The Rape of Catherine Jane Keogh

(Sincere thanks to my childhood friend Susan Downes for locating and photographing the Keogh plot at Lake Terrace Cemetery)

My Great Grandmothers 3rd sibling, Catherine Jane Keogh, had a sad and short life. She was raped in 1887, and committed suicide on 1st November 1890, just a year and a half after the death of her father, and nine months after the death of her youngest sister Rebecca at six months of age. She was buried on a Saturday at the Lake Terrace Cemetery, Mt Gambier, in plot 106, with her father and younger sister. The funeral departed at 2pm from her mother’s house, in Edward St, Claraville.

“Her end was peace.” was stated in the obituary.

She was raped two months after turning eleven and died a few weeks after turning fourteen.

The first report was swift in coming: “CRIMINAL ASSAULT ON A CHILD – Yesterday afternoon a young man named Robert Heaps, residing at O. B. Flat, was arrested by M. C. Singleton on a charge of having on the afternoon of Monday criminally assaulted a child aged 11 years, named Catherine Jane Keogh, daughter of Mr. James Keogh, a boundary rider on the Moorak Estate. Keogh resides in one of the Moorak paddocks about a mile south of the Blue Lake. On Monday afternoon the girl was walking through the paddock towards the Mount, when, it is alleged, she was accosted by the prisoner, who gave her a sixpence and asked her to assist him to lift up two sheep that were lying down some distance off.  She agreed and went with him to help him when he committed the offence. The girl was subjected to very rough treatment, and it is stated was seriously injured. Heaps will be brought before the Police Court today. (Border Watch, Wednesday 21 December 1887, page 2)

Robert Heaps was charged that day:

“Mount Gambier Police Court – Wednesday, December 21st Before Mr. J. P. Stow, S. M.

Robert Heaps, a lad of about 16 years of age, was charged, on the information of James Keogh, with having, at near Mount Gambier on the 19th inst., criminally assaulted his daughter Catherine Jane Keogh, a child under twelve years of age. Mr. Daniel appeared for the prisoner, Corporal Montagu, who conducted the case, asked that the Court might be cleared of spectators, but the S.M. declined to do so, saying, he did not see what good purpose would be served by it. The witnesses called for the Prosecution were Margaret (Martha) Keogh, the girl’s Mother; Catherine Jane Keogh herself; Dr. A.W. Powell, Assistant Colonial Surgeon, and Mounted Constable Singleton. James Keogh lives in one of the Moorak paddocks, about a mile south of the Blue Lake.

On Monday afternoon, at 4 o’clock, Mrs. Keogh sent her daughter Catherine Jane, who was 11 years old on the 9th of last October, to Mrs. Berkfeld’s, about a mile distant, for some butter. She went across the paddock and got the butter. Returning the same way, the little girl met the prisoner, whom she knew by sight and name very well, about half-way to her home.  He was dressed in moleskin trousers, a grey coat, and black hat. He asked her to go and help him up with two sheep, which he said were lying on their backs in the paddock. He gave her sixpence to do so, and she agreed. He led her over a hill, and when on the other side of it, threw her down and criminally assaulted her. He told her that if she did not lie quiet, he would hammer her. She resisted and cried out, but no one came to her assistance.  On the way, he asked her if she knew what his name was, and she said “no”, and explained in Court that she did so because she was afraid of him but could not say why. He then said his name was Lange, then Ruwoldt, and afterwards Johnston. When he had assaulted her, he let her go, and she ran home, and immediately told the story to her mother. It was a little after 5 o’clock when she returned home, and she appeared in an exhausted state and was crying. Her mother saw that her clothes were torn and much soiled.  There were also finger marks on both her wrists. The same afternoon her mother went to the residence of Mr. B. Henly, the stepfather of the prisoner, and saw the lad. He denied that he had seen the girl that day or committed any assault upon her. Mrs. Keogh, between half-past 4 and 6 o’clock, when her daughter was absent, saw a boy wearing light trousers, a grey coat, and a black hat cross the paddock in the direction her daughter would take to come home. Prisoner’s dress, when she saw him at Henly’s exactly corresponded, he having on faded white moleskin trousers, a grey coat, and a black hat.  She told the lad she would make him suffer for it, and he replied “Well, you can have your way and I’ll have my way.”

Mrs. Keogh took her child to Dr. Powell, at the Hospital, on Tuesday morning, and on examination the doctor found that she had been injured, and that the evidence indicated that the assault had been committed within 48 hours. The lad was arrested at OB Flat by Mounted Constable Singleton on Tuesday.  He said “I never seen the girl yesterday. They’re only doing this to try and get me into it.” The clothes the girl wore when the assault was committed were produced in Court and bore unmistakable traces of a violent assault. Corporal Montagu said that if the S. M. did not think a prima facie case had been presented, he would ask for a remand till Saturday. 

The S.M. said a prima facie case had been shown.

Mr. Daniel first proposed to get the prisoner to give evidence, and afterwards said he would call Mrs. Alexander Johnston, but on second thoughts, as the S.M. considered a prima facie case had been made out, decided to call no evidence that day. Mrs. Johnston, it was said in evidence, was with her son gathering wood in the paddock when it was crossed by the little girl. The girl saw them, and said the lad passed a little way from them before he approached her, but Mrs. Johnston said she saw neither the lad nor the girl, and was not therefore called, although summoned by the police. (The S.M., in answer to Mr. Daniel, said he would allow bail, two sureties of £40 each.) (Border Watch, Mount Gambier, Saturday 24 Dec 1887, page 2)

MOUNT GAMBIER CIRCUIT COURT., Wednesday, April 25. Before His Honor, the Chief Justice.

The sitting of the Court was, resumed at 10 o’clock. ASSAULT ON A GIRL. Robert Heaps, otherwise known as Robert Hugh Heaps, answered to his bail and was placed on his trial charged with having, on December 19, at Moorak, feloniously assaulted one Catherine Jane Keogh, a girl under the age of 12 years. He pleaded not guilty and was defended by Mr. Daniel.

The jury sworn were as follows: — Andrew Loutit (Foreman), Archibald MacGugan, James MacNamee, Duncan MacKenzie, Adolf Kieselbach, George Maroske, Thomas Morris, Carl Lindner, Dugald MacKenzie, Johannes F. Lange, Archibald MacKenzie, and Martin Malone.

The Crown Solicitor opened the case by a short address to the jury, and then called Mrs. Martha Keogh, the mother, of the little girl; the prosecutrix herself (Catherine); Dr. Powell, who examined her, and Mounted Constable Singleton.

Catherine Jane Keogh, aged 11 1/2 years, is the daughter of James Keogh, a boundary rider on the Moorak estate, and lives with her parents in a paddock about a mile south of the Blue Lake.

On the afternoon of December 19, she was sent by her mother to Mrs. Berkfield’s, about a mile distant, for some butter. Whilst returning across the paddock she met the prisoner about halfway to her house. He wore nearly white Moleskin trousers, a grey coat, and a black hat. He asked her to help him to lift up two sheep, which he said were lying on their backs in the paddock. He gave her sixpence to do it, and she agreed. He led her over a hill, telling her on the way that his name was Lange, then Ruwoldt, and then Johnston, and when in a valley on the other side of it threw her down and committed an offence upon her. He told her that if she did not lie quiet he would beat her. She resisted, and cried out, but no one came to her assistance. When he had assaulted her he let her go, and she ran home immediately and told her mother.

She reached home a little after 5 o’clock, appeared in an exhausted state, and was crying. Her clothes were torn and soiled, and she had finger marks on both her wrists. Mrs. Keogh went over to the residence of Mr. R. Henly, who is stepfather of the prisoner, the same afternoon, and saw the lad, who stoutly denied having seen the girl that day or done anything to her. Mrs. Keogh, between 4.30 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon saw a boy wearing light trousers, a grey coat, and a black hat crossing the paddock in the direction her daughter would come home; and prisoner’s dress, when she saw him at Henly’s, exactly corresponded. Mrs. Keogh took her daughter to Dr. Powell, at the Hospital, next morning, and, on examination, the doctor found that she had been injured, apparently within 48 hours.

The lad was arrested by Mounted Constable Singleton on the day after the assault. He said “I never seen the girl yesterday. They’re only doing this to try and get me in for it.”

In answer to Mr. Daniel, Mrs. Keogh said her girl told her of the assault as soon as she came home, and said it was Robert Heaps who committed it. Her daughter was 11 years old on the 9th of last October. On her way to Mrs. Henly’s she (Mrs. Keogh) called at Mrs. Alexander Johnston’s, but did not tell Mrs. Johnston that her son had ruined her daughter, but that Robert Heaps had done so, and asked her if she had seen him interfere with her girl. She never offered to settle the matter with Henly nor asked him to pay the doctor’s expenses. In cross-examination’ the girl said that when the prisoner asked her if she knew his name, as they were going over the hill, she said ” No,” because she was frightened. He then told her his name was Lange, then Ruwoldt, and then Johnston. The boy had to pass Johnston’s cart which was in the paddock for wood before he came to her. She kept the butter, which was in a tin pie-dish, rolled in a cloth, in her hand all the time he was assaulting her.

Mr. Daniel addressed the jury before calling evidence and said the main question would be as to the identity; of the prisoner as the one who committed the assault. Although legally, a girl of prosecutrix’s age could not consent, yet the question would be one for consideration as affecting the credibility of her statement. The whole circumstances seem to point to the “fact that she knew what she was going over the hill for”. The case would be that there was much doubt as to whether it was the prisoner who committed the assault or someone else; and that there were surrounding  circumstances which indicated that it was very improbable the prisoner was guilty.

He called Jane Johnston, wife of Alexander Johnston, OB Flat, who said Mrs. Keogh came to her place on the evening of the 19th of December last, at six o’clock, and said her boy had been in the paddock with her girl. Told her it could not be, as the boy was with her that afternoon. Was in the paddock that afternoon but did not see the girl nor the prisoner.

By Mr. Mann—Was in the paddock at 5 or a quarter past 5 (could not positively state) and returned home, about six o’clock.

Mrs. Keogh was very much excited. She said the boy had told her girl that his name was Johnston.

She said first that her daughter had been indecently, assaulted, and that the boy who did it said his name was Johnston. Witness, was much put out about it, and asked her what clothes he wore. She said light clothes, faded moleskin, and witness said her boy was not dressed like that. Mrs. Keogh then asked if she had seen anyone pass, and a little boy of witness’s said he had seen Robert Heaps pass a short time before witness went home; that was six o’clock.

Welwood James Anderson, schoolmaster, OB Flat, said he saw prisoner on the road between Johnston’s and Berkfield’s on Monday afternoon, December 19, as near as witness could judge about 4 o’clock. Knew the boy well, and always had a high opinion of him. By Mr. Mann-Noticed prisoner that afternoon had light trousers on; could not swear positively to the colour of his coat: and hat. It was somewhere about 4 o’clock.

Christina Henly, wife of Robert Henly, and mother of the prisoner, said her son, when he returned from town on December 20, had nothing peculiar in his manner, he had white moleskin trousers on, a grey coat, and a light drab hat. He brought a parcel, done up in a red and white handkerchief. He went to work at once carrying water from Coutt’s yard. – When Mrs. Keogh arrived, the boy was dressed the same, but had changed his hat for a black one. By Mr. Mann-It was a soft felt her son had been wearing, the black one he afterwards put on was a soft one. She could not tell when he came back, but it was pretty early.

By His Honor-would not swear to her son’s age, thought he was 15 years last Christmas. (A certificate put in by the Crown Solicitor stated that he was born on Christmas Day, 1871, which would make his age four months over sixteen years.)

Robert Henly, stepfather of the prisoner, said Mrs. Keogh went to his place on Monday afternoon, December 19, and said, “I don’t want to get any poor person’s child into trouble, and if we can manage to square it, we’ll do it,” She said, ” I would not take less than £20 for what has happened to my little girl today.” By the Crown Solicitor-Witness’s wife was there at the time and heard it. Mrs. Keogh was a little bit flurried, his little girl, aged 13 years was there, but he would not swear she heard it. The prisoner was sitting on the sofa, and he believed heard the whole of it. The girl was close to the boy. Did not speak to the boy about it, as he did not believe it was the boy. Spoke to his wife about it. Could not say when the boy came home, but saw him when, he went for the water at five o’clock. He was dressed in a grey coat, moleskin trousers, and a white hat. Was quite sure Mrs. Keogh said she would not take £20 for it. Witness did not offer to square it. The boy only took part in the conversation when she tackled him about it, and wanted to hammer him, and so on. She knew better than “to do that”. Witness would have put her out at once. She said to the boy after that, “You nasty little wretch, you done it, and if ever I get you coming across that paddock again I will acquaint Mr. Williams, and he won’t let you go across again.” The boy denied it; and she said she would go into town that night and get a policeman and have him locked up before midnight.

Prisoner said, “I’ll have my way and you can have yours.”

Catherine Heaps, the girl referred to by Henly, was called. She said she heard Mrs. Keogh say to her mother that if she paid the doctor’s bill she would not say anything more about it. She said she would take £20 for it. By Mr. Mann-Her mother and brother and stepfather were present.   

Catherine Heaps, the girl referred to by Henly, was called. She said she heard Mrs. Keogh say to her mother that if she paid the doctor’s bill she would not say anything more about it. She said she would take £20 for it. By Mr. Mann-Her mother and brother and stepfather were present.          

Her father was round at the end of the house and did not enter the room. Her mother did not enter the house. Her brother was sitting on the sofa, and witness was at the table. Mrs. Keogh did not go into the house but went to see what the boy had on. He had on a pair of moleskin trousers, a grey coat, and a black hat. Mrs. Keogh said he was a scamp and had ruined her girl. He said he had never done it. She said she would prosecute him, and he said she could have her way and he would have his. Her father and mother were out at the end of the house. They entered the house in about 5 minutes. Mrs. Keogh asked her stepfather what he was going to do about the case, and he said he could do nothing. She said she would have him up at Court about it and went away immediately.

Mr. Daniel then called Joseph Harford, teacher, Yahl, whose school at OB Flat prisoner attended three years, and who never found any reason for fault in prisoner; Benjamin Davis, farmer, for whom prisoner had worked off and on for three years, and who found his character honest and truthful; James Paris, farmer, who had known him 7 years, and thought he always bore a good character, being quiet and truthful; and George Coutts, farmer, who had known prisoner 7 or 8 years, and had had him in his employ, and who said he bore a good moral character, like most other boys in the neighbourhood.

The Prisoner then made a short statement. He said he went round the road from Mount Gambier home on December 19 and met Mr. Anderson between Johnston’s and Berkfield’s. It would be 4 o’clock then, and he went straight home. After being at home an hour and three quarters he saw Mrs. Keogh coming down the road. She went and spoke to his stepfather in the garden, and he (prisoner) went inside.

Mr. Daniel, in his address for the prisoner, contended that a complete defence had been made out against the crime charged, for unless the jury believed the statements of Mrs. Keogh and her daughter against the other witnesses they must conclude there was no case against the prisoner. He argued that both the principal witnesses for the prosecution were uncertain who had assaulted the girl, and that Mrs. Keogh, having accused Robert Heaps of it and failed to get a monetary settlement, had adhered to her accusation, not because she was sure it was he who was the offender, but because having done so much she did not see her way clear to go back. The time at which Anderson met the prisoner made it clear he was not the offender.

The Crown Solicitor pointed out that consent was no element in the case, as by the law no child under the age of 12 years could consent. The jury, further, could have no doubt that the girl had been injured between the time she left her mother’s house and returned on December 19.

He contended that the device set up by the prisoner, an old device in such case that of an alibi had failed entirely, because none of the witnesses, either for the prosecution or defence, fixed the time certainly, and half an hour either way decided it. The witnesses Mrs. Johnston and the Henlys had been allowed to be called to throw discredit on the testimony of Mrs. Keogh and her daughter, but it had failed to do so. Mrs. Johnston did not contradict Mrs. Keogh, and the evidence of the Henlys, so contradictory as it was, established nothing.

His Honor summed up very carefully and at great length. He pointed out that the only difficulty the jury would find in the case would be as to the prisoner’s identity with the person who  assaulted the child. Was she or was she not a witness of truth? The first answer to that was the evidence as to character of the boy. The discrepancy in the time given by the several witnesses that the little girl knew the reason why the prisoner was taking her over the hill that afternoon would was of small import, because, speaking merely from impression, there was nothing in respect of which a mistake could more easily be made, or contradiction more, likely, than time. The prisoner was seen in the neighbourhood that afternoon. The suggestion of the counsel for the defence that the little girl knew the reason why the prisoner was taking her over the hill that afternoon would scarcely commend itself to the minds of the jury. Referring to the interviews between Mrs. Keogh and Mrs, Johnston, he said it would be for the jury to say whether Mrs. Johnston did not mistake an interrogation for an accusation of her son; and they would have to say whether the testimony of the Henlys was not exaggerated with the purpose of getting a member of their family out of trouble. Even if Mrs. Keogh did offer to settle the case for £20 or any other amount it would not be an answer to the case. Having called attention to the salient features of the case it would be for the jury to say, on a careful review of the evidence, first, were they satisfied the girl was under 12 years of age; secondly, were they satisfied that she was violated; and lastly having regard to the evidence on both sides, were they satisfied beyond doubt that the prisoner was the offender.

The jury, after a quarter of an hour’s retirement, found the prisoner guilty, but strongly recommended him to mercy on account of his youth and the good character given him by so many of his neighbours.

His Honor, addressing the jury, said the sentence he should have to pass was not the sentence he would like to pass, or such a sentence as the jury desired, but he would make a special recommendation to His Excellency the Governor on the subject. He could not sentence the prisoner to less than four years; and it was simply shocking that he should be compelled to sentence a youth of prisoners age to so long a term, but there was no alternative.

The representation, however, he would make to His Excellency would have the result of giving effect to the jury’s recommendation. Of course, he should have passed a very different sentence if he had an option in the matter. The jury further recommended that the prisoner should be prevented from associating with other criminals.

His Honor, in sentencing the prisoner, commented on the enormity and cruelty of his offence. Conviction for it made him liable to be imprisoned for the term of his “natural life”, and the lowest term he could give was four years, but he would make a representation to the Governor, which would have the effect of making it shorter by several years, The jury were anxious he should be prevented associating with other criminals, and the arrangements made by the Sheriff at the Adelaide Gaol to that end were complete and satisfactory. The sentence was that he be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for four years, and that he receives one whipping of 12 strokes; the term of the sentence to be served in the Adelaide Gaol.


The jury were then discharged. His Honor, in discharging them, remarked that although the last two cases were serious ones, the calendar was a light one for this large district. It was matter for wonder that throughout South Australia there had been a great falling off in offences since the bad times set in, perhaps the reason was that people had not so much money to spend in drink which was a very fruitful source of crime and that many of the floating population who generally produced the bulk of the cases on the criminal calendar had, under the influence of the bad times, drifted away to other places where money was more readily obtained. These were undoubtedly two of the causes conducive to the lightness of the calendars in the colony. It was also, a satisfaction, looking at the administration of the criminal law for a number of years, to know that in South Australia we had practically no permanent criminal class; he did not think there were many dozen people in the colony who made crime their means of livelihood. That was proved by the very small number of second convictions they had in the colony. He was sorry to hear the district was not so prosperous as it had been in the past, but he hoped South Australia was about to have a better time, and that when next he came to the District on Court duty he would be able to congratulate it on better times. (“Hear, hear” from one of the jurymen.) The Court then rose. (Border Mail, April 1887)