PETER Gordon Hannah, an ex-constable of police, appeared, on Tuesday, before Messrs. Armstrong (chairman) Oates, and Brown, J.’sP., on remand from the City Court, and was charged with having, on the 18th inst., shot with intent to murder Senior Constable James Culhane, and Constable James Alexander Graham.
Sub-Inspector Spratling prosecuted, Detective Sergeant Armstrong assisting. Accused was defended by Mr. E. F. S. England.
In outlining the case Sub-Inspector Spratling detailed the happenings from the time accused was seen in the Prince of Wales Hotel, up to the time the shooting took place.
James Culhane, senior constable, sworn, said “that on the 17 of November, 1923, at about 11 p.m., in company with Constable Graham, he saw accused at the Prince of Wales Hotel, under the influence of liquor.
Hannah greeted me saying, “ Good night.” I said, “Good night, Jim,” and shook hands. He also greeted Graham, asking him why he was not on strike. Graham said, “It’s too late to go out now.” Hannah said, “It’s not too late – come out, and be a man.”
He then handed a pamphlet to each of us. We then left the hotel, and went over to the verandah of the Pier Hotel. Hannah came out of the Prince of Wales Hotel, and walked to a motor car, and it appeared that the driver was trying to get him into the car.
We then went into the Bay View Hotel. Accused followed. He again spoke of the strike. I walked out, followed by Graham, and was only out a few seconds later when I heard a struggle.
Going back I saw Graham on his back on the floor. Accused was kneeling over him with his thumb pressed into Graham’s neck. I remonstrated with him, telling him it would do his case no good.” He said, “You go to ––––. This is only a scab. I’m going to kill him.”
“I got him off, and he rushed at me. After struggling with him Graham came to my assistance.”
“We took Hannah out of the hotel to a car. I asked if that was Hannah’s car. The driver said yes. I told accused to go get in it, and go home, and we tried to get him in; but owing to his damaging the car the driver refused to take him, and drove away.
“Accused took up a fighting attitude, and we arrested him and took him to the watch-house, accused struggling all the way. Inside the police station gates he said he would go quietly, and was taken to the office. I opened the door and went inside, and led Hannah in. He was between us.
“Just as I was lighting the gas I heard a shot, saw a flash, and heard Graham fall. I asked Graham if he was hurt, he did not answer, and then, as I was stooping over Graham, I heard another shot, and felt a stinging pain in the back. I fell out of the office, and crawling round the side, leant against the wall. Accused walked past me, and said, ‘Do you want another, Jim.’ I answered ‘No,’ I’ve had enough.’ My wife rushed out with a candle, and, helped me in. I crawled over to Dr. Maxwell’s, and was taken to a hospital, where an operation was performed by Drs Maxwell and Le Souef.
“I was in uniform, and was wearing the overcoat and clothes produced, which showed bullet holes. I have known accused some time, and was friendly with him.”
Questioned by the Crown Prosecutor:
“How far was it from the motor car to the police station?”
“About a quarter of a mile.”
“Have you given all the material facts?”
James Alexander Graham, mounted constable, stationed at Frankston, sworn, said that the evidence given by the previous witness was true and correct, up to the time of leaving the Bay View Hotel, when Senior Constable Culhane went out.
Accused, who was very drunk, said to me, “Jimmy, you are a scab,” and catching hold of me threw me to the floor.
He got on top of me and pressed his thumb to my throat, saying, as he did so, “I will kill you; you are only a b— scab.” Culhane pulled him off. Witness corroborated the evidence leading up to the arrest, and said, “When we took accused into the office, I was behind him. I saw a flash and heard a shot, and felt a stinging pain in my left shoulder. I fell to the floor. The flash came from the direction of the accused. I got up and went onto the path, and saw Culhane leaning against the wall. I then went into the street, and ran to the Bay View Hotel. While there someone opened my shirt, and a bullet fell out, similar to that produced at the time.
Dr. Maxwell, said “at about 12.30am on November 18 Mrs. Culhane called personally, and in consequence of what I was told, I went to the Bay View Hotel, and saw Graham. From what he told me I went to the police station, from thence to my surgery, where I saw Culhane staggering up the path. I assisted him in and examined him. I found he was shot, and seriously injured.
I took him in a cab to a private hospital, where I further examined him, and found a wound above the left shoulder blade, bleeding freely.”
Questioned, the doctor said: “The wound could have been caused by a bullet. I had Culhane X-rayed on the 19th, and the bullet located. An operation was performed on Tuesday, and the bullet removed.”
Constable T. Nicholls, Mordialloc, said: “On 18th November, at about 4am, I was on the Mordialloc Bridge, I saw a car approaching me from the direction of Frankston, which I stopped, I said to accused, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘What is that to do with you?’ I replied, ‘I am a constable of police, stationed at Mordialloc, and I am looking for an ex-constable named Hannah, who is said to have shot two Frankston police.” I also said, “Are you Hannah?” Accused said, “No, my name is Brown.” I asked him what he was. He replied, “A labourer, out of employment,” I said to him, “Were you ever in the police force?” He said, “No,” and denied being at Frankston that night.” I asked him where he got the mark above his eye.” He said, “I was in a brawl at Chelsea.”
After further conversation I took him to the police station. I telephoned Frankston, and Detective Sergeant Armstrong and Constable Ryan, who later arrived, identified him as ex-Constable Hannah. He was searched, and the revolver produced was found in his possession containing three live cartridges and two empty shells. Detective Sergeant Armstrong informed the accused, in answer to his question, that he would be charged with shooting Culhane and Graham with intent to murder.
He was taken to MeIbourne by Detective Sergeant Armstrong.”
Allan Johnston, motor driver, gave evidence of the hiring of the car, and said accused appeared to have been drinking; and had drinks on the way to Frankston. “I pulled up near a hotel, and accused got out. Coming back he asked me to have a drink, and I refused. Accused went back to the hotel, and after waiting for about 9 minutes I went to look for accused, and saw him with two policemen, one of which I can identify as Constable Graham. I saw the quarrelling, and came out and started the engine. I next saw accused with two policemen, who were trying to get him into the car. I refused to take him owing to his having done considerable damage to the car, and drove off.”
Detective Sergeant Armstrong, sworn, said: “That, in consequence of what I was told I went to Mordialloc Police Station, and saw accused. Accused was taken to the City watch-house, where a further search was made, and 10 live cartridges were found (produced). The two bullets (produced) were handed to me on November 21st by Constable Graham, and Dr. Maxwell, and have remained in my possession ever since.”
This closed the case for the Crown.
Accused, who pleaded not guilty, reserved his defence, and was committed to appear at the Criminal Sessions on December 10th.
Bail was allowed as before, Messrs. Harold William Webb and John Esmond being accepted as bondsmen.
From the pages of the Frankston and Somerville Standard, 5 & 7 Dec 1923