Thomas John Ley (1880-1947), politician and murderer, was born on 28 October 1880 at Bath, Somerset, England. In 1886 his mother migrated to Sydney with her four children and her mother. From an early age Ley had ambitions for the law. He studiously learned shorthand and, at 14, secured appointment as a junior clerk-stenographer in a Pitt Street solicitor's office and was admitted as a solicitor on 13 March 1914.
After losing several elections for mayor, he turned his attention to State politics. An ardent conscriptionist, he was elected in March 1917 to the Legislative Assembly for Hurstville for the National Party after Labor split over conscription. Although detested by many in his own party, Ley was a 'fluent speaker, with a most unctuous manner', and deluded many with his community work and pious utterances. In 1922 Ley was returned as a Nationalist and was appointed minister of justice in Fuller's coalition ministry of 1922-25.
Ley's ministry was disastrous; virulently sectarian. There was a community outcry at his refusal to commute the death sentence on Edward Williams, an impoverished music teacher who had murdered his three daughters. Re-elected in 1925 but now in Opposition, Ley resigned in September, allegedly at the invitation of the Prime Minister to stand for the Federal seat of Barton. McDonald sought to have the election declared void in the Court of Disputed Returns but on 15 April 1926, on his way to meet the Premier, he mysteriously disappeared.
Ley had hoped for appointment to the Federal ministry but the prize eluded him. Instead, suspicion about him mounted. The critics had included his legal partner Harry Andrews and Hyman Goldstein, politician. On 3 September 1928 Goldstein was found dead at the foot of the cliffs at Coogee.
Ignominiously defeated in the 1928 Federal elections, Ley soon left for England where he continued his involvement in shady business ventures. In March 1947 Ley was convicted and sentenced to death for arranging the death of John McBain Mudie, a barman whom he deludedly believed to be his mistress's lover. Three days before the ex-minister of justice was to hang for the 'Chalkpit Murder', his sentence was commuted and he was committed to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Berkshire, where he died of meningeal hemorrhage on 24 July 1947.