Others may have been wrongly hanged: Brumby

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Others may have been wrongly hanged: Brumby

Post  Jennie on Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:03 am

May 27, 2008 - 11:45AM

There may be several cases in Victoria's history of the wrong person being hanged for a crime, Victorian Premier John Brumby says.

His comments came as the government and governor David de Krester today prepared to posthumously pardon Colin Campbell Ross, who was hanged 86 years ago for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke.

The Crown alleged 28-year-old Ross, who ran a wine saloon in the Eastern Arcade in Bourke Street, gave Alma Tirtschke alcohol before raping and strangling her in Gun Alley, off Little Collins Street, on New Year's Eve, 1921.

He went to the gallows the following year protesting his innocence.

Witnesses swore to seeing Ross at work or on a tram at the time of the murder and the only physical connection between him and the crime was hairs on a blanket at his Maidstone home that the jury was told came from the scalp of the victim.

Modern testing of the hairs has since found the hairs did not belong to the girl.

The pardon follows an inquiry into the case by Supreme Court judges Bernard Teague, Phil Cummins and John Coldrey, which found Ross was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Brumby today hailed advances in science as a crucial factor to the pardoning and said the mistake represented a strong argument against capital punishment.

Mr Brumby said there could be other cases in Victoria's history for which the wrong person was hanged.

"My guess is that since there were a number of people who were executed in Victoria and across Australia, there may well be others," Mr Brumby told the Fairfax Radio Network.

"But this one, of course, came to light because it was always a matter of controversy.

"Ross himself always protested that he was innocent and he protested that passionately."

Mr Brumby said the case showed the law was not perfect and mistakes could happen.

"It might only be one mistake in a hundred but in that one case in a hundred, the damage, obviously, that you do to the individual is irredeemable - you take their life, so it's a very strong argument against capital punishment," he said.

Mr Brumby said both families involved in the case, relatives of Ross and of Alma Tirtschke, had requested the pardon.

"There was a lot of circumstantial evidence. It's always been the subject of a lot of controversy," Mr Brumby said.

"It's science, I think from 1998 on, forensic science, I don't know if they used a synchrotron (giant microscope) for example ... but they've been able to prove conclusively that the hairs which were part of the evidence which were found on his clothing, were not those of the victim," he said.

AAP

(Source: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/strong-argument-against-death-penalty/2008/05/27/1211653994898.html)
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