THE EXECUTION OF THE MOUNT
RENNIE CRIMINALS AT DARLING- HURST.
[CONTRIBUTED BY AN EYE WITNESS.]
IT was with mingled feelings of pain and sor-
row that one witnessed the execution of four
young men, found by the laws of the British Empire, to be guilty of one of the most
atrocious crimes, viz.—rape—and to suffer the last act of the drama by death in reality. It is something not easily to be forgotten.
Unfortunately the victim selected was one who, in my mind, having recently come from the country, was looked upon as one easy to yoke by the filthiest of the filthy— the lowest type of humanity. The larrikin mob of the suburbs and city of Sydney— assembled, and arranged with the cabman Swe[e]tman to lure this poor girl to des- truction, by deceit and masked kindness, to accept his profferred invitation—a drive— and what for, but to satisfy himself, first by using brutal force to accomplish and gratify his lustful and carnal desires, then to hand her over to the mob of ravishers who were in waiting to receive their prey. In this quiet locality, undisturbed, she was
like a rose surrounded by many thorns : alone, obliged, and compelled to relinquish that which is woman's choicest jewel ; beaten down, as it were, by these fiends of impurity ; at their mercy to brutally outrage her, and in turn, it is said, took equal share of the spoil—and at the closing scene more than they bargained for.
Many arrests were made, and the criminal number dwindled down to nine or ten, who alike were adjudged to share the same fate on the gallows. The sympathising fratern- ity of the "dear boys," as some writers designated them, was set in motion, to secure a reprieve from the death penalty by strong influential deputations to the Executive Council, and earnest exhortations on their behalf. The Executive could not see their way clear to reprieve the whole, how- ever, but the death penalty upon four of the number must be inflicted.
of the above four—Read, Duffy, Martin,
and Boyce—took place on the morning of the 7th instant, and I was one of those who gained admission to witness the awful scene therein to be enacted. The approach to the private entrance of the gaol was besieged by a crowd of spectators—all eager to get one single glance, each eliciting all the information from the other possible. I noticed of the number—which must have been fully 2000 round the approaches to the huge building—a great many of the female sex, chiefly girls, who seemed, by remarks heard, to be the only sympathisers. As the time is near approaching, we pass through, and presently are ushered into the presence of the chief officer of the day, Mr. Sheriff Cowper, and his staff of assistants who, in all solemnity, requested the pro- cession to follow on through corridors,
walks, and neatly laid out flower-beds. On the way I noticed the faces of several women peeping through the doors with the expression of sorrow stamped on their faces. Finally a halt was made. " Will I pinion them, Sir," said the executioner. "Yes," was the reply. In a few moments every- thing was quiet. The death bell com- menced to toll its last; we were then face to face in that awful gloom of many corridors —out of one of which came the four un- fortunates, clothed in prison garb, already pinioned : arms perfectly straight, hanging over each hip. The procession was headed by the Rev. Fathers Byrne, Coonan, and Dr. Murphy ; the Rev. Henderson and Curtis by the side of Read. The mournful pro- cession was touching in the extreme. When the four youths stepped from the corridor by means of steps on to the gal- lows, the sight was fearful to behold. Read, Martin, aud Boyce seemed to realise the awful position they were placed in, but Duffy appeared very composed, and the whole apparently very earnestly engaged in prayer with their Maker. In a moment the white caps are placed over their heads, their faces looking ghastly white. The rope is adjusted. In the twinkling of an eye the living freight is cast into eternity ; to meet some day or another with the great Judge of mankind. The sight is dreadful to see—to describe in detail is impossible;
the convulsive strains, twisting of the body and legs are alike in each one for several minutes so terrible to look at. The black
flag announces all is over. The bodies are examined, life pronounced extinct by the medicos, the bodies are cut down, and we pass out only to think of what took place within the huge walls. On reaching the outer gate, one is besieged by anxious enquiries, such as "How they died?" and " Is it all over ?" "Tell us all about it?" In making my way through the crowd some anxious mother touched me on the shoulder and asked me if I saw the poor boys hung. I replied in the affirma- tive ; she seemed in great trouble, probably thinking of one and only one son partly lost in the defiled and impure haunts of the city, where crimes of the most hide- ous nature are perpetrated. To comment on the execution is only one opinion, but as brief as possible I will give you mine. I have heard several remarks as to how Martin's arm caught in the drop rope; well, in my opinion, the rope in the first place was too thick and stiff, which caused it to rebound; to an observer part of the slack rope rested on the trap, consequently when the bolt was drawn, the rope slid up by Martin's leg, between hip and hand,
which, caused the arm to be thrown back- wards and upwards, till the agonizing pain released the arm to its proper place. Had the rope been strong half-inch, instead of very stout inch, I believe death would have
resulted almost instantaneously, and the necks of each individual dislocated. Now, as to hanging those men, I have heard part of the evidence, and reviewed the whole that was published very carefully. I notice out of the whole batch of ruffians only two, viz.—Duffy and Martin—acknowledged their guilt, though only by her consent. The whole of the others denied, point blank, to the very last, their innocence, and last of all the written statement of Read, declaring his innocence. Hill, Donnellan, and the noted cabby Swe[e]tman (and two or three others), should have shared the same fate on the gallows. No doubt the Execu- tive Council considered the case most seriously, and all the extenuatiug points favourable for a reprieve were adduced. I believe I endorse the sentiments of the public that to have hanged the lot of them, or reprieved the whole, as they had no
mercy upon the unfortunate victim, when participating in the dastardly outrage upon her, would have been the proper thing.
As your paper was published on the evening of the 7th instant, it was impos- sible for me to furnish you with particulars of the execution. I have held this over till this morning (11th instant), and looking over the morning papers, I notice a letter written (in defence) by Mr. Sheriff Cowper, wherein it appears some high-minded re- porting gentleman has charged him of giv- ing indiscriminate admission ; and others of improperly behaving themselves, and finally, the executioners not doing their duty well. Now, Sir, I wish to state the Sheriff was very cautious who were ad- mitted, and particularly requested to know their avocation before giving the necessary " pass." As for any impropriety on the part of any gentleman present, I must say my business there was to report on the matter, and I failed to see anything im- properly in any one's conduct—rather on the contrary, reverence being the order of the morning ; and further, I failed to notice any lack of duty on the part of the exe- cutioners ; their work being carried out fearlessly, and in a straightforward
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