Constable Frederick William WOLGAST
21 January, 1921
On the night of his death Constable Wolgast was patrolling Centennial Park, Sydney. Hearing a cry of “Stop that man, he pinched that bag!” the constable joined other passersby in a foot pursuit of a suspected bag-snatcher. Seeing the offender drop the bag, Constable Wolgast picked it up and continued to run after him. When the constable had closed the distance between himself and the offender to about six metres, the offender suddenly produced a revolver and fired at Constable Wolgast, hitting him in the chest. Though the offender escaped, he was later arrested and sentenced to death (commuted to life). Unfortunately Constable Wolgast’s wound proved to be fatal and he passed away at St Vincent’s Hospital two days later.
The West Australian dated 13 April, 1921 reported that the trial of the 31 year-old offender, Charles Speechley, â€œcharged with the murder of Constable Frederick William Wolgast in Centennial Park on the night of January 19 was concluded today at the Central Criminal Court before the Chief Justice Sir William Cullen. The jury visited the scene of the tragedy this morning before the Court proceedings commenced. At the close of the Crown case Speechley addressed the Court from the dock. With regard to his movements on the night of the tragedy, he said that he left his home in company with his wife between 4 pm and 5 pm and went to a picture show in the city. They stopped there until 8 o’clock and then started for home. He had supper with his wife and retired for the night. He had not shot any policeman and did not carry firearms. Mrs Speechley, wife of accused, supported her husband’s statement as to his movements on the night of the tragedy. The counsel for the defence in his address to the jury said he was handicapped by public sentiment. The public, without knowing the details of the case, had condemned his client. After a ten minute retirement, the jury gave a verdict of guilty and sentence of death was passed.â€
The constable was born in 1891 and joined the New South Wales Police Force on 16 April, 1913. At the time of his death he was stationed at Paddington.