ON THIS DAY – June 29, 1905


Dr. R. H. Cole, the district coroner, yesterday concluded the inquest into the death of Emily Eden Lilias Chandler, a waitress, 28 years of age, who died in the Melbourne Hospital on July 3 from septicaemia, the result of a premature birth, which had taken place about fortnight previously. Mrs. Elizabeth Downey, who was arrested on a charge of the wilful murder of the deceased, was present as a witness for the Crown. Mr. E. J. Corr appeared to watch the proceedings on her behalf.

Evidence was given to show that Miss Chandler came to Melbourne in the beginning of June. She was staying with Mrs. Elizabeth Sefton, in Sydney-road, Carlton, and was so ill on June 29 that Mrs. Sefton called in Mr. J. H. Nattrass, M.D. Mr. Nattrass examined the girl, and she told him that she had been operated on by some nurse, but refused to divulge the name. He ordered her removal to the Melbourne Hospital. She was admitted to the Hospital on July 1, and said that she was suffering from a severe cold. She admitted afterwards that an instrument had been used. The police were informed, and Detectives Burvett and Sexton brought Elizabeth Downey to the Hospital. Miss Chandler said that she knew the woman, and the detectives arrested Mrs Downey on a charge of unlawfully using a certain instrument. Then in the presence of Mrs. Downey the dying depositions of Emily Chandler were taken by Mr. J. R. Andrews, J.P. In the depositions she said :— “I am quite certain that the accused is the person who performed the operation on me.” She rambled a good deal in her statements whilst the depositions were being taken, and spoke of having gone to the nurse’s house with her sister “Millie.” The evidence of Mrs. Chandler showed that there was no such person as “Millie.” She was very irritable, and in great pain all the time. Mrs. Downey was called as a witness. She stated:— I have nothing to say. I don’t know the party at all. I never saw her in my life. That is all I have to say.

The Coroner said that it was plain that an infamous crime had been committed. He did not think it likely that deceased performed the operation herself. The depositions were mainly the result of monosyllabic answers given by deceased, and they consisted of a mixture of falsehood and truth, in which the falsehood seemed to predominate. Deceased merely said “Yes” to Detective Burdett when he asked her, “Is this the woman?” This seemed a very slender piece of evidence. He found that Emily Eden Lilias Chandler had died from blood-poisoning, the result of an operation, wilfully caused by some person or persons unknown, and that the said person or persons were guilty of wilful murder.