Colin Campbell Ross was hanged for allegedly raping and strangling 12 year old Alma Tritschke almost 87 years ago. Ross, who ran a wine saloon was alleged by the Crown to have given alcohol to the little girl before comitting the crime on New Year's Eve 1921. He was sent to the gallows the following year, although witnesses had placed him elsewhere at the time of the murder.
Ross always maintained his innocence, and a review of the case has found that hairs found on a blanket at his home and used as evidence against him did not belong to the victim.
'This is a tragic case where a miscarriage of justice resulted in a man being hanged,' Victoria Attorney-General Rob Hills told The Age newspaper.'It also sends a salutary warning to those who still believe that the death penalty still has an appropriate place in our legal system,' he added.
The case was reopened because of a campaign by the families of both Tritschke and Ross. A forensic examination of the hair revealed it was not Tritschke's.
'It's a tragedy for everybody that the actual perpetrator was not caught and an innocent man lost his life,' a spokeswoman for the dead girl's family said.
Betty Everett, the hanged man's niece said,' I have lived with this fear and doubt for most of my life, the more as I began to have children, that perhaps I carried the genes of a murderer. That shadow has gone.'
Premier John Brumby said that the request for pardon had been a joint request by both Ross' and the victim's families.