Louisa Collins: the murderess of Botany Bay?

Louisa Collins admission record, Darlinghurst Gaol
Image:  NSW Australia Gaol Description and Entrance Books 1818 – 1930
Admission record for Louisa Collins, Darlinghurst Gaol

During the late 1880s, NSW was rocked by the scandal of Louisa Collins, housewife and mother, who was tried four times for the murders of two husbands. Originally a country girl from the Upper Hunter Valley, she had married as a teenager, before later moving to Frog’s Hollow, Botany with her first husband, Charles Andrews, and their children.

Eyebrows were raised when Louisa quickly married her much-younger lodger soon after the sudden death of her first husband in 1887. But Louisa had been a high-spirited girl. She was fond of a drink, and did not behave as society expected.

Black Widow by Carol Baxter; Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

When Louisa’s second husband, Michael Collins, also died quite suddenly in 1888, tongues began to wag, and the authorities were alerted. Accused of poisoning both husbands with rat poison, three juries failed to convict her. Under pressure, a fourth jury did convict her, and she became the last woman to be hanged in NSW, in January 1889, at Darlinghurst Gaol.

During the past 12 months, two new books have examined the evidence and re-told the sad tale of Louisa and her family. Was she unfairly convicted? Or was she indeed Australia’s first serial murderess? Black Widow by Carol Baxter and Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington take a fresh look at this tragic local story.

Have you read either, or both of these books? Do you think Louisa was innocent or guilty?

Jenny MacRitchie
Heritage Librarian

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