Darryl Beamish

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Justice for Button and Beamish: Darryl Beamish, Estelle Blackburn and John Button at the Supreme Court celebrating Beamish's exoneration on 1 April 2005 (44 years after conviction), following Button's exoneration on 25 February 2002 (39 years after conviction).

Darryl Beamish (born 1941) is a Western Australian who was wrongfully convicted of wilful murder in 1961 and sentenced to death by hanging. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he served 15 years. After six appeals his conviction was finally overturned in 2005.


Mr Beamish, a deaf mute man, was aged 18 in 1959 when the 22-year-old socialite and MacRobertson's chocolate heiress, Jillian MacPherson Brewer, was slain in her Cottesloe flat by an intruder who mutilated her body with a tomahawk and a pair of dressmaking scissors. According to Perth Detective Owen Leitch, 18-year old Beamish provided four confessions, two through a sign language interpreter, one a written statement and another in notes scrawled on the exercise yard at the Perth lock-up. Beamish said the confessions were obtained through intimidation and threats, and were untrue.[1]

His conviction in 1961 for the murder caused continuing concern in legal circles. An Australian Professor of Jurisprudence, Peter Brett, wrote a short book titled The Beamish Case, in 1966, arguing that the affair was a "monstrous miscarriage of justice" (Beamish had narrowly escaped the gallows). Beamish's defence team launched its first appeal in 1964 after serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke confessed to committing the Brewer murder, one of eight he confessed to. Cooke was a witness at the Beamish appeal however the judged ruled the confession as utterly worthless and the work of a palpable and unscrupulous liar. Undeterred, Cooke on the morning of his hanging at Fremantle prison on October 26, 1964, without prompting took the Bible from the prison chaplain and said: "I swear before Almighty God that I killed Anderson and Brewer." It took five more appeals before Cooke's acceptance was deemed to be true and Beamish exonerated.[1]


Western Australian journalist Estelle Blackburn's book Broken Lives prompted an appeal by John Button. He and Mr. Beamish had both been convicted of crimes committed by the serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, and to which Cooke had insistently confessed before his death by hanging. Mr. Beamish's conviction was finally overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Western Australia on 1 April 2005, after five failed appeals in the 1960s.

Mr. Beamish's appeal was made possible by the successful appeal of John Button. His appeal judges' decision was based on fresh forensic evidence established by the publisher of Broken Lives, journalist and Post Newspapers publisher Bret Christian. This forensic evidence also showed Cooke was telling the truth when he confessed to the murder for which Mr. Button had been convicted.[2] Prior to the court hearing the fresh forensic evidence obtained by Mr. Christian, Cookes' confessions had not been believed. Mr Button's success opened the way to an appeal by Beamish, the appeal judges finding that in both cases the murders were probably the work of Cooke.[3] Perth QC Tom Percy and lawyer Jonathan Davies worked pro bono on both men's appeals for seven years from 1998. They were awarded the Australian Lawyers Alliance West Australian Civil Justice Award in August 2007 for their efforts exposing injustices in the West Australian legal system.[4]

On 2 June 2011, fifty years after his conviction, Beamish was granted a A$425,000 ex gratia payment by the Western Australian government.[5] "Ex gratia payments are an act of grace, made under the prerogative of the Crown," West Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said at the time. "They are not intended to fully compensate individuals for loss or detriment suffered. In this instance, the government is satisfied that sufficiently extraordinary circumstances exist to justify an ex gratia payment. This payment is intended to express the state's sincere regret for what occurred and provide him with a measure of comfort and financial security in his retirement." The attorney-general added the payment was "another step towards closing a shocking and tragic chapter in Western Australia's criminal history." [1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Fifty years on, Darryl Beamish wins $425,000 payment for wrongful murder conviction". WAtoday. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Button v The Queen [2002] WA Court of Criminal Appeal
  3. ^ Beamish v The Queen [2005] WA Court of Criminal Appeal
  4. ^ "John Button And Darryl Beamish Cleared Of Murder Four Decades After Serial Killer’s Execution". Justice Denied. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ex gratia payment for wrongly jailed man". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 


  • 'A Case of Science and Justice', pp. 18–22, the Skeptic, Spring 2002

External links[edit]

  • Article dated 1 April 2005, covering Beamish's vindication, from the website of the Sydney Morning Herald