On April 24, 1922, Colin Ross was executed in Australia for the murder of 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke. Ross was one of the first criminals in Australia to be convicted based on forensic evidence. On December 30, 1921, she had been reported missing in Melbourne. The next day her naked body was found in Gun Alley.
Given the scarcity of cars in Melbourne at the time, the police surmised that the murderer had to live nearby. Among the numerous men interviewed was Colin Ross, a saloon manager, who described seeing a girl matching Alma's description, outside of his bar. His description of events closely matched that of several witnesses who had also seen her. Several witnesses recounted how Alma looked worried with one stating that a man (not Colin Ross) was following her. Despite Ross's willingness to co-operate, police began to interview him in greater detail. He was able to nominate several witnesses who had seen him tending his saloon on the afternoon of Alma's death and who would confirm that he had not left the premises, but the police remained convinced that he had killed Alma and was arrested. At his trial, the defense challenged forensics experts in an attempt to prove their client’s innocence, but these arguments were unsuccessful. Ross was found guilty and executed on April 24, 1922 at Melbourne Gaol. It is now believed that Ross was almost certainly innocent. Recent forensic research has found that evidence had been misidentified, either accidently or intentionally by police.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: