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Sent on to the grim secure hospital known as J-Ward, part of Melbourne’s Ararat Lunatic Asylum, he remained there until his death, aged 92, on 19 June 1974. So people still wearing their straightjackets would just dunk their heads into the bowls of food.” As for the crime that put him there: the “Skye Tragedy”, as contemporary Australian newspapers referred to the killing, was distressingly banal.

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He served 28 days in solitary confinement for that infraction, but had a clean record after moving to Menard, where he worked for 35 years in the prison bakery.

“I guess I’d have to be pretty careful if I got paroled,” the old lag concluded when interviewed by Poos.

Her mother had died a couple of years after Honeck went to jail, and her widowed father sent her to Hermann to live with her grandfather, Honeck’s father, and an aunt.

In six years in Missouri, Orth recalled, “Uncle Richard’s father and sister never once mentioned him.” Interviewed again at the time of Honeck’s death, Orth said that her uncle had slowly become senile and had to be placed in care. “He decided long ago that if he had to be in prison that he would make the best of it.

Since he got out he’s had a glorious time.” Richard Honeck was the first prisoner to attract widespread media attention simply because of the length of time he’d served.

He lived on for more than a decade after his release, dying at the age of 97 in an Oregon nursing home ( St Petersburg Times, 30 December 1976).

He was caught two weeks later, still wearing his victim’s old boots.

While youth and mental illness are a potent pairing, though, J-Ward records also contain a single example of a far rarer combination of circumstances: mental illness and extreme old age.

But while his record-breaking stretch probably was unique in its day, the 64 years plus change he served has since been exceeded at least eight other cases…

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