, at the age of 17, to a man now living at St. Kilda. They parted about 1890, through the wife taking to drink, and she left their one child with the father. About two years ago she took up with Jordan, who was often cruel to her. On the night preceding the fatality Jordan was hunting round the hotels for her, in the company of Charles Champ, wharf labourer, until nearly midnight. They then separated at Champ’s house, and Jordon went off to Turnbulls where he found the woman. The police in examining the premises discovered in the same room as the body a pair of trousers which were blood stained and torn. At the inquest on Tuesday Johnson gave evidence. All he knew was that on Thursday, July 5, Jordan told him not to give the woman money, as she would be sure to spend it on drink. In the afternoon she got 6s. from him to buy provisions for tea and came back with them, after which she left. Other witnesses showed that Jordan went to several public houses looking for the girl, who had got her friends to promise not to tell-of her whereabouts. Jordan ultimately found her at midnight and dragged her home. The man she married six years ago, Henry Crabtree, labourer, St. Kilda, said that she left him in November, 1891, having become a confirmed drunkard. He was a teetotaller. It appears that after being some time with Jordan, Minnie Hicks had shown a liking for another negro named Adam, and stayed with him. The society of the locality was proved to be anything but nice, and one or two of the women called owned to having been drinking with Minnie. The jury found that Jordan had committed wilful murder.

ON THIS DAY – July 2, 1938

After two weeks of investigation following a tragedy outside the St. Kilda railway station on July 2, when a woman was killed, and two other persons were injured, a man was arrested early this morning and charged with murder. The man was Francis Daniel Egan, aged 36 years, car salesman, of Hennessy avenue, Elwood. Egan was charged at the South Melbourne watch-house with having murdered Mrs. Kathleen Mary Shaw, aged 55 years, of St. Kilda road, who was the woman killed when a utility truck struck three people at a tram stop In Fitzroy street, St. Kilda, at 11 p.m. on July 2.  Egan will be presented at the South Melbourne Court this morning for remand.

ON THIS DAY – June 30, 1906

On Saturday, Detective Burvett took charge of the investigations into the murder of Patrick O’Rourke who died in the Alfred Hospital on June 30 from injuries received at St Kilda on the night of June 23. Burvett made three visits to St Kilda on Saturday, and carefully went over the supposed scene of the murder. Then he inspected the dead mans clothing but failed to find anything that would serve as material for any theory as to the murder

O’Rourke when he died had a pronounced black eye. This has been regarded as showing that he was attacked and struck in the eye before receiving the injury that proved fatal. The blow in the eye has also been advanced to account for O’Rourke’s hat having been off when his skull was fractured. Burvett has, however, proved that the black eye was not the result of a separate blow. The fracture of the skull had been very slight and was somewhat below the cut on forehead. The ecchymosis of the eye was the result of this fracture, and did not develop for some days. When O’Rourke was admitted to the hospital no signs of a blow on the eye were discernible.

Detective Sexton and Plain-clothes Constable White are assisting Detective Burvett in his inquiries but very little can be done until the Government analyst has given his opinion with regard to the supposed blood-stained board and O’Rourke’s clothes all of which have been submitted to him.

ON THIS DAY – June 27, 1979

City Court was told that a man alleged to have murdered Miss Lisa Maude Brearley at Olinda on August 8 had been on remand on another murder charge at the time. The prosecutor, Inspector D. Scott, said this in an application for the remand of Mr Robert Lindsay Wright, 24, who was charged with having murdered Miss Brearley. He also has been charged with having murdered Wayne Keith Smith at St Kilda on June 27. No pleas were entered and Mr Duffy, SM, allowed the police application and remanded Mr Wright in custody until September 26.


ON THIS DAY – June 24, 1933


At the inquest yesterday on a newly born male child found on the St. Kilda beach on June 24, witnesses gave evidence that the child was born to Irene Williams, 21, single, waitress, on June 23, and that on June 25 the mother was admitted to the Women’s Hospital. In statements to the police Miss Williams is alleged to have said the child was still-born. She threw the body from the jetty into the bay. She also stated that on the day prior to the birth she had fallen downstairs. The Government Pathologist, Dr. Mollison, said the child died from injuries to the head, which included a fracture of the skull. The Coroner, Mr. D. Grand, found the child died from Injuries inflicted by Miss Williams, who was committed for trial.

ON THIS DAY – May 24, 1931


When Henry Sheldon, 21, and William Wallace, 21, appeared before the City Court 0n a charges of murder, Detective Frank Lyon alleged that they, in company with another man, took William Richard Doig, 36, commission agent, of Albert Park, to Seaford 0n May 24, and shot him fatally.

When Mr. P. J. Ridgeway (for Wallace) and Mr. H. Minogue (for Sheldon) asked for bail for their clients, Mr Freeman, P.M., said that he would not fix bail in view of the grave evidence. “I think it is undoubtedly a case that should be mentioned in the Supreme Court,” he added. A remand to June 12 was granted. “On May 25, in company with other detectives, I arrested Sheldon and Wallace and charged them with having shot Doig with intent to murder him,” said Lyon. ” It is alleged that they and another man, on the night of May 24, drove to a reserve near the St. Kilda cricket ground. There, they picked up Doig and drove him to Seaford,” continued Lyon. “On the way an argument occurred, and, when the car got to Seaford Doig was taken out. He was held by Wallace and the other man, while Sheldon shot him. Doig died in hospital 0n May 26. On the morning of May 25 his dying depositions were taken in the presence of Sheldon, and on the same afternoon they were taken in the presence of Wallace. We have other evidence to offer.” In reply to Mr. Ridgeway, Lyon said he did not know when the inquest would be held. The police would endeavor to hold it as soon as possible.  The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Division 4 was an Australian television police drama series made by Crawford Productions for the Nine Network airing on the 5th of March 1969 and ran till 1975 for 301 episodes. The series was one of the first dramas to follow up on the enormous success of the earlier crime show Homicide and dealt with the wide variety of cases dealt with by police in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Yarra Central (modelled on St Kilda). The series was both popular – winning 10 Logie Awards, including two Gold Logie awards (for Australia’s most popular entertainer) for Gerard Kennedy – and critically acclaimed, winning a number of Penguin and Awgie awards for its scripts and actors. After Kennedy decided to leave Division 4, the Nine Network summarily cancelled the series; only one episode was made with his replacement John Stanton. Yarra Central Police Station was filmed on location at 95 Montague St, South Melbourne. The building has since been demolished.

ON THIS DAY – May 10, 1915


“Misadventure” was the finding of Dr. R. H. Cole, the Coroner, after holding an inquiry into the death of Samuel Duband, 79, tailor, of Longmore street, St. Kilda. who fell down a lift well at Newman’s Buildings, 25 Swanston street, on May 10.

The evidence showed that four employees of Joseph Newan Duband, by whom Samuel Duband was also employed, had made use of the goods lift at the building, and had failed to close the door of the lift well, although it was set forth in notices that the door should be closed, and that not more than two persons should ride in tho lift at once. Duband had evidentily stepped through the open door of the well on the fourth floor, and his body was found on the roof of the lift at the ground floor.

The Coroner said that the young men employed by Duband had used the lift illegally. The case came very close to manslaughter, but not quite close enough. if they had been in charge of the lift there might have been a committal.

On This Day……… 10th April 1912

Kew Lunatic Asylum

On this day in 1912, Dennis Birmingham escaped from the Kew Lunatic Asylum. He was a strongly built man, about 6ft. in height, and 41 years of age. Birmingham was found in St. Kilda.



ON THIS DAY …….. 24th March 1890


Henry Bennett was charged with the murder of his uncle, George Thomas May, at St. Kilda, on this day in 1890. A plea of insanity was advanced by the defence. Bennett, who is a youth, shot May alleging that he had mistreated his mother, Mrs. Bennett.


ON THIS DAY ……… 17th March 1953

After being sentenced to death for murder in the Criminal Court on this day in 1953, James Robert Walker age 43, told Justice Duffy that he wished to be hanged. However, with a Labour Government in office the sentence will be commuted. Walker was found guilty of having murdered Thomas George Fogarty aged 32, by shooting him at St. Kilda on the 17th of March. After Justice Duffy had passed the death sentence, Walker said “Thank you, sir. I have been found guilty of a viscous crime. I understand this will go to Cabinet. I ask you if you will make a recommendation to Cabinet that it will carry the sentence out.”