On 21 January 1884, Francis Beech spent the day in Geelong, travelling by train, to attend the funeral of his friend George Hiscox who died on 19 January. He lived ¼ mile from the Pettavel Road station which had opened the previous year. He retired to bed with his wife Jane about 9:30pm. It sounds dramatic to be "murdered at midnight" but this wasn't the case. They were awakened around 1am when the dressing table fell to the floor. Mr Beech called out "Who's there?" Mrs Beech heard gunshots and her husband called out as if he was seriously hurt. She had a less serious bullet wound. Later she found it difficult to recall what happened next, but thought she woke the two servants, Amanda Clark and Frank Haworth who slept at the other end of the house about 40 feet away. Haworth rode to alert the neighbours and on returning and finding Mr Beech had died he rode to Mount Moriac to inform police, then to Geelong to get Dr Reid, then to inform Geelong police. It was then 5am.
Geelong police went to Pettavel after sending for detectives from Melbourne who arrived on the midday train. Two undersized black trackers arrived from Benalla at 7pm. They were of little use as there had been too much rain by the time they arrived. There seemed to be no motive for the murder and nothing was stolen.
The crime scene was contaminated by the delays. As news of the murder spread throughout the district, hundreds of people turned up from as far away as Winchelsea to see the body and the horrendous scene. The Geelong Advertiser described it as "the ghastly spectacle of the dead body, with rigidly set eyes and firmly-clenched hands".
The inquest was held at the deceased's house. The following jury was empannelled: Colonel Conran, Daniel Dean, William Ham, R L Fletcher, W Fletcher, W Irvine, F B White, Sproule Bryan, A Young, T Harding, G Rogers, A McIntyre and F Marendaz. The inquest was resumed the following week at the Pettavel Road State School. Mr Beech had sustained 5 gunshots each of which could have been fatal.
Suspicion fell on a stranger, who turned out to be an escaped lunatic from Yarra Bend Asylum, who was named William Bourke but who used the alias Captain Donovan. He was arrested on 24 March at Mortlake. At the trial the evidence was circumstantial and the prisoner maintained that he had stolen things in Melbourne which would prove he was there for the whole of January. The jury unanimously decided to discharge the prisoner. He was then sent back to the asylum from which he had escaped the previous July.
In 1885 Jane Beech and Frank Haworth were charged with the murder. The prosecution alleged that they had been romantically linked, despite their 23 year age difference.
John Ralph, a carpenter, stated that Mrs Beech had told hem a few weeks prior to the murder that "Mr Beech has made his will, and I have got everything." She was concerned a girl named Fanny Young, who had worked for them for two years and left six months prior “in consequence of the state of her health,” would return. She did not know what she would do if this happened.
Fanny, now Mrs Thomas told the court she had to leave the Beech's employment because of her pregnancy. Just before she left Mrs Beech had asked her who was the father of the child and she answered "time will tell." She told the court that Mr Beech was the father. The bench ruled this evidence could not be included as it had never been proved in Beech's lifetime. The prosecution case was now crumbling and the prisoners were discharged. Mrs Beech fell on her knees crying, "Jesus, Jesus, my precious Jesus, I am saved. My God, my God, I am innocent."
A murderer was never found.
Francis and Jane Beech are buried together in the Church of England section of the Geelong Eastern Cemetery. Jane died on 5 March 1926 aged 95 years.