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2 May 1838 The Hanging of Michael Magee

 2 May 1838   The Hanging of Michael Magee

The first person to be executed in South Australia was Michael Magee who was hanged on 2 May 1838. He was tried on 12 April and found guilty of shooting at Sam Smart, the Sheriff, with intent to kill. It was stated that he was an escaped convict who had found work with the South Australian Company on Kangaroo Island. Magee admitted his guilt and the justice of the sentence, but denied that he was a runaway convict and declared that he was as free as any colonist.

During his removal to the place of execution, a large tree 100 yards from the iron stores at North Adelaide, he was seen to be in fervent prayer and seemed resigned to his fate. The authorities had had difficulty in finding a hangman and had eventually persuaded the cook of the South Australian Company, an acquaintance of Magee, to do the job, suitably hooded. The hanging did not go well and the victim was able to grab the rope and lift himself, whereupon the executioner grabbed him by the legs and hung with him until he was dead. There were cries of 'murder' from some of the 500 witnesses present and the hangman was rushed from the scene under police escort.

The South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register,  19 May 1838.
Robert Clyne,  Colonial Blue,  Wakefield Press, 1987, p. 18.

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