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Crime in the Australian city of Newcastle, like Sydney, has been part of the city since the earliest days as a prison colony.

Newcastle's development into a major industrial and manufacturing centre in the twentieth century, with the combination of poor welfare, economic depressions, changing social practices and what was a predominantly working-class population encouraged the growth of a criminal element.

In more recent years, as Newcastle has embraced cosmopolitan dining and a more attractive night scene, crime has accelerated in the Australian city. Current debate over curfews and a "lock-out" at licensed premises has caused heated protest and council confusion over whether to further promote nightlife in the city or place some limitations on its expansion.

Some of the most prolific crimes in Newcastle's history, spanning two centuries were:

  • The Scott Street Tragedy, 1911
  • The Newcastle Tragedy, 1927
  • The Bolton Street Suicide & Murder, 1937
  • The Body in the Park, 1939

Contents

Scott Street Tragedy

The Scott Street Tragedy was the murder of Timothy Daly on 16 July 1911.

The 26-year-old boot maker was found dead with a gunshot wound an inch above his eyebrow on the front steps of Messrs. R. Hall & Sons premises on Scott Street, Newcastle.

Constable M'Gann of the Newcastle Water Police was first to the scene. M'Gann had been on board a Scott Street tramcar at about 9:50pm when he heard gunshots fired somewhere on the darkened street. Alighting from the tram, M'Gann soon stumbled upon Daly in a pool of his own blood beside a revolver.

Initial suspicion of suicide was quickly dismissed after a woman living on nearby Zaara Street testified to having seen two men, later identified as Mr. George Smith and Mr. Thomas Jones, at the scene of the crime moments after the gunshots were heard. The unidentified woman said that Smith panicked and hurriedly placed the revolver beside the deceased.

As compelling as the eyewitness's testimony was, she had however not witnessed the murder take place and was unable to say which of the two had actually pulled the trigger.

Newcastle Tragedy

The townhouse on Church Street, Newcastle, New South Wales where George Buckley murdered his wife during 1927. Pictured in May 2007.

The Newcastle Tragedy was the murder of Mary Buckley at her Newcastle townhouse in 1927.

Buckley's husband had stumbled into Newcastle Police Station less than thirty minutes after the murder and confessed to his wife's slaying. The 43-year-old mother of four had been beaten to death with a tomahawk by her 53-year-old husband, George Andrew Buckley, who after killing his wife proceeded to slit her throat from ear to ear in the same bed as his sixteen-year-old daughter.

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Marriage

George Andrew Buckley and Mary Dent were married in Hamilton during 1903. Their first child, John, was born in 1904. A second son, George Raymond Buckley, was born in 1906. The youngest of their four children, Ronald and Lily May Buckley, were born in 1909 and 1911 respectively.

Murder

George and Mary Buckley had returned home from a party in Lambton, (a suburb of Newcastle), quarrelling at around 11:30pm on the night of the murder. The couple’s youngest daughter Lily May had returned home from a picture theatre half an hour before her parents and later testified to their exchanging of “very hot words” before her father retired to the master bedroom upstairs. Mary and her daughter went to bed sometime later in a downstairs bedroom. Lily May had become increasingly worried by this stage that her father may try to harm her mother during the night, but had drifted off to sleep sometime after midnight.

At half-past two in the morning, it was alleged Buckley entered the room where his wife and daughter were sleeping and hit his wife over the head with a large tomahawk. Lily May woke in time to see her father produce a razor and make a slash at her helpless mother’s throat. Screaming, the girl bravely tried to save her mother from the blade but instead received a deep gash across the palm of her hand.

The girl endeavoured to stop the flow of blood from the gaping wound in her mother's throat with powder. Her father is alleged to have then said to her that she had better hurry to the hospital, as blood was "streaming copiously from the gash in her hand". The couple's eighteen-year-old son Ronald, who had been asleep upstairs, had been awakened by the screams and noise and entered the room to find his sister in tears, begging for him to get help.

Confession

Having placed a sheet over her dead mother, Lily May threw a coat over her night attire and left the house to seek medical attention at the nearby Newcastle Hospital. While walking there, she met her brother and a Mrs. Lashmore who were on their way back to the house. Mrs. Lashmore accompanied Lily May to the hospital while Ronald made for the Police Station to report the crime, only to find his father already there. At the hospital, fourteen stitches were inserted in the sixteen-year-old's wound, after which she was escorted back to the home of Mrs. Lashmore on nearby Telford Street. Buckley had allegedly arrived at the Newcastle Police Station about 3am on the morning of April 17, and told a startled Sergeant Pestell, "I have committed a murder. I have killed my wife." Buckley was described as having been remarkably cool and collected, although it was stated he smelt of liquor.

Sergeant Pestell, who at that point noticed the blood on Buckley's hand and shirt, telephoned the Newcastle Ambulance Transport Brigade and instructed Constables Sands and Gardner to go to the address that Buckley had given. The horrific sight that met the two constables was recounted in grisly detail by the Newcastle Morning Herald the following morning:

The body of the murdered woman lay on the bed, head battered and the huge wound in the throat spilling blood over the dead woman’s bed clothes and onto the floor. Lying on the floor about four feet from the bed was a blood-stained tomahawk, of which the police took possession.

A razor had completed the ghastly work begun by the tomahawk on the woman, but, as was seen later, the head injuries must have proved fatal. The skull was smashed and there was a piece of brain protruding. Probably two blows were struck with the tomahawk.

The body was placed in the ambulance and taken to the Newcastle Hospital, where formal pronouncement of death was made by Dr. C. Cole. The body was then removed to the morgue. A charge of "murdering his wife" was preferred against Buckley, the charge being read to him by Sergeant Pestell.

Later that morning, an examination of the body was made at the mortuary by Dr. J. R. Leslie, the Government medical officer while endeavours were made by Newcastle Police to get in touch with the two other sons of George & Mary Buckley, but without success. None of the Buckley's neighbours heard any sounds from the house at the time the tragedy was being enacted, and the first news most had of the "ghastly occurrence" was after sunrise, when some pressmen were making inquiries in the vicinity.

Postscript

  • Mary Buckley was laid to rest on 19 April 1927.
  • George Andrew Buckley, who had been sentenced to death, won his appeal and died in Newcastle during 1957.
  • Lily May Buckley married Dudley Frost in Mayfield, New South Wales during 1931.[1]

References

External links


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