Coburg College as it was better known, was home to Australia’s best and brightest criminals from 1851 up until 1997. Pentridge played home to all of Victoria’s executions from 1926 until the last execution was conducted by hanging in 1967.
Over the course of a few weekends in 2012, we camped inside the razor wire topped walls of Melbourne’s abandoned Pentridge Prison. We explored every inch of what was once one of Australia’s highest security jails. The prison contained the majority of Australia’s high security inmates from Ned Kelly to Chopper Read.
There are stories galore of what’s gone on inside Pentridge. After the Hoddle Street Massacre in 1987, Pentridge was home to Paul Steven Haigh, an inmate with the unenviable title of “Victoria’s most Prolific Killer”. However after the Hoddle St Massacre, he lost this title. It wasn’t long before Haigh killed another inmate to even the score.
There we numerous Pentridge Prison escapees, most notably Ronald Joseph Ryan. Ryan was the last man Hanged in Australia, hanged in the very prison he’d previously escaped from. In 1987 Dennis Mark Quinn was the last person to escape from Pentridge. Having sawn through the bars and using some rope to scale down the walls, the 27 year old got on a ship to New Zealand. But not before painting a Shawhank-esque message on the walls of his cell. Addressed to one of the wardens it read “Merry Christmas, Mr Williams“.
However a large number of successful Pentridge Prison escapees have never been seen or head from again, which suggests many are still out there somewhere and living below the radar.
The blue-stone walls made for surprisingly good climbing, and without the search lights, dogs and armed guards, the place was ours.