Murder in Gun Alley: girls, grime and gumshoe history
The 1921 rape and murder of a twelve-year-old girl, known as the 'Gun Alley Murder', has come back to public consciousness after an unprecedented decision. In 2008, the Victorian government issued a posthumous pardon to the man executed for this crime based upon new evidence gathered by former librarian and researcher Kevin Morgan. The concerns of his investigation - the hanging of an innocent man and the moral panic that led to the execution - have left another story untold. In interpreting the 'Gun Alley Murder', observers in the 1920s drew upon popular narratives of sexual danger, blending modern medicalised conceptions of sexual crime with older ideas of seduction. Following the murder, women's groups and progressive societies employed these narratives in order to speak out against the lenient sentences that Victorian courts frequently handed down for crimes against children - especially against girls. This paper contextualises the 'stranger danger' panic caused by 'Gun Alley' within 1920s discourses of sexuality, girlhood and modernity, and offers an alternative analysis of the crime to those told in recent accounts.
Journal of Australian Studies
Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)