Was John Balaban our first Serial Killer?
On this day – 26th August 1953, John Balaban had the dubious honour of being the first person to be hanged in the newly converted Hanging Tower at the Adelaide Gaol.
John Balaban was a 29 year old Rumanian, who was definitely not a stupid man. In fact he had obtained a degree as assistant engineer in physics and metallurgy when he was only 19 years old. He joined the army in 1947 before escaping to France in 1948, where later he admitted to making his first kill - a woman he had strangled to death after “making love to her”. Her murder remained unsolved until John Balaban made his confession five years later.
In 1952 he met and married Thelma Cadd, and lived with her, her mother and Thelma’s 6 year old stepson Phillip
Balaban was arrested and in January 1953, was sent to trial which only lasted 5 days, before he was released due to there not being enough evidence. This fatal mistake cost the lives of three more innocent people.
Returning to his family in February, conditions did not improve and he became more and more unhappy until on the 11th April 1953, Balaban decided to go out for a drink and ended up attacking a young lady in a women's toilet block, taking an iron bar and assaulting others, even putting one in hospital with head injuries. On returning back to the Café that night, briefly he wondered what his wife would say to him being dirty and covered in blood. It was at that moment he decided to cure his unhappiness once and for all, took a claw hammer and beat his wife to death. He didn’t stop with his wife, he continued his violent spree by taking the hammer to his mother-in-law and also to poor little phillip, both who survived their ordeal for a few days before finally succumbing to their injuries. It was while attacking the girl who worked there, that she managed to escape by jumping out of a window and raised the alarm. Balaban was arrested and taken to the Adelaide Gaol, tried and found guilty of the murder of Zora Kusic. He was sentenced to hang by the neck until dead.
On the morning of the execution the police closed off Gaol Road, but they needn’t have worried, as the execution of John Balaban failed to incite even one member of the public to demonstrate against it. It wasn’t just the public that had little sympathy for him, but he was unpopular with the guards too, especially as he had savagely attacked a prison warder, whom he tried to throttle before being overpowered.
John Balaban showed no remorse for what he had done, and stated that they deserved to die. He even claimed that Philip was a mercy killing as he would otherwise have lived his life under a dark cloud.
At 8 a.m. on 26th August 1953, John Balaban became the 42nd person to be hanged in the Adelaide Gaol.