Ryan, Ronald Joseph (1925–1967)
February 3rd, 1967:
Australia hung a criminal for a crime he did not commit. Due to the outcry this caused, capital punishment was abolished in Australia.
Coburg Pentridge Gaol, where the last man to be legally executed was hung.
On 3 February 1967, Ronald Ryan became the last man to be hanged in Australia. Now, 50 years on, it's time to talk about capital punishment and how we treat convicted killers.
Fifty years ago, I was twenty. I followed the story of Ronald Ryan, who was found to be guilty of shooting and killing warder George Hodson during an escape from Pentridge Prison, Victoria, in 1965. I even campaigned against his execution, believing that he was innocent of the crime for which he which he was hung. His unjust hanging, despite all the medical evidence proving that he was innocent, made me a firm advocate against the death penalty, as are most Australians.
I worked as an investigative journalist at that time. According to the forensic evidence, the angle of the bullet that killed warder George Hodson penetrated at a downward angle. Ronald Ryan was five foot eight, and he was standing beside George Hodson when he was shot. It was clear to me that the fatal shot had been fired by a prison guard from a tower, The bullet missed Ronald Ryan and killed George Hodson.
Rather than casting the blame for the tragedy on one of their own, witnesses chose to make a criminal, Ronald Ryan, the scapegoat. Morally, one might argue that as Ronald Ryan was armed, and as he took a hostage, he was prepared to kill, therefore there was more justice in executing him than making a guard suffer, further, for what would have been a terrible miscalculation of aim.
I found no evidence that Ronald Ryan was, or ever had committed murder, so, there wan never any just reason to execute him. He was not given a fair trial.
Please note: The opinions expressed in the above article were those formed when I was twenty one, and closely following the story from the time of Ronald Ryan's escape from prison, to his capture, trial and subsequent execution. The official version of the story is that Ronald Ryan was guilty as charged,
I have not seen any evidence to alter my opinion formed fifty years ago that Ronald Ryan was anything more that a gambler and a criminal.
The last man hanged in Australia
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