Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Homicidal Maniac At Large in The Carlton Gardens, May 5, 1905

Hop in for a little step back in time, not too far only 104 years ago, just after Federation when things were starting to look up in the finance area after the (lower case d, but worse than The Great Depression)  depression of the 1890's.
Marvellous Melbourne had its sewerage system up and running, stinky-poo smells were no more.
Ladies walked in pairs to 'take the air' in parks and gardens scattered around the city with parasols and hats of the latest fashion.
Gentlemen sauntered there, too, to work off their 57 course lunches and ports above which their waistcoat buttons were straining.
The Carlton Gardens were a lovely display of ordered beds behind wrought iron railings hosting the  Exhibition Building in their midst.
On May 5th, 1905 a chap tried to offer a stranger a bottle of beer after asking directions to the corner of Spring and Victoria Streets.
The only thing that saved William Perry from death was that he was a 'teetotaller' (a fact the newspaper reports underscored in their shock and awe editorial) and politely refused the ale.
Perry then noticed the chap slip the bottle of beer into a gardeners' wheelbarrow.
Two gardeners and a police constable shared the bottle; Constable Lancaster and a gardener named John Mulgrave immediately felt the effects of the poison and shot some saline water down their gizzards to induce vomiting which worked and saved them.
Alas, Richard Barry, the other gardener, was too far gone to save despite rushing him to Melbourne Hospital.
Mulgrave had the smarts to bring the bottle with him; an everyday type of bottle it was thought someone had picked it up in a back laneway and taken it to a pub somewhere to have it filled with beer, not realising that it contained cyanide (remember everything was recycled back in those days, boys and girls, plastic bottles for poison were unheard of then).
But further evidence suggests this was a very deliberate poisoning.
The police had a clear description from several witnesses but they were frustrated despite the offer of a £100 reward.
Finally on May 26th it was announced that the police had arrested a chap who not only fitted the description but who used cyanide in his everyday work and was slightly unhinged enough, with religious dogma, to attack a female rellie with a cut-throat razor (yep, that'll rumble you to the cops every time).
Obviously the bloke was unhinged enough not to be held responsible as he was never charged and the inquest, held only 2 months later on July 27, found that poor Richard Barry died from the potassium cyanide dissolved into the beer by person or persons unknown.
The moral of the story is that should some odd bod approach you in the Carlton Gardens with a bottle of beer please feel free to screech as loudly as your lungs allow and abstain from the horrors of the demon drink.


  1. I tried Castlemaine Four Ecks once and I suspect it would have been difficult to tell the difference.

  2. All this time I've been avoiding drinking beer because I don't like the taste or smell. Especially the smell. On my husband's breath the next day.......

    Today on the way home from work, I passed a man holding aloft a bag of hotdog buns and a bag of finger buns. Unlabelled. He was offering them to anyone passing. I thought it odd and after reading about the poisoned beer I'm glad I told him "no thanks". Now I'm wondering where he got them and why he was giving them away. He certainly looked hungry enough to need feeding himself.

  3. I suspect you're right, Brian.
    I forgot to mention it was Colonial Ale used in this poisoning case.

    I'd always be sus on anything without a label, River, be it beer, buns or a bloke ;)

  4. After days of reading, I am finally caught up here.
    Damn woman, you are a posting machine!
    Every time I thought I was nearly done, I'd go to work, come home and there would be more.
    Let me tell you how very much I'm enjoying these frugal food tips and recipes too! I've actually used a few of them and the tuna bake is next in line, cos I LURV tuna. Thus far my favorite has been the lamb casserole and mini damper rolls. How bloody nice were they?? *licking chops thinking about having them again*
    My parents were bought up around the area you speak of here, but not quite that early. Sounds like a hoot of a place to be hey??
    Will try and keep more up to date because I love the little titbits here. Like a little walk through the history channel.
    Ok, stopping now, or this will be a post of it's own!

  5. LOL Mo, thanks! I appreciate the kind words and I'll keep the frugal tidbits coming ;)

  6. Carlton Gardens does have quite a reputation, in more ways than one.