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The Unwanted Wanted Man

Written by Annie O'Riley ( on March 16, 2012

Poor old William Thomas had a devil of a time staying in prison.  William Thomas (alias Roberts) was born in Victoria but moved to SA by the time he was 20.  He married a young lady by the name of Sophia and had a number of children by her. William had a wee little problem with alcohol and temper and light fingers and ultimately gaol.

In 1909 he was incarcerated in Adelaide and had only 9 days left to finish his sentence when he escaped and went to Western Australia. While in WA he broke into a house and stole £15 (about  $1800 today) and used the proceeds to return to Adelaide. He was arrested and made to serve his nine days plus an extra week.  Barely ten days later he broke out of prison and this time he made his way to Ballarat where he robbed a man of £15 and used the proceeds to go to Melbourne.

In Melbourne he contacted the Salvation Army headquarters and tried to give himself up.  He alerted them to the two charges, gaol breaking in SA and house breaking in WA. They contacted the local constabulary who checked into the matter and firmly told Thomas that he was not wanted by the police and was suffering from delusions. He was shipped off the the Salvation Army’s mens home in Pakenham where it took him another 3 days to convince the authorities of his guilt. His explanation of his escapes from prison:  true love; he wanted to see his wife.

Written by Annie O'Riley. Annie is the author of and has been researching local history for over 30 years. She is constantly finding new stories and characters to write about.

Relevant William Thomas Links