ON THIS DAY – February 2, 1923

A nude decomposed and decapitated body of a young woman in a bag in the River Yarra, was found on this day in 1923. The body was recovered by Detective McGuffie and two constables after they had dragged the river for three hours. A communication was received at police headquarters that two men had been seen at 11pm driving onto the Anderson-Street bridge. A witness Mr. Harold Montrose Sharkey Lloyd, of West Melbourne, told the police that he was about to cross the bridge at 11pm when he saw two men drive up in a motor car and stop suddenly near the kerbstone close to the bridge on the south side of the Yarra. The rear light of the car was obscured by a piece of cloth or bag and the headlights were dimmed. Soon after the car stopped two figures. Mr. Sharkey Lloyd says, emerged from the shadows of the bridge carrying a heavy object. The engine of the motor car was running at high speed. Mr. Sharkey Lloyd saw in the actions of the men something ominous and walked back to the end of the bridge where he hid himself in the darkness. Soon afterwards he saw the men lift what he thought was a coffin, to the railings of the bridge, they looked round to see that no one was watching and then threw the object into the river. There was a loud splash as the object struck the water. Immediately afterwards the men walked hurriedly off the bridge and jumping into the car drove off rapidly towards Richmond. Mr. Sharkey Boyd suspected that the men had committed a murder and had disposed of the body by throwing it into the river. He ran along the road and communicated with the criminal investigation department. After three unsuccessful attempts to bring this object to the surface he recovered a heavy bag which was taken to the river bank and opened. Spectators who had gathered were horrified at the discovery, that it contained the decomposed body of a woman, thought to be aged from 15 to 18 years. The body had been decapitated and the head was found inside another bag. The dead woman’s hair appeared to be auburn or dark brown and was plaited. In the bag were also about a hundredweight of blue stone, used as a sinker. The state of the body indicated that death had taken place some months previous. From evidence obtained it was determined the body was that of Bertha Coghlan who was buried shortly after her death, and that fearing discovery of the crime its perpetrators had it brought to the city and thrown into the Yarra.