She dropped a headless torso into the Yarra River and shot her ex-husband full of holes — and these were just two of the horrific crimes alleged against Nurse Hannah Mitchell in the 1920s. The full story of “Melbourne’s Most Notorious Woman” is told for the first time in a special three-part episode.

Bertha Coughlan went missing in November 1922. She was found three months later, having been dumped in the Yarra River.

Nurse Hannah Mitchell, tried in 1923 for the
murder of Bertha Coughlan.
Mugshot of Hanna Mitchell’s husband when he was arrested for running an illegal casino.
Senior Detective Frederick Piggott, known as “Melbourne’s Sherlock Holmes”, led the investigation into the murder of Bertha Coughlan.
From left to right: Frank Bonfiglio, star witness for the prosecution; Margaret Milward, Mitchell’s sister, who testified against her; and Thomas Cook, Bertha’s “friend”.

Mitchell and her daughter “Queenie”, who was charged with being an accessory after the fact, leave the City Coroner’s Court in 1923.

Mitchell was represented by Percy Ridgeway, who was rumoured to be her lover and who defended numerous Melbourne underworld figures in the 1920s.
The case was reported all over Australia.

Elected to state and federal parliament, Thomas Ley’s career in 1920s politics was marked by hypocrisy, corruption, ruthless manipulation and the lingering suspicion that he may have killed his rivals. The worst fears of his critics were confirmed in 1947, when Ley was convicted of cold-blooded murder in one of England’s most sensational court trials.

Thomas Ley was dubbed “The Minister For Murder”.
Former federal MP Frederick McDonald went missing in 1926 after a public falling out with Ley over bribery allegations.

NSW state politician Hyman Goldstein died in mysterious circumstances in 1928 after pursuing Ley for fraudulent business practices.

In 1947, in England, the law finally caught up with Ley when he was tried for the sensational “Chalk Pit Murder”.
The 1947 murder case led to renewed interest in whether Ley had been involved in Frederick McDonald’s disappearance.