Jean Lee - The last woman to hang in
Jean Lee, an attractive 31 year old redhead, made history as the last
woman to hang in
Jean Lee was apparently quite intelligent
and a bit rebellious at school and had a succession of dead end jobs from which
she soon left or was fired.
She married at 18 and lived with her husband for about nine years before leaving him and entrusting her daughter to her mother. She had a relationship with a petty criminal who got her into prostitution with American servicemen. He acted as her pimp whilst she worked to support them both.
She left him for another professional criminal, Robert David Clayton, with whom she fell deeply in love. As is so often the case, she became caught in a downward spiral. She was in love with a criminal who abused her and used her in his criminal activities.
These centered principally on what was known as the "badger game." Lee, at the time, a voluptuous and attractive woman (see photo) would pick up men and get them to a hotel room, their own home, or a car where she would appear to be about to have sex with them. Once they were semi-naked and vulnerable, Clayton would appear in the role of outraged husband and demand money from them. Usually the victims handed over their ready cash but kept quiet for fear of their wives finding out or of being ridiculed - so it was a fairly safe bet. If they were not forthcoming Clayton would beat them up. It was a scheme that had worked well, although at least two previous cases had been reported to the police.
On the evening of
The trio were soon arrested at their hotel and bloodstained clothing was found in Lee's and Andrew's rooms. At police headquarters, they were questioned in separate rooms where each initially denied their involvement and then started to blame the others.
They came to trial on
Their appeal was heard by the Court of
Criminal Appeal and was upheld by a two to one majority decision on
There was considerable protest, led by left wing and feminist groups, when Lee was sentenced to death. However, it seemed to primarily be against the execution of a woman by hanging, rather than the execution of women per se.
Lee would became
the first woman to be hanged in
It was decided that Lee should be the first to hang at 8 am, the two men
being executed two hours later.
She was heavily sedated as she shuffled under escort to a double cell near the gallows. Her weight was recorded as 7 stone 6 lbs, her height as 5’ 7” and the drop was set at 8 feet exactly.
Sheriff William Daly was required to read the death warrant to her. She collapsed on seeing the hangman and his assistant - both wearing large felt hats and goggles - a strange Australian practice. A doctor examined her and found she was unconscious. However, the execution had to proceed so Daly continued to read out the details of her conviction and sentence although she would not have heard a word of it - if she had, she would have spotted a mistake (the date on which she had been sentenced).
Because of her state of collapse, the executioner pinioned her arms in front of rather than behind her back as was normal. His assistant then pinioned her legs with a strap whilst he put the white hood on her head, and they carried her from the cell the few yards to the gallows where she had to be placed on a chair on the trap. Her head drooped to her chest and the executioner had to pull it back in order to adjust the noose correctly.
The flap of the hood, which was to cover her face, had been left open. At a signal from the sheriff, the executioner dropped the flap to obscure her face, stood back from the trap and pulled the lever. The trap fell and both she and the chair plummeted through. The chair had been secured to the gallows by a cord and although it fell with her, the two parted company at the end of the drop leaving her suspended normally. Her weight was recorded as 7 stone 6 lbs, her height as 5’ 7” and the drop was set at 8 feet exactly. The knot was positioned under her left ear and death was said to be “instantaneous”. At 8.05 am the prison doctor found no heartbeat. The death certificate was signed at 8.20.
Two hours later Clayton and Andrews, both mildly sedated, shared her fate.
Capital punishment ended in
A recent book - "Jean Lee - The last woman hanged in Australia" by Paul Wilson, Don Trebl and Robyn Lincoln casts doubt on the justice of her conviction and execution based upon the police interrogation methods and her part in the murders.