In 1895, at Roadknight’s Hill, Cunninghame, Charles Strange stopped for the night with his fellow swagman. During the night Charles determined to kill the man. Knowing if he could get a days head start he’d never be caught by the Melbourne Police who’d investigate.
The two men had spent a night in Orbost before heading down to Roadknight Hill, Cunninghame, where they had a meal with the groom.
While the victim was in bed, Charles stood over him and attacked his head with a tommahawk, he then stabbed him a number of times in the heart. The coroner suggested this was to ensure the victim was dead, before putting a sugar bag over his head and wrapping his body in two blankets. Charles then hid the victim’s body under a log and covered it in branches.
The groom came over early the next morning while Charles was burning his clothes. The groom asked where “Sandy” was as he wanted to follow up some information about the jockey industry. Charles informed him they’d had a fight and ‘Sandy’ had left for Manaro.
The groom didn’t debate Charles and accepted the boots, tent and tommahawk from him. He noticed the blood on the canvas. When he went to where the tent had been and found a pool of blood. He then sent for the police.
The police caught up with Charles at Swan Reach.
Charles Strange spoke with the police who escorted him to Bairnsdale, he even referenced the murder in the conversation there was no emotion behind the talk. He even discussed burning his clothes to destroy the evidence of his crime. And told the police that if he had a day’s headstart they wouldn’t have found him.
A map to conceptulise the space:
Charles Strange was 22 years old, who had a poor relationship with his father which he did describe with a negative emotion. He didn’t want to be a shoemaker like his father who wanted him to follow in his footsteps. He wanted to be a blacksmith.
Only when he was in the cell and believed he was alone did Charles cry, he didn’t say why. The paper sumised he was overcome by his actions. He was held in Bairnsdale for one night without seeing a judge, under informal remand. He was then transferred to Sale Gaol and remanded officially to prison. Charles Henry Strange was married to woman who loved him by all accounts.
The identity of Charles victim was revealed to be Joseph Doecy a native of Cambridge England, is a disqualified jockey but was now labouring with Charles. Later in December 1895 the paper said the victim was Federick Dowse, 26 years old. It is unclear which is correct.
Charles Henry Strange was sentenced to death at the Sale Magistrates court on the 4th of December 1895. He was hung at the Melbourne Gaol on the14th of January 1896 after seeing his father, mother, and sister who lived in Saint Kilda. He was also visited by his wife, this seemed to affect him greatly, however his composure quickly returned.
The reverend who saw him in the interim said he deeply regretted the murder.
Only 5 people witnessed the hanging, two were justices of the peace and three others were from the prison.
They witnessed he died quickly as his neck snapped quickly.
Cunninghame is the historical name of Lakes Entrance
Read more historical crimes
Join us on a crime tour