COAL RIVER TRUE CRIME: JOHNNY’S GONE MAD AGAIN

coalrivertruecrime

CASE 9: JOHNNY’S GONE MAD AGAIN

By the late 1800s, Newcastle was trading with San Francisco, South America and Europe and the port’s internationalism made it a volatile, if predictable, crime locus for drunken fighting, standover gangs, escaping convicts, prostitution and shanghaiing. While the city administrated the huge working population of miners, tradesmen and port workers, the surrounding townships of interconnected mining towns considered themselves separate from this Babel. Tough, laconic and empathetically fair, Novocastrians praised the neighbour, the street, the pub, the church, the union, the fistfight and the workplace to give meaning to the sometimes ruthless reality of their working lives. During the 1880s, some brutal and inexcusable crimes against women threatened the sanctity of this stoic image; as if the strident industrial noise echoing daily over the city was suddenly connected to a more shadowy malevolence.

IMAGE 1: Harbour Panorama
IMAGE 1: Panorama of Newcastle NSW [1880s]

John Powell, with his wife Mary and their two young boys, set up their stall on Stockton beach by 1886. Their rough cottage was protected from the worst of the weather (and the engulfing sands) by a thick wall of scrub and trees. John was a respected local, known as a stolid working man dedicated to his family and his local church. Neither drinker nor wowser, he helped neighbours and was liked by his colliery workmates until a change in the coalface rosters coincided with a more dramatic change in his character. John became obsessed with apocalyptic Old Testament tales and joined a local spiritualist group before running his own home séances, with himself as the medium and his wife as the subject. The séances evolved into a meeting space for John’s direct contact with God, who had enlisted him as one of his earthly prophets. John could switch between brimstone preacher and overprotective parent midsentence, forcing Mary to send their frightened and confused boys to stay more often with sympathetic neighbours. John’s preaching on the streets and at work included the performance of miracles, such as when he ripped old clothes into strips before burning them in fire with the expectation that a brand new shirt would reappear, phoenixlike, from the flames. It the material failed to transmogrify, he would claim the devil’s interference. By the harsh winter of 1886, Powell’s life was a day-to-day theatre of demented preaching and quack spiritualist sessions, punctuated with moments of quiet sanity. Linking his whole sad madness was a singular obsession involving the expected arrival of a large postal order from God, which would pay his fare to America, and where he would ride the great west to east railway and lecture the new continent into salvation.

Despite her constant fear and anxiety about what John would do next, Mary Powell always accommodated his erratic behaviour. During early August it seemed the worm had turned after John surprised everyone by saying he felt better in his head and claimed there would be no more spiritualism for me. He laughed freely again. He went to bed without mentioning God or prophesy. He looked his wife squarely in the eye without staring and kissed her with plain affection. The Powells slept peacefully for the first time in memory. The churning spray of the nearby surf washed tranquilly over the beach cottage, cleansing its mess of agitation. Mary felt confident enough to imagine a better life with the old John when suddenly he erupted awake around midnight and stormed through the house shouting declarations against the devil. He eventually grabbed a broom and proceeded to strike Mary, claiming she was a serpent from hell responsible for stealing the 150 pound money order God had left for him at the local post office.

The ruckus woke Alfred Charles Mullard, John’s friend and workmate who boarded with the Powells. Where most of his workmates had given up on John and tagged him as completely ‘cranky’ and beyond help, Alfred remained staunch and alert, mostly for Mary and the boys. John had earlier that evening apologised for having accused Mullard and Mary of having an affair, contritely accepting it was a groundless fantasy. An agitated Powell revisited the accusation when Mullard appeared at the back door. Mary was standing holding a block of wood, which she hit John with to calm him down. As John uttered muffled inanities and circled the room, Mullard distracted him with some concerned words and questions, time enough for Mary to sneak out to Thomas Lewis’ place.

Mary arrived at the door of their longterm family friend yelling Johnny has gone mad again. Thomas woke, dressed quickly and followed her back to the cottage. They found Mullard and Powell warming themselves at an outdoor fire. John had been quizzing Mullard about the work of the prophets. While he boasted about various absurd and impossible ‘miracles’ that he could perform to prove his power, he decided on toasting a large black spider skewered on a stick, claiming to have burned the devil and he will soon be dead. After incinerating the spider, John turned everyone’s attention across the river to Newcastle. He now proclaimed that the gold lights from the distant pit shafts was in fact Newcastle in conflagration, achieved through the power of his mind, although they should not worry as God had also assured him that the city would stand anew and shining by the coming morning.

After sending Mary and the boys away to neighbours, Lewis and Mullard remained with Powell who never rested during the night, and was a constant victim to strange whims and fancies, sometimes of a very violent character. With the sun coming up over the water, and John still in a maniacal state of biblical threats and bizarre possibility, Lewis went to collect the now on duty Constable Sherlock. A distraught Mary was still unable to sleep, and after hearing Sherlock had been called, she returned to the cottage. On seeing his wife, the contrary John embraced her fondly before dropping to his knees, kissing her hands and praising her for returning to be his darling wife again. Outside, a laudanum coloured sun bathed the cottage in sharp morning light, as if demanding momentary respite. Muscle heavy from no sleep, Mullard used the time for quiet ablutions, leaving Mary with John and his murmurings.

Returning after a few minutes Mullard found Mary Powell lying on the floor barely breathing, blood pooled about her head, and brain matter protruding from a broken skull. John was standing nearby in a flustered daze. A heavy chisel from a sewing machine lay on a table nearby. John Powell impassively advised Mullard that while Mary would soon be dead he would restore her with another miracle.

A horrified Mullard ran to the road yelling for help, before his shock synchronised with his racing heartbeat, and he backtracked into the cottage where John immediately attacked him with the block of wood Mary had used earlier. Mullard was knocked off balance by the blow and he fell to the ground, after which Powell began kicking him in the ribs, calling him the devil’s servant. A neighbour called Copeland appeared on the threshold, and he was in turn attacked by the frenetic Powell. By the time Constable Sherlock arrived, Copeland had bravely removed Mullard from danger while Powell was pacing the ground, threateningly wielding a shovel. Sherlock, Copeland, and the injured Mullard, finally managed to jump, handcuff, and secure Powell with ropes, before wrestling him down the road to the police lockup.

John Powell’s mania continued during the following day’s inquest. He tried tearing off his handcuffs and making to escape out of a window, all the while pleading out loud for the Lord’s assistance or exclaiming I know what I have done; but she is not dead, but only sleeping. When restraining Powell’s arms and feet failed to settle him down, the coroner ordered his removal from the courtroom. In this relative quiet, the inquest revealed a more horrific reality, one in which Mary Powell was found lying on the floor weltering in her life’s blood, her face and head beaten beyond recognition, her mouth and upper lip black and swollen, and her right ear almost torn asunder.

John Powell was indicted for murder and was transferred to Newcastle lockup the following day. After a night spent in its recently built, leather-lined padded cell, it was reported that John Powell has got over his fit of violent mania, and now talks rationally. He seems to understand the peril of his position, and causes no trouble in the lockup. He ate a hearty breakfast this morning, and was inclined to talk. A crowd of three or four hundred persons was gathered at the station this afternoon to see the prisoner depart by train for Maitland Gaol. Toward noon he had become as rational as any ordinary person, and talked quite calmly about his two children being taken care of by his mother, and also of his little property. He persists in talking, and, from casual remarks, it seems he and his wife had differences lately, though of what nature remains uncertain. He walked quietly to the station, and caused no trouble, but implicitly obeyed the directions of his custodians.

Mary Powell’s death rocked the city’s self-esteem. John Powell’s actions questioned what essentially good people were capable of towards each other. Novocastrians fortified themselves by helping the two orphaned boys. They reassured themselves as more facts came out, suggesting Powell was utterly mad, rather than evil, but just six months after Mary’s murder, another violent domestic crime was to unravel the community’s fragile confidence.

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Mary Harris was a domestic servant at a sailor’s boarding house on Scott Street, run by the infamous Mrs Minchin, when she met Charles Harris, ten years her senior. He proposed marriage and a partnership in his own modestly profitable boarding house just up the road. For the unfortunate Mary, her industrious and quietly inoffensive husband revealed himself to be a lush who transformed into a perfect madman on the drink. Charles would spend most nights drinking with the boarders, and much of the day sleeping it off. When he began suffering from delirium tremens, Mary found herself running a business as well as waiting on her husband more than a wife should. Things came to a head in January 1887 when Harris justified a fortnight’s binge after he had fallen down a narrow staircase drunk at Christmas and injured his leg. After being twice restrained by lodgers for lashing out violently at Mary, his wife took him to Sydney for specialist help. His rehabilitation included being weaned off alcohol by drinking smaller doses each successive night. This decreased the frequency of the delirium tremens attacks but it also produced an outbreak of the ‘blues’, a term Charles had picked up from black American sailors. Despite this, he was recovering until a petty argument ended with a lodger needing wounds dressed at the hospital, and with Charles back on the bottle to calm himself down.

The following night, a more sheepish Charles joined Mary in bed at around one am after their live-in servant, Sarah Major, complained of hearing someone trying to break in through a downstairs door and window. Just before dawn, screams issued from the Harris’ bedroom, followed by Mary running out into the hallway with the top half of her nightdress aflame. Mary knocked loudly at the servant’s door, but Sarah was alarmed and refused to open the door. The suffering woman rushed into the boarders’ sleeping apartment, and fell prostrate on the floor. Some of the men rushed to her assistance and wrapped blankets round her writhing form to extinguish the flames.

When Senior Constable Thompson and Constable Griffin arrived, Charles Harris was sitting on a chair with his head leaning on the toilet table, under which was a large pool of blood. On him they found that he had inflicted two deep gashes in his throat from which blood was flowing freely. A washing basin was in front of him, into which a quantity of his life’s blood had trickled and this clearly shows that he was determined to end his career. A kerosene lamp was found in the sleeping apartment in a broken condition. At the hospital, Charles Harris’ wounds were stitched up. Despite efforts to alleviate her torture, Mary Harris lingered on in agony until 5 o’clock the following morning, when death relieved her from the troubles of this life.

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If John Powell was broken by madness, Charles Harris was stewed in an alcoholic soup. Both men avoided the drop on grounds of insanity, traversing any legal determination of Mary Powell and Mary Harris being murdered with ‘malice aforethought’ by their husbands. Harris was sentenced to five years jail, while John Powell remained a longterm resident at the Gladesville Insane Asylum. While Powell’s insanity was evidentially clear cut, Harris’ verdict hinged on contemporary medical wisdom suggesting that mind blankness from delirium tremens occurred only at night, usually after 8 pm. This was despite clear evidence that Harris had splashed kerosene over Mary before igniting her clothes, contradicting his claim that a bed lamp had accidently fell on her. As a perversion of nature and social order, madness counterintuitively inferred guilt on both victims: they were unfortunate vessels for the demons, uncertainties and inabilities that haunted and overcame their actions. Harris’ counsel, for example, argued that his client not only suffered the loss of his business and livelihood, but most tragically, he lost the one woman who loved him more than anything in her own life. It was not directly their faults, but their sex and the circumstances somehow made their deaths inevitable. A few months after the trial, Messrs Edwards and Gorrik were far less effusive about their client’s excusable mental state when Charles Harris reneged on a deal to sell Scott Street and his business to pay their legal fees, instead using his frail mental state to avoid signing the contract.

While the Harris and Powell murders were unique, they did question conventional expectations of male domestic kinship. For men like John Greenwood, the violence inherent in this was an unfortunate but necessary side-effect. When he arrived in Newcastle by train after hunting down his runaway wife to a rented room in Brook Street, the only issue on his mind was how much of a beating she deserved.

Thirty-five year old Fanny Jane Greenwood left Mount Kembla with the couple’s young daughter after one too many beatings from John. For John, it wasn’t so much that Fanny had left, rather that he hadn’t decided if she could or not. A couple of weeks before she escaped he refused to take her to the hospital after she attempting suicide, claiming it was a selfish attempt at avoiding looking after their child — which she did find difficult. After alighting the train at Civic Station, John found Brook Street where (he would later claim) a naked Fanny was mixing it up with two men in bed.

Fanny’s sexual adventurousness had first drawn John to the good time girl, who enjoyed dancing, drinking and male companionship. After the birth of their child, Fanny became increasingly maudlin and sexually frigid, proof for John that she was sleeping around. After arriving in Brook Street, John’s first chance to publically reassert himself came when Fanny refused to leave with him after drinks with the neighbours. When Fanny wanted to stay, John called her a cow, threatening that if you don’t come out, I’ll rip you open. Fanny belligerently remained to finish her bottle. When she returned home, John met her at the front door where he fiercely grabbed and dragged her by the hair into the house. While she sprawled about screaming on the kitchen floor, John pulled out his pocketknife and viciously stabbed her twice in the neck before their daughter threw herself on top of her mother screaming Daddy, don’t kill Mammy.

John left Fanny to rush out and find help, while he gathered up her clothes and lit them in a backyard bonfire. On being arrested, John Greenwood told the police he was sorry he didn’t finish her off, but at least he would be rid of her for a while. At the trial, the treating doctor explained how Mary Greenwood had barely escaped death from the incised wound on the right side of the neck … about two inches long, and between a quarter and half an inch in depth, downwards and forwards. The cut had been made from the ear towards the windpipe, and had the wound been a little deeper it might have proved fatal.

John was sent down for five years at Maitland Gaol, although he would spend half that sentence in the ferocious dog-eat-dog hell of Darlinghurst Gaol. Fanny and her mother remained in Newcastle and became local vagrants, living hand-to-mouth and sleeping in town paddocks, laneways and doss houses when Mary could afford it. Unable to keep regular work, she occasionally slept with men for grog or accommodation. In December 1891 she was found dead on the floor of an Islington boarding house. The cause of death was kidney disease from too much alcohol. The death notice that made the rounds in the many state newspapers defined her as the victim of a brutal domestic stabbing, now reduced to a tawdry symbol of what happens to women allowed alcohol. Her death coincided with the newspaper syndication of an Anthony Trollope novel in which a minor character called Fanny avoids a bad marriage to an unscrupulous priest by the name of Greenwood.

 

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A year before Fanny Greenwood’s demise, Christine Robinson was another runaway miner’s wife who came to Newcastle escaping ritual abuse. Like John Greenwood, William Robinson was tracking his wife down too, after zigzagging his way north from Wollongong, arriving at Newcastle Station on Christmas Eve.

The following morning, William left his Caledonian Hotel room to roam the surrounding city streets. One of their old neighbours had heard that Christine was living and working somewhere in the east end. William’s sleuthing paid off that evening when he confronted Christine and their twoyearold son on Hunter Street, just a few crow hops from the Police lockup. Christine was heading home, having picked up her son after finishing work. The night air had failed to cool down, and was still warm after a hot and dry day. She was only half shocked to see William appear before her, and she reluctantly agreed to his pleading that they sit and talk. The more he persuaded her to return home with him, the more resolute Christine remained, telling him she would rather work for herself than be badly used again by him. When she mentioned a revolver sticking out from his waistcoat, William reassured her it was unloaded, and only there as insurance for a new chum in a strange city. Exhausted of his protestations, Christine finally stood and picked up their boy, holding him tightly to her chest. William asked her one more time if she would not come back. Christine shook her head, but before she could turn to leave William grabbed his revolver and shot Christine twice at close range there on the street. After watching the bullets miss his boy but slice into Christine’s neck, William turned the revolver around and shot himself in the mouth, carrying away part of his lower jaw and left ear, and causing paralysis of the left side of the face.

The gunshots echoed down the evening quiet, and brought the police scrambling out of the lockup. Both husband and wife were taken inside, and medical help was called for from the nearby hospital. One of the bullet shells was later found in front of the lockup, where it had ended up after going through Christine’s neck before bouncing off the wall. After having his injuries treated, William was put in a cell where he oscillated between pathetic and violent remonstrations, but all the while moaning for Christina to come and forgive me; I am dying.

The following day, in Robinson’s hotel room, the police found a revolver box full of ball cartridges, £4 9s. 6d in cash, a bank deposit for £20, and a document relating to £38, deposited with the Loan and Discount Company in Sydney. There was also a rag-edged memorandum book containing a diarised account of William Robinson’s travails since Christine left. A shakyhanded script outlined a mess of desperate confession and angst … Christina, my wife, you are killing me. If there is no change before this year is out, I fear it will end my days … Come home for the little boy’s sake. I cannot work, eat, or sleep … I struck her, and she left me. If I had not been mad with drink I would never have touched her, but I have taken a vow before God to touch her no more charged with drink again. If, with God’s help, my wife will only come back again, oh, wife! Come back, and forgive me once again for what I have done, and I will never interfere with you again. God bless us all, is the earnest prayer of Will. Robinson …

In court, William Robinson’s lawyers claimed the act was one of homicidal mania caused by momentary insanity. Their client had started to feel strange after he suffered a severe head injury caused by a mine cave-in back in Helensburgh. He brought a revolver with him to Newcastle as protection while carrying on his person the paper bank deposits that total all his life savings. He had come to apologise and reconcile with his wife. He did not know what he was doing in the moments he pulled out his gun and fired on his wife. In his response, Mr Lusk the prosecutor argued that buying a revolver to protect his material worth was the considered behaviour of a sane man, before going on to suggest that, far from being a misunderstood and repentant man who inked his woes on memorandum paper, the accused was a volatile brute of violent temper, who, if his shirt wanted a button, he would throw it in the fire. The jury agreed with Mr Lusk, and the verdict of attempted murder was recorded along with an unpronounced death sentence, which was referred on to the NSW government’s Executive Council. Execution was commuted to five years gaol with hard labour. It was announced on the same day as the official celebrations of Premier Henry Parkes’ 75th birthday, in May 1890, where the leonine ‘Father of Federation’ received several birthday presents including a handsome set of solid silver fruit dishes from his colleagues. The night was completed with recitations from Parkes’ latest book of poetry, ‘Fragmentary Thoughts’, which included verse that leitmotifed familial felicity with the old man’s dreams of a federated Australia.

William Robinson’s crime did highlight a new gun fever in New South Wales, as cheap American imports flooded in through San Francisco. The development of light, double action, easy to fire revolvers, such as the Colt Model 1889, proved popular among the young urban and rural colonial boys. While most shot for sport, they could also imagine themselves as Dick Marston or another frontier, loner hero. For young men like Russell Thomas, the bravado of fiction paled against the fierce and spontaneous reality of gaining your street reputation.

Russell was a young tough who moved to Newcastle from Sydney with larrikin aspirations and pointed shoes. By 1891 he had learned to take a punch and was running small errands for southern crooks.  He was also romantically set on seeing a fine-looking Newcastle girl called Patience Dunning. Unfortunately, the lusty Patience had given up on Russell as their nights out had increasingly ended with him strutting like the daddyofthemall, intent on starting a ruckus. When he began telling Patience how she should dress, Patience decided she was no bit of muslin, and definitely no larrikins’ donah. After one too many arguments, she stayed home from their regular Saturday night at Cooks Dancing Saloon. Russell spent the following day drinking to get narked with some high-heeled mates before heading to Patience’s house to sort her out. On hearing his drunken banging and yelling at her front door, Patience wisely took his arm to walk around the quiet Sunday afternoon city streets. When they reached the corner of Brown and King Streets, Russell suddenly seized her wrist, and, she alleges, drew a revolver, pointed it at her, threatening to shoot her. She broke from his grasp and rushed off, but immediately heard two reports. The noise drew the attention of a patrolling Constable Strachan who took Thomas into custody for drunkenness. While he slept off the drink in a cell, Sergeant Thompson and a young man named Pitt found a revolver, a pocketknife, and handkerchief near the spot where the shots were alleged to have been fired. Russell was discharged at trial after Pitt (who may have been out and about with Russell on the Sunday) stated that he was near at the time, and from what he saw he believed that Russell fired into the air. Russell Thomas heeded the judge’s advice and left Patience Dunning alone, although Patience claimed brief notoriety by publically snubbing him in the dance saloons for a few weeks after.

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Dance saloons like Cooks and the Central played popular singalongs and dance tunes. They were a merry-go-round of romance and heartbreak for the city’s youth. It was where Matthew Burridge first met Mary Murchie. After six months of keeping company, the nineteen-year-old, fresh-faced Matthew was still smitten with the freespirited and cheeky sixteen-year-old house servant — his first sweetheart. Their relationship reached a crossroads when Matthew received a job in Sydney. He wanted Mary to marry him and to go, but she had cold feet and waylaid his enthusiasm by claiming that her parents wouldn’t approve. The more she avoided his proposal, the more jealous and fixated Matthew became with the male attention that Mary always received in the dance halls. It ended with Matthew and Mary exchanging face slaps on a Thursday night, while the band played the ever popular ‘Walking in the Zoo’.

A week following their altercation, the couple met for their regular Thursday night when Matthew asked to leave Cooks early. The couple walked together along Hunter Street as far as Jubilee Lane. He told Mary that he was leaving for Sydney within the month. When she cut Matthew short and asked him to change the subject, the usually timid Matthew aggressively warned Mary she should not go to that dancing place anymore; she said he could not stop her; she felt something strike her in the left eye, and saw something like sparks of fire before her face; then she fell down, and remembered no more till she found herself in the hospital.

Matthew Burridge had purchased a new revolver that morning from Alfred Potter, a Hunter Street Jeweller. Potter later recalled how the cash strapped Burridge had paid the balance by pawning a piece of cheap gold attached to a chain given to him by his parents. The doctors treating Mary in hospital would report that the bullet’s trajectory went through the eyeball in a direction slightly upwards and to the right. It remained lodged under the skin of her right temple for some harrowing until the surgeons took out her eye to safely remove it. The operation left Mary wearing a heavy bandage until she found a high quality and affordable second-hand German glass eye, hand blown with an almost identical colour to the one removed.

Burridge was ashamed and remorseful at his packed out court trial. Character witnesses described him as the son of a respectable Hamilton Store keeper who had completed an apprenticeship, but had lost his way after going to dance halls. When asked about slapping Mary in the face, Matthew asserted that Mary had slapped him first after he had made accusations about her flirting and dancing with other boys. On the day of the shooting, Matthew bought the revolver and headed straight to the back of the Castlemaine brewery where he tested it out shooting at sparrows with some mates. He had one hundred shells, but was sure the chamber was empty when he met up with Mary that night. Matthew went on to explain how he was anxious about leaving for Sydney without an answer from Mary. He had given money to her that afternoon to buy new dancing shoes and a bouquet. He hoped they would marry and move to Sydney, regardless of her parents’ disapproval … I told her I was going to Sydney on the Sunday afternoon; she asked me what dancing hall we should go to—the Central or Cooks; I said either; I took her to the dancing hall, left for some time, and returned; we danced, and left for her home; when we got to the lane near her house I said, “Well, Mary, I have got a revolver in my pocket; I will have a bit of sport when I get to Sydney; I started to click it; after I had clicked it about four times it went off …

Mary’s memory of the night was almost a complete blank. She could not recall being there, and had to be told there was a bullet lodged between skin and skull. Hospital nurses noticed Mary seemed pleased to see Matthew when he visited before being arrested. They pair had even kissed. She was sure that while she and Matthew had kept company, marriage was never a real consideration. The jury found the shooting was a moment of accidental incompetence: a boy playing at being a man. The case was discharged and Matthew Burridge moved to Sydney, leaving Mary behind with a false eye and a large scar and a reputation as being a salacious girl who had brought trouble on herself.

Two years after the trial, Mary was an unmarried single mother living in the coal village of Lambton. She had woken to find her young baby dead after sleeping overlain. A local newspaper’s small column-box report of the accidental death noted her sad past. It appeared adjacent to a large quarter page advertisement showing a drawing of two largeheaded babies smiling and fighting over an opened biscuit box. Directly above them in large filigree advertising type were the words ‘IF THE BABIES COULD TALK – They would urge their Mothers to use Hardman’s Biscuits’.

If the rifle dissolved distance on the frontier, the revolver’s portability contrived for itself a menacing aura of random and immediate urban violence. As a massproduced, everyman tool, it created a world of professionals, amateurs and barely competent users. Persuasive counsels would use these distinctions to question a shooter’s criminal culpability and turn the mechanical act of pulling a trigger into a fraught, entangled flash of momentary madness, a cruel joke, sport gone wrong, or even youthful folly. Any cause and effect linking the shooter, weapon and victim became an arguable space of uncertainty and ambiguity.

For all that, guns proved no different to knives, kerosene or fists when it came to judging domestic violence against women in late 18th century Newcastle. Regarded as slippery, weak and unstable, the passive female nature attracted and invited erratic male responses of madness, jealousy, loneliness or lack of self-control. While the courts acknowledged them mothers and victims, Christine Robinson, Mary Murchie, Patience Dunning, Mary Powell and Fanny Greenwood were, by the unexamined sexual standards of nature’s design, implicit triggers of their own fates.

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Images from UON Cultural Collection.
Quoted text from Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocates (Trove).

David Murray is a university medalist with a Creative Arts Phd from Newcastle Uni. He has published two books of poetry: “Swinging from a broken clock” and “Blue bottle” (Sultana Press), and contributed to Overland, The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and the Mascara Poetry Journal.

Murray treats historical true crime creatively as a cultural marker of everyday life. It’s a process concentrating on ordinary lives while reflecting Luc Sante’s observation that ‘violence, misery, chicanery, and insanity exist in a continuum that spans history; they prove that there never was a golden age”.


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