Acting Sergeant

David JOHNSTON

YEAR OF DEATH

1903

JURISDICTION

Queensland

DETAILS OF DEATH

In 1888 a new lockup was built at Mackay to house the increasing number if prisoners, it’s 5 cells and other buildings were surrounded by a high fence. In 1893 it was declared a prison by Queensland Legislation. In 1898 Acting Sergeant Johnston, sometimes known as Johnson, was gazetted Superintendent of the goal and was responsible to the Controller of Prisons. On Sunday 26 October 1902, 12 year old Alice Gunning, disappeared on her way home from Mass. When her body was found her head had been crushed with a rock. Suspicion for the crime fell on Sow-Too-Low, a Malaitian labourer who worked and lived at Habana. On the 29th he was arrested as he arrived home. Sow-Too-Low was taken to the murder scene where he confessed to the crime and after the committal proceedings he was remanded in custody to stand trial and later placed in the Mackay Prison. He mixed with other prisoners and it wasn’t long before trouble began to brew. Sow-Too-Long’s aversion to soap and water led to loud complaints from his fellow prisoners. At 2.15pm on Sunday 29th 1903, Sow-Too-Low attacked John martin, a prisoner, with an axe, killing him with a savage blow to the head. Acting Sergeant Johnston was called for and came running into the yard, he was unarmed. When Johnston stooped over the body of the dead man with his back to the wood heap, Sow-Too-Low rushed him from behind and buried the axe into his head. Sow-Too-Low retreated to his cell after attempting unsuccessfully to attack another prisoner. Sergeant Ferguson and Constable Clulow managed to contain him there. On 12 May 1903 Sow-Too-Low was found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of Sergeant Johnston and John Martin. He was hanged on 22 June 1903 at Boggo Road Goal.

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