The execution of prisoners Sutherland and Ogden, Hobart Gaol 1883

EXECUTIONS at the Hobart Gaol, Tasmania 1880s
DEATH WARRANTS Tasmania 1880s
T. J. NEVIN POLICE MUGSHOTS hand tinted cdvs

The Commercial Photograph
James Sutherland (on left), 18 yrs old, was tried in Longford on 18th November 1878 and sentenced to three months at the Hobart Gaol for being idle and disorderly. He was discharged from the Gaol on 5th February 1879. James Ogden (on right), 19 yrs old, was charged with larceny on 13 December 1878 and discharged from the Hobart Gaol on 12 March 1879. These two teenagers, dressed in summer prison clothing, were serving contemporaneous sentences when they posed for a visiting photographer to the Gaol sometime around early January 1879. This photograph may have been produced by the Anson brothers, photographers of Wellington Bridge, Elizabeth Street, Hobart and for commercial gain, intended for sale to the public, and not for attachment to the prisoners’ rap sheets or other official police documentation. Then again, the photograph may have been taken in June 1883 at the Hobart Gaol when these two teenagers were charged with the murder of William Wilson for which they were both executed.

Prisoners James Sutherland on left and James Ogden
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Ref: Q16478
Sepia carte-de-visite, unattributed, ca. 1879 -1883


Sutherland discharged 5 Feb 1879

James Sutherland, aged 18, not 13, a typo, discharged from Hobart, 5th February 1879
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, Gov’t Printer

Robert Ogden, aged 19, discharged from the Hobart Gaol, 12th March 1879
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, Gov’t Printer

The Anson Brothers turned up at the burnt-out house of Ogden and Sutherland’s victim Mr Wilson just weeks into the aftermath of the murder committed by this pair in 1883, took photographs of the ruins – described as “a subject of mournful yet engrossing interest” by the Mercury report – and coolly advised the public that “handsome, interesting and valuable” copies were available from the photographers! The Ansons went further in pursuit of gain: if this photograph of the two doomed youths Sutherland (on left) and Ogden (on right) was not taken by them in 1879, it was most likely taken by them in 1883 inside the yard of the Hobart Gaol only weeks before the execution to grab this image for sale and display in the window of their shop at Wellington Bridge, Elizabeth Street. Given the notoriety of the case and the execution of both teenagers in 1883, this image was no doubt reprinted for display in local newspaper office windows, offered for sale in photographers’ studio windows, and pinned to the walls and windows of the Town Hall Municipal Police Office.

The book photograph: James Ogden
This photograph – a standard 1870s carte-de-visite prisoner mugshot in an oval mount produced by Thomas J. Nevin – has escaped the attention of photo-historians of the 1870s Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photographs, the so-called “Convict portraits, Port Arthur 1874” labelled and catalogued as such in Australian national collections, viz. the National Library of Australia, Canberra, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston. It belongs to the same series of fine albumen prints in oval mounts of prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin for the HCC Municipal Police Office and Hobart Gaol authorities from 1872 to the mid 1880s.

Prisoner Robert Ogden (1861?-1883), known as James Odgen,
Executed on 4th June 1883 at the Hobart Goal for murder.
Photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, 23 September 1875.

Source of image:
State Library of NSW
Digital Order No. a421036
Miscellaneous Photographic Portraits ca. 1877-1918
36. James Ogden
Call Number DL PX 158:
Photographs : 54 silver gelatin photoprints, 2 albumen photoprints ; 7.8-21.3 x 5.8-17.5 cm.

Only 300 or so mugshots from the 1870s are currently extant from the thousand or more produced over two decades by Thomas J. Nevin and his younger brother Constable John Nevin in Hobart’s courts and prisons for the central registry, the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. Up to 25 duplicates were being taken on arrest and discharge of prisoners in NSW by 1872 and a comparable number was produced in Victoria. In Tasmania Thomas Nevin produced on average four duplicates from his original capture on glass. If the prisoner repeatedly offended and was sentenced within a short period, the glass plate was used again and again until it became damaged (see Peter Killeen’s record). Additional sittings with the prisoner and new photographs were taken if the prisoner repeatedly offended over years extending into decades. In Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in the 1870s, the police used commercial photographers.

The photograph (above) of Robert Ogden (aka James Ogden) is held at the State Library of NSW, catalogued as “No. 36 James Ogden”, Miscellaneous Photographic Portraits ca. 1877-1918 (DL PX 158). It bears no attribution, no studio mark or inscription, except the name of the prisoner on verso. The fact that it is a mugshot of a prisoner is not stated. The name “James Ogden” was written no doubt by its donor to the State Library of NSW, John Watt Beattie, who admired Thomas Nevin’s photography of prisoners taken in the 1870s to warrant their salvage for commercial advantage as Port Arthur souvenirs for the burgeoning dark tourism trade of the 1890s.

The booking photograph: James Sutherland
The later police identification photographs – mugshots- taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin with the assistance of his brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol show James Sutherland was a mature youth. This photograph was the first, the “booking photograph” taken at the Hobart Gaol on James Sutherland’s arrest and sentencing for murder on 29th May, 1883. Although dressed in prison clothing, the pipe and the frank, challenging stare were signs he was in a liminal state between freedom and imprisonment.

National Library of Australia collection
Pictorial Accession No. P1029/43 Sutherland
Photographer Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-192
James Sutherland, sentenced in Launceston on 29 May 1883, Tasmania [picture]
Call Number PIC Album 935 #P1029/43
Created/Published 1883
Extent 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm., on mount 10.4 x 6.4 cm.

The Coloured Photograph: Sutherland’s death warrant
Thomas Nevin had taken a second photograph of James Sutherland immediately prior to his execution on 4th June, 1883 at the Hobart Gaol, also called the Campbell Street Gaol [CSG].  The second photograph, hand-tinted for added realism ,was taken expressly for police and prison records, to be pasted to the prisoner’s rap sheet, or in this instance, collated with his death warrant..

Detail: hand-tinting on photograph by T. J. Nevin of James Sutherland, June 1883
Carte-de-visite in buff mount pasted on page opposite of Sutherland’s death warrant
Death Warrants V.D.L. Tasmania Supreme Court. Mitchell Library C203.
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009

This photograph is held at the Mitchell Library, pasted next to Sutherland’s death warrant in a volume acquired by collector David Scott Mitchell, bequeathed ca. 1907 (Death Warrants V.D.L. Tasmania Supreme Court. Mitchell Library SLNSW C203.). The carte-de-visite was hand-tinted in a similar fashion to the cdv mugshots taken by Thomas Nevin of prisoners Bramall aka Johnstone and Job Smith aka Campbell, held at the National Library of Australia and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The colouring of these mugshots served two purposes: to render a more accurate image reflective of reality, i.e. blue for blue eyes, blue for the prison issue scarf, especially when the man was wanted on warrant; and to profit from the sale of the hanged man’s image to the press and the public. These were called “ornaments of colour”, a term used with reference to Thomas Nevin’s tinting of prisoner photographs in the Mercury newspaper’s account of Nevin’s incident with the “ghost” (December 4, 1880).

The Death Warrant: James Sutherland

Death warrant and photograph of James Sutherland
Mitchell Library SLNSW Vol 2, C203
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009


To the SHERIFF of Tasmania and to the Keeper of her Majesty’s Gaol at Hobarton jointly and severally.
Whereas at a Session of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery of the Supreme Court of Tasmania holden at Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid on Tuesday the fifteenth day of May James Sutherland was convicted before the [blank] of the murder of William Wilson and thereupon for that Offence received Sentence to be hanged by the neck until he should be dead – NOW IT IS ORDERED that execution of the said Sentence be accordingly made and done upon the said James Sutherland on Monday the fourth day of June at the Usual Hour and Place of Execution and that his body when dead be buried privately by the Sheriff –
Given under my Hand and Seal at – Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid this twenty third day of May in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty three.
[Signature of Francis Smith CJ (Chief Justice) and black seal of Royal Arms colonial warrant].

Justice Sir Francis Smith’s and the Deputy Sheriff Philip S. Seager’s signed confirmation of Sutherland’s execution.
Death Warrants V.D.L. Tasmania Supreme Court. Mitchell Library SLNSW C203
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009

This is one of two photographs included with Tasmanian Death Warrants 1883-1884 (SLNSW_ taken by contractor Thomas J. Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin. The other photograph attached to a death warrant is a booking shot of Henry Stock, who was executed at the Hobart Gaol in 1884 for the murder of his wife and her son.

James Ogden’s photograph, also held in the Mitchell collection, State Library of NSW, was not collated with his death warrant, possibly because it was not recognized as a police identification shot, i.e. a mugshot, given the commercial values deployed by Thomas Nevin in this and the several hundred other extant mugshots he produced for police in the 1870-1880s.

Catalogue Notes: State Library of NSW

Tasmania. Supreme Court – Death warrants and related papers, 1818-1884
Creator: Tasmania. Supreme Court Call Number: C 202 – C 203 Date: 1818 – 1884
Contents: 1818-1884; Death warrants for the execution of prisoners in Tasmania; with related papers including receipts for bodies received at hospitals, orders for sentences to be commuted to penal servitude for life, and for transportation to Macquarie Harbour. There are two photographs in volume 2 (C 203) which may be of James Sutherland in 1883 and Henry Stock in 1884. (Call No.: ML C 202 – C 203)
Arrangement: The warrants and papers are not in chronological order within the two volumes; volume 1 contains documents dated between 1818-1855 and volume 2 between 1827-1884.
Source: Mitchell Bequest, 1907. State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Trial and execution 1883:
Several press reports for this case in 1883 were lengthy accounts of witnesses’ depositions, and descriptions in lurid detail of the murder. The first article reported the events and evidence relating to a plea of insanity. The extract from the transcript mentions in several instances how reading about the notorious Kelly Gang influenced the pair’s perceptions of criminal behaviour as heroic;

Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), Wednesday 16 May 1883, page 3
SUPREME COURT, HOBART. (1883, May 16). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 3.
THE EPPING MURDER CASE. James Sutherland and James Ogden were charged with the wilful murder of James Wilson at Epping Forest, on the 9th of April. The prisoners pleaded not guilty and were defended by Mr. Andrew Inglis Clark, the Attorney- General (Hon. W. R. Giblin) prosecuting for the Crown….

It appeared to be a desire on the part of these young ruffians to gain notoriety by following the carreer of a gang of Victorian bushrangers. There was also the fact that a vow had been made by Ogden to put a bullet through Wilson, and it was he who had planned and led the attack against Wilson. He [Attorney-General] held that there was nothing to support the plea that Sutherland was mad. The difference between the two men was naturally that of temperament, the one prisoner feeling the pangs of conscience, the other electing to carry out his future like his hero Kelly [Ned Kelly, bushranger, murderer, hanged], and glorying in his shame to the very end. The Attorney-General addressed the jury for for 17 minutes, and the Court then adjourned for half an hour at 1.13 p.m. The Court resumed at 1.145 p.m. In addressiog the jury for the defence, Mr. Clark [defence, Andrew Inglis Clark] said that he need scarcely tell them it was one of the most sacred duties of a jury to pay the most earnest attentlon to what a man accused of crime may by himself or through his counsel say in his defence, and how much more was it so when the issue was one of life and death. The learned counsel went on to prove that the defendants were not sane men, and taking the evidence, he said there was, as the Attorney-General had stated, no connecting motive apparent for the committal of this crime by the prisoners. The crime committed by the prisoners had no connection with their usual lives, and every jury empanelled had a right to ask themselves separately whether or not the prisoners charged before them were sane or insane, and that was what he asked the present juryto do. An irrational, motiveless crime was proof of insanity, and such was the case with the prisoners in the present instance. Mr. Clark quoted largely from English and American writers on insanity, andt the peculiarities of its murderous traits in some diseased minds. He said the minds of the prisoners had been worked upon by reading the acts of the Kelly gang in Victoria, till they looked upon their deeds as heroic and brave, and asked – Was a mind capable of being so worked on sane? There was the desire of standing in a crowded court like the present, the beheld of all beholders; of having their notions and deeds emblazoned throughout the Press, of the colony. which made them glory in their abominations ; but was a mind so worked on sane or responsible? These youths, from the time of their leaving Launceston to the committal of the murder which thrilled Tasmania, seemed to have lived in an illusion.

16th May 1883

Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 – 1883), Wednesday 16 May 1883, page 3

(From the Southern Star.)

HOBART, Tuesday, 15th May.
Before His Honor the Chief Justice, Sir Francis Smith.
WILFUL MURDER. James Sutherland and James Ogden were charged with the wilful murder of James Wilson at Epping Forest on the 11th of April.
Prisoners pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Sir Andrew Inglis Clark. The-Attorney-General prosecuted for the Crown…read the rest of thiis long article here: –

Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Wednesday 16 May 1883, page 2

SUPREME COURT CRIMINAL SITTINGS.-The sittings of the Supreme Court in Oyer and Terminer began yesterday. Sir Francis Smith presided in the First Court, where the greater part of the day was occupied with the trial of James Ogden and James Sutherland for the murder of Wm. Wilson, at Epping Forest. The prisoners pleaded not guilty. Mr. A. I. Clark appeared for the defence. The evidence taken was that given at the inquest, and supplemented by some further evidence tracing the connection of the prisoners prior to the murder, so as to show that they acted in concert. This additional evidence was obtained by Sub-inspector Palmer, who deserves much credit for his handling of the case throughout. Mr. Clark set up the defence of insanity, working out an elaborate and ingenious construction from the evidence. He urged that the presence of an unaccountable and extraordinary desire for murder, such as seemed to have possessed the prisoners, was in itself proof of insanity. The Judge charged the jury that the law recognised only absolute proof of such state of derangement, that the prisoner did not know that he was doing wrong. After about half-an-hour’s deliberation the jury found both prisoners guilty, and His Honor passed sentence of death. There was a large crowd in court throughout the day, and much interest was displayed in the trial. The prisoners themselves remained quietly passive from first to last, and did not give way to any emotion when sentence was passed upon them. On being taken down they began joking and laughing with the other prisoners, and among other remarks said that old “Coachey,” a prisoner whose trial was proceeding, should have had a good clap for the laugh he had caused in court. The prisoner referred to was an old man named Thos. Wood, who was found guilty of breaking into the house of Mrs. E. Wait, at Brighton, and stealing some articles. He was sentenced Ito imprisonment for 12 months.

5th June 1883

Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), Tuesday 5 June 1883, page 3

THE LAST SCENE IN THE EPPING TRAGEDY. (BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH.) HOBART, June 4. The prisoners James Sutherland and James Ogden, convicted of the murder of William Wilson and Alfred Holman at Epping Forest in April last, were executed this morning at the Campbell-street Gaol. The Rev. J. C. Mace had been with Sutherland from early morn, and the Rev. G. W. Shoobridge with Ogden. Neither of the prisoners had slept dur-ing the night, saying that they would see as much as they could of the world that was so soon to be left, and both softened in their demeanour during the night. This morning Sutherland requested Mr. Mace to send to Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Holman and ask them to forgive him, and he also spoke bitterly of the treatment he had received during his lifetime, saying the world had not been a pleasant one to him, that he had had no parents to look after him, but had been kicked about by those who got as much work as possible out of him without caring in the least about him. He also said he had thought a good deal more about his position than people had given him credit for. Both prisoners seemed to realise their position. Only three spectators, exclusive of the officials, police, and representatives of the Press, were present at the final scene this morning. Before leaving their cells both prisoners were asked by the Deputy Sheriff, Mr. Seager, if they had anything to say, but both replied in the negative. There was little change in the appearance of Sutherland, but Ogden’s features were heavy and swollen. At 8.5 a.m. they left their cells, after having been pinioned by Solomon Blay, the hangman ; and preceded by the Rev. Mr. Shoobridge, reading a portion of the Church of England burial service, both men walked calmly along the bridge leading to the scaffold, Sutherland’s step being as firm as ordinarily, while Ogden, who carried in his right hand a bunch of flowers sent to him through the Rev. Mr. Shoobridge by a little girl attending Trinity Church Sunday-school, trembled violently, but otherwise made no sign. When the hangman placed the noose round Sutherland’s neck he pulled himself together, never flinching, Ogden also keeping firm, and the muscles of neither of their faces moved as the fatal cap was drawn over their heads. The bolt was drawn at 8.10 a.m., and side by side the unfortunate lads were launched into eternity. Standing on the scaffold they looked more boyish than ever, making it difficult to believe them the perpetrators of the deeds for which they justly suffered death. Mrs. Ogden states that it was reading the history of the Kelly gang caused the boys to commit these crimes. After hanging an hour the bodies were out down, the little bouquet sent to Ogden being found tightly clenched in his hand, and Dr. Graham certified that both were dead. Casts of their heads were then taken by Mr. A. J. Taylor, and at 12.30 p.m. the bodies were placed in a hearse by Mr. W. F. Potterd, the Government contracting undertaker, and conveyed to the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, where they were interred by the gaol officials without any religious ceremony. The execution of these two prisoners makes over a hundred persons executed by Solomon Blay. The last execution at Hobart was that of Richard Copping, for murder at Sorell, on 21st October, 1878.

Librarian and collector Andrew Taylor took casts of heads for inclusion in his private museum. Solomon Blay was the hangman who was universally shunned by Hobart society. Both men repeated these actions a year later when Henry Stock was hanged for the murder of his wife and her child.

6th June 1883

Devon Herald (Latrobe, Tas. : 1877 – 1889), Wednesday 6 June 1883, page 2

Execution of the Criminals. SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF SUTHERLAND AND OGDEN. (From our Hobart correspondent)
The dread sentence of the law — the most degrading—though one entirely in unison with the Scriptural teaching that says ” a life for a life” – that human beings could possibly suffer, was carried out this morning upon the two young criminals tried and convicted of the murders of Wilson and Holrnan. The details of the crimes will be so fresh in the memories of your reader that however desirable, it would be unnecessary to again relate them.
THE DAY PREVIOUS. After spiritual consolation at the hands of the Rev. G. W. Shoobridge the two criminals showed signs of remorse, and later on fairly gave way. Breakfast, dinner, and tea were supplied them as usual, but neither meal was partaken of beyiind an occasional mouthful when their thoughts seemed diverted into another channel than that of their awful doom. At 8 o’clock this morning the tolling of the dread bell warned those whose duty demanded their presence that THE EXECUTION was about to take place. Five minutes later the procession was formed, and wended its way to the scaffold. In prison clothing, Ogden without his coat, the two young men, who had been accompanied by the Inspector of Police, the Deputy-Sheriff, and Rev. G. W. Shoobridge, besides the members of the press, were upon the platform of the scaffold in a very short time, after leaving the condemned cell. Firm was their tread, though fear was depicted on their countenances, as they came to the end of their last journey on earth, Ogden carrying a bouquet of flowers that had been sent him. While murmuring sobbingly “God have mercy on me,” the rope was adjusted, the bolt drawn, and Sutherland and Ogden were launched into eternity, the former being the first to die. One hour afterwards they were taken down, and their bodies deposited in a shell, previous to burial at Cornelian Bay.
SUTHERLAND’S HISTORY IN BRIEF. James Sutherland, or as he himself affirms, James Saunders, he not knowing how he came by the name of Sutherland, was born at Big River, Ouse. His father left him when but 18 months old in charge of a woman at Perth, where he remained until he became five years of age, at which time he seems to have taken the name he was known, tried, and convicted by. Thence he went to reside with a female at Evandale, where he stayed until about 11 years of age. After this Saunders went to Perth, where he received a sentence of three months’ imprisonment under the Vagrant Act. At the expiration of the sentence he found his way to Hobart, and for six months was assisting in the household duties at Webb’s Hotel. After this he went into the employ of Mr. Pedder at Kangaroo Point, where he became well acquainted with farming pursuits. Three years of this life induced him to better himself by proceeding to the mines, beyond which, with the exception that he was now and then seen about Launceston, very little was known of him up the the time of the murder. His father is said to be living. Saunders is reported to have admitted that he shot Holman, Ogden having first loaded the gun. He also owns to the other murder in the same manner as came out in the evidence. The scalping of Holman he and Ogden most positively denied, the cause of the scalp being removed the criminals assign to the extra charge the gun contained.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. As must be inferred from Saunder’s (or Sutherland’s) early career, he had no “mother’s love or father’s wisdom” to direct his passage through life. His latter days gave evidence of an unfeigned child-like simplicity which, had it not been for being thrust on the world, would have attached to him through life. Up to the time of his leaving Hobart Saunders appears to have been no worse than the majority of the waifs found in cities ; but a misdirected use of the gun, in the shooting of wild animals, gave him a sort of mania to gain notoriety. Under fostering care this young criminal, whose physiognomy in no wise betokened a death on the gallows, would probably have been reckoned among the many horny-handed sons of toil this colony possesses.
Ogden, by far the weaker of the two both in intellect and physical strength, appears to have been the dupe of others beside his mate since he began a wandering life. Like Sutherland he was left early to his own resources, though he had a home above his head for a somewhat lengthened period. Still, what was this, when it is borne in mind that vice was prevalent there. Looking at the details of the crimes there seems to have dwelt within them at the time a spontaneous longing for notoriety rather than foul intent. Yet the murder of two unsuspecting persons, with the widows and orphans left to mourn their loss, to live by a sympathising public, also the crime of arson, make up a category of delinquencies that even the veriest anti-capital punishment enthusiast cannot say that the two criminals James Ogden and James Sutherland (or Saunders) could have been other-wise dealt with.
It being the desire of the criminals to express their thanks at the kindness they had received from the gaol officials, when at the drop, but, having failed in speech, it becomes necessary to mention that Ogden and Sutherland were deeply moved at the attention paid them during their incarceration. The Rev. Shoobridge, who attended Ogden; the Rev. Mr. Mace, who ministered to Sutherland; the Sheriff (Mr. John Swan); Superintendent of Gaol (Mr. R. A. Atkins); and several of the warders of the gaol, all came in for a share of the real gratitude felt by the criminals for their attention to them during their closing hours on earth.

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