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Kenneth BROWN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 1876
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1837
Victim profile: His wife
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Western Australia, Australia
Status: Executed by hanging on June 10, 1876

Kenneth Brown (1837 10 June 1876) was an explorer and pastoralist in Western Australia. He was hanged for murdering his wife.

Kenneth Brown was born in England in 1837. The eldest son of Thomas Brown, he later became the older brother of Maitland Brown. In 1840, The Brown family emigrated to Western Australia, arriving in March 1841. They initially settled at York. In 1850, the family took up land in the Champion Bay area, where they established Glengarry. However the following year Thomas Brown was appointed to an official position in Fremantle, and the family moved there.

During the 1850s, Kenneth Brown spent most of his time at Glengarry. He was often the only family member there, and he became increasingly responsible for its management. Although primarily a sheep station, Brown developed a passion for horse breeding, and over time Glengarry became one of the most successful racehorse breeding establishments in the colony.

Kenneth Brown undertook a number of exploring expeditions between 1852 and 1863. In 1852 he explored the country behind Glengarry with Major Logue. Two years later, he was a member of Robert Austin's expedition of 1854. In 1859 he explored up the Murchison River with William Dalgety Moore to look for new land. In June 1862 he again explored up the Murchison, this time with Thomas Burges.

In 1863, Brown helped to mount an expedition to the Glenelg River. The exploring party included Brown and Samuel Hamersley, and was financed by a group of pastoralists including Kenneth and Maitland Brown, Hamersley and Lockier Burges. The following year he filed suit against Burges and others, seeking payment for his part in the expedition. The case was eventually settled out of court.

Brown had in 1859 married Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom. They had two daughters, but Mary died during childbirth in 1868.

In June 1863 Brown's father died, and Kenneth and Maitland formed a partnership under which they managed Glengarry. Over the next decade, the Champion Bay area suffered severely from drought, wheat rust and sheep scab. By 1871, Glengarry was heavily mortgaged.

In 1872, Brown withdrew from the partnership with his brother and left Glengarry. For a time he maintained his interest in horses and horse-racing, but with no real success. After a year, he left the colony for Melbourne. Cowan (1988) writes of him at this time:

He apparently began to lose considerable sums, he became increasingly restless, and drank heavily. His behaviour from this time became erratic. He was given to outbursts of temper, compounded, and perhaps in part caused, by drinking.

While in Melbourne, Brown married again, but the marriage was almost at once a failure. By the time he returned to Western Australia with his wife, they were constantly and openly quarrelling.

In January 1876, after a day of heavy drinking and constant arguing with his wife, he shot her dead. He refused to provide any explanation or excuse at his trial. His family attempted to mount a defence of diminished responsibility, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Kenneth Brown was found guilty of murder, and hanged on 10 June 1876.

Many years later, the daughter of Kenneth Brown's second marriage claimed that while travelling in America she had met her father in a hotel. Because of this, a story persists that Maitland had arranged Kenneth's escape to the United States.

Kenneth Brown's second child by his first marriage was Edith Cowan (nee Brown).


Cowan, Peter (1988). Maitland Brown: A View of Nineteenth Century Western Australia. Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN 0-949206-27-X.



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