This is an anecdotal story but I think it is worth repeating because after a lot of thought over the years I am convinced that the wrong man faced the death penalty. For reference there was a girl in my class at school by the name of Debbie who was the niece of Ronald Ryan. Even so I have no real understanding about how that family felt about the events that led to him facing the death penalty.
Ronald Ryan was the last man in Victoria Australia to face the hangman’s noose and this goes back to the 1960s. The story of why he faced the death penalty goes back to a prison break with another man by the name of Peter Walker. During the prison break at Pentridge, a warder was shot and killed and it was claimed that Ronald Ryan was the man with the gun that killed the warder. However, to this day I am not 100% certain that it was Ryan who pulled the trigger.
My memory of all of the events is somewhat hazy because I was quite young when it all happened. I do remember the prison break. I do remember that a warder was shot. I do not remember when Ryan was caught again. Neither do I remember why it was that Peter Walker never faced the same charges. As a result I might get some of the facts wrong.
Somewhere in the midst of my memory is a story about something happening in a toilet block. It might have been another death… and I will have to do some research to see if I can find the details. I found some information but not anything about the person murdered in the toilet block. It is in the memory bank but very hazy.
There was also something else that happened around that time when a teacher and her pupils were kidnapped and loaded up in a van. The teacher who was a real heroine managed to kick open the back door of the vehicle where she and her pupils had been placed. That story involved Eastwood and Boland and it was the Faraday school kindappings which you can read about here. Lindsay Thompson and the two police officers were extremely brave in attempting this!!
I have a link of a recent news report on the hanging of Ronald Ryan but I note I do not agree with the insufferable Barry Jones on the subject of whether or not Henry Bolte wanted someone to hang. Perhaps it was Jones himself who made the big mistake when Tait got a death penalty reprieve.
The case of Ronald Ryan has always been one that seared in my memory. Perhaps it is because I knew one of his relatives, but I doubt that is the reason. I think it is because I have doubts about whether or not Ryan did in fact fire the shot that killed Hodson the prison guard. It is more than likely that the shot did in fact come from another prison guard and therefore Ryan became the bunny, the scapegoat for what actually happened that morning when Ryan and Walker broke out of prison. My memory tells me that it was Peter Walker who was the really bad one, not Ronald Ryan.
Wikpedia is a good resource on the subject and I found a bit more regarding how the pair were captured in Sydney by a police officer known as gunner Kelly. His informant was another criminal by the name of Lenny McPherson… and here is where we get into illegal abortion clinics, illegal casinos and corruption within the NSW Premier’s Office!! It seems to me that NSW has had more corrupt politicians than anywhere else in Australia, yet Robert Askin is probably the only one who was corrupt and not a member of either a union or the ALP!!
UPDATE: This is unbelievable!!
How weird because I wrote the piece about Ronald Ryan, a man I believe to have been innocent of the death of Hodson, and what is in the news today? Peter John Walker has been arrested because of a drug lab!!
And I was correct about the body found at or near a toilet block associated with Walker!!
This is an extract from the age report today:
While they were on the run Mr Walker shot and killed tow-truck driver Arthur Henderson, whose body was found in a bayside public toilet.
So my hazy memory was not so bad after all. Now I need to look up information about another criminal who had been held in prison because, prior to us leaving to come to the USA for roughly 18 months, my son was at a school that received a bomb threat. My son came home talking about a fire drill where all the children were taken to the football field, and then on the news that night it was revealed that there had been a bomb threat at a Mt. Waverley Victoria school!! No such luck in finding any report about this incident, but from memory the man responsible was locked up and never to be released because he was bad!!