Fremantle Stuff > People > William Conroy

Willliam Conroy

Willliam Conroy was the first licensee of the National Hotel, and the last person to be hanged in the Perth gaol, in 1887, all subsequent executions being carried out at Fremantle until the last execution - that of Eric Edgar Cooke, in 1964.

William Conroy (1857 – 18 November 1887) was the last person executed at the Perth Gaol. Conroy was convicted of murdering Fremantle Town Councillor John Snook.
Conroy had immigrated from Ireland about ten years earlier, and before going to Fremantle was the licensee of the Victoria Hotel, located at the corner of James Street and Melbourne Road in Perth. On 6 September 1886 Conroy became the first publican of the new National Hotel on High Street in Fremantle.
On 23 June 1887 Conroy went to the Fremantle Town Hall where there was a children's ball in progress. He demanded entrance, as he was a licensee of the National Hotel, but was told by Snook that only ladies and children were to be admitted. He persisted in his demands and finally the door was slammed on him. Conroy later gained admittance to the Town Hall. When Snook left the supper room, Conroy followed him, drew a revolver from his pocket, shot Snook and put the gun back in his pocket. Conroy was arrested immediately. Snook died three months later. The trial took place at Perth and he was sentenced to death on 7 October 1887. After he was sentenced a petition was raised and signed by approximately 1500 people, including all members of the jury who had at the time of passing the verdict asked the judge to be lenient. This was then given to Governor Broome. A further call to the governor for clemency occurred during a public meeting attend by 1,000 people at the Perth Town Hall. Governor Broome then reviewed the case with two judges and medical people who had previously been part of Conroy's trial, but the governor decided to let the law take it course. Conroy was hanged at Perth Gaol at 8 a.m. on 18 November 1887. The execution however was not swift as when Conroy was hanged the initial fall failed to break his neck and it took approximately fifteen minutes for him to die of strangulation. Conroy was buried at Fremantle Cemetery [Skinner St]. Wikipedia.

The Fremantle Town Hall was opened on June 2 [1887] ... and on the evening of the following day the new building was the scene of a tragedy that created a painful sensation in Fremantle. During a children's ball that was being held in connection with the Queen Victoria Jubilee celebrations, a young single man named William Conroy, the licensee of the National Hotel, sought admission to the hall some time after 11 p.m., but as he had no invitation, besides being apparently under the influence of liquor, Councillor [John} Snook, an elderly gentleman who was acting as doorkeeper, refused to admit him. Thereupon Conroy went back to his hotel and returned with a loaded revolver and shot the old gentleman. The shot was not immediately fatal, but Snook died a few weeks later. Conroy was put on trial for wilful murder and, being found guilty, was sentenced to death. Strenuous efforts were made to obtain his reprieve, but without avail. For the crime Conroy suffered the extreme penalty on November 18, 1887, being then 30 years of age. He was the last man to be hanged within the precincts of Perth gaol, all subsequent executions being carried out at the Fremantle prison. Hitchcock: 68-69.

References and Links

Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

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