Hangman's noose, Fremantle Prison Gallows, 1991.
Courtesy of West Australian Newspaper.

Perth Gaol opened in 1856, and until 1888 it was the major focus for legal executions by hanging in the State.During the early days of settlement in Western Australia between 1829 and 1855, legal executions of convicted criminals appear to have taken place in various localities including York, Perth, Fremantle, and Canning River. In some cases, prisoners condemned to hang were executed at the spot where they had committed the crime.

In 1867 the Imperial Convict Establishment at Fremantle was renamed Fremantle Prison, and in 1886 it was handed over to the colonial government as a major high security prison. One of the first things the government did was to build a gallows there in 1888. This became the only place of legal execution in Western Australia between 1888 and 1984. During that time 43 men and 1 woman were hanged there.

The last person to be hanged at the gallows in Fremantle Prison was Eric Edgar Cooke, in 1964. Cooke was a serial killer, and although charged with, and tried for, only one murder, evidence plus his own voluntary confessions, indicate that he killed a number of others during his three or four year reign of terror in the suburbs of Perth.

Most hangings at Fremantle Prison were carried out on a Monday morning at 8.00am.

Prior to this time, the hangman was responsible for seeing that a number of things were in order. These included: testing the trapdoor mechanism functioned properly; eliminating any potential for the rope to stretch; and determining the length of rope needed to properly execute a condemned person, using calculations accounting for their height, and their weight.

On the day of the execution, the condemned person was woken around 5.30 am. He showered, and was given breakfast. He was then transferred from death row, located in the New Division cell block, to a cell in the Solitary Confinement block, where he was kept under constant surveillance. He was allowed the services of a priest or an equivalent, and offered the option of a glass of whiskey.

At the allotted time the prisoner was escorted to the gallows with his hands and feet secured in leather shackles and his head covered by a cloth hood.

The formalities of the ritual were strictly observed. Once everything was in place the event happened very quickly. The time from leaving the condemned cell in Solitary Confinement to the actual hanging was around 60 seconds.

Executions listed by date


Crime Date
Long, Jimmy Murder 02/03/1889
Pres, Arle Murder 08/11/1889
Ah Chi Murder 16/04/1891
Chew Fang Murder 29/04/1892
Lyee Nyee Murder 29/04/1892
Sin Cho Chi Murder 29/04/1892
Young Quong Murder 29/04/1892
Mahomet Goulam Murder 02/05/1896
Jumna Khan Murder 31/03/1897
De La Cruz, Pedro Murder 19/07/1900
Perez, Peter Murder 19/07/1900
Peters, Samuel Murder 9/07/1902
Psichitsas, Stelios Murder 15/04/1903
Mailliat, Fredrick Murder 21/04/1903
Rocca (Rokka), Sebaro Murder 7/07/1903
Ah Hook Murder 11/01/1904
Mianoor, Mohomet Murder 4/05/1904
Espada, Simeon Murder 14/12/1905
Hagan, Charles Murder 14/12/1905
Marquez, Pablo Murder 14/12/1905
Sala, Antonio Murder 19/11/1906
De Kitchilan, Augustin Murder 23/10/1907
Smith, Harry G. Murder 23/03/1908
Oki, Iwakichi Murder 22/10/1908
Rendell, Martha Murder 6/10/1909
Robustelli, Peter Murder 9/02/1910
Smart, Alexander Murder 7/03/1911
Smithson, David H. Murder 25/07/1911
Spargo, Charles Murder 1/07/1913
Odgers, Charles H. Murder 14/01/1914
Sacheri, Andrea Murder 12/04/1915
Rosland, Frank Murder 12/03/1923
Rennie, Royston Murder 2/08/1926
Coulter, William Murder 25/10/1926
Trefene, Phillip J. Murder 25/10/1926
Milner, John Sumpter Murder 21/05/1928
Hulme, Clifford Murder 3/09/1928
Fanto, Antonio Murder 18/05/1931
Smith, John T. Murder 13/06/1932
Tapci, Karol Murder 23/06/1952
Thomas, Robert J. Murder 18/07/1960
Fallows, Mervyn Murder 6/06/1961
Robinson, Brian Murder 20/01/1964
Cooke, Eric Edgar Murder 26/10/1964

Capital Punishment - For and against

Western Australia’s State Parliament passed legislation abolishing capital punishment in 1984. The short title of that Act is Acts Amendment (Abolition of Capital Punishment) Act 1984.

If you are studying this subject and need information about the arguments for and against, we suggest that you visit either your school library or your local library. Here are some suggestions about searching for texts on the subject-

For information on the topic generally look in your library collection under the Dewey Decimal subject classification number 364.66. Also you may look up the following subjects in the library catalogue to see what books and other materials on the topic are held in the collection:

  • Capital punishment
  • Death penalty

Look up the subjects in your library’s encyclopedias, usually kept in the Reference section & not for loan.

Ask at your school or local library if they have any of the books listed below. Your local public library will probably have the listed encyclopedias in its reference collection. If not, try other encyclopedias on their reference shelves.

Most of the books listed below are available through your local public library. You may have to ask the librarian to obtain a title for you on inter-library loan. In some cases it could take a number of weeks before the book becomes available for you to use, so do not leave your assignment until the day before it is due for handing in. Plan ahead so you have resources in plenty of time for you to make use of them.

Suggested reading

The Australian Encyclopedia (1988) (check in the Reference section)

Capital Punishment: the Death Penalty Debate (1997) by Ted Gottfried

The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints (1986) edited by Bonnie Szumski (and others)

End of the line: capital punishment in Australia (1994) by Michael Victory (this has an excellent chapter on the arguments for & against)

For and against: an anthology of public issues in Australia (1989) edited by R. Giles

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropaedia Vol. 2 p831 (check in the Reference section)

On Capital Punishment (1985) by William H. Baker

Punishment and the Death Penalty: the Current Debate edited by Robert M. Baird & Stuart E. Resenbaum

When the State Kills: the Death Penalty v. Human Rights (1989) Amnesty International

The World Book Encyclopedia Vol. 3 p114 (check in the Reference section)