Gatton Murders - The Bodies Condition

Gatton Murders

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The Bodies Condition

Horse and Cart Position.

The horse, which had been shot through the head, and was still between the shafts of the dog-cart.

The bodies of Michael Murphy and Ellen were only about three yards from the cart, and the body of Norah was about ten yards away.

Arrell next examined the trap, which was about six yards away. He found no blood on it. He searched for tracks or weapons, and between the bodies and the trap he found a blue cloak, on which there was no blood.

Michael

Michael and Ellen were lying back to back and within two feet of each other.

Richard James the chemist said, Michael Murphy's clothes were not disarranged.

Michael was lying flat on his face, Ellen in a similar position only a few feet away.

Michael's body was doubled up, and he had a purse in one hand.

By all accounts Michael was lying on his right side and in a slightly foetal position when found.

I surmise he was sitting on his knees when he copped it.

The arms of the man were bent backwards, but not tied, and a purse was loose in one of the hands, and a strap between the hands. There were no marks of tying on the hands. (Von Lossberg)

Although Michael's hands were not tied when the bodies were discovered, there were signs on the wrists, such as abrasions of the skin and the position of his hands behind his back, which pointed to the fact that they also had probably been tied.

All doctors agreed that the smashing of the head of Michael Murphy was done some time after the bullet wound was inflicted, as there was no blood over the part of the skull knocked in, and the bullet would have exited the body due to less resistance from bone. This indicates that the unfortunate man was shot and subsequently maltreated to hide the traces of the bullet wound or to make sure that life was extinct.

Michael Murphy’s skull was broken into fourteen or sixteen small pieces, some quite detached from the membranes.

There was a large patch of blood about 4in. by 3in. behind the right ear, extending to the neck. It was a thin, layer, and quite dark.

Proof that a bullet was in the head, with no exit.

The cause of death in Michael Murphy’s case was a shot from a bullet. The bullet wound was almost in a horizontal course, and Michael must have been in an erect position.
Resuming, the Dr. said that the fracture by the blunt instrument on Michael Murphy’s skull was after death.

Dr. Wray said he made an examination of Michael's body.

He found a bullet wound behind the right ear and a scalp wound fully 4 1/2in. in length on the right side.

The bullet wound and the lacerated wound on the scalp were joined.

The skull at this part was fractured.

He recovered the bullet in the brain substance (bullet produced, but the doctor retained it).

He found no marks of violence on the body. Michael's body was not mutilated in the slightest degree.

The occipital and frontal bones were fractured, in each case the wounds being sufficient to cause death.

The bullet wound in Michael's head was inflicted before the wounds on the head. Had the bullet been discharged into his head after the skull was fractured there would have been no resistance to the bullet, and it would have passed right through. The bullet wound would have caused death, but it was possible for a man suffering from a similar wound to live some considerable time. There would not be much external haemorrhage from the bullet wound, but this would depend upon which side the victim fell.

Inspector Urquhart: Would it be a bullet that there would be any difficulty in discovering before the hair was off the head?

I should think there would be no difficulty in the first instance. It would have been possible to say whether the shot was fired at close quarters or otherwise.

Michael’s body was some ten yards away from Norah.

Ellen (Helen) Real name Theresa.

Michael and Ellen were lying back to back, but the girl's face was partly downwards, and they were within two feet of each other.

She was lying flat on her face. Some ten yards away from Norah.

She had her hands tied behind her back with a handkerchief.

Helen's body was stretched out carefully.

There were no signs of a struggle.

Her clothes were not torn to the same extent as those of her sister, yet they were much torn and the underclothing stained with blood, and a number of scratches and bruises on her body.

Helen's clothes were pulled up to her knees, and there were blood and other stains on her underclothing.

M’Neill said her clothes were not disarranged.

It is hard to believe Ellen was raped in that position and well away from the comfort of the rug.

Caroline Eames described how she undressed the bodies, stating that all the clasps of both corsets were intact. She could not say in what condition the laces were.

Dr. Von Lossberg found that the skull was driven from the left to the right side and struck from behind.

The blow, which killed her, must have been delivered with terrific force, as the brains were protruding, the skull having been smashed in.

On the neck there were several marks of fingernails and ants.

Witness untied the hands, which showed marks of fingernails and abrasions through the eating of the ants.

He proceeded to examine the lower portions of the body, and found many marks of fingernails.

The underclothing was splashed with blood. Witness then described other matters of observation, showing that the girl had been outraged.

He came to the conclusion that the girl had been dead from fourteen to sixteen hours at any rate, less than twenty-four.

The injuries to the head must have been inflicted by a blunt instrument of considerable weight, probably while she was in an erect, position.

She may have been standing or sitting up. An instrument of considerable weight would be required to fracture the bones as they were fractured. He was of opinion that the outrage had not been committed more than twelve or fourteen hours before.

Dr. Wray.

On Helen he found two wounds in the scalp on the left side, 2 1/2 1n. and 3 1/2 in. long respectively.

The skull was fractured.

There were marks on the thighs.

He could not detect any on the wrists of the girl, who had been healthy.

Unless Helen's hands were tied very tightly the marks would not have been visible at the time he saw them.

Decomposition had well advanced.

In Helen's case there were more than one blow. That I am positive of.

Norah.

Norah, was also face downwards near a gumtree.

Her face lay between two protruding roots of the tree.

The body was partly lying on the abdomen.

There was blood on the tree near which she was lying.

M’Neill did not touch her, but knew she was dead by the ants on her face. She was lying on her right cheek. Witness came up on the left side of her. She was lying with her feet westerly.

Dr. Von Lossberg.

The hands were tied behind her with her own handkerchief, and were very congested, and showed marks of nails.

There was a deep cut penetrating to the bone over the right eye, her hands were much swollen indicating circulation of the blood, and consequently life, at the time the wrists were bound.

Around her neck was the hames strap, drawn tightly, and fastened with a half hitch.

The throat on the left side showed the impression of a hand, and above it a strap tightly buckled round the neck.

Her underclothing was very much torn, whilst the body bore innumerable bruises.

The clothes from the neck to the waist were more or less torn down, and the skin showed the marks of fingernails.

Her clothes were drawn up, and the legs up to the knees were exposed.

The hat was fastened by a hat pin, and lay a little to one side.

Her jacket was pulled up to her shoulders, and her stays were exposed. Her skirts were on her, but they were undone at the back and pulled slightly up at the back.

Dr. Wray.

On Helen he found two wounds in the scalp on the left side, 2 1/2 1n. and 3 1/2 in. long respectively.

The skull was fractured.

There were marks on the thighs.

He could not detect any on the wrists of the girl, who had been healthy.

Decomposition had well advanced.

The second body examined was that of Norah. There was a scalp wound on the left side 3in. in length and a wound an inch long over the right eye.

He found a mark, three-quarters of an inch in width extending round the neck, with the exception of about 4in., or the width of a hand, on the right side.

Then there were well-defined marks or contusions on the thighs, particularly on the inside.

The skin of both knees was abraded.

The skull was fractured. She also was healthy.

The wrists were contused.

Inspector Urquhart: Was it possible in the then state of the bodies to decide whether there had been sexual violation? Dr. Wray: The bodies were too far gone.

Caroline Eames described how she undressed the bodies, stating that all the clasps of both corsets were intact. She could not say in what condition the laces were.

She was lying on her right side on a rug evenly spread out, the head being off the rug.

The Dr. found that the skull was driven from the left to the right side and she was struck from behind.

The appearance of Norah Murphy’s head was much the same as that of her sister, but with more blood about the skull.
All the head bones were broken, and there was great congestion of the blood vessels of the brain.

The face was also in a congested state; on the right side of the eye there was a cut 2in. long, penetrating almost to the bone.

The lower limbs were covered with bruises and abrasions.

Witness gave evidence as to the outrage of this deceased also.

He was of opinion that the cause of death was fracture the skull and injury to the brain caused by a blunt instrument, used with great violence.

He did not make any further examination.

Her body was about eight or nine yards from the others.

There were no signs of a struggle near Norah's body, or footprints.

There was some loose earth on Norah's shoulder.

General.

There were marks on the bodies, which indicated that a terrible struggle had taken place before they were killed.
There were several marks of violence upon their bodies, and it was evident they had each been outraged before death.

The skulls of the three victims had been cruelly battered.

It was a remarkable coincidence that all the bodies lay with the feet pointing due west.

A small white pocket handkerchief, which no doubt belonged to one of the girls, was also found close by.

Some comment has been made regarding the alleged extraordinary suppleness of the limbs of the victims when their bodies were prepared for burial. It has been put forward as a theory that if that were so it might possibly be due to some anaesthetic having been administered shortly before death.
Mrs. Eames and Mrs. Selby, the women who laid the bodies out, and who have had considerable experience in the performance of similar tasks, agree that the corpses were more limp than any they ever attended to previously. The clothes were removed without the slightest difficulty, and the limbs straightened easily.
Mr. R. James, the Gatton chemist, who saw the bodies shortly after they were discovered, admits that the three corpses were particularly supple, considering that death must have taken place several hours before they were first seen. The limbs of the elder girl, Norah, were especially limp, which, he says, indicated that she must have been the last to die. He is disinclined to believe that any anaesthetic was administered, and says that possibly the fact that the corpses had been moved about so much accounted for the limpness.

The bodies were removed to Gilbert's Hotel about half-past 1.

Arrell thought the bodies had been dead for about twelve hours.

Dr. Wray, the Government medical officer, was examined in connection with the second post-mortem examination on the bodies of the Murphy’s.
In reference to the possibility of the girls having been violated, he said that the bodies were too far decomposed to allow of that being verified. He stated that Michael Murphy's head had been battered in after he had been shot, otherwise the bullet would have gone right through.

There also ought to have been no difficulty in discovering the bullet at the first examination. The blows need not necessarily have been done by a strong person, but were done with brutal force and viciousness. Michael had been wounded on the right side, and the others on the left side, as if the person committing the deed had been able to use both hands.

At the scene of the murder in the afternoon, a man named Andrew Smith handed Arrell a piece of the dead limb of a tree, about 4ft long and 4in through. One end was smaller than the other. At the larger end it was knotty, and at that place there were stains of blood. He fitted it into an indentation discovered in the ground, near Norah's head, which it fitted exactly. He concluded it had previously been lying in that hole, and on account of blood and some hair upon it, that it was the weapon with which the wounds were inflicted. (This indicates to me that the weapon was selected at random, also indicating murder was not the original intention).

Arrell went to the hotel and saw the bodies had been undressed and washed.

Galbraith asked for the clothes and the water in which they had been washed: but he found the latter had been thrown out.

He made arrangements to protect the place where the water had been thrown out.

He then found the bodies had not been opened, and asked Arrell about the matter.

Arrell said he had asked for a post-mortem examination.

I would say Michael and Ellen were sitting back to back when the blow was given.

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