Report of executions - Maungatapu murders

Execution of Burgess, Kelly and Levy

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Report of the executions on 5 October 1866. The report leaves out the gruesome detail that the hangman had to jump to the ground and swing on Kelly's legs until his 'struggles ceased'.

Transcribed excerpts


This morning the awful sentence of the law was carried into execution on these wretched malefactors. The knowledge that the execution would be a comparatively private one, prevented any open display of public feeling. As the hour appointed for the execution approached, however, several knots of persons were seen on every surrounding elevation that commanded a view of the gaol, in expectation of catching a sight of the criminals. Such expectation was disappointed, as nothing but the corner of the scaffold, or at most, the heads of the men could be seen during the few moments they stood upon the drop.

About a score of persons were admitted to witness the execution, including the representatives of the three newspapers, the professors of phrenology residing in the town, the ministers of religion attending the criminals, and officers connected with the police and Supreme Court. The scaffold and the drop had been prepared for the despatch of the wretched men in the most rapid way. The fall from the drop must have been 5 feet, so that the death of the criminals almost instantaneous. Soon after 7 o'clock the persons whose painful duty it was to be present, made their appearance, and by half-past seven the prisoners were pinioned, and informed that the hour of their departure rapidly approached...

... It was 27 minutes past 8, and Kelly continued to request permission to speak. The criminals were now made to stand up, Kelly continuing to cry "do let me speak". The clerical gentleman present had taken leave of the criminals, and the words of the burial service, "in the midst of life we are in death," were scarcely uttered, when the drop fell, and the fate of the criminals was forever decided. The execution took place at exactly 8½ o'clock, a delay of half an hour having taken place in listening to the statements of the criminals. Death appeared to be instantaneous. A slight motion was observed in the body of Kelly only.

Several gentlemen took casts of the faced when the bodies were cut down. The faces of Burgess and Levy bore a placid expression, that of Kelly was disturbed a little, as he was speaking when the drop fell.