Archibald Beattie McCafferty

"I'd Like To Cut Your Head Off"

At his sensational committal hearing leading up to his trial in February 1974, McCafferty pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder on the grounds of insanity. His five co-accused - Todd, Howe, Meredith, Whittington and Webster - all pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

The press had labelled the murders as 'thrill killings' and everyone wanted to know about the Charles Manson-like cult figure who had led his followers into an orgy of senseless killings. Archie didn't let the packed courthouse down.

On the fourth morning of the committal hearing Archie asked the judge if he could make a statement. Although it was an unusual request, the judge allowed it.

McCafferty said: 'Excuse me your worship, before the court starts, for the last four days I've sat here and listened to Mr Bannon criticising me on things that I've done. Now I've been wanting to say this for a long time, and I'm going to say it this morning. Mr Bannon, if you're listening, Id like to cut your head off.'

It was not so much what McCafferty said that put a chill through the courtroom. It was the cold, methodical way in which he said it. McCafferty had already murdered three innocent people. The voice from the grave of his dead infant son had told him to kill seven. Then his boy would come back to him. Archie McCafferty had four to go, and the decapitation of Mr Bannon would put him one closer to his target.

The Mr Bannon in question was a barrister acting for one of McCafferty's five co-accused. The shaken Mr Bannon proceeded with his case, safe in the knowledge that McCafferty was handcuffed and heavily guarded as he glared down from the dock. Archie McCafferty was also heavily drugged. Before the start of the committal hearings each morning and throughout his following trial at the Central Criminal Court he was given a heavy dose of tranquillisers to subdue his uncontrollable outbreaks of violence. The dosage was enough to bring a race-horse to its knees, yet in Archie's drug-soaked system it barely pacified him.

But the drugs did have some of the desired effects. During the twelve-day trial Archie McCafferty had been alert and attentive. He listened closely to the evidence and made notes. He certainly didn't look like the deranged murderer who had been labeled "Australia's Charles Manson".

In fact McCafferty often winked at the court reporters and joked with his co-accused. He fingered the bench in the dock as though it were a keyboard and played tunes for the gallery. When the proceedings became tiresome, he deep-etched his name in the bench with a pen. Archie was having a ball. But without his medicinal straitjacket, the 25-year-old Scotsman was a violent man who could kill without question.


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