The first prisoners entered Maitland Gaol in 1848, four years after the foundation stone was laid on the East Maitland premises. Their crimes ranged from larceny to murder, with executions taking place on site for the latter up until 1897.
Maitland Gaol was home to some of the country’s most notorious criminals before it ceased operating as a prison in 1998. Those criminals included infamous escape artist, Darcy Dugan, the Anita Cobby killers and serial backpacker murderer, Ivan Milat.
Walking into the Gaol, sandstone towers surround you, while the razor wire snakes its way around the perimeter. Inside the cell blocks the atmosphere is no less imposing. Heavy door, after heavy door, cell after cell. Each scrawl of graffiti, dent in the door and bullet hole in the wall has its own story to tell.
Someone who has plenty of stories to tell is tour guide and ex-warder Keith Bush. Keith was a warder at the prison for around 25 years and experienced a lot during his time.
‘The first thing people ask me when they walk in into the Gaol is to see Ivan Milat’s cell’, Keith laughed. ‘They all want to go in there and then they take pictures sitting on his toilet’.
Most people will have a standard list of concerns as they head off to work each day, do I have my lunch? Is there enough fuel in the car? Have I turned the iron off? But as a warder at Maitland Gaol, Keith’s concerns were a little different.
‘It was in the back of your mind the whole time. This could be my last day of work’, he said.
Although he can laugh about aspects of it now, he said the place was far from roses.
‘Sometimes you had eight men in these two person cells, by their own choice. Now imagine that you’ve had a 40 plus degree day with all these men in this tiny cell together. You’d go and open it up in the morning and the smell would almost knock you off your feet’.
Today the Gaol is a much happier place. The gates have been unlocked for you to discover the history and stories as part of a guided or self guided tour of the site.
For more information visit maitlandgaol.com.au