Prisoner Richard COPPING and Hobart Gaol executions

Police photographer Thomas J. Nevin took this vignette of Richard Copping for prison records at the Hobart Gaol when Copping was remanded at the Supreme Court on 23rd July 1878. Copping was executed at the Hobart Gaol on 21st October 1878 for the murder of Susannah Stacey. Copping’s medical defence, Dr Benjafield, who sought clemency for the 19 yr old youth and was mindful of public discontent with the continuance of capital punishment, asserted Copping had softening of the brain. Dr Turnley disagreed, declared the youth sane, and the execution went ahead. Turnley’s post-mortem found no disease located in Copping’s brain.

State Library of NSW
Miscellaneous Photographic Portraits
Date of Workca. 1877-1918
Call Number DL PX 158
15. Richard Copping, Murder, May 1878
Digital Order Number: a421015

Police Records for Richard Copping
These notices are from the weekly police gazettes, Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police

Inquest 7 June 1878: wilful murder against Richard Copping

An Inquest was held at Bream Creek, on the 13th ultimo, before Richard Strachan, Esquire, Coroner, on the body of Susannah Stacey, native, aged 19 years. Verdict: – “Wilful Murder against Richard Copping.”

Richard Copping, aged 19 yrs, native, free, arraigned for murder and remanded at the Supreme Court Hobart on 23 July 1878. Thomas Nevin also photographed at least two other prisoners in addition to Copping at this session: Francis Sheeran, (Shearan/Sheagan) photographed twice by Nevin and whose cartes-de-visite are also held in the Mitchell collection, SLNSW; and Allan Matthew Williamson, whose earlier mugshot, attached to a parchment criminal sheet, is held at the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site, Hobart. Williamson’s photo dated 1878 and 1888 was removed from his criminal sheet:

Two mugshots of Francis Sheeran 1877 and 1878 (and spelling variations)
The verso of the vignetted photograph on the right carries the inscription –
” Francis Shearan, ‘Murder, 8 years, 25-7-78″
T.J. Nevin [photographer]: Tasmanian prisoners  State Library NSW Ref: PXB 274
Photos taken at the State Library NSW copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

Titles: Williamson Allan Matthew No 22396
Places: Campbell Street Gaol, Hobart (Tas.)
Institution: Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site Management Committee
Object number: PCH_00033

Richard Copping was sentenced to be hanged on 24 September 1878. Thomas Nevin photographed Joseph Graham on this date at this session, printing this mugshot of Graham, like those of Sheeran and Copping as cdv vignettes – i.e. with a cloudy background. Graham’s vignette is held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston.

Prisoner Joseph Graham(e)
T.J. Nevin [photographer] 1878 Hobart Gaol
QVMAG: Ref: 1985_p_0071 and 1985_p_0071_verso

The Report: Mercury 22 October 1878

Yesterday morning the extreme sentence of the law was carried out in the case of Richard Copping, aged 19 years, who was convicted at the Session of the Supreme Court, held on the 24th September, before Mr Justice Dobson, of the willful murder of Susan Stacey at Bream Creek, on Sunday 12th May last. Efforts had been made by some of his friends to induce the Executive to spare the un happy young man’s life, but to no avail, and the Executive at the meeting of the 30th September, decided that the law must take its course. There had been no attempt on the part of the condemned man since his sentence, to deny his guilt, or to rely any further upon, the defence set up by his counsel at the time. Several of Copping’s relatives have visited him in the condemned cell. The Rev John Gray, Church of England Chaplain, has been unremitting in his attention to the culprit, in administering instruction and consolation suited to his awful position As the time advmced, especially on Sunday last, Copping appeared to be breaking down, and he wept bitterly in contemplation of the sad event of the morrow. At one time on Sunday evening, Mr Atkins Governor of the Gaol (who, with the other officials of that establishment, had been most kind to him) feared that be would sink under the weight of his fearful forebodings, but he rallied, and seemed refreshed after a night s sleep.  The Sherriff, Mr John Swan, visited him daily, and the poor prisoner expressed himself as very thankful for Mr Swan’s attention, asking Mr Swan on Sunday to see him in the morning which that gentleman accordingly did and was with him for some time before the fatal hour .The Rev John Gray spent a great part of the morning in prayer and the young man’s feelings were powerfully wrought upon by the rev gentleman’s mimistrations.He also partook of the Holy Communion immediately before leaving the cell Copping, although up to Sunday he did appeared to enjoy his meals was supplied by the gaol authorities with what ever food he fancied-but yesterday he refused to take any breakfast and, as on the previous evening, he was completely unmanned, and frequently cried like a child. As the clock struck eight, the.Under Sherriff, Mr Rothwell, proceeded to the condemned cell, and demanded the prisoner, a strong detachment of the Municipal Police being stationed in the yard where the scaffold was erected, and a few visitors who had been furnished with orders for admission, with the representatives of the press, being in attendance the executioner, Solomon Blay, having pinioned the arms of the prisoner, the solemn procession from the condemned cell to the scaffold yard took place, the Sheriff, Under Sheriff, Govenor of the Gaol and other officials attending the condemned man whose cries were soul harrowing. In appearance Copping was a strong and hale young man, and strangers would have taken him to be considerably more than nineteen years of age, The Chaplain preceed the sad cortege , reading portions of the funeral psalms. The Executioner having affixed the rope and put on and adjusted the fatal cap, the Chaplain spoke a few words of exhortation to the unhappy man, and on the usual signal being given, the bolt was withdrawn, the drop fell, and the condemned man, with a slight quivering of the muscular frame was launched into eternity. The Rev Chaplain, himself a young man, on whom devolved for the first time, the solemn and onerous duty of attending a male factor, was evidently much affected, but he held himself under control until the drop fell, and then he found himself unable to proceed with the concluding prayer. The spectators there upon retired. and the usual certificate was signed in the office by as many of the spectators as chose to certify to the execution. After the removal of the body from the scaffold an examination of the brain was made in the presence of Drs Benjafield, Smart, Giblin, and Turnley. It weighed 54 ounces. It was well developed. In a very careful examination not the slightest trace of disease could be detected .The remains were privately buried. The last execution at Hobart Town was that of Job Smith, aged 56 on the 31st May 1875, for the Port Arthur atrocity, prior to which no execution had taken place at Hobart Town since the 2nd December, 1865, when the man William Griffiths was hanged for the murder of two children at Hestercombe.

Source: EXECUTION OF COPPING. (1878, October 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from

EXECUTION OF COPPING. (1878, October 22). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 2.

More Executions …
Richard Copping was the third man to be hanged since 1865. Thomas Nevin provided the Hobart Gaol with photogaphs of all five men who were executed there between 1875 and 1884. Two of these photographs are hand-tinted, and all are mounted.


This is a hand coloured vignetted carte de visite in an oval mount taken by T. J. Nevin of Job Smith aka William Campbell on arraignment 11th May 1875 at the Hobart Gaol. William Campbell was hanged for rape as Job Smith, Hobart Gaol 31st May,1875

Photographed by T. J. Nevin, Hobart Gaol,1875
Hand coloured vignetted carte de visite in an oval mount of Job Smith
NLA Collection nla.pic-vn4270353 
Photo taken at the National Library of Australia, 6 Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

These two were executed for the murder of William Wilson, reported in Tasmania Reports of Crime (weekly police gazette), 13 April 1883:

“Referring to murder of William Wilson, James Ogden, proper name Robert Ogden, and James Mahoney, alias Sutherland, have been arrested by P. C. Phillips. of the Campbell Town Municipal Police, and party. Ogden and Mahoney are also charged with the murder of Alfred Holman.”

James Mahoney aka James Sutherland
Photographed by T. J. Nevin, Hobart Gaol, June 1883
Carte-de-visite in oval mount of James Sutherland

NLA Collection nla pic-vn4270311-v
Photo taken at the National Library of Australia, 6 Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

James Sutherland death warrant 1883 signed by Francis Smith. Hand-tinted carte-de-visite of Sutherland taken by Thomas Nevin and Constable John Nevin, May 1883.

Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR
Mitchell Library SLNSW:
Creator Tasmania. Supreme Court
Tasmania. Supreme Court – Death warrants and related papers, 1818-1884
Type of Material Textual Records
Call Number C 202 – C 203

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

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.

Sutherland and Ogden
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Ref: Q16478. 1883? Unattributed.


Henry Stock, carte-de-visite in oval mount by Thomas Nevin taken at the Hobart Gaol on Stock’s arrest for murder of his wife, 1884, pasted on a single page facing the original of his death warrant.

Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR
Mitchell Library SLNSW:
Creator Tasmania. Supreme Court
Tasmania. Supreme Court – Death warrants and related papers, 1818-1884
Type of Material Textual Records
Call Number C 202 – C 203

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