Mur­der most foul

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - AMELIA SAW

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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