Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hanged man pardoned

THE Victorian government will today posthumously pardon a man hanged 86 years ago for the rape and strangulation of a 12-year-old girl.

In a move that will create legal history, Victorian governor David de Kretser has signed a pardon for accused killer Colin Campbell Ross which Attorney-General Rob Hulls will announce during question time in the Victorian parliament today, Fairfax has reported.

Ross, 28, who ran a wine saloon in the Eastern Arcade in Bourke Street, was alleged by the Crown to have given Alma Tirtschke alcohol before raping and strangling her in Gun Alley, off Little Collins Street, on New Year's Eve, 1921.

He went to the gallows the following year protesting his innocence, the only physical connection between him and the crime being hairs on a blanket at his Maidstone home that the jury was told came from the scalp of the victim,  Fairfax reported.

Witnesses had sworn to seeing Ross at work or on a tram at the time of the murder.

Modern testing of the hairs has since found the hairs did not belong to the girl, it said.

The pardon follows an inquiry into the case by Supreme Court judges Bernard Teague, Phil Cummins and John Coldrey, which found Ross was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The inquiry came about after descendents of Tirtschke and Ross signed a petition of mercy after learning of the re-testing of the hair samples.

"This is a tragic case where a miscarriage of justice resulted in a man being hanged,'' Mr Hulls said.

Miss Tirtschke's niece, Bettye (Bettye) Arthur, said Alma's murder deeply affected her mother, two years younger than Alma.

"It is a tragedy for everybody that the actual perpetrator was not caught and an innocent man lost his life."

Ross's niece, Betty Everett, said her parents did not tell her of the case but she found out when she noticed a striking resemblance between Ross and her father in a magazine article years later.

"I have lived with this fear and doubt for most of my life, the more as I began to have children, that perhaps I carried the genes of a murderer. That shadow has gone,'' she said.


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