The nationwide hostility toward Deeming was such that when the SS Ballarat dropped anchor at Larges Bay in South Australia two days later, the team guarding the notorious criminal was told that a large and aggressive crowd was already forming at the Port Adelaide wharf. They quickly decided that it was far safer to continue the voyage to Melbourne rather than risk their passenger being abducted and lynched on the train journey from Adelaide to Melbourne.
When the sea journey resumed, Deeming became moody. At last he seemed to fully understand the nation's hatred of him. "They might wait until I'm found guilty," he complained. "Many innocent men have been hanged. I'm not afraid to die. If I have to die I'll die like a man, but first I'll make sure some revelations that will astonish the world."
At 9:00 a.m. on April 2, 1892, the Ballarat anchored in Port Phillip Bay and Deeming was whisked away to Police Court. He was formally charged with the murder of Emily Williams. He was asked his name. He refused to answer and was charged as Albert Williams.
The trial of Frederick Bailey Deeming began in Melbourne on May 2, 1892, with the accused being charged in the name of Albert O. Williams. The defense was that he was not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Six doctors examined Deeming; some as many as six times, but not one could state unequivocally that he was insane.
The trial lasted four days and the evidence was damning. Doctors suggested that he suffered from epileptic fits. He was certainly infected with venereal disease and this may have impaired his mind, for he was moody and loquacious and fantasised about his past. Deeming claimed that his dead mother had told him to kill Emily Mather and that he sometimes had been overwhelmed by the irresistible impulse to slaughter the current lady in his life.
Dr. Shields, a prison physician, said of Deeming, "I have frequently conversed with him but cannot believe anything he says." On the subject of whether the accused knew the difference between right and wrong, Shield said Deeming told him, "That stealing for example, was a matter of conscience. Murder was also permissible in certain circumstances." He said that Deeming had told him that several times he had gone out with a revolver searching for women who had given him venereal disease, intending to kill them. Deeming believed in their extermination.
And then, as the trial reached its conclusion, came the moment for which the packed gallery had been waiting. Ignoring the strong advice of his own lawyer, Deeming took the stand.
At last the public would get to hear from the man who had cold-bloodedly murdered two of his wives and slaughtered three of his young children the same way a butcher at an abattoir would carve a sheep. Now they could judge for themselves whether the man capable of crimes that surely only a madman could commit, was indeed insane. They were not to be disappointed. Deeming made an imposing sight as he spoke, often closing his eyes and rocking from side to side. He used no notes and hung onto the rail in front of him.
He said in part; "I don't think there has ever been a man brought into court that has ever been prejudged more than I have been. Before I arrived in the colony my photographs were distributed about the city of Melbourne, in paper shops, in jewelers' shops, and it is from these photographs I have been identified. I will ask the jury themselves if it would be possible to go and pick out 200 people in Melbourne who would not execute me without the option of a trial."
Deeming then denied that his wife Emily was actually dead. "And my only comfort is in knowing that I have not done it and that the woman is not dead. And that alone will comfort me, let the end be what it may."
But any particles of sympathy he may have wrung out of the jury were quickly dissipated when Deeming's insatiable ego rose to the fore. He began to boast of his conquests; "It is not giving up this life I fear - not the slightest. I have gone through the world and after the dangers I have faced I am not afraid to give up my life. I have been on the Zambezi among the black fellows and have been battered about the head and gone among bears and gone into lion's caves and brought them out alive, as it has been stated in the papers, and now they are alive in the hands of a man in England."
In the end, everyone inside the courtroom saw not a madman but a sane man who was lashed so tightly to his own importance that it overwhelmed him. They were watching a man who was indeed capable of the most ghastly crimes without so much as batting an eye.
Deeming condemned everyone and everything. After an hour of diatribe, he stopped speaking. He peered around the stunned courtroom and realized instantly he was doomed.