19 February 1951 – Jean Lee

Jean LeeToday marked a key date in social history Down Under, as Jean Lee became the last woman to be hanged in Australia.

The 31-year-old was hanged for the murder of William ‘Pop’ Kent on this day in 1951.

She had a knack for hooking up with the most inappropriate men. And this led to a vice-ridden adult life, as Lee was extricably drawn into a voyage of wanton sex and crime.

It must be love

One of her boyfriends actually pimped her out to US soldiers. It was, after all, her prostitution that kept them in beer money, until she finally ditched him only to fall for the equally unsavoury Robert David Clayton. Then things really got tough. He’d literally rough her up. And when he wasn’t abusing her, he’d make money out of her by ‘badgering’.

Basically, she’d lure men to have sex with her and then, when they were on the brink of doing the deed, Clayton would burst in on them pretending to be the jealous husband. They’d then extort money from their trouserless victims, who were themselves fearful of being found out, or made a laughing stock. And if they didn’t cough up, he’d just rough them up instead.

No chance

And that’s how they homed in on Kent, an elderly gent of 73. Lee got him drunk and managed to wangle an invite back to his place. There she tried to pick his pockets, but he was not having a bar of it. Sod the fact that she was a woman, the feisty septuagenarian could see she was trying to rob him, so he fought back.

That’s when Clayton and his ex-con mate Norman Andrews turned up. They jumped the elderly man, beat him and tied him up. They then tortured him for about an hour trying to get him to divulge where his money was. When his body was discovered, Kent had been stabbed several times with a small knife and finally strangled.

It didn’t take long for the arrests to take place and their bloodstained clothes lay in stark evidence of their guilt. The depraved trio were found guilty of murder and sentenced to die.

Ladies first

As well as being the last woman to be hanged, Lee was actually the first to be hanged in Victoria for over half a century. And it was her turn to go first on this day, followed by her two co-conspirators. She had to be sedated first and dragged out to the gallows.

Nevertheless Lee fainted when she saw the ridiculous felt hatted and goggled executioners. So she literally had to be plonked on a chair with the noose around her neck. And this was where she remained until the trap door opened and the chair fell away leaving her swinging. Both Clayton and Andrews followed suit a couple of hours later.

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