John Lynch, also known by his pseudonym, John Dunleavy, was one of several well-known Australian serial killers. He went down in history as the Berrima Axe Murderer, due his weapon of choice - a tomahawk. Few serial killers are axe murderers, as it requires that they get very close to the victim to deliver the final blow. However, Lynch had the habit of sneaking up on his targets from behind, giving them little chance to fight back.
Lynch was born in Ireland in 1813. In the early 1830s, he was found guilty of a crime and sent to Australia as punishment. At the time, Australia was like a penal colony where convicts were sent to do hard labor. There, Lynch eventually joined the ranks of Bushrangers, who were the criminals and murderers prowling around Australia's outback. He was found guilty of serial murder in 1841 and was hung on April 22, 1842.
After serving his seven-year sentence in Australia, the first thing that Lynch did was steal some cattle. He tried to sell them for quick money, but turned down what he felt wasn't a fair price. He decided to take the livestock to Sydney in hopes of securing a more favorable sale.
On the way there, he ran into a man named Edmund Ireland, who was traveling with a young Aboriginal boy. They had a wagonload of goods to sell and were also heading to Sydney. At one point during the journey, Lynch distracted them and killed the boy by smashing the back of his head in with a tomahawk. Later, Ireland shared a similar fate. Lynch hid both of their bodies in some brush and stole their wagon.
The Frazers, a father and son duo, were last seen alive was on August 14, 1841. They were traveling with Lynch when they contacted Samuel Bawtree, the man who had hired them to haul goods through the outback. Shortly afterward, they were never seen or heard from again.
Lynch had apparently lured the son into the woods and bashed his head in, then did the same to the father. He hid their bodies, as well as their cart, and took off with the cattle and goods the Frazers had been transporting.
The patriarch of the Mulligan family was a known fencer of stolen goods. Lynch tried to sell him cattle and other goods at certain points throughout his Australian crime spree, but the two had a falling out. Lynch believed that John Mulligan owed him money, so he went and confronted the man. When Mulligan refused to pay, Lynch killed him and his entire family - Mulligan's wife, Bridget, and their two children, John and Mary. Before Lynch killed Mary, he raped her. Then, he beat them all with his tomahawk before dragging their bodies into a pile and setting them on fire.
Afterwards, Lynch claimed the Mulligan ranch as his own property. He wrote to the debt holder, claiming that Mulligan sold it to him (presenting himself as John Dunleavy). He stated in a letter that he would be making payments on the property now. This ruse worked for about six months until people grew suspicious of Lynch.
Lynch was charged with the deaths of nine people. He had killed Edmund Ireland, Ireland's traveling companion (the unnamed Aboriginal boy), both of the Frazers, and the Mulligan family. His last victim, Kearns Landregan, was his undoing, as Lynch uncharacteristically left clues in his wake.
However, when Lynch gave his confession right before his execution by hanging, he stated that he killed ten people.