Final Execution at Geelong Gaol – Thomas Menard

Thomas Menard was sentenced to death by Justice Williams at the Geelong Circuit Court on the 10th of October 1865 for murdering James Sweeney. Menard, alias “Yankee Tom” and Sweeney were both working as quarrymen for Mr Evans of Warrnambool.

On the 10th June 1865, they two men had an argument in which Sweeney made a comment about the American war to which Menard took offence. Later that evening after Sweeney had gone to his bunk, Menard came into the hut and fired three shots at Sweeney where he lay in bed. Sweeney and another man John Howe, took off after Menard but returned to their huts. One of the shots had hit Sweeney in the abdomen, which had lacerated his liver which was to cause his death 2 days later. Menard was apprehended in Beechworth and was brought to trial.

Menard was executed at 10am on the 28th October 1865. He would be the final execution at the Geelong Gaol. Menard was said to be dejected but repentant. Menard had asked Governor Brodie to say a prayer for him. He stepped onto the scaffold and the burial service was read and the bolt was drawn. Newspapers report that his body convulsed for ten minutes, which was put down to the fact that Menard was only 25 years old and in very good physical condition. Menard was to have read out a statement but at the last minute, he was unable to do so. He went to his death holding the statement in his hand, along with a single rose which he had asked to be placed in his coffin. Menards statement was to the effect that he did not regret killing Sweeney, that Sweeney had got what he deserved.

According to his death certificate, Menard was the only man to have been buried within the precincts of the gaol according to records.

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