Death can sometimes have a lasting impact on society and we’re building a definitive list that chronicles the famous departures over the centuries.

She’s looking at doing something on the Italian anti-globalisation protestor who died at Genoa so I said we’d work up a Crikey list which would give her something to go with.

After some excellent contribution from subscribers and readers this is now a pretty comprehensive list for Patricia to work with but we’d love some more contributions from you back to [email protected] Also, let us know if some of these people should be pulled off the list.


Joan of Arc: died 1431. To say that the Middle Ages was a masculine world is like saying St Kilda could do better. Coming from a family of yokels, she became leader of the French. Joan was probably schizophrenic, with a fixation on preventing France being dominated by the English. She succeeded and of course was killed by her own supporters (cf. Gandhi, and a few others). And she did all this without a scriptwriter, press agent, or spin-doctor.

Doug Anthony’s dad died in a plane crash in the early days of WWII along with a couple of other pollies. After that restrictions were placed on the number of ministers allowed to travel together.

Salvador Allende: Was socialist president of Chile from 1970-1973, when he was deposed by the US-backed General Augusto Pinochet who ruled through repression and fear for most of the next two decades. Allende was democratically elected and died when the army demanded Allende and his cabinet surrender, holed up as they were in the presidential palace. Although cabinet members fled, Allende refused and myth has him defending himself against the army with a rifle as they proceeded to pummel the palace with mortar fire.

Steve Biko: The South African Black Consciousness leader died whilst under police interrogation in September 1977, further discrediting Apartheid. Story the subject of Richard Attenborough’s “Cry Freedom”. Five police officers were later refused amnesty for killing Biko when SA’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission found they did not testify truthfully.

John Birch: American Baptist minister killed by Chinese Communists.His name was adopted by the ultraconservative John Birch Society which influenced US foreign and domestic policy in the ’50s.

David Brett: Tattooed English tourist who fell to his death from Ayers Rock. Investigating coppers found a jump suit close to Brett’s corpse, which proved to belong to Azaria Chamberlain. On the strength of this evidence, Lindy Chamberlain was freed from prison.

John Brown: Militant abolitionist killed in his raid on the Harpers Ferry, Virginia, arsenal, and whose death inspired others in the fight against Slavery.

Martin Bryant’s 35 victims lead to Australia introducing some of the best and toughest gun laws in the world.

Buddha: profound for millions of reasons.

Azaria Chamberlain: Gripped a nation for a decade and 20 years even generated a cheque book journalism sin from Fairfax’s Sun Herald.

Charles of England: when he was beheaded, it showed the whole of Europe that killing monarchs was an option and was a principle catalyst for the foundations of the modern world with the likes of the French and American revolutions; the unification of Italy and Germany and the like.

Jesus Christ: pretty obvious why.

Emma Christofferson: Emma died due to deep vein thrombosis in October 2000 after flying home to London after the Sydney Olympics. She’s the reason we now have to endure, even on the shortest domestic flights, annoying videos urging you to exercise.

Madame Curie: who died of radiation exposure because of her incredible work on the properties of radium. Her death showed that it had a delicious ability to kill and the rest, as they say, is history.

James Dean: The movies weren’t that great but his early death certainly immortalised the man.

Bob Dent: first person to die in the world’s first legal assisted suicide under Northern Territory Euthanasia Laws in 1996. Brought euthanasia debate to world wide attention.

Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen of India died recently but rose to prominence after she took revenge on those who raped her, and killed them. She went to jail in 1983 for her crimes, and then became a loved politician in 1996.

Princess Di. Did this cause the papparazzi to have a good look at themselves? We all remember where we were and no single death in Crikey’s life time has caused such a huge reaction.

Penny Easton: If that petition had not been produced would Carmen Lawrence now be leading the federal Labor Party rather than Kim Beazley.

Guy Fawkes: an early critic of the Parliamentary system, whose death is still commemorated in bizarre fashion, some 400 years after he was executed.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand: his assassination in Sarajevo pretty much kicked off world war I.

Anne Frank: Her diary is a tragic reminder of what ‘The Final Solution’ inflicted on a wide range of unfortunate children.

Carlo Giuliani: The 23yo Italian is seen as the first causality in the anti-capitalist anti-globalisation protests, after being shot and run over by Italian police, while taking part in demonstrations against the G8 meeting in Genoa.

Bobby Goldsmith: the first known Australian victim of AIDS in the early 1980s became an icon for public health and public education programs about safe sex in Australia, that led the world for clarity and effect and dramatically lowered the expected infected rate of HIV in Australia and saved thousands of lives.

Che Guevara: cliched but his grisly death in the Bolivian jungle inspired generations of revolutionaries from Central American rebels through to modern anti globalisation protestors.

John Henry: Quasi-factual US black hero who in 1870s out-dug a steam drill in a contest, but died in the attempt. In death he became a potent symbol of man’s doomed battle with the mechanised world.

Harold Holt: Former Australian PM who went for a swim at Portsea never to return. Only tragic accident afflicting an Australian political leader and also fuelled JFK-conspiracy theories about Chinese subs. His death indirectly led to Australia’s copping Gough Whitlam’s economic chaos which we’re still paying for.

Ned Kelly: ignorant lout who beat up a Chinese miner (by the unfortunate name of Ah Fook) and got away with it. Later responsible for the deaths of 3 Australian workers. Hanged November 1880. Subject of paintings by Sidney Nolan. Glorified as an Aussie hero by romantic idiots and the politically correct.

John F. Kennedy: Everyone has a story of where they were when JFK was gunned down. There are so many conspiracy theory’s floating around – was it the CIA, The Cubans, Aliens, the KGB or just a crazed loner?

Bobby Kennedy: The dream of recreating JFK’s Jacqui-coined Camelot was destroyed on June 5 1968 when he was assassinated in the lead up to the presidential election.

Warren Lanfranchi: without his death Roger Rogerson would just have been a naughty boy, the (OK, minor) changes in the NSW Police would not have happened, and the magnificent “Blue Murder” would never have been made. Ditto Sallyanne Huckstepp.

Martin Luther King Jr: Killed on April 4, 1968, two months before Bobby Kennedy. The civil rights movements and marches he led brought significant changes in the fabric of American life through his courage and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old around the world – who can forget “I have a dream…” delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.

Mary Jo Kopechne: (sic?) her death from probably drowning after canoodling Teddy Kennedy at Chappaquidick put paid to Ted’s aspirations of running for President.

Ivar Kreuger: Suicided in 1932 when his global Swedish match company, Svenska Tandsticks AB, faced bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Examination of Svenska’s books after Kreuger’s death indicated that the company was deeply shonky, helping establish (often unfairly) the deep suspicion towards big business which now exists worldwide. In 1980 Svenska Tandsticks AB changed its name to Swedish Match. You can see their name on your box of Redheads.

Nkosi Johnson: young boy who became the human face of the suffering caused by the AIDS epidemic in Africa

John Lennon: just because everyone remembers where they were.

Abraham Lincoln: one of the great American leaders cut down in his prime.

Albino Luciani: Pope John Paul 1 died unexpectedly on 28 Sep 1978 after serving only 33 days as Pope John Paul I. Makes way for Karol Jozef Wojtyla to become John Paul II. Wojtyla’s conservative papacy slowly reverses many of the liberal reforms of Vactian II, effecting millions of Catholics worldwide.

Timothy McVeigh: The Oklahoma bomber’s execution gave America its sharpest wake up call for many a year about the death penalty.

Sharon Christa McAuliffe: On Jan 8th 1986, US Space Shuttle Challenger on flight STS-51-L explodes 73 seconds into its flight killing this 37 year old school teacher and six others. Shuttle flights halted for two years. Faith in technology given a severe dent.

Donald McKay: The anti-drugs campaigner from Griffith was murdered in 1977 by the Mafia and the death reverberated for years.

Bertie Milliner: The ALP senator who died in 1975 was replaced with Pat Field by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, thus giving the conservative parties the numbers to block the Whitlam Budget in the Senate, which brought on Australia’s greatest constitutional crisis.

Mozart: his early death set the standard for enfant-terrible live-fast-die-young musicians from then to Kurt Cobain. Also, had he not died young there would have been much less music left to compose.

Marilyn Munroe: because of her links with the Kennedys and the Mafia, and the doubts about the way in which she died. And who could forget Happy Birthday Mr President?

Admiral Lord Nelson. Pushed his luck, took a bullet, won Trafalgar, maintained status quo in Europe.

John Newman: Australia’s first political assassination who was pinged for fighting the Cabramatta drug trade in the NSW Parliament.

Lee Harvey Oswald: if Jack Ruby hadn’t nailed him before he got to trial, he may have delivered the goods on the JFK assassination and we’d be free of the conspiracy craziness and, more importantly, there’d be one less bloody Oliver Stone movie.

John Pat: the 17 year old Aboriginal youth who died in a WA prison cell around 1980 and triggered the Aborginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission.

The photographer who died on the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French agents in 1985 and has remained a Greenpeace martyr ever since.

Rose Pierini: Successfully sued General Motors in the US in 1964 after losing her arm in a car crash allegedly caused by the faulty handling of her Chevrolet Corvair. Consumer interferer Ralph Nader seized on the issue, making the Corvair the centrepiece of his 1965 anti-car tirade “Unsafe At Any Speed”. The book led to massive regulating of the car industry, essentially crushing innovative projects like the light, economical Corvair. Thanks for all the boring cars of the last 20 years, Ralph!

Jack Pizzey: Premier of Qld for only a few months in 1968. His premature death led to the unlikely Joh Bjelke-Petersen becoming Premier of Qld, and the rest is history.

Elvis Presley: everyone remembers where they were and thousands of people still don’t believe it happened.

Yitzhak Rabin: Could have been Middle East peacemaker murdered by his own side for his efforts. Some say he died in vain. His region has never recovered.

Ronald Ryan. The controversy meant he was the last man hanged in Australia.

Bobby Sands: Northern Ireland hunger striker died for his cause in the 1970s (hunger strikes are such a 70s thing) leading to bloody uprisings

Ken Saro-wira: the execution of this Nigerian from the Ogoni people has provided fodder for green groups, anti-Shell protestors and anti-Nigerian-government protestors worldwide, and contributed to the generally bad name that oil companies have.

Karen Silkwood: became a martyr for the anti-nuclear cause and her death led to wide spread suspicion of the nuclear power industry. Her film bio-drama gave Meryl Streep a bit of a career kick-along.

Billy Snedden would have to be on the list..because we are still wondering who it was he was doing the deed with when he died in the Rushcutters Bay Motel room.

Socrates: Drank poison rather than recant his views. Can you imagine any of today’s columnists going to such lengths in defence of their beliefs.

Ayrton Senna and the track official who died at this year’s Grand Prix. Although did these deaths actually cause much to change.

John Smith: lacklustre & socialist leader of the British Labour Party whose death allowed Tony Blair to reform and lead the Labour Party to its first victory in 18 years.

Joseph Smith, barmy religious opportunist who had visions of angels and golden tablets, and was killed, leaving space for a highly competent administrator, Brigham Young, to make his idiotic Mormonism a major force. Without him Utah would be well, different, and we’d not have those young blokes on bikes with happy days haircuts knocking on our doors.

Sharon Tate: she didn’t do much, but her death brought the name Charles Manson to the world.

Angela Taylor, and constables Steve Tynan and Damian Eyre: the death of these three Victorian police officers in the last 1980s in the Russell St bombing and Walsh St ambush resulted in Victorian Police adopting an unofficial shoot first, ask questions later policy that has seen 20 people killed by Victorian police since, more than for the rest of the nation combined.

Mashall Tito: Kept Yugoslavia together for years and also independent of the Soviet bloc. His death has caused more than a decade of fighting and chaos.

Leon Trotsky: When Stalin killed you, HE KILLED YOU!

The cranky old guy who refused to leave his house when Mt St Helens was threatening to erupt and then was buried alive. He lives long in the memory of Americans.

Empress Victoria of Germany: daughter of Queen Victoria & mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Her death in 1901 took away a major pro-English and Zionist influence from the Kaiser’s life that may have prevented WWI and even WW2

Ernesto Miranda: Poor old Ernesto got fitted up by Arizona police in 1963 over an $8 robbery. He allegedly confessed to the crime (and also to the rape of an 18-year-old girl), but the US Supreme Court ruled that Ernesto had not been read his rights, and overturned his conviction. Ernesto is the reason why US police — in real life, as well as on TV — nowadays always tell perps that they have “the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent” etc. Where does death come into this? In 1976 Ernesto was killed in a knife attack. His alleged murderer was arrested, but released when he refused to talk. He exercised his Miranda rights.

The young Pakistani child that fought child labour at home and around the world and who was shot dead a year or two ago in Pakistan. He was annoyed his mates were working 12 hours a day making soccer balls and was brought to Europe to tell every soccer fan that kids were busting their guts so that Eric Cantona could make millions of euros from the fans.

The guy who almost survived the horrendous Washington D.C. plane crash into the frozen Potomac River one winter, and who kept giving his ‘turn’ to be rescued by helicopters to others, until he froze to death.

The guy summarily executed on camera by the police chief in Saigon in 197-something. Along with the image of the girl w/ the napalm burns, this turned the PR tide in the Vietnam war.

Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, who, according to Antonia Fraser’s new biography, did NOT say “let them eat cake” and whose breast were the model for Sevres porcelain teacups of her era, but who went to the gullotine while suffering from uterine haemorrhages. She died because her weak husband vacillated when they fled and almost reached the border with the then Austrian Netherlands.


After a terrific response from readers, surely we can still get another 50 worthwhile names on this list from the various political killings under different regimes and some more dramatic suicides or culture deaths that left a lasting legacy. Anyone who can come up with three worthwhile names not currently on the list will win a free Crikey subscription so get in touch with us at [email protected] Seven people have already qualified for free subs thanks to their excellent contributions.