John Lynch (serial killer)
22 April 1842 (aged 28)|
Berrima, New South Wales, Australia
|Cause of death||Hanged|
|Other names||The Berrima Axe Murderer|
Span of crimes
|State(s)||New South Wales|
|21 February 1841|
John Lynch (1813 – 22 April 1842) was an Irish-born Australian serial killer, convicted for the murder of Kearns Landregan, but is believed to have killed 10 people in the Berrima area of New South Wales from 1835 to 1841. Possibly the worst serial killer in Australian history, Lynch was a bushranger who murdered and robbed cattle and laborers in the trails around Berima.
John Lynch was born in 1813 in Cavan, Ireland. In 1830, he was convicted of false pretences in Cavan, and two years later he was sentenced to penal transportation to Australia. Lynch, at 19-years-old, left Ireland on the ship Dunvegan Castle, on 1 July 1832 sailing from Dublin to New South Wales. On 16 October 1832, the ship docked at Port Jackson and Lynch was billeted out to Berrima, a village founded that year and located in the southern highlands of New South Wales, roughly 130 kilometres from Sydney.
Lynch was a small but solidly-built man at just 5’3” in height, and worked as a convict labourer on various farms before joining a gang of bushrangers. An 1835 incident saw him and two others convicted for the killing of Tom Smythe, after Smythe had given evidence against Lynch's gang. Despite his admission to the crime the jury did not believe him and set him free, while the other two were hanged.
Lynch's murder spree started after he went to the farm of T.B. Humphrey, where he had previously worked, and stole eight cattle before setting out for Sydney, where his intention was to sell them. At Razorback Mountain, he met a man called Ireland along with an Aboriginal boy who were driving a full cattle herd loaded with wheat, bacon and other produce. The cargo was meant to be delivered to Thomas Cowper, who was a stranger to Lynch, and decided it would be more profitable to take Ireland’s load and sell it rather than his initial intention. Early one morning, Ireland asked the boy to help round up the cattle, and once they were away from the camp Lynch crept up behind him and smashed the back of his head with a tomahawk, killing him. Returning to camp while Ireland was making breakfast, Lynch distracted him before crashing the tomahawk into the back of his head, killing him too. Lynch hid both corpses and continued to Sydney to execute his plan with his stolen merchandise.
On his way back from Sydney, close to Razorback Mountain, he met a father and son called Frazer, who were driving a cattle herd owned by a Mr Bawten. Lynch fancied this herd and decided he would have to kill the Frazers to get it, accompanying them on their journey. That night, they camped near Cordeaux Flat, and the next morning Lynch killed both men and then buried their bodies.
After killing the Frazers, Lynch decided to deal with the Mulligans, who had owed him £30 for stolen goods they had purchased off him. He visited the Mulligan farm and killed the four members of the family before gathering the bodies, built a pyre and set them alight. Lynch claimed to be the new owner of the property, and he bought it off the surviving Mulligans as the family left town without a word to anybody.
Arrest and conviction
On the morning of 19 February 1841, Hugh Tinney was on his way to Sydney with a herd of cattle. After stopping near the Ironstone bridge, which crosses the Wingcarribee River on the edge of Berrima, Tinney noticed a dingo rummaging in the undergrowth trying to get at whatever was hidden there. Tinney chased off the dingo, and a closer inspection revealed the body of a man. The man had received various severe blows to the back of his head by a large blunt instrument, and items on the dead man's body identified him as a local farmhand named Kearns Landregan. Landregan was last seen just two nights previously, having dinner in the company of a farmer calling himself John Dunleavy at the Woolpack Inn in Nattai, close to Berrima and not far from where the body was discovered. The police then called on to a farm which had been home to a family called Mulligan but was now owned by Dunleavy, who maintained that he had bought the farm from the Mulligans for £700. Dunleavy also said that all of the Mulligans had apparently packed up and left town without telling a soul. The barmaid from the Woolpack later identified Dunleavy and Lynch as the same person. With that information and other strong evidence gathered by police on 21 February 1841, Lynch was charged with the murder of Landregan.
Lynch's trial began in Berrima courthouse on 21 March 1842 before the chief justice of New South Wales, Sir James Dowling. Despite the evidence presented to the court, Lynch maintained his plea of innocence, but the jury found him guilty in less than an hour. He stuck steadfastly to his story of being innocent, as he went through the appeals process, and it was only after this procedure was exhausted that he confessed to his crimes.
- "Australia's Serial Killers". google.com.au.
- "Carlow Nationalist — Confessions of an Irish-born serial killer in Australia". carlow-nationalist.ie. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23.