Categorized | WA News

Dead man walking

CHRIS THOMSON

EXCLUSIVE: The last Western Australian ever to languish on death row is enjoying his first Christmas since 1983 as a free man after his three-year parole expired at midnight on December 23.

Gary John Edwards shot good samaritan Jeffrey William Edwards (26, and no relation) in March 1981.

He was sentenced to death in March 1983 and is now 100 per cent free for the first time in almost 28 years.

The murder occurred as Jeffrey Edwards was helping Edwards, his brother Warren and then friend Ronald Nightingale with a tow after the trio’s station wagon broke down at North Bannister 100km south of Perth.

At the side of Albany Highway near Jarrahdale, Jeffrey Edwards bent over to check the tow rope and Edwards shot him in the back and then in the head.

The body was concealed in a burnt out tree stump and Edwards and Nightingale returned two days later to dump a dead kangaroo on the body to disguise the smell.

‘ACCIDENT’

Edwards, now 62, pleaded not guilty to the murder and still claims the shooting was an accident.

However, at the 1983 trial the prosecution said Edwards had admitted being drunk and shooting Jeffrey Edwards because the dead man had annoyed him.

“I love that bloke for pulling up to give us a hand,” Edwards told oneperth.com.au yesterday.

“But, hey, an accident happened and I felt really guilty and I had to pay for it.

“When I was caught for it, it was a weight off my shoulders.”

Edwards said that during his three months on death row – before the Burke Labor Government abolished capital punishment – literally everything he did – from sleeping to snoring and passing wind – was scrutinised.

“That was so people could see through the ledger that the prisoner was looked after – which I was – we were looked after on death row,” Edwards said yesterday.

He said that each death row prisoner inhabited a night cell and a day cell in Fremantle Prison.

“In the night cell you’ve got a mattress on the floor with a blanket, and a shit bucket,” he said.

“The day cell you’ve got a table bolted to the floor with a chair bolted to the floor so you can write letters to your family, with a shit bucket that you empty when you come out for the night [cell].”

HAIR STOOD UP

Serial murderer Eric Edgar Cook was the last man executed in Western Australia – in 1964.

This was almost two decades before Edwards was sentenced but, with executions usually occurring at 8am, Edwards said there was not a morning on death row when he did not fear he would be hanged.

“My hair used to stand up on my neck from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock in the morning … every day that I was in death row,” he said.

“Didn’t matter whether it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, they could hang you any time they liked.

“That was f***ing eerie.”

Edwards described the relief he felt when told he would not hang.

“The superintendent said to me: ‘I’ve got some good news and some bad news, Gary,’ and I said: ‘Well what’s the bad news, sir?’ and he said: ‘Well, the bad news is that you have 20 years strict security life,’ and I said: ‘Well, what’s the good news?’ and he said: ‘Well, the good news is you’re not going to hang, mate,'” Edwards recalled.

“I said: ‘Well, f*** me, thank you, sir, that’s good news all around’.

“He said: ‘What do you mean by that, Gary?’

“I said: ‘You just gave me 20 years to live, mate’.”

Edwards said he decided from that day to better himself to get out of the prison system and become a citizen again.

He was parolled on December 23, 2007, and at Midland on Thursday made his last mandatory visit to his parole officer.

TWIST OF FATE

Edwards revealed that as a teenager during a previous stint in Fremantle Prison he was asked to clean out the gallows – not knowing that 15 years later he would face the prospect of dying in the same room.

“We had to dust it all off and clean it all up because people were coming to have a look through the place,” he said.

“We went down and cleaned all the bottom out too where the crims dropped and there was all old blood from 100 years ago … and kick marks all around the wall.

“We saw the ropes there and said: ‘What the f***’s this?’ to the screw and he said: ‘Oh, they’re just ropes that you f***in’ swing,’ you know, and we didn’t think anything of it back then.

“I never thought I’d be down there, and thank f*** I’m not.”

The death penalty was abolished in 1984 by the Acts Amendment (Abolishment of Capital Punishment) Act, but not before 154 people were executed in Western Australia.

Edwards was the fifth-last person sentenced to death in the state but the four who followed him evaded death row.

9 Responses to “Dead man walking”

  1. Mick Edwards says:

    Hey shit happens, but no matter wot I love ya Uncle Gaz

  2. Walter says:

    Gary. Your a legend. Old school is in and f^^^ all who lie, cheat and/or steal. F*** the Meth.

  3. Sharni lea Edward karakizyan says:

    Loving granddaughter of poppy Edwards. Everyone who knows you respects you and your family loves you. Jojet and sharni.

  4. Rebecca Edwards says:

    Reguardless………..the past is the past,we all make mistakes,so … [deleted by editor, out of respect for the victim’s family] … I am Gary Edwards’ only daughter (Rebecca Edwards) and I love my Dad no matter what has been said or done 🙂 Love ya Dad <3

  5. Rhiannon-Jayne Edwards says:

    Gary John Edwards: Father of R***y Edwards
    R***y Edwards: Father of Rhiannon-Jayne Edwards!

    Rhiannon-Jayne Edwards: PROUD GRAND DAUGHTER OF POPPY!!!

    <3 <3 <3

  6. rob says:

    i met gary in wooraloo and would have found him to one of the hounst men i have ever met grate see him free at last take mate

  7. Peter Brown says:

    As I read this article, I felt that Gary Edwards was not treated fairly in been held so long on death row.
    Once a person is placed on (or when it existed), it should be no more than weeks waiting to be humane towards the criminal.As he admitted he was drunk and could not control his behaviour. I blame the justice system for letting him down within a respectable time limit.(say 1 month after conviction)
    And blame has to be addressed towards the journalists for not asking that all detained convicted criminals be treated faster.
    Now he has to live in a society where computers around the world address his crime and the general public lay judgement towards him.
    would he not have been better off if the judicial system worked better.

  8. tony murphy says:

    good on ya gazza!! f***in champion mate!!!! you served way too long brutha … !!!!
    ___________________________
    Edited down. Ed

  9. tony murphy says:

    gazza,you are a f***in champion mate!! i met you when i was a 20 year old in freo in 1988 for the first time and i laughed at you frog marchin round to the paint shop!! f*** me then i went to woorooloo in 2005 and you were still there!! couldnt believe you werent released before “mate” … !!!!! f***in good on ya old bastard!!good luck brother you served more than your time!!!tony “murf” murphy.ps i would like to catch up one day for a drink!!! dont worry on me ya old pr***!!!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

Independent Perth news