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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 – July 27, 1947

A slim, blue-eyed blonde, smartly dressed in a light brown coat, Dulcie Markham, of Fawkner Street, St. Kilda, appeared in the City Court this morning charged with conspiracy to murder. It was alleged that at St. Kilda on July 31, she conspired with Ernest Alfred James Markham to murder Valma Edith Hull, wife of Keith Kitchener Hull, who was wounded in St. Kilda on July 27. Mr. J. Galbally, who appeared for Dulcie Markham said she went voluntarily to Russell Street on Saturday and said, “If there is any charge, I am here to answer it.” Mrs. Markham was remanded to the St. Kilda Court on August 15. Bail was fixed at £300, with a £300 surety.

ON THIS DAY – July 26, 1943

Giving evidence in his defence on a charge of murdering Pearl Oliver at Fitzroy on July 26, Harold Nugent, truck-driver, said in the Criminal Court today that he did not shoot the girl and did not have a weapon of any sort in his possession. Nugent said he was driving two other men to St. Kilda when, in Fitzroy. He saw Joseph Fanesi, a drinking acquaintance, with a girl and an American sailor. He stopped and asked Fanesi to have a drink with him. Fanesi declined, but as Nugent was walking back to the car, he heard two shots and saw Fanesi fall. He then saw his companion, Leslie Brown, and the sailor fighting. Brown joined him in the car and they drove away. He did not know the girl was shot until he read it in the paper the next day.

ON THIS DAY – July 13, 1956

Both the Crown Prosecutor and the defence council challenged statements by a Crown witness yesterday at the murder trial of John Alfred Somerville in the Criminal Court. He was charged following the death of an Englishman, George Neville Eastham, 27 at Crimea Street, St Kilda, on July 13 last year. Because Eastham’s death resulted from an alleged stabbing following an argument over the prospects of the Australian and English sides in the Test matches, the fatality was dubbed the “Test match murder”. Somerville, a clerk, also of Crimea Street, St Kilda, pleaded not guilty. He is being defended by Mr F. Galbally.

Denials

A Crown witness, William Frank Paull, 30, a clerk, who at the time lived at the same address, yesterday refused to answer certain questions and also denied statements allegedly made by him to the police. In the absence of the jury, the Crown Prosecutor (Mr. W. Irvine) made an application to have Paull treated as a hostile witness but Mr Justice Barry declined to grant the application. When the jury was returned and Paull was further examined by Mr. Irvine regarding certain statements. Mr. Justice Barry told the witness that if he felt he might incriminate himself by answering he should remain silent. During cross-examination by Mr. Galbally, Paull admitted he had been in custody at Pentridge because police thought he might abscond. He also admitted he had recently sold his car and changed his name and address. In Custody He was brought into court from custody and returned into custody at the conclusion of the hearing yesterday. During cross-examination Mr. Galbally said: “I put it to you that you stabbed Eastham yourself”. Judge Barry: You need not answer that question Mr Galbally (to Paull): Do you prefer not to answer or will you say : “Yes it’s the truth?” Witness remained silent. The Crown alleged that on the night of July 13, last year, Somerville and Paull were in a room they shared in the boarding house in Crimea Street, St. Kilda. Eastham had entered the room and he and Somerville began to argue about the Test match prospects. According to the Crown, Somerville said to Eastham: “You are like the rest of the Pommies and I haven’t any time for you” Eastham then struck Somerville on the nose, knocking him down. He then left and went to his own room. The prosecution alleges that while Paull was away getting some water, Somerville armed himself with a small vegetable knife and went to Eastham’s room. Later Paull allegedly saw the two men struggling on a bed in Eastham’s room. He went in and pulled Eastham off the bed and took Somerville back to their room. Collapsed Paull had told the police that he saw Eastham crawl out of his room and collapse. He went to him and saw that he was bleeding from the chest. He then called a doctor. In a statement, the Crown alleged, Somerville said that after he had been punched in the nose: “I went wild, went to the kitchen and got a small knife. I then went to Neville’s room to have it out with him. I had the knife and there was a struggle. After that I don’t know what happened.” The trial will continue this morning.

 

ON THIS DAY – July 5, 1894 

A short account was given last week of the supposed murder of a young woman named Minnie Hicks, aged 23, by Frederick Jordan, negro wharf labourer. She kept house for Jordan and Albert Johnson, at Sydney-place, and was last seen alive at the house occupied by a glassblower named Charles Turnbull and his mistress. This was at midnight on July 5. Next morning Jordan reported to the police that he had found her dead at 7 a.m. in the room he himself slept in, and he had no knowledge how she arrived there. Turnbull, however, put a different complexion on the case, stating that Jordan came to his place after the woman, found her tipsy, began beating her, and when remonstrated with dragged her off home. An examination of the body showed that she had died from the effects of severe beating about the head and body. It has since transpired that Minnie Hicks was married in 1888, at the age of 17, to a man now living at St. Kilda. They parted about 1890, through the wife taking to drink, and she left their one child with the father. About two years ago she took up with Jordan, who was often cruel to her. On the night preceding the fatality Jordan was hunting round the hotels for her, in the company of Charles Champ, wharf labourer, until nearly midnight. They then separated at Champ’s house, and Jordon went off to Turnbulls where he found the woman. The police in examining the premises discovered in the same room as the body a pair of trousers which were blood stained and torn. At the inquest on Tuesday Johnson gave evidence. All he knew was that on Thursday, July 5, Jordan told him not to give the woman money, as she would be sure to spend it on drink. In the afternoon she got 6s. from him to buy provisions for tea and came back with them, after which she left. Other witnesses showed that Jordan went to several public houses looking for the girl, who had got her friends to promise not to tell-of her whereabouts. Jordan ultimately found her at midnight and dragged her home. The man she married six years ago, Henry Crabtree, labourer, St. Kilda, said that she left him in November, 1891, having become a confirmed drunkard. He was a teetotaller. It appears that after being some time with Jordan, Minnie Hicks had shown a liking for another negro named Adam, and stayed with him. The society of the locality was proved to be anything but nice, and one or two of the women called owned to having been drinking with Minnie. The jury found that Jordan had committed wilful murder.

ON THIS DAY – July 2, 1938

After two weeks of investigation following a tragedy outside the St. Kilda railway station on July 2, when a woman was killed, and two other persons were injured, a man was arrested early this morning and charged with murder. The man was Francis Daniel Egan, aged 36 years, car salesman, of Hennessy avenue, Elwood. Egan was charged at the South Melbourne watch-house with having murdered Mrs. Kathleen Mary Shaw, aged 55 years, of St. Kilda road, who was the woman killed when a utility truck struck three people at a tram stop In Fitzroy street, St. Kilda, at 11 p.m. on July 2.  Egan will be presented at the South Melbourne Court this morning for remand.

ON THIS DAY – June 30, 1906

On Saturday, Detective Burvett took charge of the investigations into the murder of Patrick O’Rourke who died in the Alfred Hospital on June 30 from injuries received at St Kilda on the night of June 23. Burvett made three visits to St Kilda on Saturday, and carefully went over the supposed scene of the murder. Then he inspected the dead mans clothing but failed to find anything that would serve as material for any theory as to the murder

O’Rourke when he died had a pronounced black eye. This has been regarded as showing that he was attacked and struck in the eye before receiving the injury that proved fatal. The blow in the eye has also been advanced to account for O’Rourke’s hat having been off when his skull was fractured. Burvett has, however, proved that the black eye was not the result of a separate blow. The fracture of the skull had been very slight and was somewhat below the cut on forehead. The ecchymosis of the eye was the result of this fracture, and did not develop for some days. When O’Rourke was admitted to the hospital no signs of a blow on the eye were discernible.

Detective Sexton and Plain-clothes Constable White are assisting Detective Burvett in his inquiries but very little can be done until the Government analyst has given his opinion with regard to the supposed blood-stained board and O’Rourke’s clothes all of which have been submitted to him.

ON THIS DAY – June 27, 1979

City Court was told that a man alleged to have murdered Miss Lisa Maude Brearley at Olinda on August 8 had been on remand on another murder charge at the time. The prosecutor, Inspector D. Scott, said this in an application for the remand of Mr Robert Lindsay Wright, 24, who was charged with having murdered Miss Brearley. He also has been charged with having murdered Wayne Keith Smith at St Kilda on June 27. No pleas were entered and Mr Duffy, SM, allowed the police application and remanded Mr Wright in custody until September 26.

 

ON THIS DAY – June 24, 1933

 

At the inquest yesterday on a newly born male child found on the St. Kilda beach on June 24, witnesses gave evidence that the child was born to Irene Williams, 21, single, waitress, on June 23, and that on June 25 the mother was admitted to the Women’s Hospital. In statements to the police Miss Williams is alleged to have said the child was still-born. She threw the body from the jetty into the bay. She also stated that on the day prior to the birth she had fallen downstairs. The Government Pathologist, Dr. Mollison, said the child died from injuries to the head, which included a fracture of the skull. The Coroner, Mr. D. Grand, found the child died from Injuries inflicted by Miss Williams, who was committed for trial.

On this day …….. 22nd of December 1923

Madge Bolton, 21 years, was injured at Luna Park on this night in 1923, her forehead being badly cut and her nose smashed and cut, and her forehead requiring 14 stitches. Lorna Eyres got into the water chute boat at about 10.30 pm the seat at the other end being occupied by Robert Williams, 27 years, and Bolton. The boat after leaving the water, landed safely, but in negotiating a sharp turn, after landing, the occupants were, jolted out of their seats. Each clung to the hand rail, but Miss Bolton’s head-struck a beam. When the boat pulled up she was lying unconscious, huddled in a corner, her head hanging over the side. Miss Eyres was slightly injured about the head, and Williams had two teeth knocked out.

 

On this day …….. 21st of December 1936

Falling from one of the cars of the ‘big dipper’ at Luna Park, St. Kilda, on this day in 1936, Harry Maltby (22), of Albert Park, was struck by another car and was so severely injured that he died. Maltby, who was accompanied by Vincent Clancy of Albert Park, was riding in one of the three cars of the ‘big dipper’ train. He stood up and fell onto another track of the ‘big dipper.’ The brakeman applied the brakes and then rushed across and tried to drag Maltby clear of the rails, but Maltby’ s clothing was entangled in the brake slides. Another train struck Maltby, and then struck the rear of the train from which he had fallen.

 

On this day …….. 14th of December 1935

Arrested in a police raid early in the morning, William Sylvester John Barrett, 22, labourer, of Drummond Street, Carlton, appeared in the City Court charged with having murdered, on or about December 7, William Herbert Irwine York, at St. Kilda. Barrett was remanded to December 23, and in compliance with a police request bail was refused. Having given evidence of Barrett’s arrest, Detective William Ferguson said, it is alleged, that about midnight on December 7, York was walking along Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda. Later he was found unconscious near St. Kilda Road. He was taken into the Alfred Hospital, where he was kept under observation and allowed to return home. His injuries took a serious turn on the following day and he died early on the morning of December 9, as a result, it is alleged, of injuries he received. A post-mortem examination showed that death was due to a number of fractures of the skull.’ Barrett had made a statement about the matter. Detective Ferguson concluded. Barrett, a well-built young man, was not represented by counsel.