//
you're reading...
Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1894, serial killer Martha Needle was hanged in Melbourne Gaol


Martha Needle

On 22 October 1894, Martha Needle was hanged in Melbourne Gaol for the poisoning of her husband, and three children, in an attempt to obtain money from insurance policies.

Martha Needle was an Australian serial killer known for poisoning her husband, three children, and prospective brother-in-law. She was hanged on 22 October 1894, at the age of 31.

Needle was convicted for the murder of Louis Juncken, brother of her fiancé Otto Juncken, on 15 May 1894. Although Needle collected substantial sums of insurance money, her exact motive for murdering her family has not been determined. Several times she stated her innocence, but was eventually hanged.

Needle was born Martha Charles on 9 April 1863 in Morgan, South Australia; her father died when she was quite young. In 1870, her mother, Mary Charles, married Daniel Foran and had two more children. They were poor and lived in a small two-room house in North Adelaide.

Needle claimed that she was often beaten with a stick or rope by her mother and at 12 she was indecently assaulted by her stepfather. She left home at 13 and started working as a housekeeper, and married Henry Needle in 1882 when she was 18.

The marriage was happy and the couple had three daughters, Mabel, Elsie, and May, before the family moved to the Melbourne suburb of Richmond in 1885. After the move the relationship between Needle and her husband deteriorated; Needle was an attractive woman and enjoyed the company of men, Henry Needle was a shy, jealous man who often beat her.

The killings

On 23 February 1885, Mabel Needle died after a short illness. Needle stated that she “seemed to fade” and later collected £100 (Au$40,000 in 2010) life insurance on Mabel’s death. Henry Needle, who was insured for £200, died of a mysterious illness on 4 October 1889, followed by Elsie and May in 1890. Doctors were baffled. Needle spent almost all the insurance money on an elaborate family grave which she visited regularly.

Louis Juncken, a friend from Adelaide, operated a saddlery business with his brother Otto Juncken at 137 Bridge Road, Richmond and, in 1891, Needle sub-let the attached house and took in lodgers. Needle began an affair with Otto in 1893 but Louis and his other brother Herman disapproved and attempted to prevent their engagement.

The following year Louis became ill and died of suspected typhoid. In June 1894, Herman travelled to Melbourne from Adelaide to handle his late brother’s affairs, he ate a meal prepared by Needle and suddenly became ill. He recovered but became ill again the next day after eating breakfast.

Two days later, Herman had fully recovered but while eating a lunch prepared by Needle, he was seized by painful violent cramps. Doctor Boyd treated Herman for suspected poisoning and took a sample of Herman’s vomit and sent it to the government laboratory for analysis. The analyst reported that the sample contained arsenic.

Arrest, trial and execution

Boyd informed the police of his suspicions and a trap was set, the police asked Herman to ask Needle to make lunch. After being served a cup of tea, Herman literally “blew the whistle”, summoning detectives who arrived as Needle was struggling with Herman to upset the teacup, which was found to contain enough arsenic to kill five people.

Needle was charged with attempted murder. The body of Louis Juncken, interred in Lyndoch, South Australia was exhumed and samples sent to Melbourne. The bodies of Henry Needle and the three girls, interred in Kew, were also exhumed. All five bodies were found to contain fatal levels of arsenic and Needle was charged with the murder of Louis Juncken. The trial lasted three days; Needle pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and sentenced to death.

During her time in gaol, Needle received continued visits from her friends. In her final letter to friend, Mrs Owen, she writes “Try not to grieve too much for me.” She was executed at 8.00am on 22 October 1894. When asked for her last words, she replied, “I have nothing to say.”

Afterwards

Needle was the third of four women hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol, where her death mask can be seen. The others were Elizabeth Scott (1863), Frances Knorr (1894), and Emma Williams (1895).

On 15 July 1920, Alexander Newland Lee, the son of Needle’s older sister Ellen, was hanged at Adelaide Gaol for the 1 April murder of his wife Muriel, who had been poisoned with strychnine.

During the Great Depression, the Brighton City Council built bluestone walls to protect local beaches from erosion. The stones were taken from the outer walls of the Old Melbourne Gaol and included the headstones, with initials and date of execution, of all those executed and buried on the grounds.

Although most were placed with the engravings facing inwards, Needle’s stone was faced outwards, and the initials MN and the date are still clearly visible in the Green Point wall. Over time, sand drifts buried her headstone until its precise location was rediscovered near Wellington Street.

Source: Wikipedia

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 15,052 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

Chinese geo-strategic expansion in the Levant: A case study of Lebanon

Chinese geo-strategic expansion in the Levant: A case study of Lebanon

As soon as the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China and the Middle East faced a series of challenges. In recent years, China’s influence in the region has expanded due to its economic interests in energy, trade, infrastructure construction, and diplomatic contacts with the region’s countries. This is linked to President Xi […]

The Chinese Communist Party still thinks it owns the future

The Chinese Communist Party still thinks it owns the future

A rising chorus of analysts now describe China as a “peaking power”—one that might take greater risks to revise the international order before its strategic window of opportunity closes. They cite the country’s aging population , slowing economy , and hostile external environment  as evidence that time is no longer on China’s side. The “fear of decline,” they […]

Chinese maritime militia threatens order in South China Sea

Chinese maritime militia threatens order in South China Sea

Hundreds of Chinese maritime militia vessels are operating in contested areas of the South China Sea on a consistent basis, according to a new U.S. think tank report that says this poses a significant challenge to “maritime order rooted in international law.” The Washington, D.C.,-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says that for […]

Cadence Column: Asia, November 22, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, November 22, 2021

The world is not responding well to the so-called “plandemic”. The important thing is not whether the global disease, as said by Judy Mikovits to have been developed under the supervision of Fauci, was actually intended to do all this. The public thinks it was because governments haven’t work carefully to earn public trust. Even […]

Tackling Chinese technological advantage 

Tackling Chinese technological advantage 

“China has won the artificial intelligence battle with the United States and is heading towards global dominance because of its technological advances”. When the Pentagon’s former software chief Nick Chaillan made this claim, it felt as if the whole world had come crashing down. The whole episode gave rise to the debate about who’s ahead […]

Biden and Xi move back from the brink

Biden and Xi move back from the brink

The three-and-half-hour virtual summit meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not, and could not, solve the fundamental problems that have driven the two great powers toward confrontation. But both men clearly wanted to challenge the misperception that they are on the brink of conflict, and to prevent an unintended escalation […]

Celebrities who disappeared in China after speaking out about the Communist Party or powerful people

Celebrities who disappeared in China after speaking out about the Communist Party  or powerful people

Peng Shuai has not been heard from since she accused a top Chinese official of sexual assault. The 35-year-old tennis player is one of China’s biggest sports stars. In a post on November 2 on Weibo, Peng alleged the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and that they had an affair. Afterward, the post was taken […]

China’s ‘leftover women’ using their financial power to fight stigma

China’s ‘leftover women’ using their financial power to fight stigma

In China, if you are female, educated and unmarried by the age of 27, people might use a particular term – “sheng-nu” – to describe your social status. It translates simply as “leftover woman.” The label was deliberately invented to curb the rising number of single women in a traditional society that sometimes views not […]

Health workers in China are killing pets while their owners are in quarantine

Health workers in China are killing pets while their owners are in quarantine

Local health workers in some Chinese cities are breaking into people’s homes and killing their pets while the owners are in quarantine, prompting outrage online. In one case, a dog owner named Ms Fu witnessed through her home security camera as people clothed in hazmat suits entered her home and beat her pet corgi to […]

Xi Jinping’s Terrifying New China

Xi Jinping’s Terrifying New China

China’s social media was briefly aflutter this fall about an impressive feat in the popular online fantasy game Honor of Kings. A player had completed a “pentakill,” or five kills in a row, but something just smelled wrong: The user in question was 60 years old, according to the verified account information—hardly the type to […]

%d bloggers like this: