Spotlight: The Convict Melville (31/07/1857)

Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), Friday 31 July 1857, page 2


The notorious Melville, who since his trial for the murder of Owen Owens, has been confined in the Melbourne Central Gaol, has again distinguished himself by the commission of another cowardly and brutal outrage, his victims in this instance being Mr. Wintle, governor of the gaol, and James Rowley, senior turnkey. Since the execution of the seven murderers of Mr. Price, Captain Melville, as he is always styled in the gaol, has on several occasions feigned madness, apparently with the object of again exciting popular sympathy on his behalf. For this reason, the greatest care was taken by those prison officers who came in contact with him not to irritate him in any manner. On Tuesday morning, however, Melville refused to permit the removal of the nighttub from his cell, and threatened to take the life of any one who should attempt to do so. On hearing of the circumstance, Mr. Wintle proceeded to Melville’s cell, and after endeavoring, but in vain, to persuade him to allow the tub to be removed, he ordered James Rowley, senior turnkey, and two wardsmen to go into his cell and bring it out. No sooner was the order given, than Melville seized the lid of the tub, and holding it on his left arm as a shield, he brandished an iron spoon in his right hand, and swore to make a corpse of the first man who dared to enter. Seeing that the spoon which he held in his hand was sharpened at the end of the handle like a knife, Rowley, a stout, powerful man, took up a short stepladder, which was standing near, and, accompanied by the two wardsmen, he rushed into the cell. The wretch, on recovering from the shock, made a stab at Rowley’s belly, but the turnkey, in endeavoring to ward off the blow, received the thrust in his hand. Mr. Wintle then went in to the assistance of his men, and Melville was overpowered and secured with handcuffs, but not before Mr. Wintle had received a severe cut behind the right ear, blood flowing profusely from the wound. The Chief Medical Officer was immediately apprised of the occurrence, and on seeing Melville, he ordered the handcuffs to be kept on, the convict to be kept on low diet; and if he exhibited any further violence to be put in a straight jacket. The cut on Rowley’s hand is very slight; and we are glad to announce that Mr. Wintle will soon recover from the effects of the attack. That Melville’s intention was to murder the officers of the gaol there can be little doubt, and the authorities may deem it advisable to place the man again on trial. Melville is already under accumulative sentences amounting to 35 years. His ultimate object in feigning insanity is obvious — his removal to the Yarra Bend Asylum, where his stay would probably be extremely brief — Herald.

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