Maitland Gaol is a former Australian prison located in East Maitland, New South Wales. Its construction was started in 1844 and prisoners first entered the gaol in 1848. By the time of its closure, on 31 January 1998, it had become the longest continually run gaol in Australia.
It has since been turned into a museum and is a popular tourist attraction.
The gaol is in East Maitland, and this location was first used as a gaol in 1843; in the same year two prisoners were hanged there for the murder of a child. Permanent buildings were not begun until 1846 (though a foundation stone was laid in 1844), and the official opening was in December 1848.
Flogging was in place whilst the gaol was being built. Executions were open to the public until 1861, and crowds were common. Hangings took place at the main gates and the back corner of the gaol. Sixteen men were executed at Maitland Gaol between 1849 and 1897 – all for rape or murder. There is still debate as to where some of these executions took place throughout the gaol. The last man executed at Maitland was Charles Hines in May 1897 for raping his stepdaughter; however, he claimed he was innocent until he took his last breath. In New South Wales, the last corporal punishment occurred at the Maitland Gaol – a whipping, in 1905.
In 1975 inmates rioted, setting fire to the maintenance block. They used a swag of homemade weapons to attack the prison wardens, protesting about the prison system and the gaol’s conditions. The infamous Darcy Dugan was blamed for inciting the riot, while 78 of the rioting inmates were transferred to other prisons. Damage resulting from the riot was estimated at A$100,000.
In 1977, Raymond Denning and 6 others escaped through an exhaust vent in the shower block. They were all back inside in 2 hours after a massive police sweep on the area.
A 5.5-metre (18 ft) long tunnel was discovered in Cell 7 in C Wing in 1980. The man who informed the warden of the tunnel had his throat cut so viciously his head swung back on his shoulders. His body was hidden with a sheet of plastic painted the same colour as the floor. The tunnel was filled in with two truckloads of concrete. There were many other escape attempts but most failed; of 32 attempted escapees, 31 were recaptured.
In 1978, a 23-year-old inmate protested for 16 hours by sitting on top of the gaol’s administration building. At one stage he disappeared over the roof returning with food. Armed with a softwood stake, he waved to television and Maitland Mercury newspaper journalists.
In 1993, a block of modern prison cells were built above the kitchens designed to house only the prisoners who worked in the kitchens. These cells were designed to house, usually, only one inmate at a time. Only trusted inmates that showed good behaviour and had cooking skills worked in the kitchens.
Also built in 1993, 5-wing was a high-security cell block designed to house inmates who had committed heinous crimes or crimes against other inmates. 5-wing inmates had no contact with anyone at all. These inmates had their own exercise yards, which contained a shower. They were allowed in there for only an hour per day. This was the last cell block to be built before the gaol’s closure in 1998. In this cell block was also a clinic designed to treat inmates who had swallowed razor blades or drugs.
In 1997, George Savvas and Ivan Milat had planned an escape from the gaol but were stopped by correctional officers. The day after the escape was planned for, Savvas was found dead in his cell after hanging himself. He and Milat were housed in the five-wing cell block.
Maitland Gaol is recorded as a Heritage listed site of NSW State significance.
Haunted Auckland gained access to the gaol in May, 2014, as part of a public investigation held during Australia’s annual Paranormal weekend long event, Paracon 2014. Numerous people, including a few Australian investigation teams joined together to check out this immense location.
- Darcy Dugan – bank robber.
- David Eastman – convicted of the assassination of AFP Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester.
- Andrew Garforth – convicted of the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of nine year old schoolgirl Ebony Simpson.
- Harry Hooton – unarmed robbery.
- Stephen ‘Shorty’ Jamieson, Matthew Elliott, and Bronson Blessington – convicted of the murder of Janine Balding.
- Ivan Milat – serial killer convicted of the Backpacker Murders.
- Neddy Smith – Sydney underworld figure and murderer.
- John Travers, Michael Murdoch, and Michael, Leslie and Gary Murphy – convicted of the murder of Anita Cobby.