John Lynch: The Berrima Axe Murderer

Lead by God Himself

Berrima Courthouse, built 1838
Berrima Courthouse, built 1838

On March 21, 1842, just more than a year after he was charged, Lynch appeared before the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir James Dowling at Berrima Court House. It took the jury only an hour of deliberating to find him guilty of murder.

After the guilty verdict was handed down the court heard that Lynch was also implicated in the murder-disappearances of at least eight other people. The court also heard that Lynch had narrowly escaped the gallows in 1835 when, as an active bushranger, he had been incriminated in a murder committed in the district, had admitted his guilt, but had come out of it miraculously unscathed.

But that was not to be the case this time. Sir James Dowling had no hesitation in sentencing Lynch to death by hanging. Before passing sentence Justice Dowling said,

"John Lynch, the trade in blood which has so long marked your career is at last terminated, not by any sense of remorse, or the sating of any appetite for slaughter on your part, but by the energy of a few zealous spirits, roused into activity by the frightful picture of atrocity which the last tragic passage of your worthless life exhibits.

"It is now credibly believed, if not actually ascertained, that no less than eight other individuals have fallen by your hands. How many more have been violently ushered into the next world remains undiscovered, save it in the dark pages of your memory.

"By your own confession it is admitted that as late as 1835 justice was invoked on your head for a wilful murder committed in this immediate neighbourhood. Your unlucky escape on that occasion has, it would seem, whetted your tigrine relish for human gore but at length you have fallen into toils from which you cannot escape."

John Lynch stood unmoved in the dock, a smirk of defiant indifference on his face as the judge announced, "You are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead."

But not even the harsh words from the judge and the death sentence could dampen the optimistic Lynch's belief that he would be reprieved and eventually set free. After all, God had lead him this far, why would he desert him now?

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