The following is an account of the hanging of Henry Manns, sentenced to death for his role in the Eugowra Rocks robbery. What follows is taken directly from The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News of 1 April, 1863.

Be warned, it is not for the squeamish.

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Another of those sad and terrible spectacles a criminal execution, took place at Darlinghurst gaol, last Thursday morning, the dreadful sentence of the law having been carried into effect on the body of Henry Manns, convicted, together with John Bow and Alexander Fordyce, of participation in the gold escort robbery on the 10th June last.

Since the period of his condemnation, the unhappy young man, who was only twenty-four years of age, had conducted himself in gaol with great propriety, and under the zealous and untiring efforts of the clergymen who attended him, devoted himself earnestly to preparation for the awful ordeal through which he was to pass; though, it would seem he was not without hope up to Wednesday evening, that his life would be spared. This belief was intensified no doubt from his learning what had been done in the case of Bow, and the strong efforts which were being made on his own behalf. The Executive, however, did not feel justified in acceding to the prayer of the memorialists, and hence, on Wednesday afternoon, intimation was forwarded to the Sheriff that the law must take its course.

There were but few persons present at the distressing scene, the spectators not exceeding thirty in number, and the execution was delayed for nearly twenty minutes beyond the usual hour, probably with the humane object of allowing any communication in the shape of a respite or reprieve to reach the gaol. No such document, however, arrived, and at about twenty minutes past nine the prisoner was pinioned and brought forth. He was attended by the Venerable Archdeacon McEnoro, the Venerable Archpriest Therry, and the Rev. Father Dwyer, the latter having precedence in the mournful procession. He walked firmly and erect, and though somewhat pallid, in expression, he displayed no agitation or want of fortitude — still less anything approaching to bravado or recklessness.
Arrived at the foot of the gallows, he remained, in prayer for five or six minutes with the reverend attendants, and then ascended the ladder in company with the Venerable Archdeacon and the Rev. Mr. Dwyer. ;


Truth (Sydney, NSW), 22 August 1897

On arriving at the drop, he spoke briefly to the persons assembled, stating that he had nothing further to say beyond what he had already told ; adding that he was thankful to his friends and the good people in Sydney who had exerted themselves to save his life, for which services he hoped God would bless them. The clergymen then parted with him, praying as they descended from the platform; while the executioner, proceeded to perform his terrible office. On this occasion, whether it arose from nervousness or excitement on the part of the executioner, the preliminaries were not speedily performed as they were in the case of the two men (Ross), a lapse of nearly two minutes occurring ere he had concluded his preparations.

When at length these were completed, and the bolt was drawn, there ensued one of the most appalling spectacles ever witnessed at an execution. The noose of the rope instead of passing tightly round the neck slipped completely away, the knot coming round in front of the face, while the whole weight of the criminal’s body was sustained by the thick muscles of the poll. The rope, in short, went round the middle of the head, and the work of the hangman, proved a most terrible bungle. The sufferings and struggles of the wretched being were heart rendering to behold. His body swayed about and writhed, evidently in the most intense agony. The arms repeatedly rose and fell, and finally, with one of his hands, the unfortunate man gripped the rope, as if to tear the pressure from his head — a loud guttural noise the meanwhile proceeding from his throat and lungs, while blood gushed from his. nostrils and stained the cap, with which his face was covered.

This awful scene lasted for more than ten minutes when stillness ensued, and it was hoped that death had terminated the culprit’s sufferings. Shocking to relate, however, the vital spark wasn’t yet extinguished, and to the horror of all present, the conclusive writhings were renewed — the tenacity to life being remarkable, and a repetition of the sickening scene was only at last terminated at the instance of Dr. West, by the aid of four confines, who were made to hold the dying malefactor up in their arms while the executioner re-adjusted, the rope, when the body was let fall with a jerk, and another minute sufficed to end the agonies of death.
The executioner expressed his sorrow to the gaoler and under-sheriff for what had happened, insuring them that it was from no fault or intention of his, but solely the result of accident. The body was lowered, into a shell shortly before ten o’olock, and it was with deep regret and indignation that some of the spectators saw the hangman attempt to remove a pair of new boots from the feet of the corpse. This revolting act was, however, instantly prevented, and the body, which was decently attired in a white shirt, moleskin trousers and blouse, was removed to the deadhouse, where it remained untouched till the arrival of a hearse procured by the relatives of the criminal, to whom the authorities had decided to hand it over for interment.

Source: “REVOLTING and HORRIBLE SCENE at the EXECUTION OF HENRY MANNS.” The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News (NSW : 1859 – 1866) 1 April 1863: 4.


  1. This is the sort of horror that propelled thousands of people to sign the petition for Ned Kellys reprieve in 1880. They signed because they were opposed to capital punishment, not because they believed he was innocent, which is what promotors of the Kelly myths would have us believe. The Gaunson brothers, one of whom was Ned Kellys solicitor were leading lights in the ongoing campaign to abolish capital punishment.

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