ON THIS DAY – May 19, 1934


A Coroner’s inquiry was opened concerning the death of the Italian laborer named Rocco Petaulla, whoso charred body was found under a culvert at Balwyn by some children. Dr. D.H. Mollison, Government Pathologist, expressed the opinion that death was due to suffocation and haemorrhage following a blow on tho head. The witness said the face was almost unrecognisable, and the trunk was much charred, while on the left side of the frontal bone of the head there was a hole three-quarters of an inch in diameter. There was no evidence of a bullet in the skull. The injury could have been caused by the rounded end of a small tomahawk.  Two Italians named Antonio Chiodo and Antonio Audino, who have been charged with the murder of Petaulla, were present in custody. James Dallis, 28, motor-cycle wrecker of North Melbourne, said that he had done carrying work for Audino and Chiotlo. They came, to him on May 19 and told him that they had been robbed of £92. That night Chiodo returned, and said, that his brother wanted witness to take a parcel to Olinda, to raise some money. He would be paid £2 for the job.  When he went to the shop four Italians were talking excitedly in Italian. He waited a little while and was given £2. When he went outside, his cycle had been pushed up a small lane. There was a big tarpaulin on the trailer, and all he could see was a big, bulky object under, it. Chiodo and Audino sat on top, and they travelled to Balwyn, Chiodo told him to pull up, and they then lifted the object from the trailer. It was very dark. witness then returned home.  Chiodo replied that there was nothing wrong, and nothing that concerned him. “If anybody asks you, you know nothing about us,” he said to witness. They then left, and on the following Friday witness reported to Detective McGuffie.


Senior Detective McGuffie described the various pieces of clothing found burned in the culvert and the piece of hessian, and Italian dictionary also recovered.

Detective Rosewarne said that he recognised the clothing, when he previously searched Petaulla at the Detective Office. McGuffie related how he interviewed Trixtino and Chiodo, and told them that the police believed that the charred body was that of Petaulla, who had been murdered at Chiodo’s shop. Chiodo denied this, and also denied having given Dallis £2 to remove the body. When Audino came in he denied that Petaulla had been at the shop since the day he went to the detective office.  The inquest is not completed.