|Note from Quizmaster Herschel Browne
estimates of 10,000 plus people to watch the
1853 - Public execution abolished.
The first hanging was in October, 1841, and the
last was in October, 1908. Most of the people
who were hanged were notorious criminals. One
was the bushranger, Captain Moonlight. Another
was the murderer, John Knatchbull. Of the 76
people hanged only one was a woman. The
woman, Louisa Collins, is said to have poisoned
both her husbands with arsenic. Photographs of
prisoners were taken at Darlinghurst gaol in
Sydney in 1872.
The gaol was built using the plans of a jail in
Philadelphia. The ideas was that it should be like
a wheel. The chapel was in the centre and the
cell blocks were the spokes. The gaol was built
for 732 prisoners. The women's cell block was
for 156 women. But in the 1850s there were as
many as 450 women there. Over the years, a
total of 79 people were executed at Darlinghurst
It was used as a prison from 1840 till 1912. In
1912 Long Bay Jail was opened and Darlinghurst
gaol was no longer needed. But during the First
World War (1914-1918) it was used as an
In 1921 the site was made into a technical
college. Since then the outside of the buildings
have been looked after by the National Trust.
The insides of the buildings were completely
changed and made into classrooms.
|Louisa Collins Sentenced to Death
The Sydney Morning Herald
10 December 1888
|1880s Rough On Rats Advertisement & Sheet Music
(Louisa Collis' Poison of Choice)
New York Times advertisement, 24 May 1887, p.8.
|this poison to commit suicide.
The ad is a rather crude one, from the New York
Times in 1887, that you see at left, which refers to
the sheet music and even provides the lyrics. It is
beyond me to imagine anyone actually wanting to
At the Library of Congress American Memory
Collection one can find the sheet music to this
song, see below. The lyricist was Jules Juniper,
and the publisher, E.S. Wells, was the maker of
Rough On Rats. It was printed in 1882.
For more on the 1887 suicide of Sarah Hicks,
|If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at CFitzp@aol.com. If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the Forensic Genealogy book.
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
|Answer to Quiz #271
September 5, 2010
|On 6 January 1844 he was arrested for the murder of Mrs Ellen Jamieson,
having been found with her money and pocket book on him, in the house
where her body lay. He confessed to the crime and was brought to trial on
24 January. He was defended by Robert Lowe, who for the first time in a
British court raised the plea of moral insanity, but the judge and jury
refused to accept it. Knatchbull was found guilty of murder and sentenced
to death. He appealed unsuccessfully against the sentence on the ground
that the judge had not directed that his body be dissected and anatomized
after execution, thus making the sentence illegal. He was duly hanged on 13
February on a public gallows and has been credited by some with having
Note: Mr. Knatchbull had already escaped the death sentence twice by the
time he was convicted and executed for the murder of Ellen Jamieson.
She walked up the steps to where the public hangman, Robert ‘Nosey Bob’ Howard
was waiting with his new young assistant, Mr Stepping.
To one side of the trap door was a chair with a piece of carpet thrown over and on this
rested the noose of the rope.
Louisa stood calmly on the trapdoor. Canon Rich whispered something to her and she
inclined her head to catch his words. The executioner signaled and Mr Stepping pulled
The trapdoor pin had jammed.
There was confusion and a warder seized a mallet and struck the wooden pin three
times. It gave and the trapdoor banged open.
Louisa Collins fell through in a slightly curved position. After swinging to one side she
was suspended perpendicularly with her face towards the yard.
The body was left hanging for the regulation 20 minutes.
1. This is the first woman executed in Darlinghurst Gaol.
2. She was convicted of poisoning her second husband.
3. John Knatchbull, Andrew George Scott (Captain Moonlight),
Jimmy Governor (aka Jimmy Blacksmith),
Charles Montgomery, Thomas Williams, Alfred Grinnon, and Frank Butler.
At 9 a.m. 12 witnesses stood in the small
yard below the gallows in Darlinghurst
Gaol, five were members of the press. They
were to witness the first woman to be
hanged in that 48-year-old gaol and, as it
turned out, the last woman to be hanged in
New South Wales.
Louisa Collins appeared from the
condemned cell dressed in a long, brown
prison dress, her arms pinioned above the
elbows. A female warder held each arm but
not for support.
As she walked across the sunny patch of
grass Louisa behaved “as calmly as if she
were performing an everyday function”
Minor Canon Rich, the gaol chaplin,
In the 1820s, Sydney needed a new Gaol.
The Government chose the site for the
gaol site because it's on a hill, so it was
easy to see from the city. This was
important because Sydney was still a
convict town in 1820. The gaol reminded
people of this fact. It was also a good site
because there was plenty of sandstone
nearby for building,being sourced from
the eastern side of the hill on the west
estate, Barcom Glen.
Work began on the jail in 1835 and it took
50 years to finish. By 1840 the
Governor's residence, one men's cell
block and the women's cell block were
1841 - Darlinghurst gaol takes first
prisoners. June 7th early morning, 113
men chained together at the ankles, 45
women some walking some in carts, all in
chains began the trek from the old gaol,
lower George street then along south
head road to the new gaol on Darlinghurst
hill. Later the same day gaol staff packed
what was deemed necessary, including
the death masks of those executed and
various soft furnishings and made their
way along south head road to the new
gaol on the hill
1842 - October George Stroud & Robert
Hudson become the first prisoners to be
hung at the new prison, their execution
witnessed by 600-700 people
1844 - The Knatchball execution see
|In my research for the story of my
great-grandfather's cousin, Sarah
Hicks, I came across all sorts of
ads and ephemera relating to the
poison that she took [to commit
suicide], a rat poison called Rough
On Rats, which was almost
entirely composed of arsenic. I
present to you first an
advertisement and then the sheet
music for a song about Rough On
Rats. This is particularly bizarre,
because these ads were appearing
at time (the late 1880s) in which a
tragic number of people were using
|Louisa had poisoned her two husbands with arsenic to
collect their life insurance. Needless to say: this femme
fatale was "rough on rats" in her life-- brand name of
This particular product had the fame of being one of
the first brands advertised in New York City in 1882
with a catchy jingle and lyrics-- with sheet music to
the tune of: The Little Brown Jug."
|The Mysterious Death at Botany Bay
Sydney Morning Herald
14 July 1888
Henry Lawson (17 June 1867 –
2 September 1922) was an
Australian writer and poet.
Despite his position as the most
celebrated Australian writer of
the time, Lawson was deeply
depressed and perpetually poor.
He lacked money due to
unfortunate royalty deals with
publishers. His ex-wife
repeatedly reported him for non-
payment of child maintenance,
resulting in gaol terms. He was
gaoled at Darlinghurst Gaol for
drunkenness and non-payment
of alimony, and recorded his
experience in the haunting poem
"One Hundred and Three" - his
prison number - which was
published in 1908. He refers to
the prison as "Starvinghurst
Gaol" because of the meagre
rations given to the inmates.
Read poem One Hundred and
Three by Henry Lawson.
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Milene Rawlinson Joe Ruffner
Karen Kay Bunting Michelle Decatur
Cory Kending Debbie Sterbinsky
Teresa Yu Matt Pallai
Terry A. Hollenstain Sharon Taber
Carol Colgan Maureen O'Connor
Mary Tanona Elaine C. Hebert
Richard Hurley Molly Collins
Debbie Johnson Debbie Ciccarelli
Carl Blessing Edee Scott
Patty Kiker Stephen Jolley
Susan E. Skidmore Mike Swierczewski
Wayne Douglas Betty Chambers
Deborah Lee Stewart Charlotte Kirby
Laurel Fletchner Pinky Palladino
Sharon Mufferi Dave Town
Tim Groves Tish Olshefski
Alan Lemm Arthur Hartwell
Collier Smith Frank P. Nollette
Mike Dalton Grace Hertz
Mark Goldberg Margaret Paxton
Peter Norton Marilyn Hamill
Jinny Collins Pam Long
Janice M. Sellers Robin Spence
Margaret Waterman Mary Fraser
Caroline Pointer Carol Tarrant
Jim Kiser Gina Espinoza
Daniel E. Jolley Stan Read
Robert W. Steinmann, Jr. Charlie Wayne
She almost got away with it as it is. It took 4 trials to find her guilty.I suspect the
prosecution was really anxious for a guilty verdict, and I wouldn't put it past them to
bribe the jury to get a guilty verdict. If she had left Collins alone, she probably would
have gotten away with the first one. Definitely not a nice woman. A real gold digger.
N.B. You are assuming that was the "first one". Maybe not... Q. Gen.
I have to give full credit to my wife, Jen, for this one. While I was googling "first
woman executed," and ignoring the first Google suggestion, which would have directed
me to Darlinghurst, she searched for the judge's quote, which directed her to the
answer: lifeasdaddy.typepad.com/lifeasdaddy/2009/06/..... My seach took me to Mary Surratt,
1st woman executed in the U.S., for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Also a
good story... Joe Ruffner
Louisa Collins - not that you asked her name, but even a dreadful woman has one!
Louisa sounds like quite a gal. Rat Poison is a nasty way to go and I guess she thought
if she got away with it with her first victim, the poor Mr. Andrews, she could get away
with it a second time, or was this only her second time? Patty Kiker
Interesting quiz this week! I'm glad that she isn't around any longer to cook my food!
No arsenic allowed! When she was executed in 1889 (very gruesome affair), there
was an outcry partially because she was a mother and partially because it was felt at
that time that since women, who was barred from voting and sitting on juries, shouldn't
be held accountable under the same laws as men. Grace Hertz
The difficulty in finding this document is compounded by the fact the fact that the New
South Wales Records site has her name spell "Lousia" rather than "Louisa," and that
search of that site under neither spelling leads to the document. Fortunately, there is a
link to it from the gallery page, and a Google search with the "Lousia" spelling does
locate it. Fascinating to get a look at some Australian history, which is not strong in my
background. Thanks for this; I've enjoyed it. Peter Norton
I started this search by looking for the Chief Justice Darley who held out no hope for
mercy for Louisa. That led me to the location [Native Place] of N.S.W. which is New
South Wales. Then I searched the date in that area. It led to the marriage of a famous
Australian actress whose wedding turned into a riot. That didn’t seem to be punishable
by death, so I kept looking. The rest just seemed to fall into place. Carol Tarrant
This was a mean mean women. Be careful who you marry when the first spouse dies
suddenly. Evidently she was the last women to be hung in NSW. Jim Kiser
Yes, the description of the execution made me feel sick. Maybe a little too much info.
I was wondering if she meant to kill him or if she was giving him medication that had
the arsenic in it in high doses and she unknowingly did him in... Edee Scott
N.B. Oh, I don't think it was an accident. Here is a link to information about the
Rat Poison that did him in: http://tiny.cc/8edf3 Q. Gen.
The most recent subject sounds like a lovely woman. ;) Two husbands murdered,
well maybe, but a baby son? I can't even imagine. Clearly a disturbed woman. If these
crimes happened today, maybe there would be better forensic evidence to convict or
exonerate. We may never know the real truth. Deborah Lee Stewart
I checked out a few of the other mug shots. One woman in very proper Victorian garb
was covered with amateur tattoos (they didn't show them). All over her arms and
chest saying i love so and so. Too bad she couldn't remove one when she got a new
love. People don't think about that. Marilyn Hamill
Yes, Louisa was a real sadistic nut-job! I just don't understand how people can kill
someone when they can just "get away". And to kill a child!!!???? No mercy…
sorry. I don't want to be morbid, but some people deserve to fry!!!! Yes, it is indeed
scary! Susan E. Skidmore
|1. Complete the phrase: This is the first woman _______
3. Name one other person who also _____ at the same place.
|Comments from Our Readers
|Submitted by Dr. Anthony Smart.
The extraordinary and mysterious circumstances surrounding
the death of a man names Michael Peter Collins, which occurred
at No. 5, Popple's-terrace, Botany-road, Botany, on Sunday
afternoon last, have not assumed alarming aspects.
It will be remembered that Dr. Marchall was attending the
deceased for about two months previous to his death, and the
curious symptoms displayed baffled all the efforts of the doctor
to trace the nature of the disease, and when the man died, Dr.
Marchall, from information received from Dr. Martin, which
partly confirmed his own suspicions, refused to give a
certificate as to the cause of death, and sent a report of the
occurrence, likewise his suspicions in full, to the City Coroner.
The result was that an inquest was commenced on Tuesday last,
and adjourned for a week to allow the Government Analyst, Mr.
Hamlet, to make a careful chemical examination of the
deceased's stomach and contents. On Thursday afternoon Mr.
Hamlet informed the Coroner that he had finished the analysis,
and had found amongst other things a large quantity of arsenic, sufficient to cause
death. Mr. Shield, as soon as possible, gave the necessary authority to the police to
place the woman Louisa Collins, the wife of the deceased, under arrest. As usual, the
matter was carried through the case, the police being extremely reticent, and as a
matter of fact, last night they gave the representatives of the press to understand that
they knew nothing whatever about the affair.
About 8 o'clock on Thursday night Louisa Collins was arrested by warrant by
Senior-constable Sherwin, No. 3 station, who charged her, on suspicion, with having
caused the death of Michael Peter Collins, her husband. Yesterday morning Inspector
Hyam waited upon the city Coroner, where he was supplied with the requisite warrants
for the exhumation of the body of the first husband, and also a child (of which the
deceased was the father), whose deaths occurred on the 5th February 1887, and the 19
April 1888, respectively. No definite time has yet been fixed for the inquiry into the
death of these two.
The case of the child is a new phase in the mystery, and to which up to the present no
publicity has been given. However, from inquiries instituted, we find that the Coroner
received the following report on 20th April 1888: - "About 11:40 p.m., on the 19th April
1888, a child named John Collins, aged 4 1/2 months, died suddenly at his parents'
residence, Botany-road, Botany. It appears the deceased suffered slightly from a sick
stomach for two days previous to its death but the parents did not consider it bad
enough to call in medical aid. About 10 p.m. the same night the child began crying; the
father lit the lamp and took the deceased up, which it got quiet and began laughing at
the light, deceased then took the breast and fell asleep. About 11:20 p.m. it awoke
screaming and suffering great pain, and was dead in less than 20 minutes. The only
medicine given to the child was a teaspoonful of castor oil and 1 p.m. the day it died.
Dr. Martin, of 32, College-street, saw the deceased some hours after death and directed
the parents to report the matter to the police and said he would send a memo to City
Coroner." On the face of this report the Coroner has written, "As there are no grounds
for supposing this child died form any but natural causes, an inquest may be dispensed
with." Dr. Martin attended the first husband during the illness previous to his death,
and when he passed away the doctor gave a certificate for the cause of death. Be it
mentioned, however, that the symptoms preceding the death of all three were similar in
Louisa Collins, 32, widow, was brought up before Mr. Addison, S.M., at the Water
Police Court yesterday, and charged, on suspicion, of having caused the death of her
husband, Michael Patrick Collins, at Botany, on or about the 8th July 1888. On the
application of the police the case was remanded until Tuesday next.
|The Botany Mystery
Verdict of Wilful Murder Against Louisa Collins
Sydney Morning Herald
6 August 1888
The inquiry concerning the deaths of Charles Andrews
and John Collins, who were respectively husband and
child of the woman Louisa Collins, was further
continued on Saturday morning, at the Coroner's Court,
Chancery-square, before the City Coroner (Mr. H.
Sheill, J.P.). Louisa Collins appeared as on Friday.
Alfred Newman, assistant custodian of wills in the
department of Prothonotary of the Supreme Court of
New South Wales, produced a document purporting to
be the will of Charles Andrews on the 31st January
1887, and signed by John Stephen and William Farrer
as witnesses. The Coroner, after reading the will, said it
was evident that the will was not prepared by the
deceased. The only part in the handwriting of the
deceased was the signature.
Mrs. Collins: A man in the insurance office filled the
Constable Jeffs, of Botany, stated that he knew the
deceased, Charles Andrews; on the 16th December
1886, in the afternoon, Mrs. Andrews, the woman
before the Court, went to the police station, Botany,
and complained of her husband "fighting and rowing
with the boarders;" witness went down that evening to
Popple's Paddock, to the residence of the deceased, and
found everything quiet; knocked at the door and got no answer; a neighbour named
James Lawes made a statement to him; the week after Andrews's death, witness went
down to Popple's Paddock, to what he believed was the house in which the deceased
had lived, and there saw several people dancing and singing; amongst the persons there
was Louisa Collins; witness saw Andrews about five days before he heard of his death.
Charles Sayers, residing at Botany, stated he knew the deceased Charles Andrews, he
was a man who enjoyed first-class health; he was not in the habit of drinking to excess;
first heard of his illness on the Saturday prior to his death, which took place on the
following Wednesday; went to his house on the morning of the day he died; he was
lying on a sofa in the front room; he was conscious; in reply to witness he said, he was
vomiting, and had pains in his stomach; he said he had seen a doctor, and got some
medicine for it, but he could not keep it on his stomach, and if he did not get better he
thought he would die; witness cheered him as well as he could, but he heard of his
death the same afternoon.
Mary Laws, residing at Popple's-terrace, Botany, stated that she knew the deceased,
also Michael Peter Collins; knew that the latter had been living in Andrews's house prior
to the latter's death; witness once heard a quarrel between the two and Mrs. Andrews;
Andrews seemed very angry at Collins being in the house, and told him he had brought
trouble on him (Andrews) and his family; Collins had left previous to that quarrel, and
was living at another house, but he called that day, and that gave rise to the trouble;
Mrs. Andrews had told witness that Andrews was jealous of Collins and her; a few
days after Andrews's death, Collins returned to the house; there was dancing the week
following Andrews's death in an empty house in the terrace; Mrs. Andrews and Collins
were there; it was understood that the merry making was in celebration of the wedding
of Mrs. Andrews and Collins, although they were not aware of any ceremony having
taken place; remembered the day Andrews died, on Wednesday, the 2nd February, a
little girl went over to her house, and said that Mrs. Andrews wanted witness to go
over, as Andrews was dead; witness went over; it was only a minute or two after
Andrews' death, and she saw Louisa Andrews; she said "she was going to Sydney by
the next tram, to let the insurance people know, and to the Savings Bank;" she went by
the next tram.
Dr. M. Martin, recalled, said that taking into consideration the whole of the symptoms
of the deceased, Charles Andrews, during life, and the face that arsenic had been found
in the remains by Mr. Hamlet, witness was of opinion that the deceased died from
inflammation of the lining membrane of the stomach and bowels; caused in all
probability by some irritant poison, gastritis was one of the results of arsenical
poisoning, and even if arsenic had not been found in the remains witness would still
have the same opinion as to the cause of his death, from the symptoms and from the
well-known fact that arsenic may not be found in the bodies of those who have died
from poisoning by that drug. During witness attendance on the deceased he was
struck with the idea that she had her eye on a second husband; witness formed this
opinion from her manner; she seemed indifferent as to the fate of the deceased; believe
he gave instructions that deceased was not to have beer, but found afterwards that he
had been getting beer; on the 1st of February witness saw Andrews, and there was
nothing to lead him to suppose that he would have died so soon; heard of his death the
next day; witness ordered bismuth for him; there was no arsenic in any of the drugs
prescribed for the deceased.
Dr. Samuel Thomas Knaggs said having heard the evidence of Dr. M. Martin, he now
believed that the vomiting was uncontrollable by the usual remedies; the symptoms
which Dr. Martin had described the deceased Charles Andrews to be suffering from
were those of "gastro enteritis," and were also in common with symptoms often found
in arsenical poisoning; the uncontrollability of the symptoms by the usual remedies
would indicate the presence of some irritant poison.
By the Coroner: Not finding traces of arsenic in the body after death was no evidence
that death did not arise from arsenical poisoning; there were cases recorded, where the
poison was eliminated by vomiting and purging, and yet produced fatal results without
leaving a trace behind; taking into consideration the symptoms of the deceased (as
described) during life, and the fact that traces of arsenic were found in his remains,
witness was inclined to suspect arsenical poisoning.
Louisa Collins declined to call any evidence or to make a statement.
The Coroner, in summing up, said that the jury in considering their verdict, must
exclude from their thoughts the child John Collins. He died form natural causes. It
was necessary in exhuming the body of Andrews to do the same with the child, and the
chemical analysis demonstrated the fact that not a trace of poison was found in the
In the case of the deceased Charles Andrews it was different. They were perfectly
aware that the death of Michael Peter Collins led to this inquiry. In his case, Dr. Martin
was called in and held a consultation with Dr. Marshall, who was in attendance upon
the deceased, and noticing that the symptoms were the same as in the case of
Andrews, that led to the holding of this inquiry, and they must know that in the remains
of Collins, nearly three grains of arsenic were found. That Charles Andrews died from
arsenical poisoning, very few could doubt. The symptoms were those of arsenical
The fact that a small trace of arsenic only was found in his remains, afforded no
evidence whatever that the deceased did not die from arsenical poisoning. There were
cases recorded, as Dr. Knaggs had said, in which deaths were proved to have taken
place from arsenical poisoning, and in the remarkably short time after death no traces
of arsenic had been found. The poison (arsenic) was eliminated by vomiting and
purging, and it found it way out of the system in that manner during life. If they were
of the opinion that Charles Andrews died form arsenical poisoning, they would have to
ask themselves by whom was the poison administered and who had an interest in giving
the drug to him.
The woman Louisa Collins, formerly Andrews, was the wife of Charles Andrews. She
had her last husband living in the house with her when Andrews was alive, and Collins
was expelled from the house, and according to the evidence of the son, Arthur
Andrews, his father was at that time in good health. They had further evidence to
show that at the time Andrews was a hale and hearty man, and able to work 15 hours a
day. This was within a few days of his death; and young Andrews had stated that
within a few days of Collins being thrown out of the house his father became ill, the
illness being a pain in the pit of the stomach. That continued up to his death; and very
soon after his death a wedding feast followed. They welcomed the new bride and
bridegroom - viz., Louisa Andrews (now Collins) and Michael Peter Collins. Was there
no suspicion in all that:
On the 31st January, two days before his death, the deceased (Andrews) made a will
bequeathing everything he possessed to his wife. Of the contents of that will Louisa
Collins was perfectly aware. It was read to the witness in her presence.
The question for determination was, whether the death of Charles Andrews caused by
arsenical poisoning? If so, by whom was the poison administered; If they were of
opinion that Louisa Collins administered that poison to her husband and thereby caused
his death, they would have to return a verdict of murder against her. If not so satisfied,
their verdict would have to be in the opposite direction, exonerating her.
It they considered that the deceased did not die from arsenical poisoning, then they
must return a verdict of death from natural causes, but they must consider the fact that
in a number of cases where death had taken place from arsenical poisoning, no traces
had been found after death. The symptoms in this case were those of arsenical
poisoning, then they must return a verdict of death from natural causes; but they must
consider the fact that in a number of cases where death had taken place from arsenical
poisoning, no trace had been found after death. The symptoms in this case were those
of arsenical poisoning, and from the fact that arsenic had been found in the remains,
how could they arrive at any conclusion other than that arsenic was the cause of his
After 10 minutes deliberation, the jury returned a verdict as follows: "We find that the
child John Collins died form natural causes. We find that Charles Andrews met his
death from arsenical poisoning, and further, that the poison was administered by his
wife, then Louisa Andrews, now Louisa Collins; and we further find that Louisa Collins
is guilty of the wilful murder of her husband Charles Andrews."
The Coroner then committed Louisa Collins in Darlinghurst goal, to stand her trial for
the wilful murder of her husband Charles Andrews.
|The Botany Poisoning Case
24 July 1888
|The Execution of Louisa Collins
Sydney Morning Herald
9 January 1889
Yesterday morning, a few minutes after 9 o'clock, Louisa
Collins was executed within Darlinghurst gaol, in the
strictest privacy compatible with the awful event. The hour
of execution was fixed at 9 o'clock, and about 20 minutes
before that time the guarded gates to the Court-house
entrance had been opened to five representatives of the
metropolitan daily press. Besides these the only witnesses of
the execution were Mr. Cowper, the Sheriff, Mr. Maybury,
the Deputy Sheriff, Dr. Maurice O'Connor, visiting surgeon,
Dr. Brownless, nominated for the occasion by the
Government ___ollical officer; the gaol dispenser, and
sub-inspector Hyam. About an hour before the execution
the condemned woman was removed from the female ward
to the condemned cell, which is situated a few yards from
the fallows. She was accompanied by the Rev. Canon Rich,
chaplain of the gaol, and passed her last hour in prayer. A
few minutes past 9 the voice of the chaplain could be heard
uttering the first words of the burial service, and a moment
later he emerged from the cell-door on to the gallery which
led to the scaffold. Behind was Louisa Collins, clothed in
the common brown winesy prison dress, with her arms
pinioned above the elbows. On each side, with a hand on
each arm, a female warder walked, but without the necessity
to give support, as with bent head and nearly closed eyes the
doomed woman walked slowly, but firmly, towards the door
which led to the scaffold. In passing she gave a fried look
on the representative of the press still remaining in the
Her female attendants were, to all appearances, more
affected than Mrs. Collins herself, for one was weeping.
Behind followed Howard, the executioner, and his
newly-appointed assistant. Stepping on the scaffold, which faces a small exercise yard,
Mrs. Collins again case a glance at the small group of reporters beneath. Except this
movement of the eyes there was no facial change, but a slight twitch of the hands.
On one side of the trapdoor on the platform stood a chair, over which was thrown a
piece of carpet; on this rested the noose of the rope. The Rev. Mr. Rich stood on the
other side, and immediately Mrs. Collins was beneath the beam, the chaplain
pronounced the closing words of the burial service, to which the victim audibly
responded "Amen," and after a few whispered words from the chaplain, to hear which
Mrs. Collins slightly inclined her head, the white cap was handed from the assistant to
the executioner, who placed it over the victim's head. She raised her right hand and
assisted to adjust the cap, and then the rope was tightened round her neck.
The executioner signalled to his assistant to pull the lever, but the handle refused to
move. It could be seen that pressure was applied, and also that the pin which held the
handle in its place was fast in its slot. The assistant endeavoured to remove the pin, but
failed, and in a few seconds a mallet was used. Four or five blows were applied - Mrs.
Collins meanwhile standing perfectly upright and motionless - before the pin gave way.
The delay cause could not have been short of one minute, when the lever moved and
the body fell through in a slightly curved position.
After one swing to the side and in a moment it was suspended perpendicularly, with the
face towards the yard. There was a slight spurt of blood, followed by a thin stream
which ran down the dress and spotted the floor beneath. Nearer examination showed
that the strain of the drop had so fat opened the neck as to completely sever the
windpipe, and that the body was handing by the vertebra. Slowly the body turned
round on the rope until the front part faced the doorway, and there it remained
stationary until lowered by the executioner on to a wicker bier. Death was
instantaneous. After hanging for 20 minutes the corpse was conveyed to the inquest
room, and again given over to the female warders. Subsequently the formal inquest
was held, ad the usual verdict returned. During the afternoon the remains were buried
at Rookwood, under the surveillance of the police authorities.
The Rev. Canon Rich, before leaving the gaol, informed the press that he attended the
condemned woman daily, and sometimes twice a day, subsequent to her condemnation.
She had all along been most earnest in her prayers and devoutly accepted his spiritual
consolations. As the day of execution drew near she gradually altered, becoming more
careworn as if from mental strain. She fully recognized her awful position and always
expressed her preparedness for and resignation to her fate. Asked if she had made any
confession the chaplain replied, "She has confessed her sins to Almighty God and has
supplicated for forgiveness." Throughout her last days she had, the chaplain continued,
shown great courage, which did not desert her in her last hour. The chaplain also
stated that Mrs. Collins had told him that her external demeanor before her
condemnation was "but a mere shell" and that she felt her position acutely.
Near the different entrances to the gaol groups of people assembled, but there was no
demonstration of any kind beyond the indulgence in remarks which might be expected
on such as occasion.
For many more newspaper articles on Louisa Collins, check out the
website of the National Library of Australia at
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au, or go directly to the results of the
search engine at: newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/sear...
|Exterior of Gallows Building
near Burton St.
|Layout of Gaol. Chapel is in the center
and the cell blocks are the spokes.
|Print from an old prisoner woodcut.
Marks on stockade wall
were made to show how
much work each convict did.
|Louisa Collins was convicted of murdering only her second husband. She
was tried four times. The first two trials were on charges she murdered
both husbands, but in both trials the jury was unable to agree on a verdict.
Her third trial was for the murder of just her first husband, and again the
jury was unable to agree on a verdict. Her fourth trial was for the murder
of her second husband only, although the court allowed evidence of the
probable murder of her first husband to be presented to the jury, which I
would think would not be allowed in an American court. This fourth jury
agreed that she was guilty of murdering her second husband, and the court
sentenced her to death.