Murder most foul
A grandson was sent on a mission to find his grandma and he discovered she was the victim of an unsolved double murder
It was a dying man’s wish that revealed a terrible truth. At 77 and suffering from a faulty heart, grandfather of 25 Albert Edward Hussey-Smith begged his family from his death bed: “Find my mother.”
Mr Hussey-Smith had learned late in life he was adopted, the son of Eileen Gladys Christie who gave him up when she was just 18.
He was born in Brisbane, but there was no father on his birth certificate. Mr Hussey-Smith took his final breath knowing little else.
But when his family began researching his mother, her death certificate contained a surprise none had expected. It read: “Cause of death: Gunshot to the head.”
A little more digging revealed that Eileen Christie, who became Eileen Walsh when she married, was shot during a secret sexual tryst with a police sergeant in a paddock outside Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol on 23 December, 1926.
With headlines such as “Death Strikes Guilty Pair in Last Embrace” splashed across the papers, Mr Hussey-Smith’s grandson Antony Rogers described it as “the biggest story of the time”.
Mr Rogers, 57, an IT professional, has spent years researching the 93-year-old cold case. But the more he dug the more elusive the truth seemed to be.
After a decade, what he has uncovered is a sordid story of adultery, crooked cops and hitmen — and a tale far more intriguing than the official explanation — that Mrs Walsh and her lover, Acting Police Sergeant Marquis Cumming, were slain by a jealous partner.
“I thought: I’ve got to just tell the truth,” said Mr Rogers, who published his research as a book, Scaffold Of Shame.
The mystery began on Christmas Eve, 1926, when two semi-clad bodies were found lying side-by-side, on their backs, with bullet wounds to their head.
It appeared Mrs Walsh, a recently separated motherof-two and Sgt Cumming, a married father-of-five, were shot the night before in the midst of an adulterous tryst.
Their bodies were found by passengers aboard the first morning train that passed near Boggo Road Gaol. Their clothes were undone and dishevelled. Sgt Cumming’s right arm was outstretched, as if to strike his attacker.
Mrs Walsh was missing the wedding ring from her left hand. Sgt Cumming was missing his belt, handcuffs and keys, yet other valuables were left behind, including his wallet and watch. So robbery didn’t seem a motive.
Sgt Cumming was also without his revolver, which was later found in a bag at his family home.
It was plausible his wife Theresa and son Stanley might have known Sgt Cumming had left his gun at home — and they appeared to have a motive.
Mr Rogers said: “They were brought in for questioning and they outlined stories of his infidelity in Mount Morgan (in Queensland) where he allegedly had a love child, as well as liaisons in Brisbane.”
His adultery appeared to be extensive. When police searched his locker they found piles of letters from mistresses, including one with whom he had a child.
“Theresa found out about his love child and had sought to get a legal separation,” Mr Rogers said. “She saw a solicitor but then her friends convinced her for the children’s sake she should forgive her husband and stay.”
Mrs Cumming also revealed she once fired a shot at her husband one night when he came home from another woman’s arms.
His relationship was also tumultuous with his son Stanley, who left home twice out of fear of his father.
However, both Mrs Cumming and Stanley had rock-solid alibis.
Mr Rogers also noticed inconsistencies in the love letters. In one, Sgt Cumming incorrectly states the number of children he has.
There was also a card that arrived at the police station the day after the murders, seemingly signed by Eileen.
Yet Mrs Christie’s mother claimed the signature did not match her daughter’s.
Another suspect was Eileen’s husband James. The couple had separated and Eileen was living with her sisters and mother Mary.
Mary told police the relationship was abusive and Eileen had left Mr Walsh on account of his drunkenness, violence and his inability to support her. But Mr Walsh’s alibi of drinking with a friend appeared to check out.
The extent of Sgt Cumming’s affairs meant there were countless other cuckolded men with a motive. Perhaps Eileen Walsh was just an innocent victim caught in the crossfire?
Five months later, during a magisterial inquiry, witness James Jamieson, a waterside worker who knew Sgt Cumming, gave evidence he had seen the officer and a woman fitting Eileen Walsh’s description being followed by two phantom figures.
As he entered his home at 9.26pm, he noticed two men in the dark near his house.
“When Cumming and the woman got about 30 yards along the road past my house, the two figures crossed the road and followed them,” he said. “They walked quickly. And as Cumming and the woman turned up the gaol lane they followed them faster still.”
However, the most incriminating evidence was from publican Joe Herbert, owner the Trocadero Dance Hall in South Brisbane, who recounted a conversation with Mrs Cumming about her husband’s adultery.
“Don’t you think he ought to be shot!” she told Mr Herbert.
“I am not a judge for that, but don’t you do it,” Mr Herbert allegedly responded. “The best advice I can give you is to go up to the Sen-Sgt and put your complaint.”
Mr Herbert already disliked Sgt Cumming, who was often assigned to patrol his venue but often spent his shift chasing women.
Mr Herbert was not always a man of upstanding character himself.
“A month before the murders Herbert was charged with selling sly grog,” Mr Rogers said. His licence was revoked.
Mr Rogers’ discovery of a large payment to Mr Herbert after he gave his testimony casts some doubt over that evidence.
“After he gives evidence at the inquiry the council gives back his dance hall on favourable terms — zero interest — and gives him £16,000 to make alterations,” Mr Rogers said.
Was the unexplained payment some kind of pay-off for his evidence?
The true identity of the killer may lie in the explosive information from a woman known only as Miss X.
She told The Truth newspaper that a policeman she was romantically involved with confessed to killing Sgt Cumming.
On the night of the double murder the officer left her at about 9 o’clock, but he asked her to swear that she had been in his company until midnight.
When she saw him the following night the officer seemed distressed.
She claims he told her: “Oh, if only I told you, you would never speak to me again. I am a murderer.”
Another time he told her: “If you don’t leave Queensland I will scatter your brains like I did Cumming’s.”
For Mr Rogers, the past decade has yielded more questions than answers and perhaps he will never solve the mystery.
What he does know is that somewhere, tucked away in someone’s box of family heirlooms, is a policeman’s belt, handcuffs and keys, and a wedding ring belonging to his great-grandmother.
Murder victim Eileen Walsh and, below, a newspaper report on the double murder.
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