Australian English Genealogy

Descendants of John James Yeomans

Notes (Page 5)

72. Napoleon Jean Lisson

[By Telegraph.]    (from Our Own Correspondent.)   Sydney, August 30.

A terrible tragedy was enacted this morning in a tobacconist's shop in George-street, near the Railway Station, when a tobacconist, Napoleon Jean Lisson, aged 32 years, practically run amuck, killing his sister-in-law and attempting to murder several others, including his wife and two children. Lisson owns a considerable amount of property in the city and ,the country, and also conducts a hairdressmg saloon and tobacconist's shop. To-day Henry Montague Mordant, a traveller employed by Lisson, went to the shop to make some business arrangements with Lisson. He went upstairs, passing through the hairdressing saloon, where three employee's were at work. After discussing the business, Mordant proceeded to write out an agreement, when suddenly he received a blow on the head which knocked him down. Looking up, he saw Lisson standing over him with a claw-hammer in his hand, with which he had struck the blow. There was a big knife in his other hand, and as he rushed at Mordant, Lisson said, ' We have got you now, you ? . I'll kill you.' Lisson appeared actuated . by demoniacal fury, and gripping Mordant fiercely attempted to cut his throat. The knife, however, was blunt, and the energy of despair came to Mordant, who fought for his life, Lisson frequently slashing at him with the knife. The point at last entered the lobe of his ear, and Mordant thoghtt his end had come. At that moment, however, Lisson slipped, and Mordant, half blinded with the blood flowing from his wounds, contrived to throw the would-be murderer off and dart downstairs. So far as can be gathered Lisson then dropped the knife and picked up a five chambered revolver, and attempted to follow his victim, when Mrs Lisson entered. Throwing herself before her husband she besought him to give up the weapon. He threatened to kill everybody if interfered with, and pointing the revolver at his wife fired, the bullet passing through part of her hand close to the wrist. Mrs Lisson with a scream fell to the floor. Her husband, apparently under the impression that she was dead, rushed from the apartment. {Seizing a double-barrelled shot-gun, he rushed down stairs, but three hair dressers, hearing the shot-', had fled into the street. Lisson then rushed into the room, where he met his sister-in-law, Miss Lily Garrick, aged 16. Seeing his hand covered with blood and mad ness in his eyes, she fled, but Lisson levelled the gun at al most point-blank range,, and fired, and the poor girl fell dead on the floor. Mrs Lisson in the meantime had recovered consciousness, and ran to an adjoining shop. There were still in the house two children — Victor Lisson, aged eight, and Rowley Lisson, aged seven. When the madman sought these they tried to get away, and their screams could be heard in the street, but no one dared to enter. The father caught the eldest boy, who screamed for mercy, and struck him furiously with a hammer. A number of fearful wounds were inflicted on the head, and the boy fell senseless to the floor. The other boy was then sought for, but though he fought furiously, he was quickly treated in a similar fashion to his brother, and left bleeding and unconscious. A police sergeant, who was made acquainted with the tragic work which was proceeding, at this stage entered the premises and seized the murderer. Lisson made no resistance and was quickly conveyed to the lock-up. He admitted his share in the bloody work and remarked, ' I am sorry I did not kill that damn Jew,' adding that he should have killed the whole lot. The boys, he said, fought like tigers and were too game to live. Lisson is described as a very shrewd man of business, but reticent, and of almost a morose disposition. The father said, ' I have come from New Caledonia, where I amassed considerable money.'  Mrs Lisson and the two boys were conveyed to the hospital. Victor Lisson recovered consciousness during the day and will probably recover, but the condition of his brother, Rowley, is much more serious. An inquest was opened this morning into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lily Garrick. When taken to view the body to-day and asked if it was that of the deceased girl, Lisson replied, 'I'm damned if I know.' Joseph Smyth, a hairdresser, who worked for Lisson, gave some evidence, and the inquest was adjourned.

Source: Kalgoorlie Miner 31 Aug 1898

At the Central Court on Tuesday, Napoleon Lisson was placed upon his trial on a charge of having murdered Edith Gorrick. The accused pleaded not guilty. He looked the really strong man he has been said to be, and sat through the day with the utmost composure. The evidence tended to show that accused was always regarded as eccentric in his manner. He had been troubled lest his wife should not be sufficiently provided for in case of his death, and he. insured his life for about £1000. He expressed peculiar ideas regarding sexes, and said he did not believe in a hereafter, but believed in the mortality of man. Just about the time of the tragedy accused negotiated a loan. Mrs. Lisson, wife of accused, said her husband was her cousin. After the second child was born accused said it would be better if it had not been born, because if he should die he would-like his wife and children to die with him. After he met with an accident on the day of his sister's marriage he remained in a dazed condition for 2-1 hours. Since that accident her husband had been very much depressed. Whilst they were living in Mount Vernon street she was awakened one night, and saw him climbing up on top of the verandah and take down a tomahawk. She, thinking he was asleep, spoke to him, whereupon he put the tomahawk back in its place, but offered no explanation of his conduct. On several occasions he walked in his sleep. Pascal Lisson, a brother of the accused, gave evidence of a number of eccentric acts' the accused had done during his life. The accused often spoke of death, and on one occasion he said to the witness, without any cause or explanation, "Pascal, either you or I must go." ' He also said that, should any- thing happen to his wife, to break the news gently to her father. . Witness said .that when at Rome accused had a liking for playing with snakes, and on one occasion had been bitten, but the bite proved harmless, ns the reptile was not a venomous one. Witness said that on other occasions his brother would indulge in dives into the Tiber, and once, after being cautioned against doing so, dived from a height of 40ft. Accused often spoke of his doubts about there being another world, and would say that "if there was a heaven, it would be better for the children to go there whilst they remained pure, rather than grow up and become contaminated.,
John Parkinson, a solicitor, stated that he had known the accused since 1883. From what witness saw in the accused, he was of opinion that his mental condition was such that he did not appreciate what he was doing. The accused's tastes were depraved.
D. Greenberg, tailor, said he had known the accused for about six years. He often come into the shop in an excited condition, and said that he had a craving for blood. - Witness asked him what made him talk like that, and he would reply : " If you were born as I was you would be the same." Witness saw accused about a fortnight before the tragedy, when ho began talking about murder, and said that he was longing for blood, but could not help it. On one occasion he said that he would not shed a tear if his wife and children were dead. 

SYDNEY, FRIDAY NIGHT.-The jury in the Lisson case, after being locked up all night, returned a verdict that accused killed Miss Gorrick, and knew what he was doing at the time. He knew he was doing wrong ; but the jury expressed the opinion 'that accused was labouring under temporary insanity. Mr. Kelynack, prisoner's counsel, said he claimed that as a verdict in Lisson's favour, as their defence was that he committed the crime while labouring under temporary insanity. Mr, Wade, Crown Prosecutor, contended that the verdict amounted to one of guilty.  In reply to Mr. Justice Owen, the jury intimated that they desired their rider to be taken as a recommendation for the con- sideration of the Executive. When asked whether he wished to say anything, prisoner replied in a careless and unconcerned manner that he objected to the recommendation of mercy, and denied having said his wife was cold-blooded, but just the reverse ; that she was loving, feeling and devoted. He had no feeling of vengeance against Mordaunt, who committed perjury, and did his best to hang him. In conclusion, he said all he wished was to be hanged as soon as possible. His Honor said he concurred with the verdict, and would transmit the jury's recommendation to the proper quarter. He then sentenced prisoner to death, during which he completely broke down. Just before leaving - the dock, Lisson remarked " Don't cry, old man, you did your best to hang me.

Source: Clarence and Richmond Examiner 8 Oct 1898

SYDNEY, Friday.
The inquest on the body of Miss Gorrick, who was killed by Lisson, who ran amuck last week, was resumed to-day. There was a great crowd in court. During the progress of the case Lisson continually interrupted and accused the witness Montague of perjury. Lisson finally exclaimed, " I am ready to laugh and will sing a song before I'm hung." Mrs. Lisson declined to give evidence. Lisson then went into the box himself, but declined to be sworn, and was ordered to stand down. All evidence having been taken Lisson said in a steady voice, " I premeditated the murder of Mordaunt. I also shot the girl, having had a row with her the night before. I shot her wilfully. I meant to shoot my wife. Now gentlemen, if that can help you, there you are. You can only I hang me once. I'll sing you a song before I'm hung.'' The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder.

Source: The Western Champion and General Advertiser for the Central-Western Districts 13 Sep 1898