Legal team assembles to exonerate hanged man

Calls to exonerate the first man ever executed in Castlemaine are gathering momentum, with one lawyer on board and another considering taking the case.

David Young went to the gallows in 1865 for the vicious murder of 17-year-old newly wed Margaret Graham in Daylesford.

Yet Deborah Benson, who published a book about the case two years ago, believed Mr Young was hanged for a crime he did not commit.

“I’m not an author. I had never written a book before,” she said.

“But I became so passionate about the injustices this man suffered. To me it’s so obvious in all the written communications – the telegrams, the depositions and everything else – that he was innocent.”

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Ms Benson believed there were substantial flaws in the police investigation and court case.

She said there were many holes in the prosecution’s case and suggested the actual culprit was most likely someone who knew Mrs Graham, rather than a virtual stranger. Mr Young hardly knew Mrs Graham.

“The fact that she’d been married six weeks before, to me, seems almost to indicate vengeance over her marrying someone else,” Ms Benson said.

Lawyers were being tasked with exonerating Mr Young, with Andrew Pickles from Robertson Hyetts Solicitors taking on the brief. 

“I do (also) have a barrister who is looking at the book now,” Ms Benson said, though it was too early to tell if he would take on the case.

“You do need a barrister to take the case to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal,” Ms Benson said.

She believed the reason Mr Young’s story resonated with people was the thought that a simple, innocent man could be found guilty of a crime he did not commit.

George Graham's cabin, where the murder took place. Picture: SUPPLIED

George Graham's cabin, where the murder took place. Picture: SUPPLIED

“David Young was an underdog, he had no-one to support him. He was an ex-convict with no family,” Ms Benson said.

She added that everything worked against him, including the political climate, wider social structures and the law.

Ms Benson’s book is titled Judicial Murder: The Crown vs David Young.

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