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Edward Arthur Anthony RAWLINS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The attack was sexually motivated
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 28, 1955
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1927
Victim profile: Urica Fiona Denise Verdova, usually known as Fiona Pronger, 12
Method of murder: Strangulation with a belt
Location: Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on February 15, 1956. Died in prison on April 17, 2010

Queensland Courts
Office of the State Coroner

Inquest into the death of Edward Arthur Anthony Rawlins

A life behind bars: Australia's longest-serving prisoner dies in Qld

By Ellen Lutton -

April 18, 2010

WHEN Tony Rawlins was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of a 12-year-old Townsville girl, Australia had a population of nine million, Brisbane had trams and Bill Haley and the Comets were top of the pop charts.

But Australia's longest serving prisoner was never to know the world as it is today; after 54 years of incarceration, he died yesterday at Wolston Correctional Centre, in Brisbane's south, aged 82.

Rawlins was 28 years old when he was sentenced to life in 1956 for the "Kissing Point" mutilation murder of 12-year-old Townsville girl Fiona Pronger.

Rawlins, a former stockman, met the girl on the beach of the Kissing Point Military Reserve in December 1955.

He bought her lunch then strangled her with a belt after she rejected a sexual advance. A medical expert said at the time Rawlins was "unconcerned with his deeds".

The crime sent shockwaves through the Townsville community and hundreds of locals turned out to spit abuse at him on the day of his first court appearance.

Archives from the Sydney Morning Herald reported that two hundred people booed and jeered Rawlins, calling out, "you ought to burn, you dirty animal".

The crowd was the biggest in Townsville court history.

Rawlins told a justice campaign group in 1993 that he never stopped thinking about what he had done and that he dreamed of the day he would be free.

A self-confessed alcoholic, Rawlins never missed an AA meeting during all his time in prison, saying he believed "one drink would be fatal".

Although he was released on leaves of absence a number of times for events such as Anzac Day marches, his numerous applications for parole over the years were always rejected.

Rawlins' niece and sister both lobbied the Queensland Government at different times, pleading for his release.

At home in Valla Beach near Coffs Harbour yesterday, Rawlins' 74-year-old sister Caterina Niezgoda said she was saddened by the "waste".

"It was a waste of a life. He went in a young man and never returned to the world," she said.

"He used to talk about what he would do when he got out, how he would buy a garage and live there and paint - he was a wonderful artist - but he had absolutely no idea about the cost of things.

"He was frozen in time. I had a one-month-old daughter when he went to jail - she's now a grandmother herself and never knew him outside of prison."

Rawlins was married with a small son at the time of the murder but his wife packed up and left after he was arrested and never made contact again.

Despite his sister's loyalty, most of Rawlins' family cut him off when they found out what he had done.

His nephew Jan Niezgoda, of Terrigal on the NSW central coast, told the Sun-Herald that he refused contact with his uncle after discovering he had murdered a child.

"I used to visit him as a kid until I found out what he'd done. Would you keep in contact with someone like that?"

Rawlins was pronounced dead yesterday morning at about 7.10am after he was found unconscious in his cell. A Queensland Corrective spokesman said the death had been referred to the coroner as a matter of course.


Detective tells of alleged confession

Townsville Murder Charge

The Central Queensland Herald

January 19, 1956

TOWNSVILLE, January 16.- "I might as well tell you now that I killed her," Edward Arthur Anthony Rawlins, 27, allegedly told a detective 24 hours after the body of a 12- year-old schoolgirl was found in an underground vault at Kissing Point.

The detective, Ernest James Devries, was one of eight wit- nesses who testified at the hearing of evidence on a murder charge in the Court of Petty Sessions today. Sub- Inspector N. W. Bauer prosecuted, Rawlins being undefended.

Rawlins was charged with having unlawfully murdered Urica Fiona Denise Verdova, usually known as Fiona Pronger, on December 28.

Rawlins covered his face with one hand when escorted from the watchhouse to the dock.

Bauer asked leave to amend the girl's name to Urica Fiona Denise Verdova.

Hands tied

Detective Devries said that on December 29 be went to an underground magazine attached to a gun emplacement at Kissing Point. He saw the girl's body in a vault, lying face downwards. The body was partially disrobed. The girl's hands were tied with a length of twine. A belt was pulled tightly around the neck and tied in a bow at the back of the head. He saw a small punctured wound on the upper part of the right leg.

Devries said that later he saw Rawlins with Sub-Inspector N. Bauer at the C.I.B. rooms. Bauer had said that Rawlins admitted being on Kissing Point Hill with Fiona Pronger on the Wednesday afternoon.

Devries said that Bauer left the room and Rawlins said:

"They have gone to get a priest for me, but I might as well tell you now that I killed her."

Had lunch together

Devries said that Rawlins stated that he met the girl at the Tobruk Baths on the Wednesday morning. They had lunch and she suggested that they explore the caves at Kissing Point. At the gun emplacements, Rawlins had begun to molest the girl.

Devries alleged that Rawlins had told him that the girl asked him for money and he had refused. The girl then said she would tell her parents and scream.

Devries went on that Rawlins had told him he had taken the belt from the girl's dress and put it around her neck and she became unconscious.

Rawlins, according to Devries said he did not remember tying the girl's hands behind her back. Rawlins also said he had a blackout.

Devries testified that Rawlins admitted making a confession to Bauer. Rawlins had also told Bauer that he met the girl when diving for stones.

Devries continued that at the morgue Rawlins identified the girl's body, stating, "Yes, that's the girl I strangled in the underground magazine at Kissing Point."

"That's right"

Devries added that on December 30 he charged Rawlins, who replied: "Yes. That's right."

Sub-Inspector Norman William Bauer said that, on the morning after the girl's body was found, he saw Rawlins at the Flinders street bus stop. At the police station Rawlins said his name was Ivan Bradfield. He admitted having been at the gun emplacement.

Later, said Bauer, Rawlins said he had lunch with the girl and had left her on the beach. When Rawlins was told that a witness had seen a man and a girl climb the hill at Kissing Point, Rawlins answered that he had gone as far as Kissing Point and left her.

Bauer said that later he asked Rawlins his correct name and Rawlins answered: "Edward Anthony Rawlins. I only gave you that bodgie name because there is a maintenance order out against me in Sydney."


A life behind bars ... Tony Rawlins, top left, in jail as an elderly man; top right, as a young boy, in 1933, and bottom, with his wife Melva and their newborn son in 1954, the year
before he brutally murdered 12-year-old Townsville girl Fiona Pronger.
(Photo: Courtesy of Frank Redward)



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