Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Murderous Maynes: Patrick surely did...or maybe didn't...hmmm...

Kangaroo Point, 1860's - from the John Oxley Library Collection.
The Murderous Maynes...Part II - following last week's article, surrounding the murder of Robert Cox. To briefly recap, there is no doubt that an horrendous murder took place on the banks of the Brisbane River all those years ago.  However, we'll travel through a little more actual history to give some more grounding on the event, an undertaking that has been fairly lacking in other published sources to date, before we jump back to examine the fiction that's been peddled recently in Brisbane...

The evidence on which William Fyfe was convicted was considered so circumstantial by all official parties involved, that all passed comment during the Criminal Trial in Sydney - from reports at the time, the Solicitor-General (prosecuting), opened that, "The evidence which he should present in their [the jurors'] notice to bring the charge home to the prisoner was entirely circumstantial," afterwards concluding the list of evidence by stating, "That a clear case must be made out for the prosecution before the Jury could convict on circumstantial evidence; and if the facts which he should prove raised a doubt in their minds, the prisoner would be entitled to an acquittal."  Similarly, Fyfe's legal defendant Mr Holroyd, also stated, "The case before the Court was one deserving their most serious attention inasmuch as the whole case depended, as opened by the learned Solicitor-General, on circumstantial evidence.  No one of the facts stated by the numerous witnesses who had been called on the part of the Crown would be sufficient to convict the prisoner of murder; and before they could find him guilty upon the information upon which he had been arraigned they must find, not only that every fact that had been proved was sufficient to fix the prisoner with guilt, but that they must arrive at the irresistible conclusion that those facts were inconsistent with the guilt of any other party."  Furthermore, Holroyd concluded, "by urging the jury not to be led away by one or two trifling circumstances, but to consider well all the facts proved; and if those facts were reconcilable with fixing the guilt on any other party, it would be their duty to acquit the prisoner.  In this case there was no middle course; the offence was either murder or nothing - they could not reduce it to the crime of manslaughter."

Amazingly, the Judge presiding over the trial took a similar stance, almost attempting to coerce the Jury into acquitting Fyfe - "His Honor the Chief Justice then summed up with great minuteness.   He said, this was a case of the very greatest importance: for, as had been observed by the learned counsel for the prisoner, the jury must either find the prisoner guilty of murder or acquit him altogether; and if they did find the prisoner guilty of murder, he would most undoubtedly be executed.  The evidence was very remarkable - it was purely circumstantial; but were those circumstances sufficient to lead them to the irresistible conclusion that the prisoner, and no one else, could have been the murderer?"  Additionally, the Judge heavily reprimanded the Queensland Constabulary for essentially compromising the case - evidence had apparently been "overlooked," being discovered days later, the crime scene had not been locked down, & potential suspects & witnesses had not been arrested or questioned.  Sadly, the Jury adjourned for 30 short minutes before returning a unanimous guilty verdict, dooming Fyfe to the Hangman's noose.

Stories persist that a 4-page statement Fyfe had hoped to read on the scaffold had been confiscated by the authorities, & he had been refused access to broadcast his final message - in truth, William Ritchie, who had attended Fyfe on a spiritual basis at Darlinghurst Gaol wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald after the execution in the hope of its being published - in the letter, he stated that whilst the document had been confiscated from Fyfe, it had been done so surreptitiously through no less than common pick-pocketing between the cell & gallows, a dastardly act authorised by no less than Cornelius Prout, the presiding Under Sheriff...Fyfe had not realised his last statement to this world was missing until he mounted the scaffold & reached into his pocket...finding nothing.  Upon asking if he could still address the gathered crowd, the cap was immediately pulled over his head & the lever pulled - however in the haste, the quick despatch went horribly wrong...Fyfe struck the side of the scaffold floor heavily in the fall, severely grazing his hand & thigh, & shattering three ribs.  Over the next horrifying nine minutes it took Fyfe to expire, a steady stream of blood trickled from the legs of his trousers to the ground, a sight "which sickened even those most habituated to such scenes."  Fyfe was finally dead...having likely paid the ultimate price for another man's crime.'s Patrick Mayne tied up in all this, I hear you ask??  Well, according to The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis, "One night, at a local pub, Mayne overheard a conversation that would change his life.  A drunken man mentioned that he had a large sum of money in his possession."  This statement, similar to those in Part I of this article published last week, is simply not true.  At approximately 12:30am, after the Inn had been closed for the night at 11:00pm, & Fyfe (& presumably Cox) had gone to bed according to the Publican William Sutton, John Connell (a servant at the Bush Inn) & 3 butchers arrived on the doorstep looking to drink...the butchers were George Platt, William Lynch & Patrick Mayne.  Not one of these men (Sutton, Connell, Platt, Lynch or Mayne) claim to have seen either Fyfe or Cox whilst drinking that night...furthermore, Fyfe provided testimony that Cox had already left the establishment prior to the butchers' arrival.

Before we examine Patrick's "deathbed confession" any further, let's first jump forward 160 years to present-day Brisbane in order to pull apart the two unfounded ghost stories attached to the Mayne family. 

The first involves the Mayne Monument located on 12th Avenue in Toowong Cemetery.  The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis refers to the structure as the "family vault" - similarly, Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City refers to the structure as the "family crypt."  The associated story, which can now be found blindly regurgitated on numerous pages across the Internet, is to the effect that, "At the bottom of the Mayne family crypt are air vents, which allow liquids and gases from decomposition to escape the vault. At various times, thick red liquid is seen oozing from the vents and down into the gutter on 12th Avenue…"  According to Ghost Tours' night walking tours through the Cemetery, this "crimson red liquid" is supposedly, "the blood on the hands of the Mayne family pouring from the crypt until it is all washed away..."  What Ghost Tours don't tell you, is that the story is completely fabricated, & very poorly at that - the structure is not a vault, it is not a crypt, & the vents in its base are not there to allow the gas created by decomposition to escape...after all, could you imagine the horrendous stench wafting down 12th Avenue if the products of decomposition were allowed to freely vent out into the roadway??

In truth, the Mayne Monument is just that - a monument.  Mary Mayne, Patrick's wife, was the first to be buried on the site after passing away on the 4th of September 1889.  3 weeks later at the family's request, on the 24th of September, the remains of Patrick Mayne, Evelina Selina Mayne (Patrick & Mary's infant daughter), & Mary McIntosh Kelly (Mary Mayne's mother) were exhumed from their original plots in Paddington Cemetery, & were reinterred in the family plot at Toowong - all 4 were buried, below natural ground level, likely with headstones to mark their graves.  However, in the early weeks of 1891, 18 months after the above burials, stonemasons John Petrie & Son arrived on site to erect what would become known as the finest marble monument in the colony.   Carved from the finest Canal Bianco Italian marble by renowned Italian sculptor Primo Fontana, the centrepiece was set atop a raised construction of Breakfast Creek sandstone.  Over the following 50 years, as the remaining six Mayne family members passed away, this monument would have been reopened to allow for the subsequent ground burials to be carried out - well below the overlying monument.  Hence, any insinuation that coffins exist aboveground within the confines of the structure, are simply untrue - & the stories of blood-like liquid running from the vents of the non-existent vault/crypt is complete rot, fabricated solely to create sensationalism on Ghost Tours' overpriced jaunts through Toowong Cemetery.

To examine the second story, we must journey back across town to the CBD - to the site of Brisbane Arcade, to be precise.  Now, the ghost of Brisbane Arcade is a well-known entity, & has been for the past few decades - I was told of the apparition that walks the mezzanine level of the Arcade back in the mid-1990's...& the story had been doing the rounds well before then.  According to folklore, the apparition of a woman dressed in black has been seen on numerous occasions on the upper floor of the Arcade - whilst some of the shopkeepers in the Arcade have caught a glimpse of this woman, she is most commonly seen by the security guards that patrol the building after dark.  According to legend, the ghost is said to be that of a millinery store owner...however two variations of the story exist.  One version claims that the woman regularly worked back into the early hours of the morning in the store's back room, sewing dresses in an attempt to meet her deadlines...late one night, whilst slaving over her sewing machine, the unfortunate soul suffered a heart attack/stroke & passed away alone, only to be discovered the next morning when the Arcade reopened.  The second version, not nearly as explicit, states the woman merely returned after her death elsewhere to look over her store & the Arcade.

So, how do the Maynes fit in??  Well, the construction of Brisbane Arcade was funded by James O'Neil Mayne & his sister Mary Emelia Mayne - built on the original site of Patrick Mayne's butcher's shop & residence fronting Queen Street (in the days when Queen Street was still a thoroughfare & not a Mall as it exists today).  That is where the Mayne association ends...although not if you've spoken to "Jack" Sim or taken one of his CBD ghost tours in the past 5 years.  Prior to about 2007, Ghost Tours' CBD walking tours took in Brisbane Arcade & told the story of the millinery store owner's ghost...however this ghost has mysteriously changed identities in more recent years, courtesy of "Jack" Sim.  In September 2008, a segment was run on the local TV program The Great South East, interviewing the "dark historian" about the ghost of Brisbane Arcade.  In the segment, it was stated by "Jack" that, "Some say she is Patrick Mayne’s wife [Mary], who will forever walk the building as eternal punishment for her family’s sins."  By 2009, we see the same published in the Courier Mail on the 29th of March 2009 as if it were gospel truth, reinforcing the damage to Brisbane's true heritage that Ghost Tours perpetuate - "some" don't say the ghost is possibly that of Mary Mayne...only Ghost Tours' guides do...

Ironically, this is not the first time Ghost Tours have purposefully modified the identity of a ghost to suit their tours, & history in general - I encourage you all to read the article, "The Woman in Black: Solving the mystery of a vanishing ghost," a very poignant investigation of Ghost Tours' penchant for modifying ghost stories & history to boost ticket sales & add sensationalism.

So, taking all of the above into account, where do we sit at the conclusion??  Was Patrick really guilty of the crime??  Did he indeed admit to slaughtering Cox, 17 years previously, when prostrate on his deathbed??  Not really.  The entire story is no more than crafty guesswork.  What we do know from history comes from two memoirs, written in the years prior to 1900.  The first comes from Henry Stuart Russell's The Genesis of Queensland (1888), in which he stated about Cox's murder, "Some years afterwards another, in the horror of a death-bed upbraiding, confessed that he had been the guilty one, and had looked on at the execution of his innocent locum tenens! Let his name perish!"  This claim was again published in John James Knight's work, In the Early Days (1895), yet neither primary or secondary account saw fit to print the perpetrator's name.  Similarly, if the "deathbed confession" of Patrick Mayne is to be believed at all, it was to the effect that he had killed a man for which another had been sent to the gallows - Patrick did not divulge the name of his apparent victim in his confession.  Whilst we can all speculate as to who murdered Robert Cox, the depth of Patrick's involvement will always remain speculative.

For those of you have have made it this far, I congratulate you - you are now far more knowledgeable than most on the story of Patrick Mayne & his connection with the murder that led to his family's apparent "bad reputation".  However, in closing, a very recent sensational claim must be critically questioned, in light of what you've already read.  In Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City, Vol. 1, "Jack" Sim states categorically, "Today, sadly, it is only Patrick Mayne who gets the bad rap.  The crime is now called the "Mayne Murder" and people proudly boast of reading about how a founding father of our town was a vicious murderer as though it was fact.  In my opinion Patrick Mayne did not kill Robert Cox.Seriously, "Jack" - the public proudly boast of reading about the "Murderous Maynes" in your two trashy books, Haunted Brisbane: Ghosts of the River City & The Ghosts of Toowong Cemetery: Brisbane's Necropolis, which pegs you as nothing more than a massive hypocrite.

In parting, you, "Jack" Sim, appeared on Brisbane morning radio (on Channel 4BC) in 2009 [scroll down to the "Patrick Mayne" photo to listen], to discuss your "major historic breakthrough" in absolving Patrick Mayne of any wrongdoing in the murder of Robert Cox.  You state that Patrick's "deathbed confession" is hearsay, you claim again that Cox was "dispersed all over the place," you claim that Patrick was questioned on the night of the murder (which he was not)...& then boast that you are in possession of a written confession, penned 20 years after Robert Cox's murder, and 3 years after Patrick Mayne's death??  Apparently, according to the interview, this amazing fact was due to hard research and diligence...two terms I would never use to describe your "historian" status.  So...two questions, "Jack" - if you truly have this written confession, why have you never published this in the past three years, especially since you promised in the interview that it would be published in the 2010 reprint of Bloody Brisbane: Crime & Murder in the River City?  Secondly, if you're so sure that Patrick Mayne was innocent of the crime, why do you continue to tarnish his family's name with your fabricated ghost stories & your "Murderous Maynes" slogan?

I await your reply, as do the residents of Brisbane...


  1. Wow. I had forgotten about that 'written confession' stuff.

    The question of Mayne's guilt was one of the most hotly-debated topics in Brisbane during the last decade - among professional historians at least. When Sim (not a historian, but rather a small businessman exploiting history) made his claims about a 'confession' he had found, he had an obligation to follow through with the goods. It should have been big stuff, and finally given him a chance to play with the big boys.

    What would a real historian have done? They would have properly analysed the letter and written up their conclusions to add to the debate. It would have been made public.

    What did Sim do with it? Nothing. It vanished, never to be mentioned again. Which raises some serious questions. Did he find out the letter was worthless (in which case he showed appalling judgement rushing to the media with it and wasting their time), or did it never even exist in the first place and it was just all a publicity stunt? Either way, it was a disgrace.

    A real historian would have NEVER conducted themselves in that manner.

  2. CD has raised a very good point - "A real historian would have never conducted themselves in that manner."

    Not just in the apparent finding of a confession but the entire Mayne story. Tagging the story "Murderous Maynes" (branding all of them with the title) and his poor wife is in eternal punishment for her family's sin. All this on a "did he or didn't he".

    I doubt that you will hear from Jack - it will be just like his facebook page - all censored and deleted at will so he doesn't have to answer the valid questions people raise.

    I feel for the poor folk spending their hard earned dollars to go on a tour or buy a book just to get some fairy tales being palmed off as real/true history.

  3. You're very right, Matt - & thank you also to Chris, as never a truer word has been spoken.

    I care not an ounce for "Jack" Sim's self-professed "Dark Historian" status - Brisbane is alive with intellectual individuals who have a gift for history & research, who tirelessly provide their time voluntarily to historical societies & to the public for a minor fee, for the betterment of Brisbane's heritage - many are qualified, & many are not, yet all all pride themselves on accuracy & integrity above all else.

    If a written confession to the murder of Robert Cox did indeed exist, it would be one of the most amazing documents relating to Brisbane's early history - any historian worth their weight would have heavily evaluated the document for authenticity before placing it in the public domain for proper discourse & debate...not brag about its existence & then neglect to publish its contents.

    I do hope that Mr Sim sees fit to "step up to the plate" & weighs into this discussion, to make good on his tour & book information, & to finally disclose the contents of the written confession allegedly in his possession...sadly though, I can only imagine that we can file the "confession letter" alongside the "National Geographic article" clipping which votes Brisbane as the World's 2nd Most Haunted City...reinforcing & ongoing pattern.

    How do I know?

    Patrick and Mary Mayne are my great, great grand parents.

  5. That's quite an amazing feat, Anonymous - I wasn't aware that a single one of Patrick & Mary's children ever had children of their own...or grandchildren?!?

  6. Now Now Liam, it must be true - Anon wrote it all in Caps!

  7. don't know what to believe but from a monetary standpoint mr sims did well

  8. Thanks for all this effort in setting details straight, it's one of the better links I've found on the Mayne Story.
    I acted Patrick Mayne at The Founding Families event at City Hall in 2009 where 500 people from the early 1860's arrival families were invited to see the 1859 Council meeting re-enactment.
    After the performance an elderly gentleman came up and very passionately talked to me as if I were Mayne and said "You didn't do it, the Rosamond Siemon wrote lies about you. We were neighbours of the Mayne family and they were lovely, kind" etc.
    Well I hardly knew the murder story myself so was very shocked at how seriously this gentleman and others from the audience took it so have as I read the story believed Mayne may be innocent just due to the gentleman at City Hall.
    Maybe some real documents will be discovered to reveal the truth by "intellectual individuals who have a gift for history & research and tirelessly provide their time voluntarily" (:
    Big thanks again.

  9. Thank you for your efforts to put the record straight. As a newcomer to Brisbane, I didn't know the story but as a student at UQ (of museum studies) I was disturbed today to hear a lecturer (in tourism....) quoting the Rosamond Siemon book as a true story to entertain her lecture hall of international students as to the beginnings of UQ on "blood money". Thanks to the wonders of technology I straight away began my own researches and discovered things were not as simple or sensational as she portrayed. This was in a lecture in which she was exorting us to only use "the facts" when telling stories in interpretive ways to visitors! When the time is right (ie after I have passed the course lol) I will be directing her to your website :)

  10. For a start...
    • They had two children not one!
    • He was not at the pub that night when cox died.
    • The "monument" in toowong is actually a crypt, it has more than 6 bodies there!

    Sincerely Bethany Jean Mayne.

  11. Patrick was a first cousin of my great grandfather Charles.

    Patrick Maynes

  12. Hi Liam -- interesting articles here about 'Paddy' Mayne.
    I've been looking at 1850s and 1860s cadastral maps of Brisbane, which show that Mayne's Family and Shipping Butchery was actually across the road from the present Brisbane Arcade (where the present 'Zara' shop is)
    More importantly, they show that Patrick apparently didn't own the real estate -- it was owned by a 'T. Goldhar' from the late 1850s until at least the early 1860s -- although Patrick did own the site immediately behind 'Zara' in Elizabeth Street by the early 1860s (presumably where he kept his livestock)
    So historian Bernadette Turner was correct when she asserted at ADB that "Mayne purchased the goodwill of a butchery in Queen Street, Brisbane" (i.e. not the real estate as well -- requiring considerably less funds of course)
    I've also found contemporaneous newspaper reports about his funeral procession, which suggest that Patrick was in fact popular and respected (Courier 21 and 28 August 1865) -- despite the assertion by others that people were there to see if the horses would pull a murderer's hearse
    Keep up the good work

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Stephen Sheaffe, barrister and RHSQ member provides a very interesting assessment of the Mayne 'matter' here:

  15. Sorry, this is the correct link to Stephen Sheaffe's article:

    1. Thanks for that link, it could be a very interesting "Did he or didn't he?" play
      One thought I had reading the Inheritance book was one violent episode attributed to Mayne was stopping a police officer from bashing someone up, not a sign of a madman, maybe quick to temper, ta

  16. It is a very informative and useful post thanks it is good material to read this post increases my knowledge. Brothels in Brisbane Australia

  17. Karyn McMullin6 April 2020 at 14:11

    Thanks for this discussion- the whole Mayne Legend intrigues me as does with many.

  18. Unfortunately, the web page I refer to above containing Stephen Sheaffe's excellent analysis of the Patrick Mayne matter appears to have been taken down
    In summary (as I recall), he considered that Rosamond Siemon's book 'The Mayne Inheritance' should be considered a work of historical fiction -- and that there is no compelling evidence that he committed the murder of Cox

  19. Historian Bernadette Turner's (brief) biography of Patrick Mayne is available at the Australian Dictionary of Biography