Orgy of Drunkenness

  Crime & Tragedy: short stories

For a policeman, being 'on the beat' entailed police work at its most feared - that one must expect the unexpected.  On the morning of 15 November 1912, the unexpected certainly happened to Senior Constable D. Garland patrolling the streets of Prahran when just before 2:00am that morning while walking down High Street he heard in the distance a gunshot, followed by another four shots in quick succession.

Not knowing where the shots were fired, there was little Garland could do until some time later he was confronted by two men near the Prahran Town Hall asking for a doctor to be sent to nearby 53 Newry Street.  Rushing to the address with the two men, Garland was confronted with the scene of a shooting affray.  The victim, Robert Barclay McCrindle (1888-1912), the youngest of four sons to Scottish-born Thomas Barclay McCrindle (1850-1913) and his wife Augustine Johanna née Bargman had been shot twice whilst answering the front door of his house, one bullet entered below the right breast and the other having pierced his right hip.  He was rushed to the Alfred Hospital at 3:20am where later that morning Detectives A. Lonsdale and T. Coonan were able to interview him.  McCrindle stated the murderer was a “short, thickset, stout man, with slightly curly hair”.  He died at 8:40am the following morning due to peritonitis and shock. 

The coroner's inquest held before Dr. Robert Cole on 5 December, makes sensational reading with a touch of comedy.  It was heard that an “orgy of drunkenness” was held that night between eleven men and seven women; that McCrindle, even though married to Eva Ruth née Bennett since 1908 with two children - Ruby Edna (b 1908) and Doris May (b 1910) - had changed his surname to ‘McGregor’ while temporarily separated to escape this wife's excessive spending habits and had been living with 20 year-old Alice Morgan for the past seven weeks; that during the past few months, McCrindle described as a teetotaller by his father had been led into questionable habits by bad influence; and that evidence pointed towards John Thomas 'Little Jack' Olson, a wool sorter, who was a guest that night, as being the murderer.  One of the men at the party, Reginald Johnstone, labourer of 14 Lonsdale Street to the laughter of the court said he heard no shooting; he was asleep and was a little hard of hearing - “I’m not telling lies!” to which Cole replied “That’s about as true as the rest of your statements”. 

The coroner believed not a word presented during the inquest by those at the party some with police records believing evidence from four of the witnesses was tainted with perjury.  He went on to say that “I think it is....plain enough that both the statements of [the] deceased to the police and those which I have heard today are not correct, and are made for the purpose of misleading and defeating the ends of justice”.  He concluded by saying, “Of all the bad cases I have had in my ten years' experience this is the worst”.  He could only find that McCindle “died from a bullet wound in the body, inflicted by some person not yet determined, on the 15th November”. 

And so Robert McCrindle, a driver employed by “R. G. Wilson”, carrier of Motherwell Street South Yarra, was buried in the Presbyterian portion of the Brighton General Cemetery on 18 November 1912.  Even though the police strongly suspected the assailant was one of the seventeen guests at the party, no one was ever charged.

Monumental Headstone (enlarge image)


The Argus 16, 18, 19, 21 November 1912 & 6 December 1912.

The Herald 15 November 1912.

The Age 16, 18, 19 November 1912 & 6 December 1912.

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Last Updated: 02-Dec-2018 11:50.