To the very last minute of his life Australian John Balaban, 29, couldn’t get on with people. Even as he was being led to the execution chamber in Adelaide Prison on Wednesday, August 26th, 1953, he snarled at the chaplain, who was trying to give him last-minute comfort, “Why don’t you shut up?”

Balaban was a loner who gave way to violent rages whenever he felt rejected. He arrived in Australia from Romania in 1951 and two years later he was convicted of the murder of his wife, who he had married in 1952.

When he was arrested he made a statement admitting other killings. In 1947, he said, he strangled a Hungarian, Reva Kwas, in Paris. In 1952 he strangled prostitute Zora Dusic, then frenziedly slashed her corpse, in Adelaide. In April 1953 he battered to death his wife Thelma, his mother-in-law and his six-year-old stepson while they slept.