Final Lady Hanged exposes grisly tales from the gallows in Australia’s previous

0 21

WHEN Caroline Overington set out on a five-year challenge to analysis the potential injustice that noticed Louisa Collins hanged for homicide after an unprecedented 4 trials she felt “blessed” that a lot materials from the 1880s had been preserved.

Louisa’s case — introduced after arsenic poisoning was alleged within the deaths of her first and second husbands — was extremely uncommon and have become a catalyst for the marketing campaign for girls’s rights in Australia, however was it honest?

Lousia’s brutal dying is being explored in NewsCorp Australia’s True Crime podcast, which launched at the moment.

Even supposing there “was no homicide weapon, there was no actual motive, there have been no witnesses”, the percentages had been stacked in opposition to the mom of ten, who was given a barrister “who grew to become the primary barrister in NSW to be struck from the position for incompetence,” says Overington.

Three juries didn’t convict, however a fourth discovered her responsible and Collins died on January eight, 1889 in a botched hanging that almost tore her head off, leaving a gaping wound in her throat.

Her horrific finish was removed from uncommon for the occasions although.

“Hanging is a horrible option to die and there have been a number of accounts of executions that went terribly incorrect throughout New South Wales and throughout the opposite states,” Overington says.

“It’s not a exact science. It’s a must to do loads of arithmetic, if you’ll, in regards to the size of the rope, the peak of the gallows, the load of the physique, and it’s not exact, you’ll be able to’t predict how a physique will react, whether or not the neck will break, whether or not the flesh will tear.

“Louisa’s case was uncommon in that she was the primary lady and the final lady to be hanged on the Darlinghurst jail (in Sydney), they usually actually didn’t have a lot of an thought take care of a girl whose physique is totally different.

“They’d in thoughts that if she was hysterical — as a result of the thought was that she is perhaps hysterical — they may maybe strap her to a chair and dangle (her on) the chair.

“To our thoughts at the moment (it’s) utterly barbaric. For my part it was barbaric then too. I imply she died a horrible dying. They didn’t see it that manner as a result of they noticed it as confessing your sins and being despatched again to your maker, nevertheless it will need to have been terrifying.”

Within the following extract from Final Lady Hanged, Overington describes one other brutal dying by the hands of the authorities that shocked even the far much less delicate sensibilities of spectators of the time.


Capital punishment had, no matter gender, been the usual response to the crime of homicide for the reason that arrival of the First Fleet. The popular technique was hanging, which was for years accomplished earlier than crowds of enthusiastic onlookers, and infrequently with startling ineptitude. Take, for an instance, the primary public hanging within the colony of South Australia. Given it was the primary, errors had been certain to occur — however nonetheless. The 12 months was 1838, and the condemned man’s identify was Michael Magee. He was twenty-four years outdated and had been delivered to the court docket in clanking irons, accused of firing a shot on the native sheriff, Mr Samuel Good. The shot missed, leaving nothing however a gunpowder graze on Mr Good’s cheek — however the choose determined that Magee ought to dangle.

Three speedy issues arose.

First, Magee was a Roman Catholic and would due to this fact have to see a priest earlier than he died, however there appears to have been no Catholic priest within the colony of South Australia in 1838. The judiciary contemplated this drawback for a day or so earlier than deciding that a native tradesman — fellmonger or blacksmith, the file doesn’t say — must do (Magee reportedly agreed to this association, not, one supposes, that he had a lot selection).

The second drawback was extra critical: moreover having no Catholic priest, the colony had no executioner.

Once more, the judiciary contemplated. The sheriff’s identify was talked about, however given he had additionally been the meant sufferer of Magee’s poorly timed shot, this was thought-about ‘unseemly’ and so the job was put to tender.

Who, now, would take 5 kilos to execute Michael Magee?

No person got here ahead.

Who now will take ten kilos to execute this man?

Nonetheless no takers.

By the day of the hanging — it was a Wednesday — all of Adelaide was agog with curiosity. Would the execution go forward and, in that case, who can be the hangman? Everybody needed to know and so, within the hours instantly after dawn, not less than 1000 folks — ladies and youngsters included — rose from their beds and commenced to make their manner throughout fields to the hanging place to see what may occur.

Officers had determined that Magee ought to dangle from a tree on the banks of the Torrens River. The tree was chosen each as a result of it had a thick, horizontal bough over which the noose may very well be thrown, and since it was the one such tree on authorities land.

Maybe due to the gorgeous location, many individuals had determined to convey picnics, and earlier than lengthy the riverbank was crammed with spectators. Then, shortly after 9 a.m., the temper turned critical: by the bushes, folks may see a procession leaving the distant gaol. (It wasn’t actually a gaol; it was extra a timber shed. A correct gaol wouldn’t be constructed for a 12 months, and it will be run for many years by a person so fats that when he died his corpse must be carried out by a window.)

The procession comprised mounted police and a cart led by two horses, one in entrance of the opposite. Upon the cart sat a timber coffin — and upon the coffin sat Magee. If that weren’t unhealthy sufficient, additionally sitting on the coffin was the hangman.

Who was he? Effectively, it was onerous to make sure. To maintain his id a secret, the hangman had stuffed his garments with padding, so he regarded like he had an enormous hump, and he lined his face with a horrible hand-made masks painted white across the eyes. The nearer the hangman bought to the crowds on the riverbank, the extra huge and repulsive he appeared. Ladies gasped and youngsters screamed, the ‘thrill of horror creeping by their veins’.

FOLLOW: True Crime Australia on Fb and Twitter

In an effort to maintain folks from crowding too near the hanging tree, the judiciary had arrange a brief enclosure, like a sheep pen, round its base. They’d additionally saddled an additional horse so the hangman may make a fast getaway after the job was accomplished.

With Magee’s cart now parked contained in the pen, the execution was, as they are saying, good to go. The noose was positioned over Magee’s head and a cap was drawn over his face. Prayers had been concluded. A movement was made that every one was prepared after which, after ‘a whip or two of the main horse’, the cart upon which Magee nonetheless sat was drawn away. Many within the crowd shut their eyes, as nicely they could, as a result of ‘right here commenced one of the vital frightful and appalling sights that ever maybe can be once more witnessed within the colony’. Both the horse was shifting too slowly or else the hangman had bungled the noose, however as an alternative of getting his neck immediately damaged, Magee began to slip gently off the coffin till he was hanging by his throat within the air, screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh Christ! Save me!’

Now it was time for males to gasp. The hangman — nonetheless in his masks and lumpy costume — bought on the saddled horse and bolted.

‘Fetch him again!’ the gang cried, so mounted police took off at full velocity. Magee, in the meantime, was uttering the identical piercing cries: ‘Lord save me! Christ have mercy upon me!’ No person knew what to do. Some cried, ‘Reduce him down!’ Others urged the marines to shoot Magee useless with their muskets to not less than put an finish to his distress, and all of the whereas, Magee’s palms had been up the rope as he madly tried to avoid wasting himself, whereas his physique twisted ‘like a joint of meat earlier than the hearth’.

Lastly, the hangman was introduced again. Inspiration had struck and, with a ‘fiendish leap’, he threw himself upon Magee’s physique and proceeded to hold himself from the condemned man’s legs, pulling him towards the bottom till Magee may not cling to the rope and commenced to suffocate. By some counts, it took 13 lengthy minutes for Magee to die this fashion. Many within the crowd had been horrified. Others waited for the physique to be lower down after which carried on with their picnic.

• That is an edited extract from Final Lady Hanged by Caroline Overington, printed by HarperCollins.

Supply hyperlink –

You might also like

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.