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1922: The Gun Alley Murder, 12yo Alma Tirschke

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Lily, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    This is one of those crimes that's never forgotten by its city, and has stuck in the mind of Melbourne's population all these years.

    Not only was the death of little Alma horrible, but to make matters worse, the man who was found guilty, and was subsequently hanged for her murder, was found to be innocent many decades later, and was granted an official pardon in 2008.

    In 1922, the ugly little alley where her body was found became a memorial to Alma, with many Melbournians leaving flowers and wreaths there, in her memory.


    From Wiki:

    Just a few metres away from the Australian Wine Saloon in the Eastern Arcade, between Bourke and Little Collins Streets, where Alfred Place runs off Little Collins Street (next to present day 120 Collins St), Alma was last seen about 3 pm on 30 December 1921. Her naked body was found early the next morning in a lane running east off Gun Alley, not far from Alfred Place.

    Following the discovery of the body, the owner of the Australian Wine Saloon, Colin Campbell Ross, was charged with her rape and murder. The case against him was based on the evidence of two witnesses, plus some strands of red hair, apparently from Tirtschke's head, which provided a vital connection between Ross and the murder. Ross protested his innocence but was hanged.

    The two witnesses were later considered by many to be unreliable, both having had a motive to lie. The only credible piece of evidence was the red hair that connected Ross to the case.

    Ross could account for his movements at the time Alma disappeared, and later that night, when her body was dumped in Gun Alley. With nothing to hide, Ross had told detectives who interviewed him that a little girl matching Alma's description had passed his saloon, but that this was his only connection with the victim.

    More reliable forensic examinations in the 1990s disproved the red hair connection and showed that Ross was probably innocent. Colin Campbell Ross was granted a pardon on 22 May 2008, the date on which the Victorian governor, as the Queen's representative, signed it.

    Original news story:

    Ghastly Murder.

    The body of a 12-year-old girl, Alma Tirschke, was found in Gun Alley, a small lane off Little Collins-street, Melbourne, on Saturday, at tbe rear of the de-licensed Royal standard Hotel.

    The body was stark naked, and huge black bruises around the throat, showed that the girl had been the victim of foul play. Her long red hair had blown over her face. It was evident that she had died her death some place other than the spot where the body was found.

    Although the police carried out systematic search of the locality they have been unable to find any of the girl's attire. The girl was sent to the city to go to the butchers, where she had to obtain a parcel of smallgoods. She had been told to take the parcel to an uncle in Collins-street, but apparently she did not reach her destination. She was a student at the Hawthorn High School, and her grandmother says she never caused any of her friends a moment's uneasiness.

    The murder is described as one of the most horrible committed in Melbourne. The giri had been outraged, strangled with a thin cord, stripped of all clothing, carried from the death chamber, and dumped on to the street. The spot where the body was found is a narrow alley at the rear of shops in Little Collins-street, near Exhibition street.

    It is clear that the child had been followed, probably by some lunatic, since what had happened to her left no doubt of the maniacal character of her murderer. She may have been decoyed to some house or murdered in a house near the spot, or brought there in a motor car.

    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
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  2. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member


    The desperate plea for help that Colin Campbell Ross (left) wrote on the back of an envelope and threw over Pentridge Prison walls in 1922 and the pencil that was found in Ross’s Bible.

    Colin Ross was hanged for a murder he seemingly did not commit. Steve Waldon follows the trail.

    ONE of the most remarkable written protestations of innocence in Victorian criminal history has emerged intact after being assumed lost for decades.

    The note, written on the back of an envelope and thrown over the wall of the Old Melbourne Gaol on April 18, 1922, was a last desperate bid by condemned man Colin Campbell Ross to persuade the world that he was innocent.

    Ross was hanged six days later, having been convicted of the murder, a few months earlier, of Melbourne schoolgirl Alma Tirtschke. The murder rocked Victoria, and Ross was eventually charged and tried in an atmosphere of public hysteria, fuelled by media pressure on police to make an early arrest.

    Tirtschke's death was branded the "Gun Alley murder". A book published last year by Melbourne researcher Kevin Morgan not only concludes that Ross was wrongly accused, but details the likely killer — a shadowy male acquaintance known to Tirtschke and her younger sister, Viola.

    Morgan's book, Gun Alley: Murder, Lies and Failure of Justice, is regarded as pivotal in attempts to have Ross's conviction quashed, because it demonstrates with authority that the prosecution's case was seriously flawed. Advances in forensic science have enabled new tests on hair, found on a blanket owned by Ross, that the prosecution claimed was from Tirtschke's head. The hair is not Tirtschke's.

    Morgan's book also notes that crucial defence evidence, which would have made it difficult to find Ross guilty, was disallowed.

    A petition to have Ross's conviction overturned is before state Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

    The recent emergence of Ross's prison note is just the latest of several surprising discoveries that have floored Morgan since he began investigating the Gun Alley murder in the early 1990s.

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