Gun Alley Murder
Nell Alma Tirtschke
14 March 1909
|Died||30 December 1921 (aged 12)|
|Burial place||Brighton Cemetery, Australia|
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Parent(s)||Henry Charles Tirtschke and Ellen (Nellie) Emily Elliza Alger|
|Relatives||Viola Tirtschke (Sister)|
The Gun Alley Murder was the rape and murder of 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke in Melbourne, Australia in 1921. She was a schoolgirl who attended Hawthorn West High School and had last been seen alive close to a drinking establishment, the Australian Wine Saloon; under these circumstances her murder caused a sensation. More recently, the case has become well known as a miscarriage of justice.
Alma's task that day had been to go from her grandmother's house in Jolimont to the butchers Bennet and Woolcock Pty. Ltd. on Swanston Street, collect a parcel of meat, drop it at an aunt's Collins Street home and return to Jolimont.
It was uncharacteristic for Alma to take so long on her errands. A witness said he saw a man following Alma. Reliable witnesses who had nothing to lose or gain by telling police what they knew said Alma was dawdling, apprehensive and obviously afraid.
Just a few metres away from the Australian Wine Saloon in the Eastern Arcade, between Bourke and Little Collins Streets, where Alfred Place runs off Little Collins Street (next to present day 120 Collins St), Alma was last seen about 3 pm on 30 December 1921. Her naked body was found early the next morning in a lane running east off Gun Alley, not far from Alfred Place.
Following the discovery of the body, the owner of the Australian Wine Saloon, Colin Campbell Ross, was charged with her rape and murder. The case against him was based on the evidence of two witnesses, plus some strands of red hair, apparently from Tirtschke's head, which provided a vital connection between Ross and the murder. Ross protested his innocence but was hanged.
The two witnesses were later considered by many to be unreliable, both having had a motive to lie. The only credible piece of evidence was the red hair that connected Ross to the case.
Ross could account for his movements at the time Alma disappeared, and later that night, when her body was dumped in Gun Alley. With nothing to hide, Ross had told detectives who interviewed him that a little girl matching Alma's description had passed his saloon, but that this was his only connection with the victim.
More reliable forensic examinations in the 1990s disproved the red hair connection and showed that Ross was probably innocent. Colin Campbell Ross was granted a pardon on 22 May 2008, the date on which the Victorian governor, as the Queen's representative, signed it. The pardon was announced publicly on 27 May 2008. It is the first – and to date only – pardon for a judicially executed person in Australia. In the book which led to Ross's pardon, author Kevin Morgan revealed for the first time the evidence missed by the police in their original investigation and identified by name Tirtschke's probable killer.
Notes on Gun Alley
- Gun Alley no longer exists. Present day 80 Collins St (formerly Nauru House) stands on the site where the laneway once was.
Referring to the map:
- Gun Alley can be seen running south off Little Collins Street, immediately below the Eastern Market (on the corner of Bourke and Stephen streets). There is a short easement at right angles off the end of the alley, which is where Alma Tirtschke's body was found.
- Alfred Place can be seen running between Collins St and Little Collins St next to the Independent Church property (this site now has 120 Collins Street built on it), but the church (St. Michael's) still exists. Alma Tirtschke was last seen on the corner of Alfred Place and Little Collins streets.
- The Eastern Arcade, which housed the Wine Saloon, is the building at the back of the Eastern Market running between Bourke Street and Little Collins Street. The arcade was demolished in 2008.
Gun Alley in popular culture
The Gun Alley Murder is depicted in 1982's Squizzy Taylor, a film about the eponymous Melbourne gangster. The film portrays Taylor (David Atkins) assisting the authorities with the case by intimidating supposed witnesses into revealing what they know about Ross.
- "MURDER OF GIRL". The Argus (23, 529). Melbourne. 2 January 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- Morgan, p. 210
- Morgan, p. 210
- "DOINGS IN DIFFERENT DISTRICTS". The Riverine Grazier. New South Wales, Australia. 3 January 1922. p. 1. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., body of the girl was found in a right of-way at the rear of 95 Collins street.
- "STRANGLER of the EASTERN ARCADE..." The Mail. 39 (1, 957). Adelaide. 3 December 1949. p. 2 (Magazine). Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "VICTORIAN MURDER". The Sun (3487) (FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 3 January 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "FUNERAL OF THE VICTIM". The Argus. Melbourne. 4 January 1922. p. 9. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "GUN ALLEY MURDER". The Daily Telegraph. XLII (3). Tasmania, Australia. 4 January 1922. p. 5. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "THE MAFFRA MYSTERY". Daily News. XLI (14, 631). Western Australia. 2 February 1922. p. 5. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., The body of Henry Charles Tirtschke was buried yesterday, at the Brighton Cemetery alongside the grave of his murdered daughter, Alma.
- "FAMILY FROM COUNTRY". The Ballarat Star (20084). Victoria, Australia. 4 January 1922. p. 1. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., FAMILY FROM COUNTRY. St. Arnaud, Tuesday. Mr Charles Tirtschke, father of Miss Alma Tirtschke, who was brutally murdered in Melbourne, formerly lived in Canterbury street, St. Arnaud. He followed the occupation of a carpenter, and was highly. respected.
- "FATHER OF ALMA TIRTSCHKE SHOT DEAD NEAR MAFFRA". The Barrier Miner. XXXIV (10, 364). New South Wales. 30 January 1922. p. 4. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., FATHER OF ALMA TIRTSCHKE SHOT DEAD NEAR MAFFRA BELIEVED TO BE ACCIDENT Melbourne, Monday. Charles Tirtschke, father of the murdered girl, Alma Tirtschke, was shot dead to-day near Maffra. It is believed, that the shooting occurred accidentally whilst Tirtschke was engaged shunting rabbits.
- "Family Notices". The Argus (21, 354). Melbourne. 4 January 1915. p. 1. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., DEATHS...TIRTSCHKE (nee Alger). —On the 26th December,1914, Ellen (Nellie), dearly beloved wife of C. H.Tirtschke, of South Africa, and loving mother of Alma and Viola. Buried at sea.
- "Family Notices". The Age (18, 654). Victoria, Australia. 2 January 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., ...TIRTSCHKE.—On 26th December, 1914, Ellen Emily Elliza (nee Alger), passenger per Runic, wife of Charles Hy. Tirtschke, and eldest daughter of H. C. Alger, formerly of Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo, and sister of Jessie, Lila and Florrie. Buried at sea.
- "MRS. TIRTSCHKE AT MAFFRA". The Argus (23, 554). Melbourne. 31 January 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia., ...A sister of Alma, aged about eight years, is in Maffra...
- "GUN ALLEY MURDER". Daily News. XLI (14, 614). Western Australia. 13 January 1922. p. 5 (THIRD EDITION). Retrieved 30 July 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- Kevin Morgan (2012) Gun Alley: Murder, Lies and Failure of Justice (2nd Ed., updated). Hardie Grant Books (Australia) Melbourne. ISBN 9781742702667
- "Melbourne Laneway Murder". Talk-n-tours.com. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Squizzy Taylor (1982)
- Wrong man hanged, By Steve Waldon, The Age, 9 July 2005
- Kevin Morgan (2005) Gun Alley: Murder, Lies and Failure of Justice. Simon & Schuster (Australia) Sydney. ISBN 073181228X.