Thomas Sanders was hanged on this date in 1862 at Melbourne Gaol.
An ex-con at Norfolk Island, Sanders took to the bush with another man named John Johnson and in 1862 perpetrated a terrifying home-invasion raid upon the farm of Henry Cropley. They spent five hours there, eating, relaxing, and terrifying the family, comfortably remote on Keilor Plains from any possible source of help. Nobody died — but Sanders too a liking to the family serving-girl Mary Egan and raped her. Egan gave the evidence about her harrowing ordeal — and subject to Sanders’s own direct cross-examination* — just three weeks before Sanders hanged:
The tall man was standing in the middle of the room. I turned to look at him, and he told me to turn my face away, and put a chair for me against my master and missis. He then told the other man to “tie my master’s hands up,” and pulled a rope out of his pocket, and tied him up. He afterwards told me to get up and make tea. I got up and stood at the fire, but was so frightened I could not make tea.
When I saw my master tied up I began to cry, and the little man came up and told me to “shut up,” at the same time pulling a pistol out of his pocket. Sanders then searched the rooms. I saw him as I was standing at the mantelpiece. Johnson was walking about the kitchen with a double-barrelled pistol in each hand.
I thought they were then going away, but they came back again, and Sanders saw the ham hanging up in the kitchen. After they had had their own supper, Sanders sent Johnson to ask me if I would have any. I said I would not.
They had been drinking a bottle of port wine and some spirits. I then heard them go into my rom and pull out my little box. Sanders then said it was time to put the girls to bed.
He told my missis to go into her room, and then came back and took the cradle in. He stopped there some time. I can’t say how long, and then came out, and said to me, “You, girl, you go to bed.”
I went in, and he followed me into my room with the candle.
I was going t bed with some of my things n, and he made me get out and take off everything, except my chemise.
He then tied me hand and foot to the four corners of the bed, and as my foot slipped while he hurt my ankle, I kicked him in the face.
He then said, “Oh, you —- little wretch; I’ll give it to you for that.” I ceased to resist him, as I saw it was no good, and my master had told me to do what he told me. I did not resist him, because he had pistols in his pocket and he said if I did not do what he ordered me he would blow my head off, and would think no more of my life than a cat’s.
He ordered me then to be quiet, and tied my hands behind me. He then brought the other man in, and said, “Isn’t she an enticing little devil.”
I didn’t hear the other man say anything.
They then went out, and took the candle with them, and, after remaining a few minutes, Sanders returned, and said, “Now, my good girl, I’ll give it to you for kicking me in the face.”
It was in the dark. I could not see him, but I knew his voice. I think he was undressed.
He got into bed, and I said to him, “For God’s sake not to do anything t me, for I was a poor orphan girl.”
He did not seem to hear, but I spoke loud enough for my master and mistress to hear.
I then heard him at the foot of the bed, and he asked me “if I had any relations in the colony.”
I said “Yes, I had brothers and uncles.”
He said he didn’t care, and then he had connection with me.
I said, “God help me; there is no help.”
(The witness here described the circumstances, and was almost unable to proceed from agitation. They distinctly proved that a rape was committed.)
Afterwards I begged him to untie me, as the flesh was rising over the ropes, and hurt me. He then untied me.
I never told any one afterwards, as I never dreamt they would be taken up. I afterwards told the doctor everything.
The witness here looked round, at the desire of the Bench, and said, “These are the two men. The one (pinting to Sanders) is the man who had connexion with me.”
* Egan was credited with maintaining her composure admirably under the trying circumstances, but at noe point Sanders asked a question “of such a brutal nature that her firmness, which had been remarkable, gave way, and she had to be removed, in a fainting fit, from the court. The prisoner Johnson made some remark, and Sanders exclaimed “Oh, she’s well tutored!”