The Murder of Rachel Currell

23 February, 1926

Henry Tacke, 65, Importer, was charged in the Criminal Court today with the murder of Rachel Currell, 34, at St Kilda on December 15th.

Frederick George Currell, barman, admitted under cross examination that he knew his wife and Tacke went to Sydney and Adelaide together and that Tacke paid 80 guineas for an operation upon Mrs Currell.  She acted in a secretarial capacity for Tacke.  Currell denied he knew Tacke paid for the upkeep of his house.

Currell said he was awakened on the night of the shooting when in bed on the front verandah.  He told Tacke he could not see Mrs Currell.  They quarrelled at the gate and Mrs Currell said; “you had better come inside instead of making a scene in the street”.  As they were going inside, Tacke hit Currell behind the ear knocking off his hat.  When asked to return it, Currell saw Tacke turn as if to go and saw something shiny in his hand which he had whipped from his pocket.  Tacke fired a shot at Currell but missed and hit Mrs Currell instead.  When Mrs Currell retreated inside, Tacke fired a number of shots into the dark hallway in an attempt to scare Mrs Currell.  Mrs Currell was shot dead and had 10 bullet wounds – 5 entry and exit wounds.

When arrested at Sorrento, Tacke said it was all an accident and he had intended to commit suicide.

In Tacke’s statement, he said he had spent 2500 pounds on Mrs Currell for dinners and theatres and by allowing her 2-10 pounds weekly for the past 3 years.

Tacke had met Mrs Currell in City Picture Theatre in February 1923.  Their friendship developed into intimacy and he fell deeply in love with her.  At the time of their meeting, he was friendly with own wife.  He had lost his whole family of 8 in infancy.  On Mrs Currell’s recovery from an operation he sent her to Daylesford and paid all her expenses.  He was also in the habit of sending out roast fowls and bottles of wine when she was in ill-health.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

Injury at Pentridge

2 April, 1927

When wardens went to Tacke’s cell as usual, to escort him to the warders library where he worked as a librarian, Tacke suddenly climbed up the bars to a height of 18 feet, then pitched headlong to the stone floor of his cell.  Tacke was conveyed to the Melbourne Hospital in an unconscious state.

Tacke was at one time a well known clubman, member of the MCG and conducted a successful business in the city.

The Death of Henry Tacke

10 September 1927

Henry Tacke, aged 65 years, who was serving a sentence of 7 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of Mrs Rachel Currell at St Kilda in December 1925, died in the Geelong Hospital last night.

Tacke was admitted to the Geelong Gaol on April 28 after he sustained a broken ankle the result of a fall from a gallery at Pentridge.

The coroner held an inquiry today.  Dr Purnell, the gaol medical officer, said Tacke’s ankle remained in splints until the middle of May when massage commenced.  On June 16, he went for a walk in the exercise yard.  Dr Purnell then formed the opinion that Tacke had no desire to get better and malingered at every possible opportunity.  He refused to try and walk and would let himself to the ground at every opportunity.

On July 30, while in the hospital, Tacke rubbed his back on the floors, producing large bed sores and feigned insanity.  Towards the end of August, he refused to take nourishment.  Death was due to heart disease.

A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was recorded.

ON THIS DAY …….6th August 1938

After a retirement of four hours a jury in the Criminal Court found Edward Allan May aged 30, laborer, not guilty of having murdered Mrs. Yoland Joan Shirley Bordin aged 21, of Carlton, but guilty of manslaughter. He was remanded for sentence after having admitted to prior convictions, including a gaol sentence of five years for armed assault with intent to rob. Mrs. Bordin, who was living apart from her Italian husband, was found bleeding to death from a knife wound at Carlton early on this day in 1938. Some distance away was a long-bladed hunting knife.

ON THIS DAY …….3rd August 1918

William Henry Mogdridge,18 years of age, who was found guilty of the manslaughter of Eugene Charles Vernon, 54 years of age at Abbotsford, on August 3, came before Mr. Justice Cussen, in the Criminal Court, for sentence yesterday. The jury made a strong recommendation for mercy. Mr. Justice Cussen passed sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment, to be Suspended on a bond of £100 be entered into for Mogdridge’s good behaviour, and his abstinence from intoxicating liquor For 5 years. Mr. Clarke, who conducted the defence, said that Mogdridge was going to enlist.

 

ON THIS DAY …….3rd August 1931

Albert Jones, trapeze artist, was found guilty in General Sessions of the manslaughter of Konrad Erlesen, a Norwegian fireman, at Albert Park, on this day in 1931. The two men had been drinking together, and subsequently had a fight in which Erlesen was knocked down. The jury added a strong recommendation to mercy.

Nurse Alice Mitchell from Western Australia was charged with the unlawfully killing of Ethel Booth in 1907. Mitchell become Perth’s notorious baby-farmer, and possible Australia worst Serial Killer with police believing that she killed 37 babies.

Alice Mitchell, a nurse and midwife, had been registered since 1903 with the Perth Local Board of Health to take charge of infants. Babies were boarded at her premises in Edward Street East Perth while their mothers worked to support themselves and pay for their children’s care. The case came to light after Mitchell was reported by a constable on duty in the neighbourhood when she casually mentioned during a conversation that she had a child lying ill in her house but could not afford a doctor. The police called Dr Davey to attend a 10 month old child who was in “an exceedingly emaciated condition”, and while at the house Dr Davey noticed a baby, Ethel Booth, who was in a similar condition. Both children were taken to Perth Public Hospital but little Ethel was too far gone and died the next day. At Ethel’s inquest her mother Elizabeth testified she gave birth to Ethel at the House of Mercy, a maternity home for unmarried mothers, and stayed to look after her baby for a further two months. Elizabeth then 16 resumed her occupation as a maid, for which she earned 15s a week, and relinquished her child into Mitchell’s care after agreeing to pay 10s. per week as well as any doctor’s fees. Elizabeth loved her daughter and had become increasingly concerned when Mitchell, with various excuses, had repeatedly prevented Elizabeth from visiting her baby.
As part of her conditions of registration Alice Mitchell was required to keep a register of infants placed in her care but there were no entries after 16 December 1904. Evidence given at the inquest revealed that the female Inspector for the Perth Road Board was apparently friendly with Mrs. Mitchell, and would chat at the door, but never went inside to visit the children or inspect the register. Dr Officer visited regularly, charging five shillings for each child seen, and had examined baby Ethel three days after her arrival, declaring she was in a very healthy condition. At the murder trial Edward Officer, while admitting he had signed 22 death certificates of babies dying at Alice Mitchell’s house, denied “that death was in any way assisted or was due to other than natural causes”. In further evidence the local Anglican priest, the Reverend Robert John Craig, testified going to Mitchell’s house to baptise a dying nine month old child, Harry Turvey. Craig noted that the baby was very thin and had an offensive smell. Just over a week after little Harry’s death, Craig was sent for again and complained that the children he saw were very smelly and criticised Mitchell’s ability to keep the children clean. Nevertheless he clearly did not feel the need to report the matter. Seemingly, no one in authority picked up on Mitchell’s treatment of the infants she had been paid to look after, and as the trial progressed, revelations emerged that over the six years she had been fostering babies, at least 35 had died in suspicious circumstances. As well as ‘baby-farming’ Alice Mitchell also ran a boarding house and another witness, Carl Roux, testified that he stayed there for a month late in 1906 and that Mitchell always had several fostered infants who apparently all slept in the same room as she. Roux said that he had overheard Mitchell’s adult daughter complain to her mother of the dirty state in which the house and the children were kept adding, ‘’Those people in the front room [Roux and his wife], know just as well as I do that you kill the babies.” Despite this, Roux did not feel obliged to alert anyone else. He also told the court that before the trial Mitchell told him that that if she fell, Dr Officer would have to fall too. The trial concluded on 13 April 1907 and the jury, after less than an hour, found Mitchell only guilty of manslaughter. The Judge in passing sentence of five years hard labour remarked that the jury concluded that Mitchell had no intention of killing baby Booth, but that her death was caused by criminal negligence. He told Mitchell; “… you have been, like many other women who carry on the same business, perfectly callous to the sufferings of these children who were entrusted to your care. All that can be said in your favour is that you are a woman getting on in life, and, therefore, whatever term of imprisonment I may pass upon you will affect you much more severely than it would a younger woman”. Alice Mitchell was lucky, for in a similar case in Victoria where a woman was convicted of the deaths of infants in her care, she was executed. No blame was attached to Dr Officer and no others were charged with neglect of their official responsibilities. The two inspectors were the only ones to suffer any sort of fallout from the case when the Perth Road Board decided to dispense with their services. It was difficult for people to accept that such cruelty could occur unnoticed in their small Perth community. Public outcry over the Mitchell case brought into focus the need not only to protect vulnerable children, but to ensure that all mothers and their infants were healthy and had access. to good medical, midwifery and obstetric care. Some very influential women took up the cause and the formation in 1909 of the Women’s Service Guild, led by women who had been active in other women’s organisations, crystallised the momentum for the establishment of what was to become the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 20, 1915

CHARGE OF MURDER.

At the Sale Police Court Samuel Smith was charged with murdering John Duffy at Genoa, Gippsland, on July 20. It was alleged that at a recruiting meeting a dispute arose, Duffy receiving a gunshot wound from which he died a few days later. Smith received 2 years in the Sale Gaol for manslaughter.

ON THIS DAY – JULY 7, 1929

Charged with the killing of Mark Devaney, aged 54, George Ernest Davis was arrested today. He will appear at Wodonga Court on October 17.

Mr. Mark Devaney (aged 64 years), of Wodonga Estate, Wodonga, a retired farmer, was found dead on the
Bonegilla-road, about a mile from Wodonga, on Sunday night. He had evidently been hit by a motor car, as
there was a quantity of broken glass near by, and much blood. The glass is thought to have been from the headlight of a car. There is no evidence to show that the driver of the car stopped. No one notified the police of the accident. Devaney leaves a widow and two daughters.

ON THIS YEAR – July 5, 1974

A young labourer who shot and killed a judo instructor at North Altona on July 5 last year was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter by a Criminal Court jury today. Mr Justice Crockett sentenced the labourer, Mr David Robert Elbourne, 24, of Morwell, to nine years’ jail with a non-parole minimum of six years. Mr Elbourne and Mr John Adam Adamic, 38, a Pentridge prisoner, were tried for the murder of Mr Andrew Donnelly, 39, of North Altona. Both pleaded not guilty. The jury acquitted Mr Adamic and found Mr Elbourne guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter. The Crown, had alleged that Mr Elbourne, while a prisoner in Pentridge, had been offered $5,000 by Mr Adamic to “get rid” of Mr Donnelly, who was having an affair with Mrs Adamic. Rifle for protection Mr Elbourne told the court that he had intended to tell Mr Donnelly to keep away from Mr Adamic’s family. He had taken the rifle in case Mr Donnelly attacked him. Mr Donnelly had turned on him and he had involuntarily fired. Mr Adamic said he had asked Mr Elbourne to speak to Mr Donnelly but had not suggested that he kill him. Both men denied that Mr Elboume had been offered $5,000 to “get rid” of Mr Donnelly.

ON THIS DAY – June 23, 1934

Judge Moule, in General Sessions yesterday, directed the acquittal of Horatio Wainwright, truck-driver, of Fell crescent, East Malvern, who was charged with the manslaughter of Edward Francis Tierney, aged 30 years, telephone linesman, of Deakin street, Hampton. Wainwright was discharged. Tierney and David Mollison, another postal employee, were wheeling their bicycles along the steel tracks in Dynon road, Footscray, about 2 a.m. on June 23, when they were struck by a car, and Tierney died In hospital.

ON THIS DAY – June 20, 1907

WILLIAMSTOWN

Charlotte Kenny was on trial charged with murdering her infant by poison at Williamstown on June 20. The defence was that her mind was un-hinged at the time owing to being prosecuted for an attempt to pass certain valueless cheques. The case is proceeding. Kenny received two month gaol.

 

On This Day – June 19, 1980

Theresa Crowe, a vivacious young woman, had been found in her loft apartment, wrapped in a blanket, her body slashed from throat to groin. Despite the horrific wounds that prompted speculation that she had been killed in a satanic ritual, the cause of death was strangulation.

Malcolm Clarke knew her. They had met at a disco, Chaser’s, the year before.

A medical examiner found Crowe had been dead for 12 to 15 hours before she was found, on June 25, 1980. Clarke had an alibi for that period. She had in fact been dead five days, but the bitter winter cold and her unheated apartment had acted like a refrigerator, confusing the pathologist.

Clarke would finally confess to Theresa Crowe’s slaying and was sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter and a separate assault and rape.  Clarke would later be convicted of the murder of 6 year old Bonnie Clarke in 1982

ON THIS DAY – June 18, 1923

When Constable Davies, of Hawthorn, was assisting Samuel Lazarus, aged 76 years, of Alma road, Camberwell, across the road at the corner of Leura grove and Burke road, Camberwell, Lazarus was struck by a passing motor-lorry. He was taken to the Alfred Hospital, where he died shortly after admittance. Lazarus, who was a cripple, had alighted from a tram on which Constable Davies had been travelling. The driver of the motor-lorry, David Robert Burns, aged 30 yean, carrier, of Burke road, South Camberwell, was charged with manslaughter.