Re: Deeming – Not Redeeming!

Above featured: Death mask of Frederick Bayley Deeming (plaster and paint head 30 x 18.5 x 22 cm) State Library of Victoria. The Library also has the cast of his hand, courtesy of 1967 donation.

Frederick Bayley Deeming was a serial murderer who was hanged at the Melbourne Gaol (Jail)  in 1892. At the time, his trial and subsequent execution captured the attention of a nation. His killing of two wives and four of his own children earned him only revulsion.

  • Born in Leicestershire, England in 1853, Deeming ran off to sea aged 16 where he spent a sporadic life over the following 23 years committing a series of crimes over three continents and used at least 20 aliases during his life.
  • He was a bigamist. In 1881 he married Marie James and had four children.
  • His first police arrest was in April 1882 when he was convicted of stealing 8 gas burners in Sydney.
  • By 1887 he was convicted of perjury and by 1888 he was involved in a series of successful frauds and theft in Johannesburg.
  • In 1890 and 1891 he married again on both occasions under different names.

By 3 March 1892, the enormity of Deeming’s life of crimes was revealed. Police were called to a house he had been renting in the inner Melbourne suburb of Windsor to investigate a foul smell coming from beneath a hearthstone. There they discovered the body of Emily Mather, the woman he had married in England the previous year; under the alias of Williams. She had been dead for about 3 months. Her throat had been cut and her head bashed. Through a torn luggage ticket they found in the house, police discovered Deeming’s identify and alerted authorities in England to investigate the house in Liverpool; occupied by his first wife and their four children.

  • On digging up the floor, the UK police discovered all five bodies. Their throats had also been slashed.

On 11 March 1892, Victorian detectives arrested him for murder. He was in Southern Cross, Western Australia, seeking work as a mining engineer. He was engaged to another woman at the time. Following a two-day inquest in Melbourne in April, Deeming hit the press as they described the prisoner as ‘The criminal of the century and a human tiger.”

  • Deeming was tried under the name of Williams in late 1892, as it was the name he used to marry his second wife.
  • He was defended by a young lawyer Alfred Deakin; (the future Prime Minister of Australia) who valiantly made the most of an impossible case. Deakin’s papers are in the National Library of Australia collection – and he revealed that he thought Deeming was insane. (Deakin was most likely correct).
  • Deeming had an unnaturally strong relationship with his mother and when she died in 1873 he was said to have become emotionally unstable; for he claimed that his dead mother had ordered him to commit the murders.

Deeming was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hanged on  23rd May 1892. An attendant crowd of more than 12,000 people lined the street outside the jail and cheered wildly at his public demise.

Looks like Deeming’s schemings were not exactly redeeming!

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