Edward gives himself up to police and faces the ultimate punishment - Part 2
Constable Jones was not aware of how his day would go, when he saw a man of medium build walk into the Newcastle police station where he was working. It was 10 in the morning and he noticed the man's light brown hair and carefully waxed moustache. The man was wearing a stiff collar and a flowing blue tie.
It was Edward Williams and his first words to Constable Jones stunned the young policeman.
"I am the Paddington murderer, and I have come to give myself up."
He was there to admit to the murder of his three young daughters. It had been a week since Edward had disappeared from his Paddington house, leaving the corpses of Rosalie (6), Mary (4) and Cecilia (2) in their bed. A major manhunt was underway, with the police theorising that Edward had committed suicide. They scoured both the city and countryside without a trace.
The photo from The Sun on the day Edward Williams was formally charged for the murder of his daughters in Newcastle.
The constable took in Edward's composure which was unusually calm for a man who had just confessed to murdering his three children. Jones called in his superior, Inspector Ramsay who led Edward to a private room for questioning.
Edward asked for a cigarette and Jones noticed that as he smoked and confessed to his crime, his hand didn't even tremor. His answers to the many questions the police shot at him were monotone without fear or remorse. It was as if he was devoid of all feelings and emotions, thought Jones. He shared with the Inspector that he had been wandering the countryside since leaving Paddington, living only on bread and water. He had only decided the day before to turn himself in.
Newcastle police arranged to have him sent back to Sydney after he was formally charged. The trial became a drawcard for huge crowds as witnesses gave their statements. A Hollywood director would be jealous of the twists and turns as the story unfolded in court. These included an English wife who claimed desertion after they married in India, fears that if he sent his children away to institutions they would turn to prostitution at 16 years old and even implications of paedophilia. The media and their readers lapped up the entire event.
On the day of the trial where Edward was to take the stand, the public section of the Criminal Court was packed to the extreme before 10am. There was somewhat of a party atmosphere as people chatted and socialised waiting for the trial to begin, with a number of women wearing brightly-coloured headdress. They seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the tragedy that pervaded the rest of the court-room.
The cool and calm composure, that Constable Jones had seen a month before in Newcastle police station, was gone. Edward looked worn and worried, his brow was furrowed, his face was red and his eyes lacked lustre. He looked wearily around the room, perhaps wondering if there was at least one friendly face in the crowd. His eyes never rested too long on one person, he looked as if he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
During the trial Edward fidgeted constantly, clasping and unclasping his trembling hands. In the statement he made in Newcastle he said he was prepared to give his life for his children and they were now better off. He was worried that their mother's mentally deficient tendencies, the reason she was locked up in Callan Park Asylum, would be genetic and he couldn't bear the thought of leaving them in an institution which they would leave at 16 and become prostitutes to survive. His lawyer put forward a plea of insanity, but when Edward finally took the stand he firmly rejected this course of action.
"When I did this thing, I had no intention of escaping punishment for it," he said.
"Though a plea of insanity has been raised, I do not wish to plead insane."
Edward outlined the struggles he had since his wife had been committed to an asylum, even confessing to starving himself to ensure his girls had enough to eat. While on the stand he often broke down and cried as he described how family members, rather than helping with minding the girls or providing finances, constantly berated him for even sleeping in the same room as them, suggesting they should be sent away.
Regardless of his struggles as a single father and the lack of compassionate help, the jury were advised to not be swayed by sympathy, but to become part of the machinery of the law. After 35 minutes of deliberation the all male jury returned. The verdict was guilty with a recommendation to mercy.
The judge looked at Edward who was standing erect and attentive.
"Edward Williams, you have been tried and found guilty of the murder of your little daughters," the judge's authoritative voice boomed throughout the courtroom. Everyone held their breath.
"I can hold out no hope for any commutation of the sentence to be passed on you. I am sure that what you have done to your children has been terrible punishment already."
The judge's voice betrayed his emotions as he struggled to read out the sentence of hanging for the man who felt he couldn't give his little girls a chance to make their own way in the world, because he had no one to turn to.
Edward Williams was hanged at 9am on the 29th April 1924 at Long Bay Gaol and buried the next day at Botany cemetery, with only a few people at the grave-side to farewell him.
* 'Paddington Tragedy - Williams Surrenders', The Register, Tuesday 12 February 1924, Page 10
* 'Verdict of Murder - Coroner sends Williams for trial', The Sun, Monday 25 February 1924, Page 7
* 'Williams exhorts jury to ignore his counsel's plea of insanity', Truth, Sunday 23 March, 1924, Page 9
* 'Williams Hanged', The Sun, Tuesday 29th April, 1924, Page 9