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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Child killer - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 8, 1913
Date of birth: 1890
Victim profile: Ivy Mitchell (11-year-old girl)
Method of murder: Cutting her throat
Location: Samford, Queensland, Australia
Status: Executed by hanging at Brisbane's Boggo Road Gaol on September 22, 1913

Ernest Austin (died 22 September 1913) was the last person executed by Queensland.

Austin was convicted of raping and murdering 12-year-old Ivy Mitchell at Cedar Creek road near Samford. He was hanged at Brisbane's Boggo Road Gaol and buried in South Brisbane Cemetery.

In Australian folklore, the ghost of Austin is said to haunt the Boggo Road Gaol.

In 1922, Queensland became the first state in Australia to abolish the death penalty.


Ernest Austin: Man or Monster?

Ernest Austin was sentenced to death in 1913 for the vicious murder and sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl, Ivy Mitchell of Samford, and he was executed at Boggo Road. The crime was particulalry heinous, as he had raped the girl and cut her throat. The people of Samford did not forgive Austin, and his crime haunted Ivy’s family for the rest of their lives.

Austin has found a kind of fame as being the last person to be hanged in Queensland. He has also found a place among the pantheon of alleged Boggo Road ghosts, according to a version of his death and afterlife that has spread on a number of websites.

The story goes that as he stood upon the scaffold awaiting death, he shouted out that he was proud of his crime, laughed heinously, and mocked the assembled witnesses, telling them that he would return from the grave and cause even more suffering. And apparently this is just what he did. In later years prisoners would see a face appear outside their cell door, and when they looked into his eyes they somehow knew it was Austin and that that he had made a deal with Satan to deliver their souls in exchange for his own. Having locked eyes with the prisoner, the ghost of Ernest Austin would then come through the door and try to strangle them, driving some to madness… or so the story goes.

The historical record actually tells a very different version of events. Far from being proud of his crime, Austin had tried to hang himself in the police watch-house, and had appeared resigned during his trial and imprisonment. His execution took place in front of several reporters and officials, and although there were some minor discrepancies in their reports on the event, they all told a very different story to the one above. His last words, no doubt under the influence of morphine, were reported in the Brisbane Courier as:

"I ask you all to forgive me. I ask the people of Samford to forgive me. I ask my mother to forgive me. May you all live long and die happy. God save the King! God save the King! God be with you all! Send a wire to my mother and tell her I died happy, won’t you. Yes tell her I died happy with no fear. Goodbye all! Goodbye all!"
(Brisbane Courier, 23 September 1913)

A similar account appeared in the Truth newspaper, this one reporting that “God save the King” were his actual last words. Did they lie? It could be claimed that this version of events was just part an official cover-up of the more-disturbing events on the gallows, as the authorities were trying to maintain public support for hanging and did not want the awful truth of what Austin had really said getting out. However, the Courier and the Truth took opposing stands on capital punishment, so why write the same story? Surely it would have suited the anti-hanging propogandists at the Truth to print a story with Austin laughing at his executioners, showing the failure of the death sentence to impress any sense of repentance upon him.

The angle they instead took was to to portray Austin as a 'feeble-minded degenerate', someone with a 'mental deficiency' who was raised in a home for neglected children and lived an institutionalised life that made a monster of him. The headline proclaimed 'THE STATE SLAYS ITS OWN CREATION'. Blame for the crime was to be shared with the state, his Frankenstinian creators. In later years, Austin was to be re-created again, this time as a supernatural demon.

It is interesting that Austin is now said to haunt No.2 Division. Like all the other prisoners executed at Boggo Road, Austin was actually hanged in the original No.1 Division, which was demolished to make way for a newer No.1 Division in the early 1970s. The newer No.1 Division prison was demolished in the 1990s.

A Skeptical view

The ‘evil Austin’ ghost story, spreading like an urban myth on the internet, is contradicted by the historical record. This is clearly nothing more than prison folklore, passed down among officers and inmates. Folklore, however, can be a very adaptable thing, which is shown by the story being switched from one building to another when the original A wing was demolished.

The transformation of Austin from a vicious but all-too-human murderer into a (literally) satanic monster is an injustice to historical enquiry, and while 'evil’ ghosts may be scarier, this ridiculous prisoners' tale needs to be busted.


Ernest Austin



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