St Kilda Road robberies

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Date: 1850 [unknown]
Location: Victoriamap
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Australian Bushrangers

St Kilda Rd Robberies

During the first eighteen months of the Victorian gold rush, the section of St Kilda Road between Melbourne and Canvas Town was the scene of frequent hold ups by armed bandits and bushrangers, mostly former convicts from Van Diemens Land.

On 17 March 1853, gold buyer Edward Ritter and his brother-in-law Samuel Maxwell Alexander were travelling from St Kilda to Melbourne. A gang of eight or nine men attempted to hold them up near Canvas Town. There was gun fire and Edward Ritter was hit three times in the legs, he wasn't seriously injury.

Ritter and Alexander gave a good descriptions of the men, two of whom had been with another group who had tried to rob Ritter about three weeks earlier. The Government offered a reward of £1600, £200 for each gang member.[1] seven men were caught and faced Justice Redmond Barry on 18 April 1853, five being convicted and were each sentenced to ten [2] years hard labour on the roads, two of the men in chains. One of these men, James Grimes, had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in the Nelson robbery in 1852, but there had been insufficient evidence to convict him.With the gang in goal there were less robberies along the St Kida Rd.

Men who were tried for the Robbery
  • Higginbotham
  • Little
  • Murphy
  • William Burns
  • James Burns
  • Thompson - aquitted
  • James Grimes - acquitted
Bushrangers on St Kilda Road
Other robberies on St Kilda Road

From the Argus Melbourne 22nd October, 1852

THE BUSHRANGERS - Two men were apprehended yesterday on suspicion of having been concerned in the outrages lately enacted on the St Kilda road, one named John Williams and the other Pritchard. On the person of the latter was found a most splendid and massive gold chain; it was at first supposed to have belonged to Mrs. Bawtree, but that has since been ascertained not to be the case.The prisoners will be brought up before the police magistrates this morning.

From the Maitland Mercury 2nd November, 1852

The Argus reports so many daring and aggravated, cases of robbery and outrage that we cannot spare room for the extracts. The Government had offered a reward of £2000 for the apprehension of the gang of bushrangers whose daring robbery of some twenty successive persons on the St. Kilda road, in open daylight we recently recorded ; or £200 for each person apprehended. Several men had been apprehended , but none clearly identified up to the 26th.-

Two immigrants are reported to have been knocked down, robbed, and cruelly ill treated, in the streets of Melbourne. A party bound for the diggings were'reposing in a tent on the Flagstaff Hill, Melbourne, on the night of the 20th, one of their number keeping watch outside, when he was suddenly pounced on and overpowered by five men, one of whom fired a pistol at him ; they then bailed up his mates in the hut, and robbed him and them of all they had, and then making them walk a mile into the bush and left him there.The Argus reports so many daring and aggravated, cases of robbery and outrage that we cannot spare room for the extracts.

Another case affords acurious illustration of the policy of " bearding the lion," &c. An innkeeper at Keilor, Mr.Gregory, heard on the 19th Ootober that fourbushrangers had been robbing a number of persons within a mile of his place ; he immediatley proposed to his guests to ride out armed, and apprehend the bushrangers, to which three of them agreed ; Mr. Gregory took the precaution to take no money with him, but his guests started as they were, one having £520 on him,one £250, and the third a watch and cash. Each man took a brace of loaded pistols, and rode off on the track of the bushrangers, who they found had been robbing people all the way. The pursuing party sighted the bushrangers 3 1/2 miles from the inn, and, says Mr. Gregory in his letter to the Argus, the bushrangers at first gallopped off on seeing the party, who gallopped after them, when suddenly the bushrangers wheeled round, and presenting each a double barrelled gun at their pursuers, ordered them to dismount. As it was clear that guns would carry farther than pistols, and the party was within gunshot, but not within pistol-shot, this was very unpleasantly reversing positions; Mr. Gregory and his companions concluded to retreat,and gallopped off in different directions, the bushrangers separating and chasing them. The £520 man was overtaken, robbed, and beaten ;the watch man was also overtaken,after his horse had been shot, and he was robbed of everything; the £250 man got safe home again unhurt ; and Mr. Gregory himself, after being chased a mile and a half and shot at, turned on his pursuer and had a shot at him, and then rode home again.

From the The Melbourne Argus 22nd May, 1855

MURDEROUS ATTACK ON THE ST. KILDA ROAD-SURGEON OF THE 12TH SHOT. A most outrageous case of sticking up occurred this morning between twelve and one o'clock, just opposite the military barracks, on the southside of the Bridge. Mr Dick, the surgeon of the 12th, was walking along the road to his quarters,in company with a gentleman resident at St. Kilda when they were suddenly stopped by twomen, who presented pistols and demanded their money. Dr. Dick, half-thinking that it was amere drunken freak, replied in an off-hand man- ner, that he should give no money, when bothscoundrels fired. The bullet of the one passed through the hat of the St Kilda gentleman,while that of the other struck Dr.Dick in the head, inflicting a severe wound. A call was made for the guard to turn out when the murderous ruffians ran off,but they turned again at a few yards distance, and each discharged another shot. The bullet was extracted about an hour after from the head of Dr Dick, but he still remains in a very precarious condition. One of the assailants was tall the other short.But the darkness of night will probably prevent their capture.

From the Maitland Mercury 24th December, 1857

colonial courts of justice " As a specimen of what may happen to a man in Victoria, we may mention the case of Thomas Mason, an escaped Prisoner of the Crown from Tasmania This person was transported from England some years ago, and, in the height of the gold fever,he bolted across the straits, to Victoria.He arrived here in 1852 and that same year some daring cases of high- way robbery were committed on the St Kilda road Mason shortly after left the colony, and,on returning in 1854, was arrested, tried, and convicted, for more than one of these offences He was sentenced to twenty-one years' hard labour, and forwarded to the bulks, where he spent four miserable 3 years There was always a doubt of the man s guilt, and upon more than one occasion we felt it our duty to suggest to the Government the propriety of a careful review of his case Of course our occasional hints were treated with indifference, but it now turns out that the man had been wrongfully convicted, and certain facts having at length been brought under the notice of the Government.


  1. Argus Melbourne 19th April 1853 article Surpreme court
  2. Colonial Hobart - Ten years hard labour

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