John Lynch: The Berrima Axe Murderer

Squire Dunleavy

With all in order Lynch became Squire Dunleavy and, considering that he was well known throughout the district and still moved about freely (though under the name of John Dunleavy) without anyone becoming suspicious about the name change, Lynch probably couldn't be blamed for thinking that the good Lord truly was looking after him.

Lynch even hired a couple, Terence and Clara Barnett, to run the farm for him while he took the produce to the markets. The bodies of the four other people he had murdered hadn't been discovered and no one seemed to be looking for them.

For the next six months Lynch lived a charmed existence, and had it not been for his murder of the Irishman Kearns Landregan, he might have lived his life on the Mulligan's farm without anyone being the wiser. John Dunleavy, aka Lynch, was a good farmer who was loved by his staff and trusted by his creditors and was from all accounts a gentle and considerate man.

The only reason that Lynch could give as to why he committed his ninth murder, leaving clues and witnesses all over the district, was that he was convinced that he was under the protection of a supreme being and beyond capture. The normally thorough Lynch hadn't even gone to the trouble to prepare an alibi for the Landregan killing.

In Lynch's confession he described the circumstances leading up to the murder. He said that he met Landregan on his way back from Sydney and offered him a job fencing on his farm. As they passed Crisp's Inn, Landregan hid himself and explained to Lynch that he didn't want to be seen because Crisp had summonsed him for stealing a bundle of clothes.

"After I heard that I was determined to get rid of him," said Lynch, despite his own history of theft and armed robbery. Perhaps he had by then truly transformed himself into the respectable farmer John Dunleavy, who thought thieving rabble were best put to death.

After they had dinner together at the Woolpack Inn, which was witnessed by all of the staff and numerous patrons, Lynch drove Landregan to the Ironside Bridge where they set up camp for the night. As Landregan sat on a log chuckling away to himself at a joke that Lynch had told him, Lynch snuck up behind him and cracked him over the back of the skull with his tomahawk.

But the huge man didn't die with the first blow. He rolled to the ground unconscious with the smile still on his face. It took a couple more blows to smash in the back of his skull and kill him. Lynch then took 40 from the dead man's pockets.

Sketch of Berrima gallows
Sketch of Berrima gallows

John Lynch was hanged at Berrima Jail on April 22, 1842.

With the gruesome tally of nine victims, John Lynch is Australia's most prolific individual serial killer.

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