Homicides

Homicides prompted inquests which open small windows into the lives of victims, and sometimes perpetrators.

The saddest are infants, suffocated during or soon after birth, carefully wrapped, poorly concealed, and impossible – at that time – to identify. One girl in a waterhole (Evening News, 6 February 1879, p 3), another in the harbour (Daily Telegraph 31 January 1891, p 6) and another under a railway wharf (Advertiser, Adelaide, 27 November 1893, p 5).

Less common, but more newsworthy, was patricide (as in the Griffiths Family tragedy). On the other hand a fatal car crash tells us nothing about Pyrmont, as the driver was a company director passing through Wattle Street. (Evening News, Rockhampton, 24 August 1926, p5). And a Swedish sailor in a fight in a pub was not kicked to death – the court determined – but victim of a single lethal punch. (Daily Telegraph, 1 December 1915, p7)

Young men in the Goodlet and Smith timber mill were needling each other when tempers frayed over trivial issues, until 17-year old Richard Westacott punched 16-year old George Train on the nose: George grabbed a handy plank and bashed Richard over the head. Richard died that night. George was convicted of manslaughter. (Evening News, 4 February, 1886, p4)