Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Thomas John LEY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Australian politician - Jealousy
Number of victims: 1 +
Date of murder: November 28, 1946
Date of arrest: December 14, 1946
Date of birth: October 28, 1880
Victim profile: John McMain Mudie, 35
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Australia/United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to death on May 5, 1947. Declared insane and sent to Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Died on July 29, 1947

photo gallery


Thomas John Ley (28 October 1880 — 29 July 1947) was an Australian politician who was convicted of murder in England. It is highly likely that he was also involved in the deaths of a number of people in Australia.

Early life

Ley was born in Bath, England, but his father died in 1882 and his mother brought him and three siblings to Australia in 1886. He attended Crown Street Public School in Sydney until he was ten; then he worked as an assistant in his mother's grocery store. Having learnt shorthand, he became a junior clerk-stenographer in a solicitor's office at 14. He married Emily Louisa (known as "Lewie") Vernon in 1898, the year she came to Australia from England. Both husband and wife were active in politics, she in the international suffrage movement, and he as a state (New South Wales) and federal politician from 1917 to 1928.

State Politics

Ley served in the lower house of the New South Wales parliament (1917-25) as member for Hurstville from 1917 to 1920, representing the Nationalist Party of Australia, and St George from 1920 to 1925, representing the Progressive Party from 1920 to 1922. He was a prominent and vocal advocate of proportional representation, which the state adopted in 1919. Both his electorates were in Sydney's southern suburbs.

As a teetotaller, Ley acquired the nickname Lemonade Ley, but the Temperance Movement accused him of betrayal when he supported legislation which eased requirements for the sale of alcohol. It later became evident that he was being paid by the brewery lobby. Despite this, he was appointed New South Wales' Minister for Justice from 1922 to 1925 — in the cabinet of Premier Sir George Fuller — and gained a reputation for harsh decisions.

Shortly after he became Minister for Justice, Ley made an official visit to Western Australia and there was introduced to Evelyn (Maggie) Brook, a magistrate's wife. Shortly afterwards the magistrate died; Ley acted for her and her daughter in various financial and legal matters.

Federal Politician

In 1925, Ley was elected as the Nationalist Party of Australia member for Barton in the federal House of Representatives. Ley's fellow-conservatives began to have doubts about him after the election. Accordingly he was never appointed to a federal ministry, such as would normally have been expected with a man who had held, after all, a senior State Government portfolio.

During the 1925 federal campaign Ley had tried to bribe his ALP opponent, Frederick McDonald. McDonald revealed this in public, and also alleged that Ley had offered him a £2000 share in a property at Sydney's Kings Cross in return for withdrawing from the ballot. Ley won the election, and McDonald appealed to the Courts, but disappeared in mysterious circumstances; the case against Ley collapsed for lack of evidence when McDonald failed to show up.

McDonald's disappearance may have been a coincidence. But in 1927, Hyman Goldstein (himself member for Coogee in the New South Wales parliament's lower house, and another of Ley's public critics) was found dead after apparently falling from "Suicide Point" on the cliffs of Coogee. Then a group of businessmen concerned at Ley's reputation for dubious business dealings (SOS Prickly Pear Poisons Ltd being one of the more infamous) appointed Keith Greedor, an opponent of Ley but formerly an associate of his, to investigate. Travelling to Newcastle by boat, Greedor fell overboard and drowned.

Return to England

After his defeat in the 1928 election, Ley returned to England with Maggie Brook, his mistress of several years, leaving his wife in Australia.

Little is recorded of Ley's life during the 1930s. About all which can be said for certain is that he used his move to England to start afresh in dubious business ventures, and during World War II he was arrested and convicted for black marketeering.

The Chalk-pit Murder

In 1946 Maggie Brook was living in Wimbledon, and Ley had his house at 5 Beaufort Gardens, London, converted into flats. Ley imagined (wrongly) that Brook and a barman called John McMain Mudie were lovers. Ley persuaded two of his labourers that Mudie was a blackmailer, and together they tortured and killed him. The case became known as the "Chalk-pit Murder" because Mudie's body was dumped in a Surrey chalkpit.

With Lawrence John Smith, Ley was tried at the Old Bailey, and both were sentenced to death in March 1947. However, both Smith and Ley escaped the noose; Smith's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, while Ley was declared insane and sent to Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane. There he died soon after. He is said to have been the wealthiest person ever to be a Broadmoor prisoner.

Ley's wife had followed him to England in 1942. From Broadmoor, Ley wrote letters and poems and protested his innocence to his wife and children. After his death, Lewie Ley returned to Australia; she died at Bowral, New South Wales, in 1956.


Ley, Thomas John (1880 - 1947)

Australian Dictionary of Biography

LEY, THOMAS JOHN (1880-1947), politician and murderer, was born on 28 October 1880 at Bath, Somerset, England, son of Henry Ley, butler, and his wife Elizabeth, née Bryant. His father died in 1882 and in 1886 his mother migrated to Sydney with her four children and her mother. From an early age Ley had to earn money as a paper-boy and messenger. He attended Crown Street Public School but his formal education ended at 10 when his mother withdrew him to assist her in running a grocery store that she had bought. Later he worked on a dairy-farm near Windsor.

Ley, however, had ambitions for the law. While at Windsor he studiously learned shorthand and, at 14, secured appointment as a junior clerk-stenographer in a Pitt Street solicitor's office. In 1901 he transferred to Norton, Smith & Co., was articled to F. Osborne in 1906 and was admitted as a solicitor on 13 March 1914. On 16 June 1898 Ley had married Emily Lewise (Louisa) Stone Vernon, daughter of a well-off Somerset doctor. The Leys lived with the widowed Mrs Vernon at Glebe until 1906, during which time they had three sons.

In 1896 Ley had joined the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts where he began to develop his considerable debating skill. The inner city offered few opportunities for an aspiring young politician so in 1907 he moved to the developing suburb of Hurstville. Within five months he was elected to the local council. He served on council committees dealing with parks and gardens, rates and levies, building and health by-laws and street maintenance. He was involved in the local ratepayers' association and the Parents' and Citizens' executive and was active in Protestant organizations such as the Presbyterian Debating Society. Through his advocacy of prohibition and his involvement in the temperance movement, he acquired the nickname 'Lemonade Ley'.

After losing several elections for mayor, he decided not to seek re-election in 1911 and instead turned his attention to State politics. An ardent conscriptionist, he was elected in March 1917 to the Legislative Assembly for Hurstville for the National Party, led by W. A. Holman after Labor split over conscription. Ley, however, was no friend of Holman. Within the Nationalists he was the leading advocate of proportional representation which, despite Holman's opposition, the government enacted in 1919. Moreover, he was one of the first Nationalists to join the Progressive Party (later the Country Party) and in 1920 was returned as a Progressive for St George.

Although detested by many in his own party, Ley was a 'fluent speaker, with a most unctuous manner', and deluded many with his community work and pious utterances. He was minister of public instruction and of labour and industry in Sir George Fuller's 'seven-hour' ministry of December 1921. After this débâcle the urban Progressives were accepted back into the Nationalist fold. In 1922 Ley was returned as a Nationalist and was appointed minister of justice in Fuller's coalition ministry of 1922-25.

Ley's ministry was disastrous; virulently sectarian, he had already inflamed existing antagonisms by backing Sister Liguori and now exacerbated the situation by promoting the marriage amendment (ne temere) bill. His prevarication about a prohibition plebiscite and double-crossing of Rev. R. B. S. Hammond damaged his standing with the temperance lobby. There was a community outcry at his refusal to commute the death sentence on Edward Williams, an impoverished music teacher who had murdered his three daughters.

Re-elected in 1925 but now in Opposition, Ley resigned in September, allegedly at the invitation of Prime Minister S. M. (Viscount) Bruce, to stand for the Federal seat of Barton. The ensuing campaign and its aftermath irreparably damaged his reputation. His Labor opponent Frederick McDonald alleged that Ley had tried to bribe him to withdraw from the contest. Ley countered the accusation and won the seat. McDonald sought to have the election declared void in the Court of Disputed Returns but on 15 April 1926, on his way to meet Premier J. T. Lang, he mysteriously disappeared.

Ley had hoped for appointment to the Federal ministry but the prize eluded him. Instead, suspicion about him mounted. In late 1925 he had severed his connexion with Norton, Smith and established the legal firm of Ley, Andrews & Co. He engaged in business ventures such as S.O.S. Prickly Pear Poisons Ltd and Australasian Oil Fields Ltd, about which allegations of irregularity were rife by 1927. However, that year he visited Switzerland as delegate to the League of Nations General Assembly at Geneva. The critics had included his legal partner Harry Andrews and Hyman Goldstein, politician. On 3 September 1928 Goldstein was found dead at the foot of the cliffs at Coogee.

Ignominiously defeated in the 1928 Federal elections, Ley soon left for England. He was accompanied by his mistress, Maggie Brook, whose husband had also died in mysterious circumstances, with whom he had conducted a discreet alliance since 1922. In England Ley continued his involvement in shady business ventures: he promoted an unrealized £1 million sweepstake for the 1931 Derby, engaged in dubious real estate dealings, and was a wartime black marketeer.

In March 1947 Ley was convicted and sentenced to death for arranging the death of John McBain Mudie, a barman whom he deludedly believed to be Maggie Brook's lover. Three days before the ex-minister of justice was to hang for the 'Chalkpit Murder', his sentence was commuted and he was committed to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Berkshire, where he died of meningeal haemorrhage on 24 July 1947. He left his estate, valued for probate at £744 in New South Wales, to his wife and sons.

Select Bibliography

J. T. Lang, I Remember (Syd, 1956); C. Wilson and P. Pitman, Encyclopaedia of Murder (Lond, 1961); D. Aitkin, The Colonel (Canb, 1969); D. Morgan, The Minister for Murder (Melb, 1979); People (Sydney), 12 Mar 1952; Ley papers (National Library of Australia).

Author: Baiba Berzins

Print Publication Details: Baiba Berzins, 'Ley, Thomas John (1880 - 1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 97-98.



home last updates contact