National Library of Australia

Frederick Deeming

Death mask of Frederick Deeming, 1892

plaster and paint; 30.0 x 18.5 x 22.0cm

Pictures Collection, H29467

Gift of Mr A. Bosher, 1967

State Library of Victoria
Frederick Deeming

When serial murderer Frederick Deeming (1842–1892) was hanged at Melbourne Gaol, more than 12 000 people in the street outside cheered wildly.

In his day, Deeming was more infamous than Ned Kelly (many thought he was Jack the Ripper), but he has now all but disappeared from public memory.

Born in Leicestershire, England, Deeming committed a series of crimes on three continents—theft, perjury, fraud, bigamy and murder—using at least 20 aliases.

On 3 March 1892 in Windsor, Melbourne, police discovered the body of Emily Mather under a hearthstone, Deeming’s wife of one year.

Alerted to his identity, authorities in England then discovered the bodies of Deeming’s first wife and their four children under the floor of their house in Liverpool.

At the time of his arrest on 11 March, in Southern Cross, Western Australia, he was again engaged.

The press described him as ‘the criminal of the century’ and a ‘human tiger’.

Deeming was defended by the young lawyer Alfred Deakin, future Prime Minister of Australia, whose papers (in the National Library of Australia collection) reveal that he thought Deeming was insane.

Deeming claimed that his dead mother had ordered him to commit the murders.