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Leonard Keith LAWSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Convicted rapist - Siege at a private girls’ school
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: November 7-8, 1961
Date of arrest: November 8, 1961
Date of birth: August 16, 1927
Victims profile: Jane Bower, 16 / Wendy Sue Luscombe, 15
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Shooting
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Status: Sentenced to death on 25 June 1954. Commuted to 14 years imprisonment. Paroled in May 1961. Sentenced to life in prison, 1962. Died in prison on November 29, 2003

An artist, Lawson was convicted of the rape of two teenage girls in 1952. Originally sentenced to death it was later commuted to life imprisonment.

He was released on parole in 1961, whereupon he stabbed a 16 year-old girl and the next day strangled a 15 year-old girl in Sydney.

Again sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, he is now eligible to apply to the Supreme Court for a fixed sentence. While in prison he tried to kill another female in 1972.


Leonard Keith Lawson

Leonard Keith Lawson, a convicted rapist and murderer, died on Nov. 29, 2003, in his cell at the Grafton Correctional Centre in New South Wales. Authorities say he probably suffered a heart attack. He was 76.

Lawson worked as a successful commercial artist and photographer before he became a violent criminal. In 1954, he kidnapped five models, took them into the Terrey Hills bush in north Sydney and raped two of them at gunpoint; he also sexually assaulted the others. Originally sentenced to be executed, Lawson received a 14-year prison sentence after the death penalty was commuted. When he was released, Lawson used his artistic background to lure new victims.

On Nov. 7, 1961, while painting a portrait of 16-year-old Jane Bower, Lawson tied her up, sexually assaulted her then stabbed her to death. The next day, he carried a gun into the Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School and took several students hostage. Fifteen-year-old Wendy Sue Luscombe, who was sitting in the chapel pews, was shot and killed during the siege. This time, Lawson received a life sentence.

Imprisonment didn't curb Lawson's violent tendencies. Ten years into his second incarceration, a group of dancers gave a concert for the inmates at his prison. At the end of the performance, Lawson jumped on stage and threatened to kill one of the dancers, Sharon Hamilton, with a knife. Although Hamilton was released unharmed, she committed suicide six years after the attack.

One of the oldest prisoners in Australia, Lawson spent 48 years in prison, and has been behind bars continuously since 1962. Several of his paintings currently hang at the prison where he died.



Leonard Keith Lawson (b. 16 August 1927), creator of The Lone Avenger and The Hooded Rider comic books, drove five female models on a photo shoot to bushland in the Terrey Hills area on 7 May 1954. After binding and gagging them at gunpoint, he raped three of them, and indecently assaulted the other two women.

He was apprehended by police and was initially sentenced to death on 25 June 1954, but this was later commuted to 14 years imprisonment. A model prisoner, Lawson was paroled in May 1961 after just serving seven years.

On 6 November 1961, he raped and murdered a teenage girl, Jane Bower, and was apprehended by police the following day during a siege at a private girls’ school where, while struggling with a teacher, Lawson’s gun went off, killing a student, Wendy Luscombe. Lawson was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and died at the Grafton Correctional Centre on 29 November 2003.



Killer Lawson dies after 50 years in jail

By Candace Sutton - The Sun-Herald

November 30, 2003

One of NSW's most notorious criminals, Leonard Keith Lawson, 76, died in Grafton jail yesterday after being imprisoned for the better part of 50 years.

Lennie Lawson, as he was known, became a successful commercial artist and photographer before committing multiple rape and murder.

In his teens, he created a highly popular comic book character, The Lone Avenger, a masked lawman who saved women from kidnappers and brought murderers to task.

In 1954, at the age of 26, he took five June Dally-Watkins photographic models into the Terrey Hills bush in north Sydney and, at gunpoint, raped two and sexually assaulted the others.

He was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to 14 years' jail and he was released after serving only half the term.

On November 7, 1962, while painting a portrait of 16-year-old Manly girl, Jane Bower, in his flat at Collaroy, Lawson bound her arms, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her to death. The next day, he burst into the chapel of the Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School at Moss Vale, taking schoolgirls hostage.

(A few weeks earlier he had dined with the SCEGGS pupils and staff as an honoured "author", after convincing the headmistress he was researching a novel set in a girls' school.)

In the siege, a struggle ensued and his gun discharged, killing 15-year-old Wendy Sue Luscombe, who was sitting in the pews.

Lawson was sentenced to life imprisonment.

On December 15, 1972, a group of dancers arrived at Parramatta jail to give a concert for the inmates.

Lawson, on privileges, was in the audience. At the end of the performance, he whipped out a knife and jumped to the stage, holding the blade to the throat of dancer Sharon Hamilton in what prison warders believe was an escape attempt.

Hamilton later sought extensive psychiatric treatment and became a patient at the now notorious Chelmsford Hospital. Six years after the attack, Hamilton committed suicide.

Residing in Grafton jail, Lawson applied for day leave and, in 1994, for a determinant sentence.

He told a reporter that he believed he deserved some freedom and he wasn't a threat, although "the rhythms of the city and its women" got to him.

His application was rejected.

Lawson continued his painting throughout his life in jail, producing many canvases which hang in Grafton.


Killer art -- Tweed woman selling murderer's work for $35,000

Tweed Daily News

3rd July 2008

A TWEED Heads woman is selling a childhood portrait of herself, painted by convicted murderer and rapist Leonard Lawson in his Grafton jail cell in 1984.

The original oil painting on Masonite of Corinne Mair, aged 18 months, was put up for auction on eBay this week through Coolangatta store Ezebay at a starting price of $35,000.

Leonard Lawson died in 2003 aged 76 after spending 48 years in prison, convicted of multiple rape and murder. He was a renowned Sydney-based artist and creator of comic book series The Lone Avenger, ironically portraying a hero who took on criminals and saved women, before he raped and assaulted a group of models at gunpoint in 1954.

Released after spending time in jail, Lawson went on to tie up a 16-year-old girl he was painting a portrait of at his home, raped her and stabbed her to death.

The following day he entered a school chapel with a gun and took hostages before shooting a 15-year-old girl dead. Ms Mair said she was horrified to learn of the story behind the artist who painted her portrait, a painting that for most of her life had been hanging on the wall of the family home. It was one of the items she collected from the house as a keepsake when her mother passed away in 2000.

"I was studying psychology at uni and was reading a criminology book when I recognised his name," Ms Mair said.

"I was just concerned that he wasn't a family member, that he wasn't related to us in any way."

Ms Mair said the details surrounding the origin of the portrait still remain unclear to her. All she knows is that her now-deceased uncle worked as a prison guard in Grafton.

"I think it was done as a gift," she said. "Whether my uncle paid him for it or whether it was done as a favour, I don't know.

"None of our family are criminals or anything like that, I just want to get that straight.

"When I look at it now all I think about is those poor girls (his victims)... and it is such a lovely and beautiful and innocent picture."

Ezebay owner Corey Johnson spent four days researching Lawson's life before putting the painting on eBay. He says while he has sold many interesting items from his store, the portrait is "the creepiest thing he has ever seen".

"If it was me I wouldn't have it hanging on the wall, but I'm sure someone who is into Australian history will find it interesting." Ms Mair said her parents never discussed the origin of the painting when she was growing up, only telling her the artist was "not a nice person".

"My parents didn't elaborate on it at all," she said. "I have children and I don't want them growing up to ask me about it either, so it's better off with someone else. Someone who collects art would appreciate it more than I do."

Ms Mair said she mentioned the painting to Mark "Chopper" Read at an art show a few years back, who became very interested in the piece.

"Sometimes I wonder what my uncle was thinking taking a photo of a child into a prison. I don't really tell many people about it -- they'd be horrified. But it is a really interesting story," she said.

The piece will be on eBay until Saturday and, at the time of printing, no bids had been received.


Convicted murderer Leonard Lawson arrested and arraigned,
Central Police Court, Sydney (Photo by Jack Mulligan)



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