St Kilda Road robberies
During the first eighteen months of the Victorian gold rush, the section of St Kilda Road between Melbourne and Canvas Town (the temporary camp for recent arrivals in Victoria) was the scene of frequent hold-ups by armed bandits and bushrangers, mostly former convicts from Van Diemens Land.
The last major offense
On 17 March 1853, gold-buyer Edward Ritter and his brother-in-law Samuel Maxwell Alexander were riding in their chaise-cart from St Kilda to Melbourne. A gang of eight or nine men attempted to hold them up near Canvas Town, but Ritter managed to pull away from the potential robbers. A volley of shots were fired, of which three hit Ritter in the legs, without causing any serious injury.
Ritter and Alexander furnished good descriptions of their assailants, two of whom had been amongst a similar group who had tried to rob Ritter about three weeks earlier. The Government offered a reward of £1600, calculated at £200 per head, for their arrests leading to conviction, and the Melbourne police began to round up likely suspects. Ten men faced Justice Redmond Barry on 18 April 1853, nine being convicted and were each sentenced to ten years’ hard labour on the roads, the first two in chains. One of these men, James Grimes, had been arrested on suspicion of taking part in the Nelson robbery in 1852, but there had been insufficient evidence to convict him.
With the breaking up of this gang law and order were partially returned to the roads of Melbourne.
- Ian Potter Museum collection: Bushrangers, u21museums.unimelb.edu.au. Retrieved on 9 January 2011.
- John Rochfort, The Adventures of a Surveyor in New Zealand and the Australian Goldfields, London, 1853
- Frank Clune, Captain Melville