Gatton Murders - Illegal Abortion Some Outcomes

Gatton Murders

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The Gatton Tragedy Exposed At Last. An Examination Of The Secrets And Lies.

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The West Australian Wednesday 17 August 1898


At the Bohemia Hall yesterday the inquest on the body of Margaret Buckley was resumed by the Coroner (Dr. Lovegrove), with a jury. Inspector Farley represented the police, and the proceedings were watched on behalf of Mrs. Smith by Mr. H. B. Josephs.

Dr. Coventry said that he had attended the deceased at the residence of Mrs. Smith, of Dyer-street, West Perth. On August 3 he examined deceased, in the presence of Mrs. Smith. Margaret Buckley made no remark about her condition, but Mrs. Smith said that deceased had given birth to a five months' child three days before. She added that the child had been buried. Witness was thus unable to see the child. From the examination of deceased witness concluded that she had lately been delivered of a child. The result of the examination by witness was quite in accordance with the statement made by Mrs. Smith. Witness took the temperature of deceased, and found it to be 104.5. She was emaciated and yellow, and complained of great thirst, her tongue being dry. Deceased also complained of abdominal pain. Her breathing was rapid and shallow. Witness came to the conclusion that deceased was suffering from an advanced stage of blood poisoning. Witness anticipated a fatal result. Witness did not ask deceased any questions as to what she had been taking or doing to cause that condition, nor did he endeavour to ascertain what had been the cause of deceased getting into that condition. Witness remained with deceased half-an hour. He again saw her on the following day, her temperature being a little over 100 then. She was still breathing badly, but was not suffering so much from thirst. Witness did not ask any questions of her as to the cause of her condition. Deceased was very reticent, and somewhat deaf. Witness was sent for on the 7th, and found that the temperature had again risen. He made a further examination. Mrs. Smith asked him if it was advisable to have deceased removed to the hospital. Witness gave an order to Dr. Miskin.

When next he saw deceased she was in a state of collapse. Dr. Trethowan being at witness's house that day, witness being anxious about deceased, asked him to visit her. Dr. Trethowan diagnosed the case, the diagnosis agreeing with that of witness. Deceased died on the 8th inst. Witness received a verbal message to that effect. Witness was not asked for a certificate by any one, nor did he give one. He was from the first very suspicious about the case. He came to the conclusion from the rarity of abortion at the fifth month of pregnancy that nature had been interfered with. He thought that deceased had somehow been interfered with. There was not sufficient evidence to point to a direct cause for the abortion. Witness came to the conclusion that something had been used to bring about abortion. Had the abortion been natural, witness would not have expected to find the patient as he did when he first saw her. It would have been advisable to ask deceased if anything had been done to her, but he did not think he would have got anything out of her. It was from motives of delicacy as well as from the belief that he would get no satisfactory replies that witness did not ask deceased if she had been interfered with. Witness did not think that the case was one that should be reported to the authorities at the time when he first attended deceased. There was nothing to have prevented witness so doing. Mrs. Smith was on each occasion present all the time when witness visited deceased. Mrs. Smith said deceased had recently come down from the fields, and had complained, a few days previous to the birth, of a pain in the right side. On the day of the birth she (Mrs. Smith) was out at the back, when she heard her daughter cry out in the front room, and when she returned to the room the birth had occurred. Deceased was then on the floor. Mrs. Smith told witness this in the room where the patient was, but he did not think she heard it, as she was deaf. Mrs. Smith had nursed at two confinements at which witness had attended. Witness had known Mrs. Smith eight months, but he did not know whether she was certificated. Witness was well-experienced in midwifery. A certificated midwife was allowed to carry certain drugs and instruments. A catheter such as that produced would be suitable for the use of a midwife, but it could be used for procuring abortion. The ergotin produced could only lawfully be administered by the instructions of a doctor. It would produce abortion if improperly used, as would the belladonna produced. Witness had not attended any other cases at Mrs. Smith's. The payment for attendance on deceased was to be looked for from Mrs. Smith. She said so. By the Jury: He thought Miss Buckley was poisoned before the child was born, and it would have required great care and attention to have saved her life from the date of the confinement. Witness surmised that a dirty instrument had been used to procure abortion. Witness did not give a certificate because he did not think deceased should have died from the birth of a five months' child.

At the conclusion of a series of questions put by Mr. Joseph, the inquiry was adjourned till 10.30 a.m. on Friday, the 19th instant.

The West Australian Wednesday 24 August 1898


At the Bohemia Hall yesterday the inquest on the body of Margaret Buckley was resumed by the Coroner (Dr. Lovegrove), with a jury. Inspector Farley represented the police, and the proceedings were watched on behalf of Mrs. Smith by Mr. H. B. Joseph.

Detective F. G. Eggleston stated that he was one of the detectives who had searched the premises of Mrs. Smith on Thursday, 11th inst. He found the body of a child buried in the back portion of the yard, at a depth of 2ft. 6in. to 3ft. He delivered the body to Dr. Miskins, and obtained a receipt. On the following day he found another body, about 2ft. 6in. distant from the spot where the first was discovered. He handed the body to Detective Connell. That afternoon he found the body of another child, 24ft. to 25ft. away from the first place. He handed that also to Detective Connell. He was present at a further search, when a catheter, an enema, and bottles of ergot and belladona were found. Mrs. Smith was present.

To Mr. Joseph: Mrs. Smith took witness to the place where the first body was found. He told her that he had come to search for the body. After finding the re- mains of the other two children, she made a statement to Detective Connell, and after that she said there were two others buried in the yard. She said one was very young and the other about seven months old. The detectives searched for these, but did not find them.

Dr. William Trethowan said that on the 8th. of the present month he was called in to the residence of Mrs. Smith by Dr. Coventry for consultation. He made an examination of Miss Buckley and diagnosed that she was dying of septicaemia. He was told that she had been ill from nine to ten days. No application was made to him for a certificate of death. From what Dr. Coventry told him it occurred to him that there were suspicious circumstances connected with the case. If he had seen the deceased apart from the consultation with Dr. Coventry, he should not have given a certificate of death. If a medical man had been called in nine days previous to the death of deceased, assuming that the miscarriage had been natural, and not brought about by interference, the probability was that the life would have been saved. A miscarriage was slightly more dangerous than a birth at the full period and time. If the patient was in a delicate state of health, the risk would be greater, and it would be more necessary to have professional advice in such a case. Medical advice should be obtained in all cases of miscarriage, and more so if the patient was in a state of ill-health. There was an element of danger surrounding all such cases if they were not properly treated. He had had very considerable experience in midwifery cases during the time he had been in practice. It was absolutely necessary from his experience that nurses who dealt in those matters should be certificated by some authorised examining body. A properly certificated midwife would be justified in using one or two doses of ergot immediately after confinement. Belladonna had no connection with midwifery practice so far as he knew. It was not recognised as a powerful agent in procuring abortion; ergot, in large doses, was such an agent. The catheter produced was a recognised instrument used for the purpose of procuring abortion. The particular instrument in court would not be used by a qualified person. A dirty catheter would be the most dangerous instrument that could possibly be advised. At the same time it was legitimate for any woman to have a catheter. Miscarriage was most common when the foetus was from one to three months old. After that the tendency decreased as the child grew older. Four months or four and a half months would be the period at which a child might breathe. Breathing would not be common at four and a half months. The use of a catheter would cause septicaemia.

To a Juror: There was no special immunity from miscarriage at five months. He had known abortions at that period, but they were not common. Ha would not have given a certificate of death from natural causes, because he had only seen the girl five minutes, and she died shortly afterwards. In a case like this he would think it was absolutely necessary to report to the Coroner; he would not be justified in giving a certificate unless he had attended during the whole illness, or at least for a reasonable time.

To Mr. Joseph: In cases of miscarriage, when anything went wrong, a medical man could detect it in its early stages, or would be prepared to meet it, and perhaps save the life. A person suffering from acute illness would be liable to miscarriage, but it was the hardest thing possible to bring about miscarriage by jumping or any other violent exercise. Dysentery or diarrhoea might bring it on, and retching also. Syphilis produced a tendency to miscarriage. If there had been any offensive discharge coming from the girl before the miscarriage it would indicate local septic poisoning. After a catheter had been used, the visual period for miscarriage was from two to seven days; the unskilful use of the instrument would tend to prolong the time. He did not regard as auspicious the possession by Mrs. Smith of the quantity of ergot in the bottle produced, or the catheter, which was a perfectly innocent instrument in itself He advised Dr. Coventry not to give a certificate.

Re-examined: Miscarriage in acute illness, usually came on when the temperature was high. High temperature in itself had a tendency that way. It was improbable that a woman could use a catheter upon herself successfully. A nurse of 16 years' experience should recognise the danger of a discharge, such as that mentioned, as likely to increase the danger of an ensuing miscarriage unless measures were taken to neutralise it.

Detective Connell deposed lo having assisted in the search for the bodies, and handed two over to the hospital.

Constable George Bunton gave formal evidence as to taking the body of Margaret Buckley to the hospital morgue.

Dr. Edward Silencer, resident medical officer at the hospital, said he received the body of the deceased on the 9th instant, and made a post-mortem examination on the same evening. The deceased was about 30 or 35 years of age. Considering the time she had been dead putrefaction had advanced very rapidly. The cause of death was septicaemia, and indications clearly visible pointed to a recent miscarriage. He could come to no opinion as to the cause of blood-poisoning. He had examined two foeti brought to the hospital by the police. The first was about five months old, the second, a female foetus of about seven months. The former had not breathed, but the latter's lungs were fully distended and of a pinky colour, and occupying the whole of the throat, showing that the child had breathed. There was no ligature on the umbilical cord, which had been severed. The umbilical cord of the second foetus had also been severed. The third foetus, which he examined, had been buried two months or more.

To a Juror: It was possible that abortion had been brought about by artificial means without leaving post-mortem evidence. The second foetus had been buried about a fortnight longer than No. 1. If it had had a separate existence it could have only been for a very short time.

To the Coroner: The inflammation in some of the organs of the deceased was recent. It would have been possible for this inflammation to have been set up by the use of instruments without any lesion that would be visible to the naked eye taking place. The abortion might have been caused by indirect violence without leaving any signs. Children born by artificially induced means at the seventh month might live.

The inquest was at this stage adjourned until 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday next.

The West Australian Thursday 27 October 1898



At the Criminal Court yesterday, before Mr. Justice James and a jury, Margaret Ann Smith was arraigned on a charge of manslaughter. She pleaded not guilty and was defended by Mr. Purkiss. The Crown alleged that she had "feloniously killed and slayed the life of Margaret Buckley." The details of the case hare already been published in the WEST AUSTRALIAN. It was urged by the Crown that the woman Buckley met her death at the hands of the prisoner, who attempted to procure abortion. Margaret Buckley, being in a pregnant state, went to reside with the prisoner, who claimed to have had considerable practice in midwifery. On August 3 Dr. Coventry was sent for by the prisoner, and he found Margaret Buckley in such a condition that from the outset he anticipated a fatal result. The prisoner informed the doctor that the woman had been delivered of a five-months child. From her symptoms the doctor was of opinion that she was suffering from blood poisoning, and that artificial means had been used to procure a miscarriage. Death subsequently ensued, and Dr. Coventry refused to give a certificate, and referred the matter to the police. Enquiries were made and a coronial inquest held. In the possession of the accused were found ergot of rye, belladonna, anaemia, and a catheter. The prisoner alleged that she got the poison at the Apothecaries' Hall, and the catheter was found to be in such a condition that if used upon a woman it would be certain to bring about death. Dr. Spencer, the resident medical officer at the Colonial Hospital, made an examination of the body, and he also was satisfied that the death of the woman was caused by blood poisoning. The premises of the prisoner were searched, and the bodies of three infants were found buried in the back yard. The main evidence adduced yesterday was that of three medical men, viz., Drs. Coventry, Trethowan, and Spencer. It was directed mainly to the condition of the woman before and after death, and the possibilities of the abortion being brought about by the deceased woman or by accident. Counsel for the Crown and defence exercised their right to cross-examine and re-examine at length. F. G. Egglestone, a detective, detailed tho searching of the house occupied by the prisoner, and the discovery of the drugs and instruments, and the bodies of children in the yard. Charlotte Smith, daughter of the prisoner, stated that Margaret Buckley was confined at her mother's house at Fremantle in May, 1897.

The statement made by the prisoner at the coroner's inquest, in which she stated that the miscarriage took place before she knew anything of it, or before she knew that deceased was in a pregnant state, was then read.

At this stage the hearing was adjourned till this morning at 10 'clock, and the jury were locked up for the night.

The West Australian Thursday 3 November 1898


The adjourned inquiry into the cause of the death of Nelly Conolly, whose body was found hanging in the Perth Park on the 18th ultimo, was held at tho Bohemia Hall, Murray-street, yesterday. The evidence as to the finding of the body and the details connected therewith were similar to the report contained in the WEST AUSTRALIAN of the 19th of last month.

Joseph H. McGarry deposed to knowing deceased, whom he met a few days before her death, she being then in a depressed state of mind. She told the witness that she was out of work, had no money, and had been unable to pay for a room she had occupied at the Hotel Metropole.

Georgina Payton, sworn, said she was a married woman at present separated from her husband. She was staying at the Hotel Metropole, where she met deceased on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of October. Deceased then had no money beyond a few coppers. On the 15th, when witness last saw deceased, she was very much depressed. About 9 a.m. on the 15th she said she had neither money nor friends, and that if she had 6d. she would buy some prussic acid and finish herself off. She told witness that she had to meet a friend at 2.30 p.m. Witness saw deceased about 4 p.m., when she came into her room with her thumb to her mouth and said, "Good God, what am I to do?" Witness and another girl gave her some clean underclothing, and dressed her up and told her to go to a registry office to get something to do. That was the last witness saw of deceased, who was then quite sober. She had three cups of coffee in witness's room before she left. Witness afterwards saw the dead body in the morgue. By the Coroner: She was not aware that girls received visitors at the Hotel Metropole, Witness had been living there about three weeks. She was not aware that deceased had recently had a husband. She never mentioned it. She did not tell witness where the appointment with a young man was to be kept. She did not say it was at the hotel. Witness could not say whether gentlemen were in the habit of meeting girls at the Hotel Metropole. It was after the appointment had miscarried that deceased said that she had no money and no friends. Witness was booked at the Hotel Metropole as Madame Ulricth. Her first husband, Mr. Vincent, died about eight years ago, and witness then took the name of "Miss Vincent" until she married Mr. Payton. When she left him she took the name of Ulricth.

Dr. Horrocks deposed to accompanying Inspector McKenna to the spot where the body of deceased was hanging. The post mortem examination disclosed that death was the result of hanging, "suicidal and deliberate." There were signs of recent abortion, probably two or three days before death. There was no sign of instrumental interference. There were no signs in deceased of having had children at any time. The knowledge of having had an abortion may have affected the mind of deceased.

Freda Whittle deposed to deceased staying at Lady Smith's Lodge, Hay-street, on the 15th and 16th, when she seemed very depressed and restless.

The jury returned a verdict that deceased committed suicide whilst temporarily insane.

The Brisbane Courier Saturday 14 January 1899


Sir,-" Pardon me for asking what has become of the champions of denominational education, more particularly Mr. M. J. Kirwan." Thus your correspondent " H. O'D." in your issue of Thursday last in the opening sentence of his letter. Some weeks ago a controversy began on the education question, and the disabilities that Catholics suffer under our present system. To the best of my ability I put forward the case for Catholics, and a few days later the Rev. Father Horan's letter, far abler than mine, was published.

You, sir, have done me the honour to devote to my letter, which appeared in your issue of 24th December, a leading article in your issue of 18th December. I did not deem it necessary to reply to your letter, being quite satisfied to allow your readers to judge between us. The controversy has, however, been taken into fresh fields, and has now become a discussion on the comparative progress, spiritual and material, of Protestant versus Catholic countries, and the respective criminality of Catholics versus non-Catholics. Your correspondents "Fancy Free," "Fairplay," and "Brakespear," have all had a tilt at the Church and a few of her doctrines, and even a superficial leading of their letters is sufficient to discover the dominant keynote. For the information of your readers in general, and your correspondents in particular, I might state that I am a Queensland native, but nevertheless I shall resent and defend the Church from the malignant and slanderous attacks that are made on her, and have been made by your correspondents. I am quite prepared to defend Catholic countries and Catholics from the false allegations made against them, and your readers will please recollect that I have been practically challenged by your correspondent, and I hesitate not to accept it.

Figures have been quoted to show that in this colony the Catholics head the prison records, and this should be a reason why Catholic education should not be extended. The figures are utterly valueless for the purposes quoted, since they do not show how many of these criminals were educated in Catholic schools. Might I ask your correspondents to quote the number of Catholics and non-Catholics respectively convicted of murder, rape, unnatural offences, incest, arson, and embezzlement, and other such grave offences? Catholics may head the list for petty offences, and I might here remark that instances can be quoted of non-Catholics putting themselves down as Catholics when charged at the watchhouse.

For the purpose of comparing the effects of the Catholic system of education and the public school system, I will quote from the prisons reports of America, taking the United States for preference, which your correspondent "Fancy Free" has such an admiration for. Let us look at the evidence furnished by a few prison reports for 1890:-

Sing Sing Prison (New York). Went to public schools. 1403 Went to other schools. 17

Auburn Prison (New York). Went to public schools. 545 Went to other schools. 440

Clinton Prison. Went to public schools. 637 Went to other schools. 74

San Quentin Prison (California). Went to public schools. 945 Went to other schools. 107

Philadelphia State Prison (1890). Went to public schools. 382 Went to private schools. 68 Went to Catholic schools. 12 Went to no schools. 43

Philadelphia State Prison (1891-92). Went to public schools. 700 Went to private schools. 95 Went to Catholic school. 20 Went to no schools. 56

It would doubtless be very instructive reading if we could get figures like this from our colonial prisons.

Now let us compare the criminal propensities of Catholic and non-Catholic countries. According to Professor Bodlo's table in "Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics." Italy, France, Austria, Spain. Hungary, Belgium, and Ireland (Catholic) have an average of 2029 criminals per million: Germany, England, and Scotland (non-Catholic) have an average of 2735 per million. The "Church and World," an Anglican publication (1867), page 288, gives the following summary from the Statistical Society's Journal (1864-165) regarding offences against property :-


Ireland. 1 criminal in 120 of the population.

Spain, 1 criminal in 10,000 of the population.

Belgium, 1 criminal in 1700 of the population.


England, 1 criminal in 190 of the population. Saxony and Sweden, about the same.

Scotland, something worse than England.

Before going any further. I might here quote a few Protestants on the Catholic confessional, which was sneered at by one of your correspondents, "Fancy Free." The writer of "Prevention and Cure of Infanticide." a Protestant clergyman, says. "The high morality of Ireland is owing in a great measure to the habit of the people." Catholics going to confession and the low tone of morals in Scotland is, I fear, to be greatly attributed to the impossibility of having recourse to this sacramental ordinance. A Protestant writer, Cowan, in his work "Science of a New Life," referring to the great increase of foeticide in America, which had grown to such an alarming extent that an Anglican prelate had to express himself very plainly in a pastoral, says, commenting on this: "You do not hear of this horrible and revolting crime among the Roman Catholics. No; the confessional stands there as a preventive, and unless you want them to secure the upper hand in this land you will have to stop this hideous practice." The Rev. Dr. Todd says, "Abortion is infinitely more frequent among Protestants than Catholics, which is in a large measure due to the confessional."

The figures regarding illegitimacy are highly instructive, and I commend them to the serious consideration of your correspondents. Dr. Leffugwell's table shows:-

Scotland, 21.5; England, 14.5; Ireland, 4.4.

The same writer contrasts the Catholic county of Mayo (Connaught) with the Protestant county of Down (Ulster): Connaught, 322 illegitimates born in ten years, 1879-1888, a percentage of 5.6 to 1000 births; Ulster, 3084 born in same period, a percentage of 51.1 per 1000 births. The "Derry (Irish) Journal." 19th March, 1894, pointed out that in Dublin one birth in forty-two was illegitimate, and in Belfast one birth in twenty-one is illegitimate.

Infanticide and foeticide flourish in Protestant countries. The Rev. Canon Humble, writing in "Church and World," 1866, says of England: "Bundles are left lying in the streets which people will not touch lest in the too familiar object a child's body should be revealed. The metropolitan canal boats are impeded as they are tracked along by numbers of drowned infants with which they come in contact, and the land is becoming defiled by the blood of innocents. We are told by Dr. Lankester that there are 12,000 women in London to whom the crime of child murder can be attributed." Dr. Waugh, writing in the "Contemporary Review," May, 1890, affirms that more than one thousand children are murdered annually in England for the insurance money." The spread of foeticide is evidenced by the number of advertisements that now appear in the Press, and recent revelations in England gave some startling information, thousands of letters from ladies having been found by the police at a certain medical institute. "We are shocked," says " Harper's Magazine," 1869, "at the destruction of human life on the Ganges, but here in the heart of Christendom foeticide and infanticide are extensively practised under the most aggravating circumstances. It should be stated, believers in the Roman Catholic faith never resort to any such practices, the strictly Americans (Protestants and other non- Catholics) are almost alone guilty of such crimes."

Speaking with reference to suicide, Mulhall says: "Suicide is much more frequent in Protestant than in Catholic countries." The following figures speak for themselves:

Per 100,000 Catholic Non-Catholic


21 2


31 1


15 7


25 8.


9 1


14 0


6 0


13 3


1 7

England & Wales

6 9


1 4
Scotland 4 0

I have extended my letter to greater length than I intended, but I excuse myself on the ground that it was my duty as a Catholic to vindicate my co-religionists and Catholic countries from the allegations hurled at them, and the odious comparisons made by your correspondents. Surely sufficient has now been said; but, if more is required, I can, sir, with your permission, supply a column for a week in refutation of the bald statements, many of them slanderous to a degree, and unworthy of any man who believes in British fair-play. Your   correspondents, especially "H. O'D.," have now a piece of cold steel to chew in these facts and figures, all Protestant quotations. Confronted with such testimony as this, these gentlemen will be led to think with Allison when he wrote: "These facts, to all persons capable of yielding assent to evidence in opposition to prejudice, completely settle the question; but the conclusion to which they lead is so adverse to general opinion, that probably more than one generation must descend to their graves before they are generally admitted."-I am, sir, &c, M. J. KIRWAN.

The Brisbane Courier Monday 27 February 1899

VICTORIA. (By Telegraph from Our Correspondent.).


The trial of Olga Radalyski, Travers Tod, and Dr. Gaze, for the murder of Mabel Ambrose, was concluded last night. The Crown Prosecutor held that Tod and Radalyski had deliberately sought to procure abortion, and death resulted, while Dr. Gaze was guilty of complicity. The Chief Justice occupied an hour and forty minutes in summing up, and the Jury deliberated for six hours. On returning into court at a quarter to 10 o'clock they found Radalyski and Tod guilty, with a recommendation to mercy, as the prisoners did not intend wilfully to commit murder. Dr. Gaze was not guilty.

Sentence of death was passed on Radalyski and Tod.