Fanny Hardwick was a young woman who was once described by a newspaper as 'unusually good-looking' with great prospects. Those prospects were on the decline, however, when she met John Reuben.
Reuben was a Portuguese wharf labourer who lived with Fanny and her illegitimate child for two years. It wasn't an ideal romance however, and the pretty 23-year-old had transferred her affections to another man named Charley Price. Fanny had moved out from her home with Reuben to a place in Denison Street, Rockhampton and it was here that tragedy occurred.
The gallows beam at Boggo Road Gaol. Courtesy Supreme Court Library
In an attempt to renew his relationship with Fanny, Reuben visited her repeatedly but she refused to see him. He had even assaulted Charley Price so badly, the new paramour went to the police who warned Reuben to stay away from Fanny. Then on the night of June 2, 1901 he again went to Fanny's house. He was told to leave, which he did, but returned; this time he was armed with a tomahawk.
His first attack was unsuccessful as Charley wrestled the tomahawk out of Reuben's hands, but as the Portuguese drew near to Fanny, he pulled out a knife and falling on her in a corner of the back room, stabbed her in the heart. Fanny must have put up a fight, as she also had savage cut marks all over her arms. However, the stab to the heart proved to be fatal.
When police arrived the murderer resisted as they arrested him and he was found to have a fractured skull after the scuffle.
He was found guilty of the murder of Fanny Hardwick and sent to Boggo Road Gaol. On 30 September, 1901, a few minutes before 8am, the bell in the gaol yard tolled. Minutes later, the hangman, a couple of warders and the pinioned condemned prisoner appeared and headed to the gallows.
The Roman Catholic section of South Rockhampton cemetery where Fanny Hardwick is buried.
It was reported Reuben held his head erect and walked his last with firm steps. As he took his position beneath the noose, he asked if he could kneel in prayer. He knelt and asked God his Father to forgive his sins, in broken English.
The hangman then stepped forward, and, after fastening the victim's legs, he placed the rope around the neck and adjusted the cap. The hangman then took his place beside the lever, the Under-sheriff gave the signal and the bolt was drawn. Death was instantaneous.
Fanny now lies in South Rockhampton Cemetery in the Roman Catholic section.
'The Rockhampton Tragedy', The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 1 October, 1901, Page 5
'Old Time Crime', Truth, Sunday, 13 March, 1904, Page 7
'A Murderer's Doom', The Armidale Chronicle, Saturday 31 August 1901, Page 2
'Rheuben, John', Australian Executions 1870-1967, accessed 11th November, 2022, http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/aus1900.html