IT WAS 1889 in Elmore.
The closing scene of a celebrated murder case had been enacted at Sandhurst after William Harrison was executed after being found guilty of the murder of John Duggan, a farm labourer who was more affectionately known as ‘Corky Jack’.
Corky Jack had been from Axedale to Elmore in May the year before and was put up in an old hut near the Campaspe River, where he spent a few weeks fishing before heading back home.
It was said that Corky had a tendency to hoard his cash when he could, often saving up to 700-800 pounds at a time.
Corky met Harrison and a number of others on May 29 and was seen to have a great time, drinking excessively.
During the night, he allegedly boasted about his wealth when he offered to lend 800 pounds to the landlady.
The next day, he allegedly refused to drink with the same company again as he had had too much with them.
This was the last time Corky was seen, with Harrison being the last one in his company.
Weeks later, swagmen who occupied the hut found a pile of blood-stained clothing in a bushwood fence about 33 feet away.
At first, police had a hard time tracking down a body and the inquest into the crime lasted 10 days.
A body was eventually discovered close to where the clothes were found, but this didn’t initially point police in the direction of the guilty party.
Harrison, however, was asked to give evidence, which would eventually be his undoing.
The case was placed in the hands of Detectives Mahony and Sainsbury of Sandhurst, Inspector Walsh of Echuca and Senior Constable Salts of Elmore.
It seemed to be impossible at the time, but the officers worked hard to uncover the chain of evidence that would prove Harrison was undeniably guilty.
Evidence uncovered that the murder had been particularly cruel and coldblooded.
Duggan was said to have been asleep when he suffered two blows from an axe to the head, completely smashing his skull.
It was revealed police had suspected this was not Harrison’s first murder, with some saying he could have been linked to a murder at Grassy Flat some years earlier, as well as one at Pretty Pines and Walmer.
Prior to his execution, Harrison protested his innocence, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Twenty people were present at his execution in March 1889, including members of the press, and were able to see his hanging.
Corky Jack’s grave is still standing in the Elmore Cemetery today.