Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser (NSW : 1848 – 1859), Saturday 15 October 1853, page 3
EXECUTION OF THE PRIVATE ESCORT ROBBERS AT MELBOURNE.
(From the Melbourne Morning Herald.)
On Monday morning, October 3rd, at the usual hour of eight o’clock, George Melville, George Wilson, and William Atkins were executed in the accustomed manner, for having taken part in the murderous attack on the Private Gold Escort. The daring nature of the offence and the merciless atrocity with which it was carried through, have been fully depictured to the public in the narrative of their trial in our impression of Oct. 1st. It will probably be borne in mind that four troopers of the Escort were shot down by the ruffians, and one of the wounded men was deliberately fired at as he lay upon the ground unable to rise. Thus, having been convicted of a crime of this fearful nature, no hope was left to them for mercy in this world, and accordingly when the announce-ment was made to them that they would suffer on Monday, October 3rd, they expressed no surprise, except at their being allowed so short a time to live. The Rev. G. Studdert has been in close at-tendance on them since their condemnation and has been led to hope that (although they made no distinct confession of this crime) yet that in their admission of having led bad lives, he saw some signs of contrition and resignation. Melville and Atkins have been visited frequently in gaol by their wives; and on Sunday evening the Mayor and Dr. Singleton went to the prison to see them. The wretched men slept soundly for some hours on Sunday night, and having woke about four and five o’clock in the morning, dressed themselves with some attention to outward appearance. Each of them wore clean linen, and were scrupulously neat. At an early hour the Rev. G. Studdert, the ordinary of the gaol, arrived, and from that mo-ment the men were engaged in religious exercises. At eight o’clock the High Sheriff went to the cell and announced that the hour had ar-rived. Melville was the first to leave the cell: he was dressed in a black surtout coat, white waistcoat and trousers. He appeared very pale and nervous, and his countenance showed that his mind was fearfully at work. He was immediately pinioned, and the white cap put upon his head. Immediately after, Wilson was called out; he was dressed in a white linen coat and trousers, and a black waistcoat; upon his leav-ing the cell he begged to be allowed to speak, and on the Sheriff bowing in reply, Wilson made what appeared to our reporter to be an earnest appeal, but not being allowed to be within hearing, our reporter is unable to record the prisoner’s dying remarks. Melville turned round and looked at Wilson during this address. Wilson having been heard, was pinioned, and the preparations with respect to him completed, Atkins was next led forth, dressed in a rough brown coat, grey waistcoat and trousers. This prisoner said nothing, and all having been now pinioned, the men walked forward to the scaffold in the order which they left the prison cell. The clergyman walked alongside, repeating the solemn burial service of the Clhurch of England. The men walked with a tolerably firm step, especially Wilson, whose rather im-pudent air remained with him to the last. Atkins was the most subdued; Melville appeared to be engaged in prayer. As the melancholy procession merged from the gaol into the prison yard, Melville reccogized an eminent barrister present and nodded to him. They now reached the scaffold, which they ascended in the same order of rotation. Arrived at the top of the scaffold, Wilson addressed the people, in which he spoke of Capt. McMahon, Mrs. Clancy, and other witnesses, whom he said he freely forgave for their share in giving evidence against him; he said that a man now in gaol, charged with the St. Kilda robbery, was quite innocent of that transaction. (He alluded here to Simon Russel. Wilson himself is said to have been concerned in the St. Kilda affair) Melville also began to speak, but affecting to believe that the people were too far off to hear him, he stopped short, after saying he could not make himself heard, and wished them all a very good morning. (There was a considerable crowd of spectators, the largest, we believe, ever present at an execution) Atkins made no remark. The dreadful scheme of public death being now arranged in all its details, the executioner having placed the ropes around their necks, fixed the men in their relative positions, and having drawn their caps over their eyes, Walsh (the hangman employed) descended the stairs to draw the fatal bolt. This was done, and the men fell, convulsed with the throes of the deathstruggle. Atkins died almnost immediately; Wilson and Melville struggled for some time; but the executioner having drawn down the legs of Melville with considerable force, he presently ceased to move. Both Melville and Wilson appeared to die hard. There was no post mortem examination; Mevlille’s body was applied for by his wife, and given up to her. The other bodies will be buried in the usual ground. We believe that Wilson has twice before been sen-tenced to death; and in each case has been convicted through the evidence of an approver. He had led, it appears, a most desperately wicked life. Melville was sent to Van Diemen’s Land in 1842 for at burglary committed in England. The wretched wife of Atkins is left quite destitute, and to add to her troubles, is near her confinement. She appears to be in a most pitiable state of mind. The weather on the morning of the execution was unexpectedly fine, which with the peculiar boldness and atrocity of the crime, may account for the large concourse of spectators. There was a considerable number of persons within the walls of the prison, including the officials, turnkeys, and police present.