Billy Broome hanged in 1900 for killing 13yo girl


Billy Broome was hanged in June 1900 for the murder of a 13-year-old girl near Childers but protested innocence until his execution at Boggo Road Gaol.

An Aboriginal man, William Broome was found guilty of killing Mary Le Blowitz at Stanton Harcourt, and was sentenced in the Bundaberg Circuit Court on 27 April 1900.

Broome was arrested on 1 January 1900 and charged with murder, but vigorously maintained his innocence until the end, instead incriminating Billy Brett, a neighbour of the Le Blowitz family.

The offence occurred on 26 December 1899.

At the original hearing in Childers Police Court, Government analyst Mr Henderson deposed he had examined a knife belonging to the accused, on which were several blood stains.

He also examined clothes belonging to Broome for blood and other stains.

The court heard these had been partially washed, and it was impossible to determine if the blood was that of a human or not.

Thomas Stevenson Le Blowitz, the father of the murdered girl, stated that when the accused called at his house on 26 December he was wearing the clothing produced in court.

After his daughter was missed, the accused was directed to help with the search. Mr Le Blowitz suggested looking up the creek, but Broome refused to go in that direction, and went opposite to where the body was found.

Eventually, her butchered body was found on 30 December by someone else just 400 metres from her home. She had died from stab wounds to her neck, inflicted by a sharp-bladed instrument, causing immediate death.

The medical officer was not able to say if an outrage was committed. Broome's behaviour during the search had created some suspicion, and after the police searched his camp they found a blood-stained knife and clothing.

The Queensland Times reported the execution on 12 June 1900.

Billy Broome hanged, Boggo Road Gaol
Boggo Road Gaol, where Billy Broome was hanged in 1900. Picture: State Library of Queensland

Billy Broome hanged

“The execution itself, though the work of a new man appointed to the position some two months ago, was most successful, death being instantaneous,” the newspaper reported.

“The feature of the dreadfully solemn function was the protestations of innocence which the condemned man made as he stood upon the drop, the rope around his brown neck, and his eyes staring out over the heads of the spectators beneath as if he was trying to pierce the prison walls and look into the dim beyond, upon the brink of which he stood.

Billy Broome hanging
Newspaper headlines after the hanging of Billy Broome in 1900 for murdering a 13-year-old girl near Childers.

“Accompanied by the Sheriff and his officers, the procession mounted the steps to the gallows, and the swaying rope above brushed his ashy face with a horrid suggestiveness as the man was placed upon the drop.

“In measured tones the words of the burial service were read out. As all standing around bared their heads, warder McDonald stepped up to Broome and said: ‘Have you anything to say Broome, before you are despatched into the next world?'

“The man seemed slightly dazed and he made an inquiring exclamation, but he recovered before the question could be repeated, and said: ‘Yes, I didn't kill de gal. I know I didn't. Billy Brett kill de gal'.

“Now, said Warder McDonald, you know you are about to die, you must not tell a lie now.”

As the words were being spoken the hands of the hangman were busy adjusting the rope around the neck of Broome and they were horribly twitching and nervous hands, so much so it took some seconds to place the noose in the position desired.

“Before this was accomplished, Broome leant forward towards Mr McDonald and with that waving of the body peculiar to Aboriginals when endeavouring to emphasise a statement, he said, ‘I know, I won't tell a lie; I know I'm a dead man … Billy Brett kill de gal. I know I didn't kill de gal'.

“The black made a motion as if to emphasise his statement with a stamp of the foot, but the limbs were by this time in the firm and steady embrace of a strong strap.

“As Broome's dying denial of crime escaped his lips the white cap was drawn down over his ashy features, and fastened round his neck, and a waving handkerchief gave the signal for the drawing of the bolt.

“As the body fell into space there was an agonising jerk of the pinioned limbs, and the knees drew upwards, then straightened out, and Billy Broome was no more.

“Death was instantaneous, and must have been almost without bodily pain.”

Queensland abolished capital punishment

Billy Broome was the first person to be hanged in Queensland since 1895.

The last person to suffer capital punishment in Queensland was Ernest Austin in 1913.

Queensland was the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to abolish capital punishment for all crimes.