The Bag Man
Barlow the Embezzler
Bringing Home the Bacon
Catnapping in Carlton
Coining in Carlton
A Costly Bunch of Flowers
A Fiend in Petticoats
A Foolhardy Act?
High Kicking in Carlton
Last Drinks for Squizzy
Murder at Mallow House
The Nagging Wife
Murder at Mallow House
The Nagging Wife
A Passion for Silk
The Penny Dreadful
The Price of a Newspaper
A Rogue and Vagabond
A Rude Awakening
Shooting in Shakespeare Street
Snowdropping in Carlton
A Sweet-Toothed Robbery in North Carlton
What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?
The Shooting Scene
24 Shakespeare Street North Carlton
Scene of Alleged Knife Attack
18 Murchison Street Carlton
Notes and References:
1 Biographical information sourced from birth, death and marriage records, and electoral rolls.
2 The Age, 9 January 1909, p. 20
3 War Service Record of George Quigley, No. 3911 (NAA: B2455)
4 War Pension Investigation, 18 March 1932 (NAA:B741, V/9617)
5The Age, 7 June 1933, p. 13
6 Coincidentally, George's wife Elsie Quigley was involved in a domestic shooting incident in Fitzroy in 1920. The charges were later dropped.
7 Criminal Presentations (VPRS 17020/P1/49)
8 There was a charge against George Quigley of "illegally using a horse and gig" in Ballarat in March 1922, but his identity was in question because this "George Quigley" was also known as "George O'Keefe."
9 The Argus, 28 April 1922, p. 9
10 The Age, 18 May 1922, p. 6
11 Prisoner No. 36181, Victoria Prison Register, vol. 71, p. 292
12 The Age, 16 July, 1924, p. 11
13 The Argus, 16 July 1924, p. 17
14 Criminal Presentations (VPRS 17020/P1/60)
15 The Age, 17 April 1926, p. 13
16 Record (Emerald Hill), 23 June 1928, p. 3
17 High Street Carlton, which no longer exists, ran for one block between Lygon and Drummond Streets. Properties in High Street were compulsorily acquired by the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1958 and redeveloped as high rise public housing in the 1960s.
18 The Argus, 29 June 1946, p. 3
19 The Age, 9 June 1947, p. 10. The death notice appeared in the "On Active Service" column of the newspaper, but no record of George Quigley's service beyond his discharge from the AIF in 1919 has been located.
Shooting in Shakespeare Street
15 April 1922
On the evening of 15 April 1922, a shot rang out in Shakespeare Street, North Carlton. Mary Skelton felt a sharp pain in her arm and saw the blood. She had been shot and the man who shot her was her lover George Quigley.
Mary Amelia Skelton née Grant was a married woman, living with her husband William Skelton at 24 Shakespeare Street, North Carlton. Mary and William were married in 1909 and they lived in Clifton Hill and High Street, Carlton, before moving to the two storey rental property in Shakespeare Street. William was a labourer and his work sometimes required him to live away from home.1
George Quigley, also married, was a wharf labourer and returned World War 1 serviceman. He married Elsie May Davey in 1908, but within 3 months he was charged with unlawfully deserting his teenage wife, as he had neither a job nor the means of supporting her. At the time of his enlistment on 31 July 1915, George was 25 years old, working as a wharf labourer and living in Market Street, Fitzroy. He saw active service in France and was discharged from the AIF on 14 July 1919.2,3
It is not clear whether George returned to his wife Elsie after his discharge. When Elsie was investigated for pension fraud in 1932, she was reported as stating that her husband had gone to war and "no one knows where he is or what has become of him." Elsie was subsequently found guilty of claiming a war pension under false pretences. A year later in June 1933, when she was living in Little Palmerston Street, Carlton, she pleaded guilty to a charge of shoplifting a coat from Holders Pty. Ltd. in the city. Elsie was sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment and her co-accused, niece May Davey, was given a suspended sentence of 14 days' on her entering into a good behaviour bond for two years.4,5,6
As a wharf labourer, George worked in an environment where there was ample opportunity for pilfering and other crimes. He was charged with assault in May 1920, for which he received a fine of £5 or 14 days' imprisonment. In October 1921, he was charged with stealing two dozen table forks, the property of J. and A. Boyes ironmongery store in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. He pleaded not guilty in the General Sessions Court of Melbourne in November 1921 and was given a suspended sentence of six months' "on his own bond of £50 to be of good behaviour for two years."7,8
So far, George had avoided a custodial sentence, but this changed with the more serious charge of attempted murder in 1922. The evidence presented in court also sheds some light on George's personal life in the immediate post-war years. Mary Skelton stated that she had known George Quigley for 4 years and had lived with him for 18 months. She had left him about 5 months previously to live with her sister in Drummond Street, Carlton, then she returned to her husband William Skelton. On that April evening, George Quigley visited the Skelton house in Shakespeare Street, in the hope of persuading Mary to return to him. She would not allow him to enter the house and, in the ensuing struggle, a shot was fired and Mary was wounded in the arm, though not seriously. She was taken by her sister to Melbourne Hospital, where she was treated as an outpatient.9
Quigley pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempted murder and was committed for trial at the Supreme Court of Melbourne on 15 May 1922. In his defence, he claimed that he had not intended to shoot Mrs Skelton and that the revolver had gone off accidently. John Kennedy, a witness who lived nearby in Lygon Street, reported hearing a shot and the voice of a man saying, "There's no harm done. It's a pity it didn't settle you." Considering the evidence, the jury was on George's side, possibly swayed by the romantic nature of the crime, and returned a guilty verdict of unlawfully wounding without intent to do grevious bodily harm. George Quigley was sentenced to 12 months' gaol and he served an additional 6 months' sentence for breaking his previous good behaviour bond.10,11
George was released from gaol on 25 August 1923 and, less than a year later, he was facing another assault charge involving Mary Skelton. They were living together at 18 Murchison Street, Carlton and, on the evening of 4 July 1924, Mary alleged that George had thrown a knife at her. There was no doubt that Mary was injured - she was bleeding from a head wound that required hospital treatment - but the circumstances of the alleged assault were questionable. George refuted her allegation, claiming that Mary had attacked him and he had pushed her away and her injury had resulted from a fall. When the case was heard in Carlton Court on 15 July, Mary admitted to having had been drinking on day of the assault. George was sentenced to one month's gaol and he was released on 14 August 1924.12,13
The last stint in gaol was not quite the end of George's criminal history, nor was it the end of his domestic strife with Mary. In April 1926 he was charged with receiving stolen goods, a case and a number of magnetos, being the property of the Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners. Quigley and his co-accused Frank Currie pleaded not guilty in the General Sessions Court of Melbourne and both were discharged. George was living in Cobden Street, South Melbourne, at the time and Mary was at the same address. In June 1928, Mary Skelton laid a charge of assault against George Quigley, but she failed to appear in South Melbourne Court. The chairman made a comment that "It's only history repeating itself," while the sergeant said that the man and woman had a brawl, and the woman "made a convenience of the police." Perhaps this was the story of George and Mary's life together.14,15,16
George and Mary moved back to Carlton, living at 14 High Street, from 1930 onwards. Mary suffered head injuries in a fall from a tram in St Kilda Road in June 1946 and she was treated in Prince Henry's Hospital. The following year, on 6 June 1947, George Quigley died at Heidelberg Military Hospital, aged 58 years. He was buried in the Warringal Cemetery, Heidelberg. His death notice, published in The Age on 9 June 1947, refers to George as "dearly beloved friend of Mary Skelton". Mary remained in High Street, Carlton until the 1950s. She died in 1963, aged 78 years.17,18,19
More information on George Quigley
50 Dorrit Street Carlton
Notes and References:
1 Jean Lee : The last woman hanged in Australia, Random House, 1997
2 The murder, subsequent trial and judicial hangings were widely reported in newspapers from November 1949 to February 1951
3 Death Certificate of Jean Lee, No. 1831, 1951
4 Death Certificate of William George Kent, No. 9339, 1949
5 Probate File of William George Kent, No. 417/766, 1950 (VPRS 28)
6 The Argus, 28 August 1858, p. 8
7 Building information sourced from Melbourne City Council Rate Books and Valuation Field Books for Smith Ward
8 Property ownership information sourced from land title files
9 The Courier-Mail, 9 November, 1949, p. 5
10 Melbourne Times, 24 November 1976, p. 1
November 7 marks the anniversary of the death of William George "Pop" Kent, whose brutal murder in 1949 shocked the nation and divided public opinion on the death penalty. Pop Kent, a 73 year old retired hotelkeeper originally from the Western District of Victoria, operated an apartment house known as "Mallow House" at 50 Dorrit Street Carlton. A sometime SP bookie, Kent was rumoured to have a substantial amount of money, and this may have made him an obvious target for robbery. On that fateful day in November 1949, Kent met up with Robert Clayton, his partner Jean Lee and Norman Andrews at the University Hotel nearby in Lygon Street. The three convicted criminals, recently arrived from Sydney for the Spring Racing Carnival, had already come to the notice of police for robbing or extorting money from unsuspecting men.
Enjoying the company of his new friends and no doubt flattered by the attentions of the good-looking Jean Lee, Pop Kent invited them back to his room at Mallow House for drinks after hotel closing time. What began as a sociable round of drinks ended a few hours later with the bashing, torture and strangulation of Pop Kent. Local residents became concerned for Kent's welfare and called the police who, on entering the room, found Kent dead and the room ransacked. Jean Lee's good looks, which she used to her advantage when picking up men, proved to be her downfall. Jean and her partners-in-crime had been seen in company with Kent at the University Hotel and Mallow House, and witness descriptions led police to a city hotel, where the three were arrested and charged with murder the following day.1
At the trial in March 1950, amidst dramatic courtroom scenes, all three were found collectively guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. The verdict was overturned by appeal in May 1950, on the grounds that statements of the accused were improperly obtained by police, and a retrial was ordered. But this ruling was subsequently overturned by the High Court and the original guilty verdict was reinstated. Nine months later on Monday 19 February 1951, Jean Lee, Robert Clayton and Norman Andrews were executed by hanging at Pentridge Prison in Coburg. In keeping with prison practice, their bodies were buried in the prison grounds.2
Jean Lee made her mark in history as the last woman hanged in Australia, and the only woman hanged in Victoria in the 20th century. She was survived by her daughter Jillian, living in New South Wales with her grandmother. William George Kent was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery Carlton on 9 November 1949, two days after his murder. His estate was valued for probate purposes at £274, 6 shillings and 5 pence, £100 of which was goodwill of his apartment house business, and he had nil real estate holdings at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife Florence and eight of his nine children.3,4,5
The murder of Pop Kent marked a low point in the history of Dorrit Street, but it was not always that way. Dorrit Street, sometimes known as Little Dorrit Street, began with grand aspirations in 1858 when The Argus advertised for sale "the finest sites for residences around Melbourne". In 1860 Melbourne City Council recorded 10 rateable properties in Dorrit Street, mostly one- and two-room wood structures, and within the next few years brick construction took over. Mallow House began its life as a 3 room brick cottage owned by William Lynch in the mid 1860s and was later rebuilt, or substantially altered, as a two-storey, six room house in 1889/90. In 1914, when the house was still relatively new, it was bought by Italian immigrant Rocco Gagliardi and was the Gagliardi family home for many years. As an apartment house in the 1940s, it had become run down and newspaper reports painted a bleak picture of Mallow House as "an old two-storey house", "indescribably filthy" and "infested with fleas".6,7,8,9
In the 1950s, Dorrit Street was under threat from redevelopment of the Royal Women's Hospital, expanding to meet the growing demands of the post-World War 2 "Baby Boom". The hospital began acquiring properties in the late 1950s and by the early 1970s owned the entire west side of the street, earmarked for demolition, and several houses on the east side. But Mallow House was spared and today stands proud and tall, a lasting memory of the events of 7 November 1949.10
The Beaufort (Former Clare Castle Hotel)
421 Rathdowne Street Carlton
Image Source: Chronicle (Adelaide), 5 November 1927
50 Barkly Street Carlton
"A sombre bluestone house"
Stone Lintel from Barkly Terrace
A silent witness to the events of 27 October 1927
Right of Way, 33 Macarthur Place Carlton
A Belgian revolver was found near the side fence
12 Murchison Street Carlton
Home of hire-car driver John Hall in 1927
27 October 1927
Last Drinks for Squizzy Taylor
The Clare Castle Hotel, renamed The Beaufort in 2012, has special significance as a hotel visited by notorious gangster Squizzy Taylor on his last fateful journey of 27 October 1927. The hotel, on the corner of Rathdowne and Palmerston streets, dates back to 1866 and was first licensed to John Ryan. The building later underwent extensive renovations, which were completed in September 1927, a few weeks before Squizzy's final visit. 1,2,3
Squizzy's last journey began at the Bookmakers Club in Lonsdale Street, where he and his two associates hired a car driven by John William Hall. Following Squizzy's directions, Hall proceeded along Exhibition and Rathdowne Streets to Carlton. Contemporary newspaper accounts differ in the location of hotels visited by Squizzy and his associates - Rathdowne, Drummond, Elgin or Lygon Street - and many other aspects of the case. According to Hall's statement at the inquest, the three men went into a hotel on the corner of Rathdowne and Palmerston Streets, and two other unnamed hotels in Drummond Street. 4,5,6
After leaving the hotels, they went to Barkly Street and Squizzy directed Hall to park on the right hand side of the street, near the intersection with Nicholson Street. And it was at Barkly Terrace, on the northern side of the street, where Squizzy was fatally wounded in a shootout with his rival John Daniel 'Snowy' Cutmore. No. 50 Barkly Street, one of five cottages comprising Barkly Terrace, was a boarding house operated by Snowy's mother Bridget Delia Cutmore. Snowy Cutmore was pronounced dead at the scene by local doctor Alan McCutcheon, from 88 Rathdowne Street, while Mrs Cutmore was wounded in the shoulder, but she survived. Squizzy, driven by John Hall, made it to St Vincent's Hospital in Fitzroy, where he died within half an hour of admission.
On that day in October 1927, three people were shot and three firearms were involved. After Squizzy's death at St Vincent's, a pistol was found in his pocket, though his widow Ida stated that he was not carrying a weapon when he left his home in Richmond that morning. A Belgian revolver, believed to be fired by Snowy Cutmore, was found the next day by Mrs Hudson in the backyard of her home at 33 Macarthur Place South, just inside the fence adjoining a right of way. The third firearm, a Webley Automatic Colt revolver, was discovered by police in a lavatory cistern at the rear of 50 Barkly Street, but this was not made public at the time. Despite detailed ballistics evidence presented at the inquest, the coroner Mr Berriman was unable to determine who shot who, and an open verdict was returned. 7
Squizzy was buried in Brighton cemetery on 29 October 1927, accompanied by "a disgraceful exhibition of morbid curiosity, coupled with a callous disregard for the feelings of the bereaved". The funeral was arranged by Josiah Holdsworth of Lygon Street and local legend has it that the undertaker was never paid for his services. 8,9,10
Hire-car driver and Carlton resident John Hall, who was abandoned by Squizzy's associates and left with the responsibility of taking him to hospital, was probably also out of pocket. John Hall was living at 12 Murchison Street, a short distance from Barkly Street, at the time of the shooting. According to rate book and directory records, he lived there from 1927 to 1928. The house, which still stands today, was built in 1916 by Carlton builder W.D. Wilson for Sarah Wood.11
Snowy Cutmore was buried in Coburg cemetery and his widow Gladys stayed on at Barkly Terrace for a few years. Snowy's mother Bridget Cutmore lived there until her death in 1938, aged 70 years. Barkly Terrace, originally built in 1862 and described in The Sun as "a sombre bluestone house", was owned by Alfred Abraham Solomon and his executors from 1919 to 1940, and then by members of the Labattaglia family. In an ironic twist, Francesco Antonio (Frank Anthony) Labattaglia was the third husband of Squizzy's widow Ida Pender. They married in 1933, after Ida divorced her second husband George Lewin (aka Mickey Powell) in 1932, on the grounds of desertion. 12,13,14,15,16,17,18
Barkly Terrace survived its first hundred years, then it was placed under a Housing Commission order in 1963 and demolished in 1965. The "sombre bluestone house", as described in The Sun in 1927, was replaced by a block of flats. A stone lintel salvaged from the demolition site remains a silent witness to the events of 27 October 1927.19,20
Notes and References:
1Squizzy Taylor was born Joseph Leslie Theodore Taylor in Brighton in 1888.
2 R.K. Cole Collection of Hotel Records, Melbourne Suburbs, Vol. II, p. 203
3 Building Application File no. 9385, 1927 (VPRS 11201)
4 The shooting incident and subsequent inquest were widely reported in newspapers in October and November 1927.
5 Inquest Deposition File 1927/1331 (VPRS 24)
6 In The rise and fall of Squizzy Taylor: A larrikin crook, author Hugh Anderson names the Clare Castle Hotel in Rathdowne Street and the Morning Star Hotel, "then south down Drummond Street, with two hotel calls on the way." However, the route map reproduced in the same publication does not extend into North Fitzroy, the location of the Morning Star, and John Hall's inquest statement does not support the Morning Star claim.
7 Inquest Deposition File 1927/1331 (VPRS 24)
8 The Argus, 31 October 1927, p. 21
9 A memorial plaque in Brighton cemetery records the final resting place of Squizzy Taylor and his baby daughter June, who died in January 1921 aged 7 months.
10 The Melbourne Times, 2 September 1981, p. 10
11 Building Application File no. 35, 1916 (VPRS 11201)
12 Victorian Electoral Roll, Melbourne Division, Carlton and Carlton South Subdivisions 1927-1938
13 Death Index Victoria, Reg no. 3030, 1938
14 The Sun, 28 October 1927, p. 3
15 Certificate of Title, Vol. 4214, Fol. 615, 1919
16 Certificate of Title, Vol. 6402, Fol. 391, 1940
17 Marriage Index Victoria, Reg. no. 2000, 1933
18 The Argus, 30 July 1932, p. 24
19 Register of Demolitions, no. 2416, 1965 (VPRS 17292)
20 Building Application Index, no. 37919, 1965 (VPRS 11202)
Scene of Robbery in 1917 (now Carlton Cellars)
Corner of Canning and Richardson Streets
A Sweet-Toothed Robbery in North Carlton
In February 1917, just before Valentine's Day, two thieves managed to dodge police bullets and make off with 2,800 pounds of sugar, 112 pounds of rice and 15 shillings in cash. The well-planned robbery took place around 3.30 am at William Drum's licensed grocery store, on the corner of Richardson and Canning Streets, North Carlton. The two men had loaded up their horse-drawn cart and were about to make their exit when they were challenged by Constable Simon McKenzie, on patrol from the North Carlton Police Station and armed with a revolver. The horse and cart took off and Constable Simon McKenzie fired 3 shots at the horse, which would have been the 1917 equivalent of shooting out the car tyres. But the bullets missed their mark, as did the remaining 5 shots aimed at the cart driver. The thieves got away with their haul, valued at about £40 and most likely destined for the re-sale market. A search of Mr Drum's premises revealed that two locks on the front door had been forced open and the arc light in front of the store had been disabled. Surprisingly, two demijohns of whisky, valued at £10 each, were left behind in the shop.
Spare a thought for Constable McKenzie - instead of being hailed the hero of a thwarted robbery attempt, he probably copped a ribbing from his fellow police officers because he couldn't even shoot a horse and cart.
The Age, 13 February 1917, p. 6
The Argus, 13 February 1917, p. 9
A Rogue and Vagabond
Image Source: Weekly Times, 17 December 1870, p. 9
John Sullivan (right) shooting at Mounted Police Constable Mays
What is the legal definition of frequenting a public place? This question was posed in Carlton Court in April 1887, when John Sullivan faced a charge of being a rogue and vagabond, and a suspected person frequenting a public place. Sullivan (also known as John Lewis, John Lewis Elliott and William Jackson) was born in South America in 1850 (or earlier) and worked as a sailor before embarking on a life of crime. He was imprisoned at Richmond stockade for nine months in 1864 on a charge of larceny. The following year, in June 1865, he served three concurrent sentences in Pentridge prison for burglary and receiving stolen property. During his time in Pentridge, he committed numerous offences, ranging from the seemingly trivial (talking and laughing ; having tea, sugar etc) to the more serious (fighting ; disorderly conduct). These offences added time to his sentence and he was finally released in December 1869.1,2
Sullivan may have learned a few tricks while in Pentridge, for he resumed his criminal activities and became notorious as the Yarra Flats bushranger. He evaded police for some time, then Sullivan and fellow bushranger, Charles Smith, were bailed up by Mounted Police Constable Mays in December 1870. Mays narrowly dodged a bullet fired by Sullivan - a charge that Sullivan was later to deny as accidental - but he succeeded in arresting Smith. Sullivan was eventually arrested further up the Yarra track and brought back to Melbourne to face charges of attempting to abscond, horse stealing and shooting with intent. In February 1871, he was sentenced to six months hard labour (in irons) on the first charge, eight years on the second and seven years on the third. His prison record describes him unflatteringly as having a swarthy complexion and a "face blotched with pimples". True to his form, Sullivan added to his sentence by committing various offences while in gaol, including a serious assault on fellow prisoners Roland Leigh and James Doolan, and a knife fight with former bushranger Captain Moonlite (alias Andrew Scott). In October 1884, having spent the greater part of the last twenty years in prison, Sullivan was once again a free man - though not for long.3,4,5,6,7
Less than two months after his release from Pentridge, Sullivan was back in court facing a charge of assaulting a man named George McLeish in Bourke Street, Melbourne. McLeish had just come out of a theatre when he was approached by two woman, one of whom was Sullivan's wife. Sullivan took exception to McLeish talking to his wife, even though she had initiated the conversation, and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. A passing police constable intervened and prevented the violence from escalating. When Sullivan appeared in the City Court a few days later on 17 December 1884, he admitted his prior convictions and begged for leniency, stating that since leaving gaol he had endeavoured to earn an honest living by keeping a small shop. He was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and would have spent Christmas 1884 in gaol. Sullivan and his wife were involved in another incident in April 1886, when he was found fighting with her in a city street and disturbing the peace in the early hours of the morning. Both husband and wife were taken into custody, but the court favoured Sullivan, who stated he was trying to take his wife back home, and fined her 10 shillings. At the time, it was reported that he had a shop in Collingwood and his wife assisted him in the business.8,9
The following year, 1887, was an eventful one for John Sullivan. In February, he was involved in an early morning fracas at the home of Mr Cousens at Ten Foot Hill, Castlemaine. An altercation took place between Sullivan and a man named Thomas Ray, who struck Sullivan on the forehead with a hammer, inflicting a severe wound. Sullivan retaliated and threatened to "knock Ray's brains out", when the potentially serious situation was averted by the arrival of police. The two men and Thomas Ray's wife Esther were charged with creating a disturbance. In Castlemaine Police Court on 9 February, Thomas Ray was fined £1, in default seven days' imprisonment, while Esther was fined the greater amount of £6, in default two months' imprisonment, for using obscene language. Sullivan was discharged and then immediately re-arrested as he left the court. Sergeant Nowlan recognised Sullivan's description from the Police Gazette and arrested him on a charge of larceny as a servant. He allegedly stole 15 plugs of tobacco, 4 shillings in silver and a pair of scissors from his employer, John Kelly, at North Fitzroy on 27 January 1887. Sullivan was remanded, at his own request, to appear at Fitzroy Police Court, where he would be in a better position to raise bail, set at £50, and two sureties of £125 each. On Monday 14 February, the court was told that Sullivan was an employee of John Kelly, a barber and tobacconist of St George's Road, North Fitzroy. Kelly had left John Lewis (as he was then known) in charge of the shop for an afternoon and, when he returned, he found that Lewis had decamped and the stated items were missing. But this must have been Sullivan's lucky month, for he was once again discharged, on the grounds that there was no evidence that he had taken the stated items.10,11,12,13,14
Two months later, in April 1887, Sullivan's luck had run out when he was arrested outside the Dan O'Connell Hotel, on the corner of Canning and Princes Streets, Carlton. He was allegedly the "lookout" for Robert McFadden, who had broken into the hotel with intent to commit a burglary. Nothing was stolen and Sullivan's initial charge was being an accessory before the fact. But his criminal past had caught up with him and the charge was subsequently altered to being a rogue and vagabond, and a suspected person frequenting a public place. His defence was dependent on the curious interpretation of a public place as being a street that led to "any river, canal, quay, etc.", as defined by the Colonial Act. Sullivan's defence counsel, Mr Leonard, argued that Canning and Princes Streets were not public places according to the Colonial Act definition. He cited the 1883 case of Benjamin Adams, who was arrested in Victoria Parade, Collingwood, on a similar charge and the conviction was quashed on appeal. On the charge of "frequenting", Leonard cited a case recently decided by the English Court of Exchequer in which being seen once in a street did not constitute frequenting. Leonard had done his research and prepared his case well, but the Bench was against him. They favoured the broader interpretation of a public place as being any street and frequenting as being seen one or more times in such a street. Sullivan was sentenced to one month's imprisonment and Mr Leonard, in fit of pique, reportedly said: "Hand me down my law hooks. I'll never take the trouble to hunt up law cases for this Bench again".15,16
What became of Sullivan after his release from prison? It is unlikely that he would have returned to work at John Kelly's barber shop and the publicity surrounding his criminal record, and his propensity for violence, would have discouraged most employers from taking him on. His Victorian prison record shows no further custodial sentences, however Sullivan was known by several different aliases and may have re-invented himself. He could have travelled, interstate or overseas, and established himself in a new town or country. Remember that he was once a sailor - what better way to escape your past?
Notes and References:
1 The Age, 28 April 1887, p. 6
2 Central Register of Male Prisoners, no. 7265, Register 10, p. 672 (VPRS 515). This record states that Sullivan was 19 years old in 1865.
3 Weekly Times, 17 December 1870, p. 9
4 Central Register of Male Prisoners no. 7265, Register 13, p. 298 (VPRS 515). This record states that Sullivan was born in 1850.
5 The Argus, 2 September 1875, p. 4
6 The Argus, 19 January 1876, p. 4
7 The Australasian, 1 December 1877, p. 1
8 The Age, 18 December 1884, p. 1
9 The Age, 19 April 1886, p. 6
10 Bendigo Advertiser, 10 February 1887, p. 3
11 Bendigo Advertiser, 11 February 1887, p. 3
12 Mount Alexander Mail, 11 February 1887, p. 2
13 Victoria Police Gazette, 2 February 1887, p. 40
14 Mercury and Weekly Courier, 18 February 1887, p. 3
15 Avoca Mail, 29 April 1887, p. 3
16 Mercury and Weekly Courier, 23 June 1883, p. 2
A Fiend in Petticoats
The death of an infant is tragic in any circumstances, but even more so when the death results from want of care and nourishment. Catherine Kennedy, the illegitimate daughter of eighteen year old Mary Ann Kennedy, lived a very short life. She was born in Carlton on 19 January 1899 and died seven weeks later on 11 March. Her death and the subsequent trial of her carer, an unregistered nurse with a criminal record, brought to the fore the notorious practice of "baby farming", condemned by Mr. Justice Hood as "an organised, deliberate and systematic plan of murder".1
The Infant Life Protection Act (1890) came into effect in Victoria in January 1891 and introduced a system of registration of nurses and premises for the care of boarded-out infants. The Act was administered by the police, who had the authority to inspect premises (usually private residences), and the records of nurses and infants in their care. The Commissioner of Police was to be notified when an illegitimate infant was born on the premises, taken into the care of a registered nurse, transferred from one nurse to another, adopted out or died while in care. Penalties, in the form of a fine or prison sentence, applied for failure to comply with notification procedures or recordkeeping. An inquest was mandatory if an infant died in care and criminal charges could be laid if the death was deemed suspicious. Despite the protection afforded by the law, there were unregistered nurses who sought to profit from women in straitened circumstances, who were unable to feed and care for their children. Even when in the care of a registered nurse, the survival of an artificially-fed newborn infant was precarious. In 1899, the year of Catherine's birth, the infant mortality rate in the City of Melbourne was 157 deaths per 1,000 live births, with a greater number of deaths occurring during the summer months. Many of these infants died from what would now be considered preventable diseases and, in the days before refrigeration, poor milk quality and unsuitable feeding were identified as major causal factors. According to medical opinion of the day, illegitimate children were seen as less viable than those born to married parents. A well known Carlton doctor, James De Burgh Griffith of Elgin Street, declared that "nervousness on the part of the mothers of illegitimate children was very much against the children when born".2,3,4
Now to the events that saw Catherine's demise. The main players were Nurse Ellen Mary Fuller, Theresa Thornton and teenage mother Mary Ann Kennedy. Ellen Mary Fuller, a widow, was born in England in 1850. She was a midwife and registered nurse, who advertised maternity and private hospital services at addresses in Rathdowne Street, Carlton and Drummond and Rathdowne Streets, North Carlton. She also occasionally advertised babies available for adoption, or parents seeking babies for adoption. This practice was not illegal at the time, even if money changed hands, provided that the appropriate notifications were made. Nurse Fuller was no stranger to the legal system. In July 1897, she was sentenced to 12 months' gaol with hard labour for her part in arranging the adoption of an infant, who was later found abandoned in Richmond. When questioned by police, she was evasive about the identity of the woman, "Mrs Turner", who had adopted the infant, and it was some months before this woman, Alice Ann Terrill (Tirrell or Tirrell) and her mother, Eleanor Edwards, were tracked down and charged with abandoning and exposing an infant. Nurse Fuller was released early in November 1897 by special authority and, according to evidence presented by Constable William Booth in the Supreme Court in March 1899, she had been exonerated and compensated for her time in gaol. After her release, she was able to resume her nurse's registration and licence to operate a private hospital. Nurse Fuller was living in Elgin Street, Carlton, at the time of Catherine's birth.5,6,7,8
In January 1899, a few days before Catherine was born, Nurse Fuller appeared in Carlton Court as a witness in case involving a woman from Western Australia. Sarah Jane Solley had been staying at Nurse Fuller's residence, with the intention of adopting a baby and presenting it as her own child. (She had been living with a man in Kalgoorlie and possibly thought that the arrival of a baby would cement their relationship.) Sarah procured a baby from Mrs Mary Melville, an unregistered nurse who operated under the name "Nurse Meade" at a house in Cardigan Street, Carlton. Nurse Fuller, when asked to write a letter to Sarah's "husband" declaring that she had given birth, refused to collaborate in the deception. Sarah had lied to police about the infant being hers, but the court took a lenient approach. She was fined £1 for failing to notify the adoption to the Commissioner of Police, an offence could have attracted a maximum fine of £15 or three months' imprisonment. Mary Melville, a peripheral character in this story, is worth noting for the extraordinarily high infant death rate at her premises in Carlton. When she appeared as a witness in an inquest into the death of an infant in December 1898, she admitted that 13 out of 17 infants born at her premises had died.9,10,11,12,13
Marie Theresa Thornton (also known as Theresa Davis and Theresa Flanagan) was born in Germany in 1856 (or 1857) and she arrived in Australia on the Chimberazo in 1883. She worked as a servant and claimed to have been a widow who was once married to a doctor. Under the surname Davis, she married Charles Thornton, a farmer and Englishman from Kent, in 1891 and they lived for several years at Rosedale in Gippsland. Theresa was well known to police. She was imprisoned for six months at Melbourne Gaol in December 1891 for being "idle and disorderly", followed by a conviction for vagrancy and multiple convictions for larceny. The Geelong Advertiser of 23 March 1899 dubbed her as "an accomplished larcenist". When she moved house from Carlton to North Melbourne, possibly to avoid police attention, she entered into a hire purchase contract for a sewing machine, proffered by a door-to-door salesman. She had neither the deposit of 10 shillings, nor the means of making the weekly payments, so she pawned the sewing machine the next day, then tried to onsell the pawn ticket.14,15,16
Nurse Fuller and Theresa had known each other from two years previously, when Theresa had travelled to Melbourne from her home at Rosedale to adopt a child. According to her husband Charles, Theresa had had several children of her own, but they were all dead. Theresa, as her criminal record shows, was a disreputable person and not someone who should be entrusted with the care of a newborn infant, yet she was able to adopt, on two occasions, by arrangement with Nurse Fuller. Little is know of Catherine's mother, Mary Ann Kennedy, apart from her young age and her predicament as an unmarried mother. She came from Tatura, in country Victoria, and was staying with Nurse Fuller during her confinement. Having appeared as a witness in court and been named in newspaper reports, Mary Ann was exposed to public scrutiny. She would have carried the shame of giving birth to an illegitimate child and also, by surrendering this child for adoption, she was indirectly implicated in its death. Was the father of the child there to support her? He was named as James Casey, the brother of Mary Ann's cousin Hannah Casey, in Catherine's adoption agreement, but he was not called as a witness in court proceedings.17,18
The inquest into Catherine Kennedy's death took place over several days in March 1899, before Mr. Candler, the City Coroner, and a jury of five men. Evidence was presented that Catherine was born on 19 January 1899 at Nurse Fuller's residence in Elgin Street and was attended by Dr James De Burgh, also of Elgin Street. Shortly after her birth, Catherine was placed in the care of Mrs Eliza Manders, a registered nurse described as a "respectable woman", who lived in North Carlton. Two weeks later, on 3 February, Catherine was then transferred to the care of Theresa Thornton, who was living in Canning Street, Carlton, at the time. The transfer was arranged by Nurse Fuller and Catherine's mother, Mary Ann Kennedy, paid a lump sum of £7 to Theresa for what she believed was an outright adoption. Having received the infant, Theresa wrote a letter, dated 11 February, to Mary Ann's cousin Hannah Casey, a hotelkeeper of Lancefield, demanding a payment of 10 shillings per week for the care of Catherine, plus expenses, otherwise the child would be handed over to the police. (In making this demand for payment, Theresa was acting as a paid carer, not an adoptive parent and, given her criminal record, it is unlikely she would have involved the police.)19,20
Hannah replied to Theresa's letter and travelled to Melbourne on 17 February to personally discuss Catherine's care arrangements. She had also written to Nurse Fuller, but received no reply, and she had refused to admit her cousin Mary Ann when the latter visited her at Lancefield. Unaware that Mary Ann had already paid a lump sum adoption fee, Hannah paid Theresa the outstanding amount of 24 shillings for 2 weeks' care, plus an additional 30 shillings for clothing, maintenance and the christening of Catherine. Hannah expressed her willingness to adopt Catherine for the sake of her younger brother James, who was not in a position to support the child. Theresa contacted a solicitor, Arthur D. Daley, and made arrangements for a legal agreement to be prepared. According to the terms of this agreement, signed and dated 17 February 1899, Mary Ann agreed to transfer the custody and care of Catherine to Hannah and that "she will make no attempt in the future to resume possession thereof or in any way interfere in the management thereof". Hannah, in turn, agreed to "clothe, maintain, rear and educate the said child as her own" and make no further claim on Mary Ann for Catherine's care or expenses.21,22
The following day, 18 February, Catherine was removed to the care of Mrs Annie Duke, another registered nurse and "respectable woman". She lived in Pitt Street, Carlton, and her services were recommended by Constable William Booth, the officer in charge of registered houses in Carlton under the Infant Life Protection Act. Mrs Duke stated that Catherine was received in an emaciated state and had an offensive smell about her, though she appeared to be washed and clean. Catherine was fed breast milk by a wet nurse for a fortnight, but she failed to thrive. Her feeding regime was changed to cow's milk, barley water, white of egg and brandy on medical advice. (Brandy was commonly prescribed by doctors as a tonic for ailing babies but, as Catherine was already dehydrated from a bowel inflammation, it may well have hastened her death.) Despite Mrs Duke's best efforts in care, and several medical consultations at the Children's Hospital, Catherine died three weeks later on 11 March. Medical evidence presented by Dr. Stawell confirmed that Catherine weighed only 5½ pounds (2.49 kilos) and her death had been caused by inflammation of the bowel, set up by unsuitable feeding. Her post mortem examination showed no sign of external injury and her internal organs, apart from the bowel, were normal in appearance.23
As Catherine was claimed to be healthy at birth and while in the care of Mrs Manders, apart from having a slight touch of thrush, the focus was on the two weeks she spent with Theresa Thornton. Theresa's husband Charles, who claimed to have no knowledge of the £7 adoption payment, stated that he sometimes prepared the food and fed the baby, while at other times his wife did. Catherine was fed every two to three hours on boiled milk, with lime water and a pinch of salt added, and rice and barley water. (The pinch of salt, if added to each feed, would have resulted in an excessive sodium intake for a newborn infant and may have caused the bowel inflammation that eventually killed Catherine). Theresa admitted, shamefully, that she been drinking during the two weeks that Catherine was in her care. Another occupant of the house, Mrs Sarah Hayes, confirmed that Theresa drank beer by the glass daily, though she did not appear to be drunk. In her defence, Theresa stated that the child had died three weeks after leaving her care and could not have survived a pre-existing bowel inflammation for that length of time. She also maintained that she had fully intended to adopt Catherine, until she was taken away by her mother, and admitted ignorance of the law which stipulated that she must register the adoption.24,25
In summing up, Mr Candler found no fault in the care and feeding of Catherine by Mrs Manders and Mrs Duke. He considered that Catherine's mother, Mary Ann Kennedy, had "acted indiscreetly", but there were extenuating circumstances in her "desire to conceal the birth". Mr Candler then turned his attention to Theresa Thornton. He regarded her actions in trading the infant as a case of pure baby farming, motivated by petty greed and devoid of the love she professed to have for the child. He further stated that, regardless of the jury's verdict, Theresa would face charges for breaches of the Infant Life Protection Act. Having heard the evidence and the Coroner's summary, the gentlemen of the jury had already made up their minds. After a short deliberation, they found Theresa Thornton guilty of manslaughter, the child's death having been caused by gross neglect whilst in her care. They added the following statement: "We also very severely censure Mrs Fuller's conduct in this case, and consider the said Mrs Fuller is not a fit and proper person to hold either a certificate as a midwife or a licence for a private hospital. We consider also that it would to advisable if the act were altered in regard to a lump sum being paid in adoption cases."26
Theresa was committed for trial in the Supreme Court on a charge of manslaughter and was remanded in custody. Bail was not allowed and, in any case, she would not have had the means of paying. While awaiting trial for manslaughter, she faced two other charges. Theresa appeared in Carlton Court and was found guilty of adopting an infant (ie: Catherine Kennedy) for payment without being registered. Her plea of ignorance of the law fell on deaf ears and, unlike Sarah Solley from Kalgoorlie, she received the maximum sentence of three months' gaol. Theresa then appeared in North Melbourne Court, charged with "larceny as a bailee" of a sewing machine, valued at £12 10/, the property of Singer & Co. She pleaded guilty and appealed for leniency. The charged was subsequently altered to "larceny" and Theresa was sentenced to six months' gaol, to be served cumulatively with the three months' sentence from Carlton Court. Whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court trial, Theresa was destined to spend at least nine months in gaol.27,28,29
The Supreme Court trial took place on 17 April 1899, before Mr. Justice Hood. Mr. Finlayson prosecuted for the Crown and Theresa, who was not represented by counsel, conducted her own defence. Her cross examination of Nurse Fuller escalated into a war of words between the two women, who were once allies but were now adversaries in a court of law. Theresa alleged that Nurse Fuller had suggested the adoption as a means of financial gain and that she was a consenting party to the transaction. She further alleged that Nurse Fuller had given her an address where she could obtain a baby, and had attended her as if she had given birth, in order to conceal the true circumstances of Catherine's birth. Nurse Fuller soundly denied the allegations and Theresa accused her of lies and falsehood. In summing up the case, Justice Hood expressed his opinion that the practice of adopting children for a lump sum was "an organised, deliberate and systematic plan of murder". He had no doubt that Mrs. Thornton, Mrs. Fuller and even the mother, Mary Ann Kennedy, had no intention that the child should live. However, he directed the jury to leave aside their feelings on the practice of baby farming and simply decide, on the basis of the evidence presented, whether Mrs. Thornton was guilty or not guilty of manslaughter. The jury returned a guilty verdict and, as did the coroner's jury, expressed the opinion that some action should be taken against Nurse Fuller.30
Theresa Thornton returned to the Supreme Court on 28 April for sentencing by Mr Justice Hood. She was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment with light labour, to be served concurrently with her existing three and six month sentences, a minor concession granted by Justice Hood. On hearing the sentence, Theresa began crying hysterically from the dock and had to be assisted down the steps by two constables. What of her partner-in-crime, Nurse Fuller? The jury had recommended that action should be taken against her but, according to an earlier ruling in the Supreme Court, a jury had no legal power to censure a witness. Nurse Fuller ceased advertising nursing and midwifery services following her 1897 imprisonment, and her business may have suffered from the additional negative publicity in 1899. Who would want to engage a nurse implicated in the death of an infant unless, perhaps, they wanted an infant to "disappear"? Nurse registration records were incomplete prior to 1901 and Nurse Fuller's name was not listed in that year, so her registration may have been cancelled or relinquished in 1899 or 1900.31,32
In the days following Theresa's trial and imprisonment, her case and the practice of baby farming received much media attention. The Bendigo Independent used particularly strong language in condemning Theresa. She was variously described as a "fiend in petticoats", "wretched murderess", "brutal executioner" and "diabolical character". But was Theresa the only guilty party? The newspaper disputed the verdict of manslaughter and considered that all the parties involved were collectively guilty of murder and should have stood alongside Theresa in the dock. It went on to recommend changes to the Infant Life Protection Act, including making lump sum payments for adoption a criminal offence, for both the payer and the recipient, and establishing the child's paternity before birth so that the putative father would be legally obliged to support the mother during her confinement and pay her medical expenses. This latter recommendation, if implemented, would make it very difficult for an unmarried woman to conceal an illegitimate birth.33
Marie Theresa Thornton did not serve her full sentence - death claimed her after a year in prison. She spent the last two months of her life in the prison hospital, suffering from rheumatism and chronic heart disease, and died of heart failure on 31 May 1900. Her post mortem examination by Dr Douglas Edward Stewart noted that she was "well nourished" - rather ironic, considering the circumstances of Catherine's death - and also that she had "one eye missing." The eye loss was not recent, as indicated by a photo dated October 1893 in her prison record. It is curious that Theresa's missing eye was not mentioned in newspaper reports of court proceedings, as the physical appearance of a defendant was often noted, and sometimes in an unflattering way. Theresa Thornton, dubbed "a fiend in petticoats", was simply described as "an elderly stout woman."34,35
Notes and References:
1 The Age, 19 April, p. 6
2 Victoria. Infant Life Protection Act (1890)
3 City of Melbourne. Report in regard to the health, cleanliness, and general sanitary state of the city for the year 1899, p. 2.
4 Dr Griffith was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of Norman Carolan (Corolon), an illegitimate child who died while in the care of "Nurse Meade" in December 1898.
5 Central Register of Female Prisoners, no. 6521 (VPRS 516)
6 Nurse Fuller's hospitals were in private residences at 427 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, (now the site of Carlton Primary School), 694 Drummond Street and 709 Rathdowne Street, North Carlton.
7 The Age, 25 October 1897, p. 6
8 Constable Booth's statement is from Criminal Trial Brief, 1899/197 (VPRS 30)
9 The Age, 17 January 1899, p. 5
10 Nurse Meade's hospital was at 256 Cardigan Street, between Faraday and Grattan Streets, Carlton.
11 Victoria. Infant Life Protection Act (1890), Section 22
12 The Age, 30 December 1898, p. 6
13 Bendigo Advertiser, 30 December 1898, p. 4
14 Central Register of Female Prisoners, no. 6033 (VPRS 516)
15 Geelong Advertiser, 23 March 1899, p. 1
16 The Age, 24 March 1899, p. 7
17 Criminal Trial Brief 1899/197, op cit
18 A copy of the adoption agreement is included in Criminal Trial Brief 1899/197, op cit
19 The Age, 18 March 1899, p. 11
20 Dr James De Burgh's surgery was at 66 Elgin Street, next door to Nurse Fuller at 64 Elgin Street, Carlton.
21 A copy of Hannah Casey's letter to Theresa Thornton is included in Criminal Trial Brief 1899/197, op cit
22 Adoption agreement, op cit
23 Criminal Trial Brief 1899/197, op cit
25 The National Health Service (UK) recommends a salt intake of less than 1 gram per 24 hour period for babies up to 12 months old.
26 The Age, 18 March 1899, p. 11
27 Bendigo Advertiser, 23 March 1899, p. 2
28 The Age, 20 March 1899, p. 6
29 The Age, 24 March 1899, p. 7
30 The Age, 19 April, p. 6
31 The Age, 29 April 1899, p. 9
32 Harris, Helen D. Infant Life Protection Act. Harriland Press, 2001
33 The Bendigo Independent, 1 May 1899, p. 2
34 Inquest Deposition File 1900/659 (VPRS 24)
35 The Argus, 29 April 1899, p. 10
The Penny Dreadful
Jeffrey and Johnny walked through the streets of North Carlton on the afternoon of Thursday 5 October 1944. It was lunchtime and they were taking a break from Princes Hill Primary School in Pigdon Street, where they were classmates. They turned into Shakespeare Street, a short and narrow street between Drummond and Lygon Streets. Jeffrey's house was at no. 9, one of eight single-storey brick houses on the south side of the street. His parents and older brother were not at home, so he let himself in and the boys went to his bedroom. Minutes later, his friend Johnny lay motionless with a gunshot wound to his chest. Jeffrey panicked. It was not meant to happen this way, it was just a game. He saw the comic book and the image on the page seemed to look back at him accusingly. Jeffrey knew he had to remove Johnny's body from his room, otherwise he would be blamed for his death. There was a vacant block at the rear of his house, a dumping ground for rubbish, and he could hide the body there. He dragged Johnny through the house and out the back door. Why was he such a "dead" weight? Johnny's feet became stuck half way through the back gate, with his head lying face down in the gutter. And it was too late, Jeffrey had been seen. The enormity of what had happened hit Jeffrey and he began to cry.1,2,3
The death of John William Graham set off a train of events that saw Jeffrey Charles Clay charged with murder, and a court case that would challenge the legal interpretation of the age of criminal responsibility. Was a nine year old boy capable of committing wilful murder and understanding the consequences of his actions? The first person on the scene that day was Ronald Traplin, a 14 year old boy who lived two doors down at no. 13 Shakespeare Street. He had not heard the shot or noticed anything unusual when he set off on a message but, on his return soon afterwards, he saw Jeffrey dragging John's body outside. Ronald asked Jeffrey what he was doing and he replied, tearfully, that he had found the unknown boy in his bedroom. Seeing the blood and realising the seriousness of the situation, Ronald called the police. They arrived soon afterwards and a search of the house and surrounding area yielded a single-barrelled shotgun under Jeffrey's bed, a comic book depicting a shooting scene and a spent cartridge on the vacant land. The house in Shakespeare Street was now a crime scene.4
Jeffrey apparently returned to school that afternoon, possibly reasoning, as a child, that all would be back to normal when he went home again. Detective Adam interviewed Jeffrey at the school, in the presence of the headmaster as a responsible adult. Jeffrey initially maintained his story that he had found Johnny dead in the bedroom and he had removed the body because he did not want him to be there. The detective persisted in his questioning and Jeffrey then said that Johnny had tied a piece string of around the shotgun trigger and shot himself. Finally, Jeffrey admitted that they had been looking at the comic book, which showed a bandit pointing a tommy gun at the chest of another man, and were acting out the scene when the gun went off. Detective Adam considered Jeffrey's admission and the evidence found at the shooting scene sufficient grounds for a murder charge. At the city watchhouse later that day Jeffrey Charles Clay, aged 9 years, was charged with the murder of John William Graham, aged 8 years and 10 months.5
The inquest into the death of John William Graham was delayed for four weeks and in the meantime Jeffrey was to remain in custody. At nine years of age, he was too young for an adult prison and he was placed in the care of the Children's Welfare Depot at Royal Park, an experience he would have found frightening and confusing. His one-time friend, John William Graham, was laid to rest at Fawkner Cemetery on 7 October, two days after the shooting. John was the only son of William and Hazel Graham and the family lived at 947 Drummond Street, North Carlton, a few blocks away from the school. The inscription on his red granite headstone reads:
In Sweet and Loving Memory of our Darling JOHN
Beloved only son of William & Hazel Graham
Killed at Nth Carlton 5th Oct 1944 in his 9th year.
"In God's Care"
The inquest took place at the City Morgue on Thursday 2 November 1944. The City Coroner, Mr. Tingate, P.M., heard the witness statements and considered the evidence. Jeffrey's conflicting statements to police cast doubt on his innocence and, as many a parent would know, children will sometimes lie to avoid getting into trouble. The matter of how the shotgun (or two guns, as later reported by The Telegraph) came to be in the possession of the boys was not made public at the time, but Mr Tingate drew attention to the incriminating "penny dreadful" comic that was found in Jeffrey's bedroom. This form of sensationalist "literature", cheap in both price and content, often depicted scenes of violence and murder. Mr Tingate considered such literature entirely unsuitable for children and potentially dangerous in the hands of impressionable young boys. The Coroner found that John William Graham died of a gunshot wound, wilfully inflicted by Jeffrey Charles Clay. Jeffrey was committed for trial in the Criminal Court and bail was set at £200, an extraordinary amount for a child who was unlikely to abscond.6,7
On 23 November 1944, Jeffrey set a legal precedent by being the youngest person to stand trial for murder in the Criminal Court, before Justice Macfarlan. Jeffrey was so small sitting in the dock that he could not be seen from the body of the court. He pleaded "not guilty" to the charge and replied "Yes" when asked whether he understood the nature of the charge. In his opening address to the jury Mr Sproule, Crown Prosecutor, explained the law as it stood in relation to the age of criminal responsibility. Under seven, a child was presumed by law to be incapable of committing any crime. Between seven and fourteen, he was presumed not to have sufficient understanding to be capable of wilfully committing a crime. When a boy of nine was charged with a crime, the Crown must satisfy the jury that he knew that he was committing a crime. The evidence presented was that Jeffrey and John were friends and a boy named Chubb, who accompanied them for part of the walk home on the day, said that there was no quarrel between them. In the absence of any evidence of malice or intent to commit a crime, Justice Macfarlan directed the jury to find the defendant not guilty. The jury followed Justice Macfarlan's direction and Jeffrey was acquitted and free to join his family.8
Jeffrey returned home to Shakespeare Street, but his life would never be the same. He resumed his education and his school record shows that he went on to Brunswick Boys School. Surprisingly, the Clay family continued to live in the house at Shakespeare Street and, as it was a small house, Jeffrey probably went to sleep each night in the same room where his friend had died. The house, a rental property owned by Clara Ross, was condemned by the Housing Commission of Victoria as unfit for human habitation in December 1956. Jeffrey and his father Charles were still living there more than a decade later when the Housing Commission issued an ultimatum in a memo dated 22 April 1968:
"It is the view that ample time has now been allowed [for] these two adult males to make suitable rehousing arrangements, and as appropriate warnings have been issued of impending Commission action, approval to the service of a notice to vacate on the occupiers of no. 9, is now requested, whereby, if then necessary, ejection action can be instituted, and the demolition carried out by Commission contract with costs charged." 9,10
Jeffrey and his father moved to a flat in Drummond Street and their house was one of five (nos. 7 to 15 Shakespeare Street) demolished by order of the Housing Commission. The vacant land became an illegal dumping ground until local residents took action and transformed the space into a mini park. Grass now grows in the place where John Graham breathed his final breath in October 1944. John's family, his parents and sisters, also chose to stay at their house in Drummond Street. John's father William Joseph Graham died in June 1979, aged 80 years, and his cremated remains were buried with his son at Fawkner. His mother Hazel Emily Graham (neé O'Brien) remained in North Carlton until the early 1990s. She died in Hawthorn in October 1997, aged 93 years.11,12
The lessons of John Graham's tragic death are still relevant today. There are calls for the age of criminal responsibility, now set at a minimum of 10 years, to be increased to 12 years or older. Had John Graham been killed today, Jeffrey Clay would not be charged with his murder. The "penny dreadful" comic has given way to electronic media and the depiction of violence in film, television and online is ever more pervasive. Despite stringent gun control measures in place in Australia, there continue to be fatal shooting incidents involving children. Will we, as a society, ever learn?13
Notes and References:
1 Jeffrey Clay was also known as "Geoffrey" Clay. The former spelling has been used, as confirmed by his school record and electoral rolls.
2 The criminal trial brief and inquest deposition file for this case have not yet been released and the events have been reconstructed from newspaper reports and other sources.
3 Biographical information has been sourced from birth, death and marriage records, and electoral rolls.
4 The Argus, 6 October 1944, p. 3
5 The Age, 6 October 1944, p. 3
6 The Telegraph, 23 November 1944, p. 2
7 The Age, 3 November 1944, p. 3
8 The Age, 24 November 1944, p. 5
9 Princes Hill Primary School Archives
10 Properties condemned under section 56 of the Housing Act 1958 (VPRS 1824)
11 Fawkner Cemetery records
12 Probate file of Hazel Emily Graham (VPRS 28/P27/422/1138156)
13 Gregor Urbas. The age of criminal responsibility, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000.
Shooting in Shakespeare Street
Barlow the Embezzler
George Booker Barlow was a respectable married man, the eldest son of the Rev. Robert Barlow, formerly of St. Mark's Church, Fitzroy. He was born in Ireland in 1854 and migrated to Australia as an infant in 1855. Barlow was employed at the Carlton branch of the London Chartered Bank in Elgin Street, where he had worked as a cashier and accountant for 15 years. He was a valued employee and anyone could trust him with their money. Or could they? On Monday 29 August 1887, Mr Reed (Read), inspector of branches for the bank, turned up unexpectedly to examine the books. Barlow made a hurried exit, taking with him the loaded revolver that he kept under the counter. He did not return to work that day and, in the meantime, an examination of the books revealed a deficit of several hundred pounds. Furthermore, Barlow had apparently made no attempt to conceal his embezzlement. The police were notified and a warrant was issued for his arrest.1,2,3
When the police arrived at Barlow's house in Heidelberg, his wife Annie was frantic with worry. Her husband had not come home at the usual time and he had left his horse and buggy, which he used to travel to and from work, stabled at Foley's Hotel. Further investigations revealed that, shortly after leaving the bank, Barlow had gone to the Flower Hotel in Drummond Street and settled a wager he had lost over a football match between Carlton and South Melbourne. He was last seen in Brunswick by an acquaintance named Davis, who was surprised that Barlow did not acknowledge his greeting and instead headed off in the direction of the Merri Creek. An extensive search of the creek and surrounding district failed to find any trace of Barlow, and concerns were raised that he may have taken the revolver in order to commit suicide.4,5
George Barlow was on the run for a week when, once again, he was seen by an acquaintance. He turned up at Stockwell's hotel in Molong, a small town in the central west region of New South Wales, on Monday 5 September. A man in the bar thought he recognised Barlow as an acquaintance from Melbourne, though he could not quite place him. But his hard stare was enough to spook Barlow, who took off and spent the next two miserable nights sleeping rough in the bush. He returned to Molong on the Wednesday morning, where his bedraggled appearance and distracted manner attracted the attention of Police Sergeant Harley. Barlow, fearing that he was about to be arrested, identified himself and surrendered to police. He also admitted that, had he stayed another night in the bush, he would have committed suicide. Barlow was arrested and taken to Sydney, then Constable Quilty escorted him back to Melbourne to face charges.6
The initial hearing was held before the Carlton Bench on Saturday 17 September, with Mr Leonard representing Barlow. Barlow was charged with embezzling £500, the property of the London Chartered Bank. He denied the charge, stating that he only taken his month's wages. Bail was granted at £300, with a surety of the same amount, and Barlow left the court and went home with his wife. Three days later, he was re-arrested and back in court, facing additional embezzling charges dating back to February 1887. This time he was committed for trial and bail was set at £1,500, with a £500 surety. George Barlow had his day in court on Monday 3 October and, probably realising that the game was up, he changed his plea to guilty of embezzling three sums of money, amounting in total to £645. He was remanded for sentencing and faced the court again on the following Monday 10 October.7,8,9
Before Judge Worthington, Mr Reed, whose vigilance had brought about the downfall of George Barlow, deposed that the prisoner had been in the service of the bank for 15 years, and had always done his work satisfactorily until recent events. He said he was inclined to think that the prisoner had brought himself to his present position through drink and bad company. Judge Worthington was not moved by any suggestion of mitigating circumstances and said that drinking and bad company were not excuses for crime. He further discounted a medical certificate, stating that Barlow was suffering from a "dangerous complaint", on the grounds that the prisoner would have access to medical treatment while in gaol. Judge Worthington, believing that those who breach a position of trust should be severely punished, sentenced George Barlow to three years' gaol, with hard labour.10,11
George Barlow spent two years and two months in Pentridge gaol. His prison record shows that he was released early, by special authority, on 21 December 1889. Unlike some of his fellow prisoners, he recorded no offences while in custody, and did not commit any additional offence after his release. His time at Pentridge, doing hard labour, must have taken its toll on the former bank employee who was accustomed to a desk job. He died in Brunswick on 13 September 1892, aged 38 years, and he was remembered by his widow Annie in a memorial notice published in The Argus in September 1893.12,13,14
Notes and References:
1 George Booker Barlow married Harriet Annie Merritt in 1883.
2 The former London Chartered Bank building is on the north west corner of Elgin and Drummond Streets.
3 Barlow's embezzlement and subsequent trial were reported extensively in newspapers from September to October 1887.
4 Foley's Hotel was in Bourke Street, Melbourne, but it was more likely that Barlow stabled his horse with Thomas Foley in Drummond Street, Carlton. The stables were a short walk from the London Chartered Bank and within a closer commuting distance from Heidelberg.
5 The Flower Hotel, where Barlow paid his football wager, was at 463 Drummond Street. The hotel ceased trading in February 1908 and the land was compulsorily acquired by the Housing Commission of Victoria as part of its slum reclamation program.
6 The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 10 September 1887, p. 575
7 The Age, 19 September 1887, p. 6
8 The Age, 23 September 1887, p. 5
9 The Argus, 4 October 1887, p. 5
10 The Argus, 11 October 1887, p. 6
11 Barlow's description in the Victoria Police Gazette of 7 September 1887, p. 262, noted "subject to heart disease".
12 Central Register of Male Prisoners, no. 22123 (VPRS 515)
13 It was not uncommon for prisoners to be charged with seemingly trivial offences and have their sentences increased.
14 According to Barlow's prison record, his wife Annie was living in Church Street, Carlton, while he was serving his sentence in Pentridge.
What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?
Dealing with drunk patrons is part and parcel of the hotel trade, but staff of the University Hotel were in for a surprise when an inebriated sailor fell asleep on the sofa in August 1912. Constable Davies was called in and he recognised the "sailor" as a local young woman named Vivian Campbell:"She was dressed in a complete suit of the clothes worn by the men of the Australian squadron, including the black silk handkerchief worn around the neck, with the ends tied in the usual sailor's knot, and the blucher boots. She had tucked her hair into the cap. Constable Davies arrested her on a charge of drunkenness, and locked her up. About half an hour later a man who stated that he belonged to H.M.S. Endeavour came to the watchhouse. He stated that whilst he was asleep someone had taken all his clothes, and he had to remain in bed until some clothes were borrowed from the neighbours for him. Plain-clothes Constable Sharpe sent a woman for Campbell's clothes, but Campbell declared that she would not take off the man's garments, and it was some time before she was persuaded to do so. Campbell is about 5ft. 10in high, and is built in proportion. She gave her age as 22 years."
The Argus, 17 August 1912, p. 21
The question remains: If Miss Campbell was so drunk, how did she manage to tie the silk handkerchief in a sailor's knot and keep her hair neatly tucked into the sailor's cap? Perhaps she was in collusion with sailor whose clothes she allegedly took, or she may have had another accomplice.
The University Hotel, on the corner of Lygon and Grattan streets, was first licensed to James Plomer in 1858. The hotel ceased trading in December 2016 and the building is now up for lease.
Catnapping in Carlton
Illegal detention is hot topic in Australia, debated by politicians, lawyers and human rights advocates. In 1903, a dispute over the ownership of a cat led to a curious case of illegal detention, heard in Carlton Magistrates Court before JPs Edwards and Clyne. Felix Mortimer, an icecream vendor and resident of Reeves Street Carlton, sued his neighbour Michael Cregan, publican of the Ancient Briton Hotel in Rathdowne Street, for illegal detention of his cat. The cat in question, which did not appear in court, was described by the claimant as a black and white "Mauritius" cat with a burn mark on its tail. Mr Mortimer claimed that he had brought the much-travelled cat with him from his native Mauritius and, to the amusement of the court, that he loved the cat as if it was his own child. The defendant, Michael Cregan, claimed that he had owned the cat for more than 12 months, while Felix Mortimer stated that his cat had been missing for a few weeks and Cregan would not return it. The court decided in Mortimer's favour and ordered that Cregan return the cat or pay the amount of 5 shillings, fixed by the court as the value of the cat, and 19 shillings costs.
Michael Cregan was publican of the Ancient Briton Hotel, on the north corner of Rathdowne and Reeves Streets, from July 1899 to July 1905. The hotel itself dates back to 1867 and was originally licensed to John Reeves, who once owned the street that bore his name. Reeves suffered financial losses and was declared insolvent in 1868, forcing sale of the hotel building and all the houses in Reeves Street. The Ancient Briton Hotel continued to trade for five decades, with a succession of publicans and the occasional breach of licensing regulations. The hotel was delicensed in 1919 and the nine room brick building became a residential property.
The Age, 1 October 1903, p. 6
The Argus, 1 October 1903, p.5
Index to Defunct Hotel Licences (VPRS 8159)
Reeves Street Carlton
Coining in Carlton
A Carlton woman, searching for her husband's secret stash of whisky in May 1918, made a startling discovery. Instead of the demon drink, she found a parcel of 250 shiny, new two shilling pieces stuffed behind the fire grate. She gave one of the coins to a friend, a soldier who was staying with her while he was on leave from the army. He went to the local hotel and tried the "pub test". The savvy publican recognised the "silver" coin as being made from base metal and, taking a hammer, he hammered it to the bar counter. Back at the house, the woman was in a panic as she feared she could be charged with being in possession of counterfeit coins. She placed them in a stocking and later threw them into the Yarra River at Princes Bridge.
The matter, like the coins, might have rested there in the murky depths of the Yarra River, except that the soldier had taken a few coins as souvenirs and they later turned up in circulation at Camp Maribyrnong. The police were called in, but the soldier was not charged because he had given the coins away and had not intended to profit from the transaction. After investigating, the police concluded that the coins, all dated 1908, were most likely the hoard of two "coiners" who were operating in Carlton in that same year. In April 1908, Arthur James and Emily Quilky were arrested and charged with larceny, and with having coining implements in their possession. The police had gone to a house in Barkly Street to recover stolen goods and, in the process of searching, they found plaster moulds of half crowns and coins in various stages of manufacture. Did the two spurious coin discoveries take place in the same house, 10 years apart? The 1918 newspaper accounts do not identify the street address or the names of the people involved - suffice it to say that the evidence was circumstantial.
This was not the only coining case in Carlton. In March 1914, Frederick Thorpe and his wife May (Mary) were arrested and charged with manufacturing, and having in their possession, counterfeit sovereigns. They lived in Lygon Street and, in the early hours of the morning, several police detectives visited the house and found the coins hidden under the mattress on which Mr and Mrs Thorpe were sleeping. Both denied having any knowledge of the "coining plant" that was found in the house, claiming it must have already been there when they moved in. The case was heard in the Criminal Court in April 1914 and, after an hour's deliberation, Frederick Thorpe was found guilty and sentenced to three years' hard labour. He had a series of prior convictions, dating back to 1907, and he spent the following years to 1925 in and out of gaol. May Thorpe, who had a young baby at the time, was found not guilty and went home to contemplate a life without her husband.
Geelong Advertiser, 6 May 1918, p. 5
The Age, 1 May 1908, p. 6
The Age, 17 April 1914, p. 14
The Argus, 17 April 1914, p. 12
Prisoner No. 31480, Victoria Prison Register (VPRS 515)
Bringing Home the Bacon
In 1890, a "respectable looking man" named John Skelton escaped a charge of stealing a side of bacon, valued at 37 shillings and sixpence. He was discovered in a shed at the rear of the premises of Mr Kenny, at North Carlton, in which a quantity of bacon was stored. He was seen handling the meat, but in Carlton Court on 16 April 1890, he denied that he had any felonious intention, and had simply gone to the place to have a sleep. As it was noted that he was showing signs of heavy drinking, this could be seen as a plausible explanation. Skelton's defence counsel argued that there was no evidence of a theft having been committed, as the bacon had not been removed from the shed. The bench found in favour of the defendant, who probably went home to nurse his hangover.
The Age, 17 April 1890, p. 5
The Bag Man
John Smith, an elderly man down on his luck, helped himself to six manilla bags that were hanging from the doorway of Mr. W. T. Thompson, ironmonger, of Elgin Street Carlton. Smith was arrested soon afterwards and appeared in Carlton Court the following day, 2 February 1894. He pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing the manilla bags, valued at six shillings, stating that he was poor and had taken the bags in order to procure food. The Bench took a lenient view of the case and sentenced him to 14 days' imprisonment. One wonders what sentence would have been imposed had he not been treated leniently.
The Argus, 3 February 1894, p. 5
The Price of a Newspaper
Robert Campbell, a newsagent of Rathdowne Street, was fed up with pilfering. He faithfully delivered newspapers to doorsteps in Carlton - come rain, hail or shine - but he was losing an average of 20 newspapers a week through theft. So it was with bittersweet satisfaction that he saw Herbert Beard, someone he had known as a very respectable man, in Carlton Court facing a charge of stealing The Age newspaper, valued at one penny. Charles Coltman, a resident of 427 Rathdowne Street, stated that he had seen Beard open his front gate, pick up the newspaper and walk away with it. Constable Gillespie, who was on watch nearby, had also seen Beard take the newspaper and he made an arrest. In his defence, Beard claimed that he had taken the newspaper to read the job advertisements and he did not intend to steal it. Campbell, while he regretted seeing Beard in his present predicament, considered that action had to be taken to stop newspaper pilfering. Beard was fined ten shillings - 120 times the price of the newspaper he took.
The Age, 25 June 1913, p. 11
The Argus, 25 June 1913, p. 10
A Rude Awakening
William Thompson fell asleep on the verandah of his house in Little Barkly Street, Carlton, on a Saturday evening in January 1899. He awoke an hour later to discover that his trousers had been slashed while he slumbered. Not only that - his watch and chain, and over 30 shillings in cash, were gone. It was the watch that led police to make an arrest in Lygon Street several days later. William Baker, a convicted criminal, offered the watch as security for a loan from Solomon's pawnbroker in Lygon Street. Mrs Solomon recognised the watch as stolen and alerted the police, who arrested Baker. Baker went on to assault police at the Carlton Police Station, adding resisting arrest to his list of charges. At the Carlton Court on Friday 20 January 1899, Baker pleaded guilty and, having recently been released from four years in prison, was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment for larceny and 3 months' for resisting arrest. The watch was no doubt returned to Mr Thompson, but it is unlikely that the stolen cash was recovered or that Thompson was compensated for the damage to his trousers. Hopefully Mrs Thompson was handy with a needle and thread.
The Age, 21 January 1899, p. 9
A Costly Bunch of Flowers
Picking flowers seems like a harmless activity, but for William Angus, a coach builder, it cost him dearly. Two police officers patrolling the grounds of Melbourne University on a Sunday in July 1901 noticed that flowers had been stripped from shrubs in the quadrangle. They came across Mr Angus, holding the incriminating evidence of a large bunch of flowers, and made an arrest. Angus pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing about 100 camellia blooms, the property of the Melbourne University Trustees. He was fined 40 shillings, or in default one month's imprisonment. The sentence took into account the damage caused to the shrubs by breaking off the stalks, and perhaps the presiding magistrate was a camellia fancier or keen gardener.
The Age, 23 July 1901, p. 9
High Kicking in Carlton
Some hotel patrons are known to kick up their heels after a drink or two, but few would reach the impressive height of 7 feet (over 2 metres) achieved by a young man named O'Connor at the Horseshoe Hotel in 1901. Mr O'Connor was a regular drinker at the Horseshoe Hotel in Lygon Street, Carlton, and on the evening of 5 August, he entertained his fellow drinkers with a display of fancy high kicking. The jovial mood changed when his mother arrived, with three police officers in tow. Mrs O'Connor was fed up with her son's drinking and she called the police to fetch him home. On seeing his mother, he burst into tears and threw his arms around her neck. From his emotional outburst, the police deduced that he was a "crying drunk" and made an arrest. But O'Connor was not the person charged over this incident. The hotel licensee, Mary Fitzpatrick, was charged with breaching the Liquor Licensing Act and her "crime" was permitting a drunken person to be on her licensed premises. When the case was heard in the District Court her defence counsel argued that Mr O'Connor was not drunk, as he would have fallen over after executing his high kicks. The court considered that O'Connor had been drunk within the meaning of section 131 of the act, and fined Mary Fitzpatrick £4.
Notes and References:
The Age, 23 August 1901, p. 6
The Argus, 23 August 1901, p. 5
The Horseshoe Hotel (formerly King's Arms Hotel) was on the west side of Lygon Street, between Magenta Place and Argyle Place South. It was delicensed in December 1925.
A Foolhardy Act?
Who would be foolhardy enough to rob the local police station? This question must have crossed the mind of Constable Atherton when he confronted James Cahill at the Carlton Police Station in October 1925. He noticed that Cahill was behaving suspiciously and carrying several items, including a brush that was identified by initials. Cahill claimed that the items were his and that he had "never stolen, even a match" in his whole life. But these items were identified as the property of Constable Sumpter, who lived at the police barracks at Carlton Station. Cahill, a 42 year old labourer who had recently arrived in Melbourne from Albury, claimed to have no knowledge of how or why he had got into the police barracks, or removed the items from Constable Sumpter's locker. He was hungry and simply looking for something to eat. On 27 October 1925, he was charged at Carlton Court with stealing a hair brush, clothes brush, comb and tobacco pouch, and fined £2, in default fourteen days' imprisonment. At least he would have had something to eat in prison.
The Age, 28 October 1925, p. 14
The Nagging Wife
Ernest Butler, who was found guilty of stealing bedding from a lodging house, blamed his nagging wife for his predicament. Butler, a labourer, and his wife occupied a room in a lodging house in Drummond Street, Carlton. Eleanor Blake, the lodging house keeper, noticed several items of bedding missing from their room and called in the police. Butler admitted that he had stolen and pawned two sheets, two blankets and a honeycomb quilt, valued at £2, at the insistence of his nagging wife. The case was heard at Carlton Court a few days before Christmas on 22 December 1925. A sentence of one month's imprisonment was recorded but, possibly in the spirit of the season, it was suspended on a good behaviour bond for twelve months.
The Age, 23 December 1925, p. 12
Snowdropping in Carlton
At the lower end of the clothing scale, Carlton police had to deal with a spate of clothesline thefts in July 1934. Following a visit by senior Plain-Clothes Constables Madin and O'Brien to a house in David Street, a large quantity of clothing, some of which was still wet, was seized. Two men were charged and taken into custody, while police were left with the daunting task of trying to identify the owners of the stash of stolen clothing.
The Age, 28 July 1934, p. 16
A Passion for Silk
Silk has always been considered a luxury fibre, the preserve of those who can afford it, and this makes it an attractive theft item. In February 1936, some inventive thieves managed to steal £200 worth of women's silk underwear from Beatall Manufacturing Co. in Barry Street, Carlton, without even entering the premises. They forced open a window and used an iron rod with a hook at one end to pull the boxes of underwear towards the window.
The Argus, 6 February 1936, p. 10
A few years later in April 1939, nearly 180 dozen pairs of silk stockings, valued at £500 were stolen from a distributing centre of Prestige Ltd. in Nicholson Street, North Carlton. The crime was solved within hours, due to the vigilance of First Constable Maher. In the light of his torch, he noticed three men carrying large sacks at the corner of Station and Curtain Streets, North Carlton, about 3.30 am. He challenged the men, who dropped the sacks and ran away in different directions. Constable Maher managed to arrest of one of the fugitives, and the sacks were found to contain the stolen stockings. The other thieves were arrested in subsequent raids on premises in Drummond Street and Lygon Street. All in a good night's work for First Constable Maher.
The Argus, 13 April 1939, p. 3
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