Friday, 2 March 2007

Ryan hanging: Two groups of victims

Two men lost their lives as a direct result of an escape from Melbourne's Pentridge prison in December 1965.

Prison warder George Hodson was shot dead in the chaos after the alarm was raised, and Ronald Ryan was hanged over 13 months later for his alleged murder.

Their daughters gave rare interviews on the 40th anniversary of the execution, describing how they suffered - then and since - and the great deal they have in common.

Wendy Ryan told The Age newspaper of the silence in the family home leading up to 8 o'clock, the time her father was set to hang.

Her mother gathered Wendy, who was 13 at the time, and her two sisters in the lounge room of the family home.

"As soon as it struck 8 o'clock, that was it. It was like the world stopped," she said.

"Mum had everything dead quiet. She didn't want the radio, … the television, she just wanted us kids.

"Part of me just died. That was the worst day of my life and I hope I never have to go through that again. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

Two life sentences
Carole Hodson Price, whose father was killed in the escape, said both families still shared the trauma of the two deaths.

"Ryan is gone but his family and myself, we're the ones serving life sentences."

The Herald-Sun reported that "Mrs Price opposes the death penalty because it penalises families, giving the guilty no chance for lengthy remorse, punishment and rehabilitation".

Carole said she and Wendy, who first met last year, had a lot in common with each other.

"Wendy Ryan and I were 13 at the time," she said.

"She's had to live with what happened to her father, I've had to live with what happened to mine. We've a lot in common."

Continuing pain
Ryan's youngest daughter Pip Donovan described how the support among the sisters and their mother helped them endure the pain of the execution - and people's reactions to the their father.

"There was just so much bad feeling around at the time, we all learnt to lean on each other, and that's why we're so close," Ms Donovan told The Age.

She told The Herald-Sun that the anniversary was a reminder of the public hostility directed at her family.

"We function normally but this brings back the old feelings of ridicule.

"Some people were really nasty to us growing up. We knew when to hide or not go out, to protect each other as a family.

"We were very close, very loving," Ms Donovan said.

Related stories:
'Ryan was innocent': lawyer - 13 February, 2007
Ronald Ryan forty years on -- 05 February, 2007

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