PM7002: Colin Campbell Ross

Colin Campbell Ross (born 11 October 1892, North Fitzroy, Melbourne) was executed by the State of Victoria, 24th April 1922, for a crime it now admits he did not commit. On 31st Dec 1921, the naked body of 12 year old Alma Tirtschke, of Hawthorn, was found murdered in Gun Alley, off Little Collins St, Melbourne. Her aunt had sent her into Melbourne to go shopping, but she failed to return home.

Ross ran a wine-bar in Eastern Arcade, Bourke Street. The prosecution case was that Ross had lured Tirtschke into his wine-bar, plied her with alcohol, raped and murdered her. A prisoner at the gaol claimed that Ross had confessed the same to him — the fact that this prisoner was a convicted perjurer was kept from the jury at trial. It was also claimed by forensic scientists that hairs found on a blanket at Ross' house matched those of Alma Tirthschke. However, DNA testing in 1998 proved conclusively that those claims were incorrect. Ross at all times protested his innocence.

Ross was convicted of murder, and sentenced to death. Appeals, including an appeal to the High Court of Australia[1], were unsuccessful. Ross was executed by hanging at Melbourne Gaol, 24th April 1922. The authorities decided to use his hanging as an opportunity to experiment with a four-stranded rope, instead of the three-stranded rope they normally used. This rope failed to sever his spinal cord, and as a result he was slowly strangled to death, in what must have been immense pain.

In accordance with the legislation at the time (s. 315, Criminal Law Practice Act 1864), the government refused to release Ross' body to his next of kin, or permit a proper funeral to be held for him. He was buried within the walls of Old Melbourne Gaol, his grave marked only by a marker showing his initials and date of execution. Later, in 1937, that section of the gaol was demolished, and his remains (and those of other executed prisoners) were exhumed, and reburied at Pentridge Prison in Coburg. After the closure of Pentridge Prison, the Victorian government sold the land to developers, who exhumed the remains. Due to the disorderly process of reburial, there was some difficulty in identifying the remains of Ross, but the forensic archaeologists suceeded in doing so to the satisfaction of the Victorian State Coroner.[2] Finally, his remains were at last released to his family, over 86 years later.

In 2007, an inquiry by the Supreme Court of Victoria, held by Justices Bernard Teague, Phil Cummins, and John Coldrey, found that Ross was innocent of the charges against him, and recomended that he be pardoned.[3] The Government of Victoria accepted this recomendation, and he was pardoned by Governor deKrester on 27 May 2008.[4]

Any right-thinking person, who discovers these events, will feel extremely angry at the heinous crime of the State of Victoria. Just a "pardon" is insufficient — if "sorry, oops!" is enough, we should let all murderers off that way — for that is what the Victorian Government did, it was among the worst of murders. Most murderers do not try to pretend that what they do is right, that what they do is justice, the way the State of Victoria did. That is what makes it among the worst of murderers, because most murderers do not have the boastfulness to claim what it claimed. If it is truly sorry for its sins, it should erect a monument (of comparable scale and prominence to the Shrine of Remembrance) "To the memory of the victims of the heinous crimes of the Government of Victoria" (we can be sure that Ross is not the only one).

Colin Campbell Ross is to be counted among the victims of the heinous crimes of the usurpational powers.

References

  1. Ross v R [1922] HCA 4; (1922) 30 CLR 246 (5 April 1922)
  2. Case Ruling Colin Campbell Ross - Case Number 092608 (Ruling) [2010] VCoronC 108 (1 September 2010)
  3. Re Colin Campbell Ross [2007] VSC 572 (20 December 2007)
  4. John Silvester, "Ross cleared of murder nearly 90 years ago", The Age, 27 May 2008
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