Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Rapists Put to Death; Prisoner Attempts Suicide in Lock-Up

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Rapists Put to Death; Prisoner Attempts Suicide in Lock-Up

Article excerpt

May 19, 1877

Two Polynesians, Tommy and George, sentenced to death at the Maryborough sitting of the Supreme Court for the rape and attempted murder of Mrs. McBride on the Iindah road, paid the penalty yesterday.

We need not now recapitulate the disgusting details, but they are not likely to be soon forgotten, for they gained for our town an unenviable notoriety.

On Friday morning the sky was overcast and a few drops of rain fell just as the word of doom was given by the under sheriff.

On Monday a request was forwarded to the various plantations desiring as many Polynesians as could be possibly spared might be sent to witness the execution.

Presumptively this course had been adopted in order that the sight of the execution would strike terror into them and deter them from committing similar offences.

At the appointed hour the employers of Polynesians, approving of the plan, had assembled at the entrance to the lock up, between 400 and 500 islanders, who had come into town on the previous evening or that morning. Their disgust may be imagined, when they were then informed that the authorities had changed their opinion and determined to make the execution as private as possible.

By an arrangement subsequently made by the under-sheriff six "reprehensive" Polynesians were admitted to witness the scene and four civilians not connected with the proceedings were present.

The scaffold had been erected in the yard at the rear of the lockup and to ensure privacy a screen of black cloth five feet high had been erected on the fence enclosing the yard giving the scene an additional gloomy and funeral appearance.

In the past the prisoners had eaten well but on this morning they both refused breakfast, but both drank a little brandy.

Tommy seemed prostrated with fear, whereas George seemed perfectly indifferent. During the last two days and nights, although Tommy had been constantly watched either by Mr Gaoler Blackall or the lockup keeper Constable Flemming, he had made three attempts to strangle himself using pieces of blanket or shirt.

The last attempt was made at 6pm on Thursday evening, and almost proved successful. …

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